"You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." - Matthew 17:20
When I was younger, as a youth and during my adolescent years, I recall my mom saying that I had faith that could move mountains. There were a handful of things I experienced as a teenager that shook me, and even things throughout college, but there was absolutely nothing like what post-grad life would be.
I went to college with the initial aspiration to become an architect. I loved design before Joanna Gaines made it cool. After a mission trip in high school, my dream was to become a missionary and use architecture as my tent-making skill.
But God – what power those two words hold – would turn my world upside down.
In a vague nutshell, God revealed the path of psychology and to use it to work with teens. I had already spent one summer working at a Christian recreation camp that I loved as a camper and felt the Lord's pleasure no matter what I did. Add in Global Studies (a.k.a. missions), and I felt like I was set. I declared my combined major going into my junior year and it quickly became a desire to work with human trafficking survivors through a global non-profit.
After graduating in 2015, there were two different internship possibilities presented before me and honestly, they both excited me. However, both fell through on their ends and I was left without any options. I felt stranded. I was back in a city I never liked, limited in my resources and finances (hello student debt), and wondered what in the world God would be doing. This was the case until late August 2017.
I've battled depression and loneliness on-and-off for most of my life. The aspect of being rejected has been common, and in job searching, applying for nearly a thousand jobs over the course of two and a half years without interviews, let's just say that Satan loved to use my circumstances to shout lies in my ears. He constantly was saying that I wasn't enough, wasn't worthy, that no one would give me a chance. He beat me with the lies that God had forgotten me and I wasn't important to Him; that He had broken any promises He had made and I had no future.
I got mad. I got angry with God. I asked over and over "Lord, what are You doing? Why redirect my life and leave me alone? Leave me with nothing? I'm pursuing what You wanted me to, and I can't find an open door anywhere." During this time I began Abide Collective and so many times I believe the Spirit was speaking through the words my hands typed as a proclamation of His Truth back to my own heart.
But I was stubborn. And angry. I wrote the words, but didn't believe them. I called it my desert and wilderness season. It was a desert because I was spiritually dry and lacked so much in so many areas. It was a wilderness because there was so much unknown and I didn't know how to move beyond the spot I was in. Faith that moved mountains? My faith felt as if it didn't exist.
I love the outdoors; hiking, camping, backpacking, hammocking, kayaking - you name it! I like adventure. Last July I came across a post on Instagram that read, "Explore your wilderness," and it made me stop in my tracks. The Spirit moved like He hadn't before. I kept saying that this time in my life was like a desert and a wilderness, but was I exploring it? I've asked for adventures from God (e.g. finally being on the mission field, a new job) but was I allowing myself to explore this adventure? Are there places He wanted to take me off the beaten trail to teach me things I couldn't learn anywhere else? Would He show me things that, if I stayed put or followed my own aspirations, I wouldn't see? It made me realize that I had somewhat purposefully chosen to be deaf and blind to what God wanted to do, here, in the mess, in the lack, in the heartache, in my loneliness.
But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. (Hosea 2:14-15a NLT)
This verse in Hosea is one that continually speaks to me. It reminds me of when the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days and nights after He was baptized but before His ministry on earth. Perhaps God had led me into this spiritual season for a purpose; to prepare me for what would come next.
As the verse goes on it says God will "speak tenderly." He doesn't tend to shout. Instead, He's compassionate and desires to have an intimate relationship with us. He asks us to be still, listen to His whispers, and to know that He is God. In my loneliness, who is there? God. If I don't have work, what can I do? Spend time with God. It goes on further to say He will return and transform. Where I feel and see lack, God can provide. Where I see no future, He can transform into something beyond my wildest dreams. He is the God of Hope and if He cares so much for me that He sent His Son to die in my place and constantly pursues my heart, always working things out for my good, how could I not have hope in Him?
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. - Isaiah 43:19 ESV
This was my verse for 2017. It took eight months but I finally began to see God working. And just because He was making a way in my wilderness with a new job and rivers in my desert by providing finances, didn't mean I was going to immediately leap from being in the desert and wilderness straight into a promised land. No, it takes time. It takes perseverance. It takes faith.
Through it all, I learned perspective. I learned just how much my faith needed to grow and just how incredibly, infinitely faithful God is, even when we lack faith in Him. I recognized that sometimes what Satan tries to spin as a negative is really God using things for a positive.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance. - Psalm 65:11 NLT
This is my prayer for 2018; a continuation of my journey, my adventure, from the year before.
God is able to provide, to transform, and I believe He will do so no matter my circumstances and spiritual season. My faith isn't stronger because I am strong. It's stronger because I witnessed His faithfulness to me. I know this is only the beginning of my lifelong adventure with Him leading and guiding me through deserts, wildernesses, valleys, mountaintops, and promised lands.
But what I've recognized is that seasons like this aren't a punishment but a sacred time with my Savior to be cherished. It's hard as all get out, but the thing with having faith in the One True Living God is that there is always a result. I grew as a believer. I learned more Biblical truth. I gained perspective. I witnessed Him work. Those results are evidence of choosing to have faith in Him, and I know there's always more to my story than what God reveals, but in the end, if He can receive glory, then I know I've done well.