God isn’t subtle. If he wants you to do something, he makes it known. Last week, I woke up around 5:30 one morning and immediately felt like I needed to text Sarah and ask if there was any opportunity to help Wesley members. After reaching out, I happily agreed to write a blog post and felt the need to share my experience of wrestling with God last year.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jillian, and I am a junior in SMU’s pre-med program. There have been several “God moments” throughout my college career, and I have been academically challenged many times. However, looking back, I never really bought in to this idea of wrestling with faith. I was content to see God as I wanted to see him. Someone to talk to before a test I was worried about. Someone to vent to when I was feeling lonely. I could see how He got me through a lot of my high school troubles, and thanked him (sometimes) after I got a good test grade. I had been pushed several times faith wise before sophomore year, but every time I would just brush it off hoping the holes in my faith life would be filled in without any effort on my part. Before last year, this is where my faith stood, “holey” and not right.
January 27, 2019. Walking back from Arnold Dining Hall with Cole, my boyfriend of then 3 years, we get a phone call. Cole’s brother, Mark, had just been in a bicycle accident and broken his C6 and C7 vertebrae. Cole’s dad called us to say Mark was being rushed to the hospital and he couldn’t feel his legs. I won’t give all the details because this story really isn’t mine to tell. But my story is about the anger and hurt I felt towards God. How could He let a senior in high school, who had just qualified for the Boston Marathon and was training for an Ironman triathlon, be in this situation? This anger didn’t just last for the several weeks Mark was in the hospital. This anger lasted the entire first half of the semester. It consumed my life, affecting my school work, my friendships, and my relationship with Cole.
Up until this point, I had never been on a Wesley retreat. I had pushed it off, convincing myself I wouldn’t have a good time or there were other things I needed to do. And honestly, I wouldn’t have gone on this retreat if my physics test had not been rescheduled. Like I said, God isn’t subtle. Once this rescheduling happened, I knew I needed to sign up. I packed my journal-expecting to wrestle with some of this anger and hurt I was experience through writing. On the first night, I asked Sarah if we could wake up early the next morning and talk. This talk changed my life.
In the weeks leading up to retreat, one of Andrew’s sermons was about Jesus helping a blind man see. The story takes place in Mark 8:22-26, but what really speaks out to me are verses 23-25.
“Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes.”
The key to this story is at first, the man wasn’t completely healed. His vision was blurry and he told Jesus that people still looked like trees to him. So Jesus paused the miracle, got on this man’s level, and put his hands on the man’s eyes again until he was completely healed.
That Saturday morning, Sarah and I woke up early and walked down to the river near the house where everyone was staying. Here, I told Sarah I felt like the blind man in this story. I could see the benefits of faith, but my vision was still blurry. I still hadn’t truly bought into the idea that God was all powerful. How could this all-powerful God let bad things happen to good people? Sarah’s response to this was saying no matter what I struggle with, at any point in my life, Jesus will pause, meet me on my level, and walk through the struggle with me. It was at this point where leaves started to fall all around us. I teared up, sitting in the beauty of the moment and felt a huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders.
What I also want to say is it is okay to be mad at God and the situations you find yourself in. It is okay to wrestle with your faith and question things. Faith doesn’t grow if it’s stagnant. However, I’ve learned first-hand that in these places of wrestling, it is not okay to push problems to the side and ignore them. Journaling has really helped me with working out these questions I have, and in moments of true need I reach out. (Shout out to the Beards-they are an amazing resource and will do everything they can to help you.) Reach out. Write. Pray. Wrestle.
I feel like my story is pretty relevant in this time of being away from school. Different situation, same concept. Whatever we are currently handling, whether it be struggling families, missing SMU friends and routines, scheduling next semester’s classes, whatever it is, Jesus is walking through it with us. God has proven to me He is faithful time and time again. He always shows up in some way and gets me through my hard times. Even when our vision is blurry at first, Jesus sits in our moments of struggle with us. He meets us in this place and journeys alongside us, before us, and behind us. He is always with us.