Renew

“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” – Philippians 1:23-24

This devotional will be long, and it is going to be a lot of personal background from this past year (Note: this was originally written September 6th, 2020. See brief addendum at the end of this devotional for more information), and how I have grown. I hope you can connect with my thoughts and feelings and can see that life really does have purpose, even when you hit rock bottom.

I had never felt like a “sold out” Christian, meaning I always feel like I go through the motions. I feel like a lot of us often feel like that. I didn’t read my Bible often, forgot to pray, and honestly shelved God unless I needed Him or it was Sunday or Wednesday or summer camp. Several high school camps took place before one I attended in 2018 made an impact in my mind on the importance of this right relation with God. I still fell off the camp high, and fell back into old habits, old temptations, old faults. I started dancing with dangerous lines I shouldn’t be crossing. I was a mess. And the whole time I was serving as a piano accompanist for my church choir and on the youth worship band. 

I was the biggest hypocrite I knew.

“Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” – 2 Samuel 12:9a

I started feeling awful for leading while turning right around and letting the world consume me. I felt unworthy and like a walking lie. Of course, as one might expect, the guilt and shame only led to gouging the feelings with more of what was causing it—sin. I was in a terrible terrible place come summer of 2019. I was to the point of anger and frustration with myself, and wondering if there was a point to all this stuff. Part of me asked God to show me something reminding me that He was there.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

In a moment under the chapel tent, I witnessed one of my friends be miraculously healed of a pain that had been plaguing her for many many years. Healed. That’s right, like the stuff of the New Testament. I was in shock. So was the camp. Many people rededicated their lives to, or chose, Christ that night—myself included. A year passes, and somehow I am still stuck in my rut. God proved Himself to me, and I found myself right where I was when I had hit rock bottom. 

January 29th, 2020. My community was soon to learn that a student at my high school had died in a single-car crash. I had close relation with one of his teachers so I went to comfort him. When I entered his room, it was packed of kids crying, standing in circles, silence. I couldn’t believe how the pain seemed to just hang in the air like a thick, oppressive cloud. I finally spotted the teacher and I sat down next to him. I rested my head on his shoulder, my hand on his knee, and we cried together for at least a minute. Prayer circles formed and I watched the school continue to bond together in several ways over the following days. And, while I felt very connected to this coming together, I also felt very alone. 

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, …” – Isaiah 41:10a

I dwelt on his death for a long time. I did not know him personally, but the concept of his death, knowing what he was headed for, and many other factors caused my mind to begin spinning out of control. At some point, I arrived at the erroneous conclusion that it would have been better if I had been the one in the crash, not him. Of course, the logic there is rather flawed, but it just is where my mind ended up.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

My poor, lost self was the version of me that I walked into Bible camp counselor training with at the start of the summer. Confused, misguided, but hopeful in Christ, I began a journey that changed me. That’s right—the first morning of training I dug into Philippians 1. By the second or third day, I had made it to these verses—Philippians 1:23-24. 

“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

I arrived at camp feeling like I had little purpose in my life. I left that morning’s devotion on fire. If you missed the part of the verse that might have excited someone who felt as I did, read it again

Did you catch it? Paul wanted to die so that He could escape his sufferings and to be with Christ in paradise! Wouldn’t you want that? But, Paul says more—there is actual purpose in us staying here on this Earth. His reasoning? They need him.

>>Purpose Statement #5: Your ultimate purpose is to glorify God, to follow the Great Commission, and to elevate Christ as our Lord to the broken and hurting around you.<<

The people of Philippi needed Paul’s teachings and his message so that the Gospel might be advanced through Paul to them, and from them to others. Your life is not without meaning. You are not too far gone. All things happen for a purpose (cf. Gen 50:19-20, Jer 5:22, Rom 8:28). Live for Christ. Share the joy we have in Him with those who need Him and those you love. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so do not delay!

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” – James 4:13-15

Note: (addendum added 04/15/2021) To those that are familiar with some of the more recent events in my life, I hope to one day add them triumphantly to the end of the story I tell here. Until then, your continued prayers are much appreciated.

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