“O God, our help in ages past, / Our hope for years to come, / Our shelter from the stormy blast, / And our eternal home!”

It’s been a year.

I started off the year with amnesia. (One of the medications I was given before my hand surgery had the side effect of forward amnesia for ~24 hours. I remember being in the recovery room, then about 15 minutes when I was at home. The next day, I didn’t remember anything else that had happened. Funny way to start out the year.)

Then my next challenge was eating soup with my non-dominant hand. I had to become somewhat ambidextrous quickly.

Like 2017, I spent the first few months of 2018 in rehab, trying to gain back the functioning of one of my joints. However, this recovery was infinitely less difficult than the previous year. Things starting looking up as I finished out my undergrad experience.

Then I got sick. And a few months later, I realized that the issue was here to stay. Thank you, POTS. At the end of 2018, I still feel inadequate in managing these new symptoms of my autonomic nervous system. (It’s hard to control the functions that your body is supposed to perform naturally.)

2019 will not be without its challenges. I’ve seen my shoulder surgeon again to discuss operating on my other shoulder. TBD whether or not this occurs in 2019. And I’m sure I’ll develop new symptoms, as I have each year for the past few years.

But I am truly looking forward to this new year. Here’s why.

As I begin my second semester in my Master of Social Work program, I’ll begin an internship that will continue at this site until I graduate. I can’t wait to start working with the Alabama Head Injury Foundation!

This organization provides services to traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients and acquired brain injury (ABI) patients throughout the state. From AHIF’s website:

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  TBI is caused by a blow or jolt to the
head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the
brain. A rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head, which can force the
brain to move back and forth inside the skull, can also cause TBI. The stress from these rapid movements pull apart nerve fibers and cause damage to the brain tissue.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).  ABI is an injury to the brain that has
occurred after birth and is not hereditary, congenital or degenerative. ABI
takes place at the cellular level within the brain; most symptoms of ABIs are
very similar to those of TBIs.

The people I’ll have the privilege of working with have experienced injuries that have altered not only their daily routines but also the courses of their lives. They have most likely experienced grief over the loss of particular abilities and the normalcy of their lives before obtaining injuries. They likely become frustrated each time they desire to perform a task that their bodies prohibit them from performing. They are likely seeking hope in situations that probably feel hopeless.

In addition to getting to know these inspiring men, women, and children, I am excited to work with these patients because of my ability to empathize with parts of their situations. As I learn how to support these individuals, I believe that God will be redeeming my own story.

In my first semester in this grad program, the LORD taught me, through my professors and mentors, that I don’t have to share my own story in order for the LORD to redeem it. Part of the redemption of my story is the absorption of my own story into God’s overarching story of redemption of His people; elements of my own story (i.e. being spiritually disabled, grace enabled) can point to the ultimate hope we have for ultimate redemption, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I can imagine no greater privilege than for my story to be used in this way.

I recently listened to the English translation of an Advent sermon Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached on Luke 21. In verses 27 and 28, Jesus proclaims, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Bonhoeffer describes the waiting believers experience until Jesus’ return:

Think of a hospital where a patient lies, suffering from an incurable disease, in agony with indescribable pain, dying slowly and slowly longing for the peace of death to end this plague. And now one day, the doctor comes to the patient and says with confidence, “Today you will be released. Your terminal illness will be healed. Lift up your head, and be delivered from your pain.”

Even if my redemption doesn’t come with complete physical healing in this lifetime, my redemption is coming with Christ, as He enters our realm once more to set an end to death and mourning and crying and pain.

In this coming season, I can’t wait to watch God work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).


Thanksgiving as a Cross-Cultural Shared Meal

In undergrad, I typically posted a semester summary following each semester. Well grad school is different, and I’ve already learned a lot at this point. So here’s my semester summary.

More than my ligaments and tendons have been stretched this semester. I have had some dislocations and subluxations, but thankfully they have occurred in multiple joints. I say thankfully because if I injured the same joint repeatedly, that might make me consider another surgery. Since I’ve had fairly common injuries for my condition about once per injured joint this semester, I’m happy to announce that–unless something goes horribly wrong in the next month–I will NOT be having surgery over Christmas break.  And so I proclaim,

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

Psalm 147:1

Overall, I have done much better than I expected, health-wise. I have been able to attend all but one of my three-hour lectures. I have also been able to divide my time between my part-time job and my internship–both at different nonprofit ministries. This is how I have been stretched.

Both ministries I have worked with this semester offer services to adults with low socioeconomic status. I have been exposed to the complexities of life below the poverty line in the United States. I’ve also had the privilege to get to know the individuals to whom we offer services.

My favorite memory of this semester occurred while I was sitting in my car by myself. I was parked in front of the ministry where I intern, which is just a block away from where I work. Context: This is not the nicest neighborhood. As I was waiting for my supervisor to arrive, I watched two men walk by on opposite sides of the road. It turned out that I knew both of them; each was from one of the nonprofits I work with.

A year ago, if I had been parked in this neighborhood by myself and I watched two men walk by, I would not have been tempted to wave them down and yell out their names. But I know their names. I know them. I know that one likes to listen to Mariah Carey, and the other one likes anything chocolate. I know some of the health challenges of each. I know the source of community for each.

People who I previously would have avoided are now people whom I love in Christ dearly.  I’ve also grown in my understanding of God’s character, in relation to the oppressed: The LORD has loved them all along.

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

Psalm 147:2

At times, empathy for those whom I know in poverty has been overwhelming. The suffering that others endure makes me angry for their sake.

Perhaps the situation that caused me the most distress this semester was witnessing others’ suffering that resulted from poor decisions. I questioned how God could allow people to make poor decisions that drastically affect their lives and the lives of others. In response, He showed me the emptiness and brokenness they experienced that led to the decision to seek fulfillment apart from Him.

Whether we seek fulfillment in Him or not, God still cares. Whether self-inflicting wounds or not, the LORD heals.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

Another common attitude I’ve observed is the desire to be known through altering one’s identity. Succumbing to the expectations of others or of oneself suggests the need to be seen and understood.

I’ve started reading the book God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew T. Walker. At the beginning of this book, Walker explains that human beings are worth more than the sum of our parts. While we might view ourselves, or others might view us, in a critical light that exposes our imperfections, the LORD knows who we truly are and does not compartmentalize our imperfections; if the LORD knows the name of each star He created, He must know us and value us fully, completely, and perfectly.

He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.

Psalm 147:4

A number of the adults I have had the privilege of working with have tested at a level that identifies them as functionally illiterate. This makes filling out job applications, filling out medical paperwork, and participating in elections extremely difficult and, undoubtedly, discouraging. Part of my job requires providing guidance and encouragement to adults who have higher literacy scores and are preparing to take the GED test. For many of them, I know that this process of preparation is frustrating. Learning disabilities provide obstacles to understanding or retaining material. Yet with diligence, these students persist.

When I can’t understand why the LORD would inhibit someone’s ability to comprehend through learning disabilities, He is able to understand our needs better than we can.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.

Psalm 147:5

As I’ve studied Social Work Policy this semester, I’ve realized that, in many cases, an outside source of authority is the root of oppression that groups experience. I am angry that much oppression that is experienced today is the result of past oppression; poverty is a cycle that cannot easily be broken. I imagine that those who are caught in the cycle of poverty at times feel hopeless in the effort to break the cycle.

Those who are oppressed by authoritative individuals, institutions, or even ideologies experience humility, with which our Savior is very familiar. Due to Jesus’ experience with unfair trials, the LORD knows the pain of unjust government decisions more than anyone else; therefore, the LORD will take action to restore the oppressed and remind them of their innate dignity.

The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.

Psalm 147:6

Listed in brackets are fairly common characteristics I have observed in the people I have encountered in the past few months. These are the promises my God offers those who accept His free gift of grace. I am praying that, if these people have not already, they would receive Jesus’ gift of salvation and partake of these blessings:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

[those who are depressed because of the hopelessness they feel when their Social Security benefits aren’t enough]

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn,

[those who have become disabled and mourn their able-bodied past]

for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek,

[those who have experienced so much trauma that they refuse to speak to new people]

for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

[those with food insecurity who declare the LORD’s praises amidst their suffering]

for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful,

[those who reconcile their relationships with their abusive parents upon being released from jail]

for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart,

[those with intellectual disabilities who bring joy to everyone they encounter]

for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,

[those who are grandparents raising their grandchildren, in order to keep peace with their children]

for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

[those whose family members will not speak with them because they do not want to hear the gospel declared]

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3-10

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul instructs believers to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” While it is difficult to be thankful for the extent of suffering I have witnessed in the lives of others, I am thankful for the hope that is offered to the oppressed through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
    make melody to our God on the lyre!

Psalm 147:7

This past Sunday, I heard a sermon that included a refresher on the history of Thanksgiving. This was the first occasion that I realized that Thanksgiving was a meal shared by the oppressed and the oppressors; each year, we celebrate an event of unity between different races, religions, ways of life.
Takeaway: Get to know those who feel oppressed by society. (Side note: You don’t get to determine whether someone has or has not experienced oppression.) Listen to their stories. Share a meal! Individuals with different backgrounds than you have a lot to bring to the table.

13 Reasons Why Biblical Characters Chose Life Amidst Despair

Some of these reasons are more admirable than others. But the great thing about the Bible is that it includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, which God, in turn, takes and makes beautiful.

1. Moses chose life because God had given Him a leadership position and a task to complete.

“‘But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.’”

Exodus 32:32-34

2. Elijah chose life because cake…and also God provided him with strength to face the journey ahead.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”

1 Kings 19:4-8

3. Job chose life to “find a little cheer.”

“Why did you bring me out from the womb?
    Would that I had died before any eye had seen me
19 and were as though I had not been,
    carried from the womb to the grave.
20 Are not my days few?
    Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer”

Job 10:18-20

4. Job chose life because he was given permission by God to question God.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’”

Job 42:3-4

5. David chose life because God heard his cry.

“The cords of death encompassed me;
    the torrents of destruction assailed me;[a]
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry to him reached his ears.”


Psalm 18:4-6

6. David chose life because God delighted in him when (it seemed to David that) no one else did.

He sent from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
    and from those who hated me,
    for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
    he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”

Psalm 18:16-19

7. David chose life because he knew that he would have reason to praise God again.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 42:11

8. Jeremiah chose life because, tomorrow morning, God’s mercies will be new.

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”


Lamentations 3:19-23

9. Jonah chose life to see God’s judgment come to fruition in this lifetime.

“‘Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’ Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.

Jonah 4:3-5

10. Paul chose life because of the option to “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[b] of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-10

11. Paul chose life because God’s grace is sufficient.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

12. Paul chose life “for your progress and joy in the faith.” Yes, you who are still studying his letters centuries later.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

Philippians 1:21-26

13. Jesus chose life for you when He chose death for Himself.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

John 10:10-18

My Samford Scars

Most people I know had to begin their college experience with the repetitive act of sharing a fun fact about themselves. I’ll start this post the same way: When I applied to Samford, my selected major was Music Composition. That changed by the time interviews came along for both my scholarship program and the Division of Music. By that point, it was Music Education, which changed a year later to Music and Worship. I auditioned on both flute and piano because I wasn’t sure which instrument I wanted to be my primary instrument. In my two years as a music major, I ended up with a small taste of each of these academic areas.

In the two years I had in the music department, I was able to do everything I had hoped to do over the course of four years. While I had hoped to spend more time in these areas, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11a).

What the Lord orchestrated after those two years was absolutely necessary: My time as a music major was a time of finding my identity in my abilities. It was completely necessary for the God who “gives and takes away” (Job 1:21) to exercise His sovereignty over my life by removing my ability to rely on my abilities as the source of my identity.

While I was bitter for a long time, I’m not anymore. Recently I heard a song that reinforced in a particularly relevant way that my identity lies in how God views me:

“I’m not living for applause. / I’m already so adored. / It’s all HIS stage. / He knows my name.”

“He Knows My Name” — Francesca Battistelli


Moving onto the next two-year chunk of my academic career.

I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life processing everything I’ve been exposed to through the Religion Department. I’m so thankful for the resources I’ve been given to help me understand others’ religious orientations and to grow in my understanding of my own faith. Resources I am particularly grateful for include a ten-volume set of biblical commentaries and an online biblical language software program: My nerdy heart is rejoicing.

The award that coincided with the gift of commentaries is by far the most meaningful award I have ever received. As a former professor gave an introduction to this award, he shared that one particular research paper I wrote for his class taught him a lot. It was my paper on the theology of disability.

One specific experience at Samford, which I can still visualize, prompted me to direct my research in this area. This one particular instance of a regular occurrence for Samford students altered the direction of my future career. I simply approached the doors of the University Center.

What made this experience so unique was my inability to open the heavy doors. This event occurred in the spring semester of 2017, which was the period when I spent the entire semester recovering from shoulder surgery. At this point, I still had not gained back enough strength to use that arm to support any weight. About a week leading up to this event, I had injured my other arm….doing laundry. After a partial dislocation, the arm that was supposed to be my “good arm” was conspicuously swollen all the way down my bicep, which–I came to understand–is an essential muscle to doing basically everything. Especially opening doors.

As I approached these heavy doors without a functioning arm, I stopped and just stood there, hoping someone would come out the same door and hold it open for me. No one did. I felt completely helpless. I felt inferior to those who didn’t have to think twice about walking through a door. I felt like I didn’t fit the mold of normal-functioning college students that my university expected me to fit–and I didn’t.

My experience of attempting to function at a less-than-optimal level allowed me to empathize with those who live with more long-term disabilities. My experience of encountering doors that were too heavy to open on my own led me to find open doors elsewhere–one of which, I believe, leads to disability advocacy. I would not have discovered my passion for disability advocacy had I not felt feelings of hopelessness at the weight of the closed and heavy door at Samford.

“Anybody who thinks that closed doors disprove the efficacy of prayer just has not thought about prayer very deeply. Prayer is not an incantation. It is talk with a Person–a very wise Person.” -John Ortberg

This literal closed door and the figuratively closed doors I’ve encountered in my time at Samford has forced me to rely on the One who cares enough for me to open doors and invite me to meet with Him (Revelation 3:20).

I’m leaving Samford a different person than when I first arrived. I’m leaving with scars I didn’t have before. My Samford scars.

I’m leaving with the knowledge that circumstances I once considered random happenstance (i.e. scoliosis + hand pain + foot pain) are, in fact, connected. I’m leaving wth the knowledge that my connective tissue is suspended by a faulty collagen matrix. I’m leaving with the knowledge that this collagen matrix is coded for, like every other protein, in my DNA–the formation of which began my very existence. I’m leaving with the knowledge that no injury I have endured or will endure is by accident. I’m leaving with the knowledge that my Creator knew the extent to which I would and will suffer.

And sometimes this knowledge has been difficult to process. Ecclesiastes 1:18 says, “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Increase in knowledge has intensified my need to draw near to the Lord in my confusion. As I mentioned before, I plan on processing what I’ve learned over the past four years for the rest of my life.

I’m utterly and sincerely grateful for my time at Samford, which unexpectedly grew my appreciation for life outside of Samford. I’m grateful for my time spent in “The Bubble,” which made me passionate to form relationships with those outside “The Bubble”–those who don’t look like me, come from a different socioeconomic background than me, and did not have the same educational experience as me. My privilege of spending four years studying in “The Bubble” opened the door for me to work at a local nonprofit that provides resources for adults seeking their GED to improve their chances of obtaining steady jobs. The privilege that I have encountered and benefited from during my time at Samford has made me determined to both serve and build relationships with those who were not offered this same privilege.

During Commencement, I choose not to worship the institution that God used to make me who I am today. Instead, I choose to glorify my gracious God who has worked through selfless people of this university, and the surrounding community, to instruct, guide, and walk beside me over the past four years.

“Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say,
‘Never once did we ever walk alone.’
Carried by Your constant grace,
Held within Your perfect peace,
Never once, no, we never walk alone.”

“Never Once” — Matt Redman


📷: Kyle Thompson Photography

My Not-Samford Story

With graduation approaching, I’m frequently asked what my future plans are. Not everything is completely worked out yet, but this post is an attempt to explain at least one decision I’ve arrived at.

Especially now that we’re in the second half of my last semester, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned in my time at Samford. To be honest, my transcript actually makes me laugh; the word “eclectic” comes to mind. Although my transcript demonstrates the broad scope of instruction I have received, it does not represent all that I have learned in the past four years.

Things I Have Learned That Are Not on my Transcript

  1. How to be ambidextrous. I’ve learned how to adapt–in some occasions, seamlessly–to physical challenges that arise unexpectedly. Before coming to Samford, I had only dealt with chronic pain in one joint. By the end of today, I will have applied some form of preventative care or treatment to five joints (and also my spine). But today’s a pretty normal day. I’ve had to adopt a new framework for normalcy. Not gonna lie, I am pretty proud of my ability to start off this semester ambidextrous after hand surgery.
  2. How to advocate for myself in a doctor’s office. At the beginning of my Samford career, I had probably reached a level of comfort in doctors’ offices. But especially in the past few months, I’ve gained the confidence to approach my medical professionals–who have completed many more years of schooling than I have–and tell them what I need. For instance, soon after surgery on my right hand, the instability in my left hand increased drastically. While my brilliant surgeon was focused on getting my right hand fully recovered, I had to speak up for myself and ask for a physical therapy script for my left hand. Because I advocated for myself, and because of my wonderfully competent physical therapist, the stability in my left hand has returned. I was able to identify what I needed because I’ve learned…
  3. How to listen to my body. I took an Anatomy & Physiology class last summer. Probably the most useful concept I learned was that of proprioception. This is a term for awareness of body positioning. Within the past few months, I truly felt that I could tell where my most unstable joints were at all times; I was able to sense when they were on the verge of dislocating and able to prevent full dislocations by activating specific muscles. As of right now, I can’t verbally explain the specifics of this process (or which muscles I’m activating at particular times), but I have some sort of grasp on the concept. I am now more attune to all of my skeletal muscles, and I pay special attention to muscles experiencing fatigue. When I catch this fatigue early on, I can prevent further injury.
  4. How to walk with friends through mental illness. Changing topics (and not revealing specifics): Samford is a very difficult environment to struggle with mental illness. “The Bubble” can become intoxicating when people expect you to at least act like you have your life together. I’ve witnessed the harm that people experience from overexposure to the filters we often place on our lives, our attempts to hide our struggles. I’ve had the privilege of sitting beside friends who were not okay and telling them, “It’s okay to not be okay.” I’ve learned the value of an assuring, non-judgmental presence.
  5. How to recognize my limitations. In light of these scenarios, I’ve also hit certain points when I realized that I was not the right person to be dealing with a situation. Just as I’ve learned to recognize when my muscles have been pushed too far, I’m beginning to realize when I’m being stretched too thin, emotionally. I’ve begun to learn the value of setting healthy boundaries and recognizing the need to refer people to professional help. Although one friendship has been lost through boundary setting, all others have grown much deeper as a result.
  6. How to recognize my purpose. Speaking of lost friendships, I did lose another friend who struggled with mental illness, and sadly we lost this friend to suicide. This tragedy brought about the element of emotional maturation that was most needed–the realization that I am not the only human being on the planet who experiences pain. To this day, I distinctly remember the sound of this friend’s loved ones expressing the pain they felt at her loss. That was the day I realized that this world is bigger than me and the pain I feel. As horrific as her death was to all those who were privileged to know her in this lifetime, it motivated me to listen for the similar sound of others hurting.
  7. How to grieve. After I witnessed the grief of this friend’s loved ones, I both witnessed and experienced grief over both of my dad’s parents. Soon after, I had reason to grieve the loss of my ability to perform music. I also grieved over my change of major and the friendships I had established within the Division of Music. I spent all of my junior year grieving these things. And I’ve learned that grief was justifiable and necessary before fully embracing my place in the Religion Department. (More on that in a later post.)
  8. How to organize my life so that I feel like I have some control. I’ve learned tactics to help me stay on top of physical and emotional pain. For instance, I’ve decided to set my limit on physical therapy time (outside of the clinic) to about 35 minutes–the length of a playlist I made to accompany my exercises. This playlist consists only of worship songs that help me center my life on the grace of God, as I try to center my joints. Multitasking by addressing physical and spiritual needs at the same time has been truly effective.
  9. How to relate to people through vulnerability. The concept of being vulnerable about my struggles is now fairly second nature to me, outside of the workplace. (Vulnerability has its appropriate settings–also more on that in a later post.) Vulnerability has opened the door to so many deep friendships that I cherish. It’s so freeing to not feel the need to fake my way into friendships. Vulnerability before God has also had countless benefits.

Ecclesiastes 3 (ESV)

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

From Dust to Dust

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

With all of these things in mind, I’m happy to report one way in which God is redeeming the journey I’ve been on for the past four years. With all of these life lessons learned outside the classroom setting, it’s time to advance my knowledge in these areas inside the classroom. That classroom is found at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In the fall, I will begin their Master of Clinical/Medical Social Work program, with the hopes of working in both medical (hospital) settings and private clinical practice, in the long-term.

I included the entire chapter of Ecclesiastes 3 because I’ve often quoted verse 11 by itself. In context, I appreciate it even more. God has made my periods of mourning and healing and weeping and laughing and silence and vulnerability beautiful by providing purpose, although I cannot fathom what marvelous plans He has had in store for me from beginning to end. With this in mind, “All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” I am only one person in this world God has created. I am only one person whose influence is limited to this brief lifetime. Everything I have gone through and everything I might ever do will hold no significance at the end of my life; the glory of the LORD will outlast me.

So, as Qoheleth suggests, I’m pursuing a career path that I believe I will enjoy in my brief lifetime. My Health Psychology class this semester is probably the closest I will come to encountering my graduate school courses before beginning grad school, and I am utterly fascinated by the course content. (If you didn’t know already, I’m a nerd.) And I hope to apply what I learn in grad school to provide mental health services to those facing new physical challenges, which, I believe, will also bring fulfillment to me. My not-Samford story will equip me to glorify the Author of this story I could never come up with on my own–I’m not that creative.

Avoiding Chronic Hurt

Two of the most meaningful quotes I’ve ever read both consist of two words each. One is found in C.S. Lewis’s book The Problem of Pain: “Pain hurts.”

Pain hurts.

One thing I’ve learned in my internship with a counseling center this semester is how to explain pain to children: “There’s outside hurts, and there’s inside hurts.” Along with the neurological sensations of constant hurting, chronic pain also comes with the package deal of emotional hurting.

Some examples of recent emotional wounds as a result of chronic pain include the expectations to perform normal tasks (when people don’t realize I am incapable), the expectations to perform normal tasks (when people DO understand I am incapable), the “oh you poor thing” tone of voice (which feels very condescending), and the addition of unnecessary stress to my life (the overarching theme of this semester).

Not the end of the world. Also not ideal situations to be in while trying (and failing) to avoid more dislocations.

Through the unnecessary drama of this semester, the Lord has been teaching me how He heals our emotional hurts and how He stops the cycle of hurt.

But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. Isaiah 53:5

How Jesus takes our hurt on Himself

  • He understands our hurt. 

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:10-11

Jesus came among His creation to show His love for His creation, yet the people whom He came to show love towards showed hatred towards Him. He faced the ultimate hurt by humanity. Because of this, He relates to our hurt. No one understands better than Jesus.

  • He is directly involved in our hurt.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

When injustice occurs on this side of the cross, Jesus has already died to cover all sins, including sins that are committed against us. Jesus is a third party in all situations in which people sin against one another because He paid with His life to free us from keeping records of wrongs.

  • He hurts with us.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

This is the second of the most powerful, two-word quotes I’ve ever read. Before taking Greek 101, I appreciated the fact that Jesus mourned the loss of his friend, that Jesus also hurt. Now that I am a Greek scholar (just kidding- I got this out of a Greek New Testament devotional, completely written in English), I’ve learned that the Greek word in John 11:38 reveals that Jesus was more than deeply moved. The word “embrimaomai” in verse 38 means not only “deeply moved,” but also “scolding” and “sternly warned.”

“The truth is that your suffering not only grieves Jesus, it also angers Him deeply. He’s mad at sin, sickness, disease, and death for hurting you, His precious child.”

What more could we ask for than a Savior who is angered by injustice and “sternly warns” Satan not to hurt us?

How to stop the cycle of hurt

  • Remember that you yourself have been forgiven.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

In this season of life, the last phrase of this verse (“as God in Christ forgave you”) makes me roll my eyes. Come on, God! Forgiveness is unnatural to humanity. It doesn’t make sense in the eyes of the world. Yet the reminder that God forgave me for murdering His Son helps me (reluctantly) realize that forgiveness of others is possible. Not only that, but kindness towards those who hurt me is also possible, because God showed me the greatest kindness by offering me the gift of eternal life.

  • Tame your tongue.

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:10

The world is listening to how we as Christians respond to hurt. The same ears that hear us sing praise to God on Sunday mornings are listening to our Monday-morning rants. The same Facebook friends that see our daily posts of Bible verses are also reading our political posts. (I’ll just leave that there.) Our hurt should not be followed by words that point away from our Healer.

  • Live loved.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21

I love how verse 19 begins: “Beloved.” You are loved. Because You are loved, God will make sure that justice is served. Revenge is not something we should worry about; God’s got this. Our job is to “overcome evil with good.”

As we learn to stop the cycle of hurt, God will transform us from victims to “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).



Dissonance in “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

This week I got back into writing music. Although I was creating lyrical melodies, I’ve never used as much dissonance as I did in those few phrases. (Non-musician friends: Dissonance is a clashing of harmonies that doesn’t sound right to normal people.) The melodic M7th interval is something I never would have used before studying music in college, but I used it in every phrase this week. It’s funny how something I was taught to avoid at all costs is now my go-to strategy. I guess it takes an acquired taste to appreciate the unfamiliar.

And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.

(Genesis 1:31a)

Sometimes I wonder how God could have ever looked at this world He created, that has become so broken, and called it “very good.”

In the past eight weeks, one side of my family has experienced three deaths–both of my grandparents and now a great uncle. The first funeral was a reflective time that evoked peace at the thought that my grandfather was no longer suffering from his progressive disease. The second funeral, just five short weeks after the first, was a time of shock and confusion, filled with more tears and longer hugs than before. My grandmother’s funeral was painfully similar yet vastly different.

Timing is everything. “There’s never a convenient time, but if there was one, now would not be it,” I explained before both funerals. My grandfather’s funeral was during finals week, while my grandmother’s was at the same time as the appointment I had been waiting for six months for, in hopes of finally getting a diagnosis. At the end of the semester, I was in a mindset of closure, and it was easier to accept that my grandfather’s suffering had ended. However, I entered my grandmother’s funeral from a completely different mindset.

After her unexpected and tragic death on a Saturday afternoon, the funeral was scheduled for that Tuesday morning, with the visitation on Monday night. The thing is, on Monday morning I had an appointment 200 miles away to determine whether or not I will be having back surgery. After hearing that I will not be having surgery, we then headed to the next rescheduled appointment; instead of waiting another several months for a cancellation, the doctor’s office squeezed me in for that afternoon. Two major appointments, one day, zero solutions. I did leave with a list of biomechanical problems, most of which I didn’t know I had. (And technically I got suggestions for some symptom relief, but no overall solutions or diagnosis.) The traveling and medical-information overload left me exhausted. That night after the visitation, I felt too tired to have the come-to-Jesus meeting I so desperately needed. So I walked into the funeral the next day unprepared.

One congregational hymn was common to both funerals: “Amazing Grace.” However, at the second funeral, we sang the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I’ve played and sung this hymn for years, and I had just sung it in one of my classes a week or two before. I knew the lyrics, but I studied them as I held the handout in my hand.

“Thy compassions, they fail not,” I read. I found that I couldn’t keep singing.

I knew this to be true, and I remembered the passage from Lamentations 3 on which this hymn is based. But my mouth couldn’t utter the words as the song continued.

“As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.”

After this phrase, I felt the dissonance–the clashing of ideas. The objective truth that God’s compassions never fail, and the subjective perspective of seeing them.

I realized then and there that I hadn’t seen new mercies that morning. Or the morning before. Or the week before when my grandmother was tragically slipping into death’s hands.

I realized that I couldn’t see anything past the pool of tears streaming from my eyes.

Not because of my pain or loss.

Because I realized that not seeing new mercies doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Because I finally felt the ache from holding God at arm’s length.

Because I realized that I have nothing but Him, and I better start looking for His mercies.

God is an artist who had to adjust His artistic style to the brokenness of humanity. He now creates beauty from pain, beautiful melodies from dissonance.

It took my ears two years to fully appreciate the beauty of dissonance. I wonder how long it will take for me to fully appreciate the beauty of God’s sovereign will through suffering.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Lord, give me eyes that see how You make beauty from pain.


Tidings of Comfort and Joy

We are now almost one week away from Christmas–one of the most emotionally-stirring holidays in our culture. And it should be! The miracle of the incarnate God in the form of a baby should never cease to amaze us. But the emotional nature of this holiday can become exponentially difficult for those battling mental illness. It’s hard to sing about tidings of comfort and joy when you’re not experiencing either. It’s hard being greeted by “Merry Christmas,” instead of “How are you?” I know because I’ve been there, and by the grace of God, I am not facing depression this holiday season. But because I have experienced depression in the past, I want to explain some aspects for those who have not struggled with it. And for anyone reading this, I want to explain the difference Jesus makes in battling mental illness.

I want to start off by saying that I’m not writing this because I want pity. I am actually one of the lucky ones: I know the exact cause of my depression (chronic pain), have not struggled with anxiety, and have had seasons of relief, which I am currently in. Additionally, not everyone with depression has these symptoms. I am simply writing from my own experience with the hope that anyone reading this will be able to empathize more with those facing mental illness.

1.) Feelings of hopelessness

The mind fighting off mental illness is constantly lying to itself; the “sick brain” (as my psychology teacher called it) thinks that the problems it faces today will never go away. As a result, the hope of getting better sometimes gets overshadowed by the problems directly in front of us. When we feel like we’ll suffer forever, we should remember that the exact opposite is true: “So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Lie: The problems of today are eternal.

Truth: Our hope in Jesus is eternal.

2.) Loss of control

Nothing scares me more than having my own mind turn against me. In the past, when my mind was filled with thoughts that were uncharacteristic of me, I felt like I had no control. I think that a universal desire for individuals is to feel some amount of control in their own lives. Even as spirit-filled believers, we are called to self-control, meaning we maintain control over our sinful desires. But ultimately, God does not expect us to have all circumstances of our lives under our own control; instead, He wants the whole of our lives to be under His control. When I’m trying to fight the battles within my own mind, I have to remember that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47).

Lie: You’re too weak to have control of your mind.

Truth: God is stronger, more experienced, and more trustworthy.

3.) Loss of interest

I’m not an expert on mental illness, but I think that loss of interest is unique to depression. For me, this was the most frustrating part. It was more than just apathy; I couldn’t remember what I enjoyed about life. I couldn’t fully enjoy spending time with people because–as harsh as it sounds–I wasn’t interested in celebrating with them or hearing about their own problems. I couldn’t turn to music, because I forgot what it was like to enjoy music. I felt dissociated from everything that I thought defined me. But I was more focused on losses than gains. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Lie: Everything you thought you loved doesn’t matter.

Truth: The life that Jesus has to offer you matters.

4.) Sense of guilt

Living in guilt is different than acting on conviction; living in guilt means feeling like a burden for talking about your problems, which then results in shutting people out of your life. Isolation then forces you to listen to your own mind, which tells you that you should feel guilty. It’s an endless cycle, further enforced by my guilt-prone personality. Sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking that our difficult circumstances are punishment for our sins. As sinners saved by grace, we might face consequences of our sins, but Jesus took all the necessary punishment for our sins. To think we are experiencing punishment for our sins is to doubt grace. “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus…For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:1, 38-39).

Lie: You don’t deserve to be happy.

Truth: You don’t deserve grace, but take it anyways. It’s already paid for.

So what about Christmas?

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

Jesus came as the antidote to the symptoms of mental illness. As our Wonderful Counselor, He reminds us that we are not without hope. As our Mighty God, He fights our battles and brings our lives under His control. As our Eternal Father, He gives us a new identity–not based on our interests, but based on our relationship as His children. And as our Prince of Peace, He removes our guilt and replaces it with the peace of being forgiven. Also, as our Immanuel, He stepped down from the glories of Heaven to be “with us” in our suffering.

This Christmas, let’s remember to pray for and care for those battling mental illness, whether that’s lending a helping hand or simply a compassionate ear. Let’s also remember that only through Jesus are we able to experience joy, peace, and hope.



Pain, Loss, and a Loss to Explain the Pain

Summer 2015 is definitely a summer to be remembered. It has been unlike any other summer, in that I’ve never experienced more pain, confusion, and uncertainty. Yet through it all, the goodness of God has been evident.


Hosea 11:3- “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them in My arms, but they never knew that I healed them.”

The first month of this summer, I spent relearning how to walk: I had a procedure known as PRP therapy on both feet, with the second occurring two weeks after the first. I had this procedure on just my left foot last summer, so I mostly understood what I was getting into. But it ended up being more difficult than I expected.

The night after I had my left foot done, following my right foot, I sat on my couch, unable to laugh, unable to talk, unable to blink. The pain was so great that the only movement I could make was wiping away the tears that involuntarily flowed from my eyes. Using the pain scale of 1 to 10, I was trying my hardest to believe I was not at a 10; I had never experienced deeper pain in my 4 1/2 year of pain.

The next few days were insanely difficult. Since I was relearning how to use both feet, what once took me 10 seconds to walk across my house took me 10 minutes. I had to hold on to walls with every step. And each step felt more exhausting than the last. Every day felt like a nightmare.

But here’s the fascinating part: I was so wrapped up in the fact that I was in pain that I didn’t realize my pain had decreased every single day. A week after the procedure on my left foot, I realized that I didn’t need my boot anymore. And a week after that, I didn’t need to hold on to walls anymore. And a week after that, I was driving without pain! All of these realizations were sudden, and I saw how God had gotten me one step closer to recovery. In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis states that pain is God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Goodness of God: If it wasn’t for my pain, and then lack thereof, I wouldn’t have seen how God has been there literally every step of the way.


Colossians 4:5- “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

This summer I lost a sweet friend, Kelsey. Kelsey and I went to elementary school together, became friends through a science project in 7th grade, and stayed friends through all of high school. This was my first friend my age to pass away- long before anyone expected.

The funeral home was packed for her funeral. I don’t think Kelsey ever realized just how many lives she impacted. The room was filled with sadness- sadness at the realization that we can only rely on memory to experience the happiness she always spread. Yet another emotion filled the room- regret. We regretted the loss of the opportunity to be there for her. Most of our friends said the same thing: “I wish we would have kept in touch.”

Through this tragedy, God provided an opportunity for me to learn how to improve the way I relate to others. First, I learned to promptly take advantage of the chance to share God’s love, because no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Delayed obedience is disobedience; the Spirit prompts us to obey in His perfect timing. Therefore, I don’t want to procrastinate loving others any longer.

Secondly, I learned that, although life is hard, the absence of life is harder; other people are struggling as much as–and more than–me. In recent months, I’ve been so overwhelmed by my own pain that I’ve forgotten that others are hurting too. Leading up to the funeral, as her loved ones expressed to me their hurt, I realized what brokenness sounds like. I don’t want to be deaf to this sound any longer. Philippians 2:4 tells us that “everyone should look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.”

Goodness of God: Even with death, God can still use the hurt to motivate others to live like Him.

Loss to Explain the Pain:

Galatians 2:20- “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

After two additional rounds of PRP therapy, I thought, “This is going to be it. It’s going to work this time.” And I think it did: Weeks 7 and 8 (or 5 and 6, for my left foot) were great! I was walking barefoot on tile without pain. But by Week 9, I developed additional pain–and severe, at that. It was at that point that my right Achilles tendon (on the outside and back of the heel) became inflamed. This tendon was not touched during PRP, since I hadn’t had problems with it before. In the next few weeks, I developed problems with my wrist, which had been present a few months before but never received a diagnosis. At my most recent appointment, I was diagnosed with tendonitis on the outsides of my wrists. (I had previously been diagnosed with tendonitis on the thumb side of my right wrist.) One year ago today, I might have been experiencing (at most) some back discomfort. In the past year alone, I have redeveloped plantar fasciitis, but in both feet, and I’ve developed tendonitis in both sides of both wrists and both feet. None of this has made sense to me.

Christian metaphor time! Since I’m writing this at the beach, I’ll use a beach metaphor.

Today when I went out in the water, the waves were frequent and strong. At first I approached the waves by trying to stand my ground and not fall. It was difficult because wave after wave crashed into me, while all I did was face and brace myself for the next. Later on, I got on a float and rode on top of the waves. I felt proud that the waves could no longer get to me. I enjoyed floating up and down at the passage of each new wave. But the problem with riding on top of the waves was that I was moving backwards instead of forwards. However, I found another response to the waves: remaining on my knees, with my back to the incoming waves, as I let the impact carry me forward. I didn’t know when the next wave would arrive. I didn’t know what the magnitude of the next wave would be. And, surprisingly, it was liberating. Since I had no idea what to expect next, there was nothing I could do to prepare or prevent it. I was free to relax and let it move me. Similarly, I’m not strong enough to simply face my pain, and I don’t want to conquer my pain only to move backwards. The only way to move forward without getting beaten by my circumstances is to stay on my knees in prayer.

Right now, I have more questions than answers. I really don’t know where to go from here. I am at a loss to explain my pain. I have no control in preventing my pain. But here’s the reward: The One who is in control of my circumstances is the One who “brings out the starry host by number” and “calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).

Goodness of God: When my situation is out of my control, it is in God’s control.

I know that in all things, my God is good. I’m sincerely grateful for the difficulties of this summer; without them, I would feel entitled to a good life and neglect a good God.

King Saul

I don’t usually write on the Old Testament, but so much of it still applies to today, to this nation, to my generation. The story of Israel’s relationship to God is often similar to our current response to God. The Israelites got bored and thought that God wasn’t enough. They turned away. God proved why they shouldn’t have. They returned to the merciful arms of God. This cycle is repeated multiple times throughout the Old Testament and provides hope for our modern-day return to God in His mercy.

  • 1 Samuel 8:5
    • 5 They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not follow your example. Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.”
    • The people wanted equality with others who did not hold the same values.
  • 1 Samuel 8:19-20
    • 19 The people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We must have a king over us. 20 Then we’ll be like all the other nations: our king will judge us, go out before us, and fight our battles.”
    • The people placed God’s role in the hands of man. Their cravings were met in God, yet they wanted more.
  • 1 Samuel 8:21-22
    • 21 Samuel listened to all the people’s words and then repeated them to the Lord.[a] 22 “Listen to them,” the Lord told Samuel. “Appoint a king for them.” Then Samuel told the men of Israel, “Each of you, go back to your city.”
    • God gave the people what they wanted. He wasn’t powerless. He demonstrated His sovereignty in His discipline–letting His people discover the consequences to their actions.
  • 1 Samuel 9:16
    • 16 “At this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over My people Israel. He will save them from the hand of the Philistines because I have seen the affliction of My people, for their cry has come to Me.”
    • Even in their disobedience, God cared about their hurt and wanted to stop it. He is a good God who doesn’t abandon.
  • 1 Samuel 9:21
    • 21 Saul responded, “Am I not a Benjaminite from the smallest of Israel’s tribes and isn’t my clan the least important of all the clans of the Benjaminite tribe? So why have you said something like this to me?”
    • The Lord has a plan for even “the least important.” He loves those whom society has cast aside, and He has a better plan for their lives than they can imagine.
  • 1 Samuel 10:9-10
    • When Saul turned around[a] to leave Samuel, God changed his heart,[b] and all the signs came about that day. 10 When Saul and his attendant arrived at Gibeah, a group of prophets met him. Then the Spirit of God took control of him, and he prophesied along with them.
    • Just because people act in opposition to God’s plan doesn’t mean that the Spirit can’t move in the situation.
  • 1 Samuel 12:16-18
    • 16 “Now, therefore, present yourselves and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Isn’t the wheat harvest today? I will call on the Lord and He will send thunder and rain, so that you will know and see what a great evil you committed in the Lord’s sight by requesting a king for yourselves.” 18 Samuel called on the Lord, and on that day the Lord sent thunder and rain. As a result, all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
    • The people were punished for thinking they didn’t need God, but their punishment resulted in reverence of God.
  • 1 Samuel 12:20
    • 20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord.Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart.
    • Though the nation had turned from God, they were not too far gone.
  • 1 Samuel 13:11-14
    • 11 and Samuel asked, “What have you done?” Saul answered, “When I saw that the troops were deserting me and you didn’t come within the appointed days and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, 12 I thought: The Philistines will now descend on me at Gilgal, and I haven’t sought theLord’s favor. So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.” 13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the Lord your God gave you. It was at this time that the Lord would have permanently established your reign over Israel, 14 but now your reign will not endure. The Lord has found a man loyal to Him,[a] and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not done what the Lord commanded.”
    • We can seek the Lord’s favor all we want, but we won’t succeed without obeying His commands exactly.
  • Acts 13:21-23
    • 21 Then they asked for a king, so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for 40 years. 22 After removing him, He raised up David as their king and testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man loyal to Me,[a] who will carry out all My will.’ 23 “From this man’s descendants, according to the promise, God brought the Savior, Jesus,[b] to Israel.
    • After the nation was led astray by human leadership, God raised up a man after His own heart. I have the hope that the next generation will rise up as a generation after God’s own heart.
    • God is able to save, despite human failure. Jesus saves, no matter what mistakes we’ve made.