I have been a Christian my whole life, and have grown up in a Christian home. Sunday mornings were church, and as I got older, Sundays also were AWANA days. Jesus came into my heart when I was four years old, and I was baptized when I was a baby. My whole life I have known that there was a God, and believed in him whole heartedly. As I grew up I learned more and more about Him, and was always in awe of His unfailing love, grace, and forgiveness.
When I was 16, I began to doubt if He was really there. When I prayed I didn’t feel like I heard Him, I felt as if he wasn’t there at all. The summer of 2015, I attended West Coast Honor Camp, a Christian camp for honor students in AWANA. That year I had been struggling with self-worth, and doubting God. I didn’t have many friends at the time and was feeling very depressed about life. I was mad all the time, yelling at family for no reasons, and not being a very loving or forgiving Christian. But I was too afraid to tell my parents because I thought they would be disappointed in me. That year, on the first night at camp, they told us that, that the theme for the week was self-worth, and Jesus’s love. It scared me, because I didn’t want to address my weaknesses. I shoved everything I was feeling down deep inside me so I wouldn’t think about it. In doing so I was really pushing God away, when He was opening His arms for me to come running back. That night I stayed quiet during devotions when our counselor asked anyone to share something they were feeling about the topic of the week. I was afraid of being judged, and worried about what others would think about me, say about me, or feel about me. Again, I pushed God away.
As the week went on, each message at chapel hit me. Each devotion in my cabin digging deeper. It became harder and harder to suppress those feelings of worry and doubt, and finally I had to talk about it. I went to my friend, and shared everything that I had been so afraid to share including how I saw myself and that I doubted that there was even a God. I explained that I knew He was there, but I didn’t understand why I couldn’t hear Him. Everything I once saw as His amazing creation, became just another thing in this world. As we talked. She listened and never judged. When I had finished talking, she asked me if she could be honest with me. She said, “Every Christian goes through a doubting phase. It’s not a bad thing. It means you aren’t having blind faith. But when you do doubt, you need to go find things out about it. Read the Bible, research, study, talk to a friend or pastor. Never be afraid of asking questions.” At the very end, she put it very simple, and what she said changed my view on a lot of things and made me really think. She said; “Joanna, I think you are pushing God away.” Woah. That wasn’t the easiest thing to hear, but man was she right. I needed to make a change and this week I was going to make it.
That night after chapel I sat down with my counselor and expressed my fears and the conversation with my friend. We sat there together, as I told her I no longer wanted to run away from God. I wanted to feel Him with me, and to feel the love He gives every one of His children. As she prayed with me, I began to cry. I had opened up, and the fear and anxiety that once controlled me was gone. That was the night I let Jesus back into my heart, the day that changed my life for the better. He has been closer to me than ever before since that day. After we finished praying, I got up to head back to my cabin, and as I was walking, I felt this big weight and dark cloud that had been on my shoulders and over my life for so long fade away. No longer was there fear of what people thought of me, nor the thought of trying to cover up my mistakes anymore.
When I got home, I was telling my mom and dad everything about camp, and what happened. The fear that I once had about telling my parents about my doubt and fear was gone. When I told them that I was no longer going to run from God, but towards Him, and that I took the faith they had given me and taken it for my own, they we’re beyond happy. There was no need for me to be fearful, because they were so proud of me.
Looking back now, I realize that everyone is going to have doubts. No one is perfect and everyone sins. And no matter how far we stray from God, He will always be there with open arms waiting for us to run back to him. We all His children, and He has more love for us than anyone can fathom. As I move into life after graduation, I want to make sure everyone knows just how special they are. That no matter what has happened in their life they are always loved by God and that He is always waiting for them to come back to Him.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7