Sorry it took me so long to get this up.
Around two years ago, I was at a good place in life. I was in a relationship, I had finally found a place at my home church, and I had some solid friends. My senior year was done (no more stressful AP classes! parties! graduation!) and I was really excited to go off to college. But despite all that, I felt sad and empty that summer. Anxiety about college kicked in, and I wasn't sure how to deal with it. All the changes in my life were very scary, and after summer ended, I found myself having a tough time transitioning into university life.
I knew I needed to find a church to attend while I was at school. The church I was raised in had always stressed fellowship as necessary to my walk with God. So, I found a church. I didn't click with it right away, not during my first semester. I'd had some bad experiences with church people in the past, so I didn't trust that the people there were genuine. I didn't feel like anyone actually had a reason to care about me, and I closed myself off. Unsurprisingly, I made very few friends. My shy nature did nothing to help this. Despite that, I continued to attend Sunday services and Wednesday small groups.
My wellbeing was on the decline in my first semester. My relationship was struggling, I was having trouble making friends, and I wasn't getting out there and involved like I wanted to. I was absolutely miserable when I headed home for winter break; it was like a dark fog had settled over me and I couldn't see past it.
My second semester started up, and everything just seemed to be getting worse and worse. But God was at work in all of this. I started to come around to the girls in my small group. (Side note, one of our group leaders had been gone for the first semester, so we didn't meet until January.) When she came, we started talking. She started to make an effort to get to know me, beyond what anyone else had. I also got to know a lot of the other girls in my group better, and started to see that they genuinely cared about me. I found that I cared about them too.
Things were getting hard outside of church though. The problems in my relationship boiled over, and I broke up with my first boyfriend. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. I had small group at church two days later, and the support I felt from my friends there was truly touching. The church had a late night worship session after small group. I found myself bringing all the pain from my failed relationship to God, and I promised Him that I would make a change in my life. I wouldn't go around chasing a broken relationship any more; instead I'd work on my relationship with Him. A week later I first heard the song "Called Me Higher", and I felt God telling me that He had so much more in store for me than that relationship.
I'd love to say that I turned around right there, and everything became awesome, but I still had a lot of pain to deal with, from the break-up and other things. I started throwing myself into a lot of different activities at school, not necessarily for the right reasons. I just wanted to get through the fog somehow, so I started searching for something, anything that would help. I muddled through my second semester.
Summer came, and I was still feeling pretty down. I forced myself out of bed to go to a summer class. I told my best friend how bad I had been feeling lately, and she gave me support. I started hanging out with my (now former) small group leader more; we were becoming good friends, and I was starting to get to know some of her friends too. I went on vacation with my family for a few weeks, which helped me feel a little better.
Fall semester started up again, and I was quite surprised to find that I actually had friends when I went back to my church for the first service. The service itself was good; it was the first time I saw our church's new pastor. My freshman year had been our old pastor's last year, so I was curious what the new one would be like. I didn't have the courage to introduce myself to him yet though.
Fall semester was pretty miserable. I was overwhelmed academically, anxiety plagued me constantly, and some really stressful stuff happened at my school. I continued to throw myself into things, hoping something would stick, but I got rejected a lot. I prayed to God that He would help me through all of this, but I started losing hope that life would ever get better. I hated life and myself. Just existing was really painful, and I was living without joy.
One of the few bright spots was church. I joined a new small group for the year (led by the same girl) and made friends with the girls there. I was starting to get to know more people, and I was really liking the sermons by this new pastor. I also was talking more about faith with a couple of good friends from outside this church.
Winter break came, and going home to my family was pretty hard. I was still dealing with all of these dark emotions. And going back to school wasn't any easier. I started the semester with yet another rejection. I was expecting more of the same. Life sucks, pain of existing, wishing I didn't have to deal with myself...
The church I go to does a retreat every semester. I'd always found a reason not to go, but I didn't have an excuse this time, so I signed up. I was excited, but not really expecting anything big to happen. We were going to a retreat center on a mountain. It was meant to be a good chance to be still in God's presence. I still wasn't 100% confident in the friendships I had been making, and I was a little bit nervous about hanging out with people, especially since the two people I was closest to at church weren't able to come.
The first day of the retreat was wonderful. I felt a sense of peace, and like I was closer to God than I had been in a long time. At worship that night, there was a pile of different Bible verses. I picked one out at random, and got Deuteronomy 31:6:
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
That stuck with me. Obviously, fear had been something I had struggled with throughout college. It wasn't due to random chance I picked that verse out of the pile.
The next day, I started to feel a creeping sense of anxiety. What if everyone didn't really want me around? The dark fog was still plaguing me, full force. I tried to ignore it, but it got worse and worse as the day went on. At worship that night, I tried to pray, and I realized that my fear was blocking me from God. I wasn't sure what to do, until my pastor came up to the front of the room and said he felt led to pray with us, and that he would be in the back of room for anyone that wanted prayer.
I felt that spiritual pull to go talk to him. Like I said earlier, I had been too anxious to even introduce myself to him in the first semester. But there I was, being led by the Spirit to go and ask him to pray over me. It took me a little while to find the courage, but I did.
I told him how I was struggling with fear. He prayed over me, and it was one of the most amazing prayers I have ever experienced. During it, the dark fog that had been plaguing me for the past year just... lifted. I saw things with renewed eyes; the Holy Spirit had worked in my life. Suddenly, it wasn't terrible. God's peace was with me, full force. I praised God with everything I had for the rest of the weekend, and I realized the extent of His love for me. Honestly, it was nothing less than a miracle. I'm usually skeptical of lives being changed in moment, but prayer is a powerful thing.
I went back to school with a joyful heart. The girl who hated being alive was no more. I started to see God in all of these little places where I had missed Him before. He was constantly moving in my life, and my faith was growing exponentially. I started getting really involved in my church. I looked for every opportunity to do something that would grow my faith. I joined a couple of book studies, I tried different types of prayer (one of which involved a midnight trip to the beach), I tried to find new ways to seek God, I started conquering my fears (with His help, of course).
I also saw improvements in my relationships with people. Getting so involved led me to make new friends at church, as well as deepening relationships with the friends I already had. I found what I had been looking for. I did have one last application I wanted to fill out though: church leadership team for 15-16.
Almost a year to the day after I promised God I would make a change in my life, I found myself at late night worship again. I was so thankful to God for having brought me out of the pain. But I was also seeking His direction for my life. Following my own desires had worked out pretty terribly for me so far, so I wanted to go His way. I told my pastor about all of this, and he prayed for me again. Afterwards, he asked me what I was doing for summer. I told him about my vacation plans, but that I didn't really know what else I was doing. He suggested I look into doing something in ministry this summer. It hadn't occurred to me at all, but I realized it was the perfect thing for me to do.
Long story short, I ended up applying to be on the church's staff for the summer, and that's where I'm at right now. I still have a lot of uncertainty about what I'm going to do next , and I still struggle with fear and anxiety. I question if I'm really following God. I've made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I know that grace is real. I love God, and I'm trying to seek Him in everything that I do. I'm so far from perfect at that, but I'm getting there. I know that it's okay not to know what comes next, because when it comes down to it, I've got a Savior that's forgiven me, a guiding Spirit that is always with me, and a God that loves me. He got through all of that; He'll get me through what comes next.
tl;dr God brought joy back into my life, and I've been trying to follow Him ever since.
Wow, this ended up being super long. God's done a lot for me in the past two years.