“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’” But …. what if it’s not?
When I first got the idea for this article, I was in a place where I felt like everything in my life was being called into question. Where I belonged in the world, what I should do with my time, and how my future would pan out all felt like amateur self-exploration, lacking definitive, almost-thirty-year-old confidence. The voice of societal pressure to do more, work harder and be better is loud, but the little voice in my head that won’t let me deny my insecurities is even louder.
Being Christian doesn’t equate to having it all together and being happy all the time — the scriptures forewarned that in this world I would face trouble and that long-suffering is a virtue.
It never ceases to amaze me how it can feel like I’m on a long “winning streak” with God, then one or two things fall out of my desired order and my heart is immediately inclined to pull away from Him. Who do I think I am?
I certainly couldn’t answer any of the questions God asked Job when Job felt prime enough in his suffering to question God. I do it anyway. We all do. We want our way. We have enough common sense to understand that God is not a genie in a bottle here to fulfill our every wish, yet we find ourselves shook when every prayer isn’t answered the way we want or as quickly as we’d like. We lift our hands and sing WE SURRENDER ALL to a sovereign God with the final say, yet we still keep a plan B in mind ever so discreetly.
This walk of faith is exactly that–a walk. Along that walk, we might find some of the greatest joys and successes of our entire lives and have the opportunity to walk alongside gems of people. Some parts of the walk might be dark and cold, and we find ourselves dressed inappropriately for the weather. Some parts we’ll walk alone, and the soles of our shoes might give way to blistered toes scaling the earth.
It’s in those times that I find myself in a funk. Here’s what I do to surrender the weight of what I’m carrying and genuinely leave it at His feet.
Adopt a perspective of gratefulness. It is a privilege to work and earn a steady income. I GET to have a challenging job to practice diligence as unto God. I GET to juggle multiple responsibilities because I’m entrusted with those things. I have many freedoms in my life for which others still pray. This shift in perspective alone was enough in most cases to quiet my unrest.
Affirm and encourage myself. At times, the root of our unrest is in what we believe about ourselves. Do my circumstances define me and my capabilities? Is my identity, worth, and value rooted in my 9-5? No to both. I am valuable because He says I am, and that settles it. There is so much love around me, and it has been a blessing to be molded and shaped by the beauty around me into who I am. I am more than capable, and in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.
Be transparent with those I love and trust. Pride has a way of bulking up our chests while causing us to fall apart on the inside quietly. Sharing my experiences with trusted friends and family is a tremendously helpful way in knowing I do not carry my burdens alone, and making room for the listener’s advice, wisdom, and perspective on the situation.
Make room for things I genuinely enjoy. Finding a healthy outlet is very helpful in renewing the mind. For me, that is writing and spending unfettered time with loved ones. For you, that might be playing an instrument, exercising, visiting a new place, etc.
Keep praising. When I feel down, it sometimes feels like the last thing I want to do is muster up the energy to praise, but that’s often exactly what I need to do. Led by Hebrew 13:15, I offer unto God a sacrifice of praise. I might not have it all together, but He does, and He continually calls me to Himself, so I might find rest.
When it is not well with my soul, my task is not to throw in the towel on my faith. It is to dust myself off and take hold of the Mighty Hand that will walk with me, wade through the waters with me, and carry (or pull) me along as necessary.
That Mighty Hand promised He would never leave me nor forsake me, so I’m standing on that.
He said He is faithful to complete the work He has started in me. I’ll believe it.
He tells me suffering produces character, so I’ll write that on the tablet of my heart.
I might kick and scream at times, but I will remain confident that my God will not withhold any good thing from me, and that He ultimately knows what is best. I’ll stay confident that I’ll continue to see His goodness while here on earth, and even after this earth is history. The fact that my home, where I truly belong, is an eternal place is evidence enough to proclaim that it is well with my soul, regardless of any earthly circumstance.
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say…. It is well, and it is well with my soul.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chriska is a twenty-something Haitian-American attorney with a passion for Jesus, traveling, writing, fashion, and spending quality time with loved ones. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from William Jewell College, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri (Kansas City) School of Law.
Natalie Manuel Lee, a California native, fashion stylist/influencer, is the executive producer and host of Hillsong Channel’s newest series, “Now with Natalie,” premiering on March 3. The series is a fresh, relevant, and necessary examination into the depths of the Christian millennial experience. Featuring guests such as Kelly Rowland, Tyson Chandler, and Hailey Bieber, the series focuses on purpose and identity, the blessing and curse that is social media, and staying grounded in a culture that glamorizes status over self-care. With its countercultural “it’s not what you think” approach, “Now with Natalie” is sure to set a precedent in the modern Christian narrative. Ahead of the premier, Urban Faith sat down with Natalie to find out more about her new series, what inspired the idea, and her personal journey of staying grounded in a hustle and bustle society.
WHAT INSPIRED “NOW WITH NATALIE”?
I saw a need. A plight of this generation is to glorify the one in a position instead of seeing the purpose behind that position. The idea behind the show is to dismantle counterfeit definitions of identity and purpose and to pull back the veil of false narratives that culture tends to push. What we do and what we have cannot define our worth and value. Our identity should be rooted in who we are and whose we are. I personally have wrestled with these concepts before and wanted to have authentic conversations to shed light on this.
WHAT TOPICS DO YOU FOCUS ON IN “NOW WITH NATALIE”?
The show will focus almost exclusively on the topics of purpose and identity. Because it is such a deep and pervasive wound, the series will focus on dissecting these topics from different perspectives and experiences.
WHICH INTERVIEWS ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?
Honestly, I am excited about all of them. Each episode serves a different purpose. You will hear about experiences ranging from the music industry, professional athletes, professionals in the area of cognitive neuroscience, and more. Each episode is enlightening and is intended to make you feel more free after watching.
WHAT IMPACT DO YOU BELIEVE SOCIAL MEDIA HAS ON SELF WORTH?
Social media can be the greatest blessing, but also the biggest curse. When misused, social media can fuel inadequacy. As humans, we tend to compare and want to compete based off what we scroll through on these highlight reels. A lot of our thoughts come from what we see and, for some, this level of comparison has peaked the epidemic of depression and anxiety. I always advocate taking periodic social media fasts, and just deleting the apps when needed.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE HAPPINESS?
As a mental perspective. When you truly know who you are and what you’re defined by, happiness will arrive. I think about happiness as joy, and the joy of the Lord is my strength. I constantly revert back to the truth of who I am, and the truth of who God is. Happiness and joy align with those truths.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK-LIFE BALANCE ROUTINE?
I start my mornings still. I give myself time in the morning, and spend time with God. The biggest lesson I have learned in the last decade is to not abort the process God is putting me through, and to keep my eyes fixed on the bigger picture. God created us each with a very specific and unique life blueprint, and He has equipped us to navigate it without looking to the left or to the right in comparison. God graces each of us to run our own unique race.
Leaning into the last quarter of the year, we won’t soon forget #summer18 as the time Drake and Kiki had us in our feelings. By now, we’ve all heard Drake’s Billboard Top 100 serenade to the mysterious “Kiki.” The carefree acoustics of the track made it an easy summer jam with its mellow diddy bop vibes mixed with hints of youthful New Orleans Bounce energy. While there’s plenty of speculation on the true identity of Kiki, her existence meant enough for Drake to write an entire song with her in mind. Despite whatever complications that may have arisen between him and Kiki, he sang of longing. If, for a moment, Drake was merely a man resolute on a genuine pursuit, remembering the position of his heart, and writing music about that love many years later. To some, Drake’s tune is a simple invitation to dance. To others, it inspires reflection on first loves, the places we can call home, and the people we can count on to always be there. For Christians, the Drake and Kiki dynamic is cute, but pales in stark comparison to the dynamic of Christ and his pursuit of the Church.
It’s not hard to spot a couple in love with their public displays of affection and extravagant gestures. Yet it doesn’t compare to the love of Christ and his martyrdom for the sole purpose and sake of a people who may or may not think twice about it. It has been said that the Bible is one massive love story with many interludes and plot twists that ultimately end in a beautiful union of first loves. [Rev. 21:2-4] Countless accounts in Scripture demonstrate the depth and consistency of the pursuit that flows from God Himself to us average, everyday people with records showing no merit for the grace we receive. We, as God’s people, aka “the Church,” also have a pretty strong track record of playing hard to get with God (read: rebellious). Whether an early century Israelite complaining, kicking, and screaming while making your way to a land God promised you, or whether you have the tendencies of an adolescent who prefers to spend all his money on prostitutes and living on the wild side—God says that he still wants you, and can make a celebration out of you. Whatever flavor of 2018 sin you battle every day, God says his love and grace are still yours for the taking. The hearts of mere men may change, their loyalties may realign, their focus may shift—but God is not subject to the same human emotional inconsistencies we tend to fall into. He stays the same through the ages. He has promised that his love, his pursuit, who he is, and how he values us never changes. [Psalm 136; Hebrews 13:8] His heart is that you would draw near to Him even at your lowest point, and even at your darkest hour. He declares He will never, ever leave from beside you—no matter how bad things look.
So, death to the idea of fair-weather pursuits. Imagine loving someone to the point of voluntary submission to public humiliation, bare-skin flogging, ridicule, going up a hill carrying a cross designed to hold the weight of a grown man, and dying brutally on the same. More fascinating still is the pursuit didn’t end there. Jesus not only turned on his “read receipts” and ghosted death itself, but God has also promised that nothing would separate us from his love through his son Jesus Christ—no angel, no demon, no height or depth, nor anything imaginable or unimaginable. He has promised to be down for us, in the most literal sense, always.
The world will offer many exotic loves of all sorts presented on the silver platters of our favorite vices (greed, lust, sexual immorality, addiction, impulsivity, etc.). In those moments, it is up to us to get in our feelings, to check the position of our hearts, and to recognize where and with whom our true loyalties lie. “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” [2 Chronicles 16:9]. If this is true, the Lord is also asking of you “Do you love me?” and “Are you riding?” to the extent that you will also take up your own cross and follow him. [Luke 9:23]
God has given us a masterful example of what it looks like to pursue—a relentless and timeless pursuit that supersedes death. He has demonstrated that he is someone who loves you and whose love can be trusted to last. He offers a proven record as someone who cares for you deeply. Someone who calls out for you, even when you pay him no mind. Despite it all, God says that he wants you, he needs you….and he’s down for you, always. Fortunately for us, God offers much more than a top Billboard song. He offers a love that won’t fade after #summer18, and an unrivaled pursuit that will last well after Drake and Kiki.
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