Here is just a little bit of my story of learning to know and trust God. I was born into a Christian family. Going to church and knowing what the Bible said was always valued and important. But there came a point when learning more things about God at church or in the Bible didn't really change how I acted. I knew a lot of things and verses in the bible. I learned many bible stories and things like 'do not be anxious in anything, because God cares for you', or 'God has good plans for you'. While I thought of myself as a good Christian and thought I believed the bible I never really lived my life like I believed God had the power to create the whole world or deliver the Israelites from battles they should have lost. I didn't really believe I could trust God and not be anxious when I felt awkward around a group of people. I would just try hard to avoid situations where I felt too awkward or uncomfortable instead of actually believing that He would help me to work through those situations. Instead of trusting that God actually had good plans for me, I would constantly worry and be down if things didn't go the way I had planned or wanted them to go.
One thing I loved doing since middle school was playing clarinet in my youth orchestra. Later I decided I wanted to play in a professional orchestra and to do that I knew I had to be the best of the best. That meant I was trying to practice 2-3 or more hours a day. In 10th grade I got tendonitis in my arms from practicing too much. For that to heal it means taking it easy and not practicing much until it heals, which can take months. I remember feeling miserable. The one thing I was trying really hard to do well was the one thing I couldn't do, I could see others around me excelling and winning competitions and it I felt like something was taken away from me that I deserved. I was never someone to talk openly about the things that were bothering me. I would mostly try to pretend things were fine as best I could to avoid the awkwardness and discomfort of talking about what was bothering me. I remember talking to God at night wondering why He would keep me alive when things felt so painful. I knew that because I believed in Jesus and the forgiveness I received when He died on the cross I would go to heaven, so why would He have me keep living on earth when it felt so painful. But throughout that time I learned to trust God more and actually believe what the bible said and apply it to my life instead of just knowing what it said. I remember even though it was hard, there were great, sweet times with God. In those time I would tell God that if He ever needed to give me a wake up call to give me tendonitis again.
The tendonitis eventually got better. A few years later I decided to go to college and major in clarinet performance. I knew that I would really have to practice a lot and get a lot better my freshman year to have any shot at playing clarinet professionally. Right away in my first semester of college I got tendonitis again. This time was harder because instead of being homeschooled and having a smaller group of people who knew about it, I had to talk to professors and my band conductor about the tendonitis to get extensions and explain why I couldn't play much in band that semester. Talking to people about it was the last thing I wanted to do. Somehow the more I could keep it to myself the more I could pretend to myself that it didn't exist when I was around other people. Just like the first time I had tendonitis, it was a hard time and a painful time, but it drew me to Christ. In the midst of the hard times I again had sweet times with Christ as I learned to trust Him more and love His plan for me.
My junior year of college I ended up adding an accounting major on top of my music degree. I could feel myself being drawn toward the message that surrounded me at my business school of getting a successful job, making a lot of money, and having a high status. A week into this Spring semester I was driving on the icy highway and I ended up loosing control on the ice, crashing and totaling my car, and getting a concussion. It turns out concussions can take a long time to heal from and my plan for the the whole semester was completely changed as I decided if I could still take classes, how many could I take, how I was supposed to pay for rent when I had to quit my job, and many other uncertainties. Being in my fifth year I already felt like I was graduating super late, having seen most of my friends already graduate. Adding another semester on top of that cut deeper into my pride. The first week of having my concussion when I couldn't even think too much, go on the computer, or listen to anything for very long, was really frustrating and discouraging. While that was going on I was amazed at how similar the concussion felt to the tendonitis. Just like the tendonitis it wasn't really that painful, it just took a long time to heal. Like the tendonitis I had to now talk to professors about what was going on and had to get extensions, exactly when I felt like hiding in the background instead. Like the tendonitis there were now a lot of unknowns for the future. God reminded of my prayer to give me tendonitis again if I needed a wake up call. But instead of using tendonitis this time He used a concussion. I was reminded again that while it was hard to have a concussion, God would use it for my good. Though it was painful working through my pride, my lack of control, and the uncertainty of the future I was able to learn to rest in God and know He was using that pain to get my attention so that He could change me.
In his book The Problem of Pain C. S. Lewis says "pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." I know there is so much greater pain in the world than what I have experienced in my life. And I still don't completely understand why there has to be so much pain in this world especially to those who are helpless to change their situation. But I do know that it was the pain that caused me to live out who I really am instead of who the world says I should be. If I hadn't experienced pain I am certain I would have continued to pursue status, success, and my own pleasure and I would have continued to feel more and more empty. Pain causes me to stop pretending that the world is ok the way it is. While it causes my heart to hurt and feel vulnerable, it also makes me aware of joys around me that are deeper than I thought possible. Pain has drawn me to the God who will never leave me. To the God who has seen my very worst, yet still values and intensely loves me.