Searching for joy in all the wrong places

In case you’re wondering how my week has been, I’ll tell you. It has been really really really hard. Here’s a couple of reasons why: I’m behind in my classes, I don’t get enough sleep, I work all day and do homework all evening, I wish I saw my friends more, I wish I loved my Fiance better. I could keep going, but I’ll spare you, because couldn’t we all keep going? Is there really ever a season of our lives where we can’t make a list of all the things we wish we could change?

The answer, I think, is no. There will always be something to fix or change or improve. More sleep to get, less food to eat, more hours spent running, fewer hours spent stressing. But what if the real issue isn’t our less-than-perfect circumstances, but rather our less-than-perfect attitudes? Because let’s be honest, when one frustrating circumstance improves, another one will inevitably arise. It’s a never-ending cycle of wanting more than we have and justifying our frustration when we have less than we expect.

So where do we go from here, ‘cause that sucks right? Well, I’m not entirely sure. But, for Christians, I at least have some Biblical input, and here it is.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

I know, I know. You’ve all seen this verse plastered on christian home decor and painted on church walls. This is one of THOSE verses. You know, one of those verses that we all kind of know because we see it everywhere, yet very few of us ever take the time to really understand its depth. The more I study the Bible and read about Paul, the more I’m convicted of my dissatisfaction.

Paul must have just really hacked off the Roman authorities. No matter what you did to him, he rejoiced. HE REJOICED. He didn’t simply scrape-by or get through the day. HE REJOICED. He rejoiced in suffering, persecution, living on mission, prison, and even death. Any situation that Paul ended up in, he REJOICED. But why? How? How can you possibly find reason to rejoice in all of the despicable things Paul lived through?

Because Paul’s ultimate purpose in life was to give God glory, and that meant giving God glory in each and every circumstance he was placed in.

Paul rejoiced because he trusted the scriptures that promise that God fights for the good His glory and His people. Paul rejoiced, because to him, every situation he was in was an opportunity to make Christ known. For Paul, living meant proclaiming the name of Christ, which he took great joy in. Dying meant Paul gained the joy of being in Heaven and spending eternity worshipping God. You see, both living and dying were something to rejoice in, because Paul knew he was to use both in order to give God glory. He rejoiced, not in his cirsumstance, but in God recieving glory and praise THROUGH his circumstance…whether that was in life, death, health, persecution, or suffering.

As believers, we typically do a good job of rejoicing when we tangibly see God answer our prayers. But the thing is, we aren’t only called to rejoice when we experience God’s blessings. We are called to rejoice at ALL times.

You see, we’ve gotten the purpose of Christianity all messed up. The Bible doesn’t say that being a Christian will lead to prosperity and happiness and financial security and ease. In fact, many of the most committed Christ followers in the Bible suffered brutal deaths.

Loving Christ well and devoting their lives to God’s glory did not end in financial security and a life free of trial. BUT, it did end in Christ’s name being magnified and God’s glory being revealed, and that was the point. That was the purpose of it all.

Does God bless his children? Yes. Are those blessings sometimes financial? Yes. Are they sometimes in the form of good health? Yes. I’m not saying that those blessings are bad, in fact those are GREAT things that the Lord can and does use for His glory. Money, good health, good cars, and nice homes are all GOOD things that the Lord sometimes blesses his children with. Our error comes when we EXPECT those blessings.

So if God doesn’t promise to make my life easy, what does he promise? Here are just a few of the things God DOES promise:

God will supply your needs-Philippians 4:19

God is working for the good of his children-Romans 8:28

God is the supplier of joy-John 15:11

God made you intentionally and purposefully-Psalm 139:13

Your faith is PERFECTED in Christ-Hebrews 12:1

Your salvation is SECURE in Christ-Ephesians 4:30

You are CHOSEN-1 Peter 2:9

The Lord may not promise to give you money and cars and homes, but he promises eternal life and peace and joy and identity, and that’s a pretty big deal. Let me say that again. The God of the UNIVERSE intentionally creates us, then he CHOSES us, supplies our needs, Fights FOR us and promises to NEVER leave us.

Oh, okay.

We’re called to rejoice despite our circumstances, and that is stinking hard. But it’s possible when we know the character of our God and when we trust in his promises. When the purpose of our life is to glorify God, our circumstances become less paralyzing and our purpose becomes more magnified, and that my friends, is something to rejoice in.

There is always joy to be had in being a follower of Christ. Just ask Paul (see New Testament).

Struggle pretty, friends.
-R

 

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Don’t judge a book by its cover or a couple by their Instagram

This weekend Jackson and I got our engagement pictures taken, and we couldn’t be happier with them. They embody everything an engaged couple is supposed to be. You know, just a couple of high school sweet-hearts, blissfully staring into each other’s eyes and perfectly in love. Because that’s how engaged couples are supposed to be, ESPECIALLY if both people love Jesus. Couples who love Jesus never fight, right? RIGHT? Maybe you’re engaged, and you’re like “Blissful. Joyful. Eye Staring. Perfectly in love. Yeah that’s us all the time, you nailed it”. Maybe you never argue or say things you don’t mean or selfishly demand change out of the other person. If that’s you, then please, share your secrets with me,  would ya? But until then, I’ll keep writing this blog about just how imperfect Jackson and I’s relationship is.

In fact, you should know that a mere three hours before this picture was taken, the joyful and blissfully in love high school sweet-hearts you see here were mid argument. We were right in the middle of a typical everything-you-do-is-wrong-because-it’s-not-how-I-want-you-to-do-it kind of argument. The kind where both of you really have no right to be as flustered as you are, but for some reason (mostly sin) you feel the need to hammer your point that you’re actually aware isn’t even really valid. Maybe I’m crazy and we’re the only engaged couple who spend more of our time disagreeing and working through those disagreements than we spend being blissful and carefree and googly eyed over each other. Maybe we’re crazy. Or maybe we’re not.

So why am I writing this blog airing out all of our dirty laundry? Well for two reasons I think. One, for all you singles out there who watch engagement videos and see wedding pictures and are waiting for your blissfully in love days, free of the frustration and anger and stubbornness. You should be aware of the reality ahead of you. If only you knew the amount of bad pictures it took to get the one that is actually posted on Instagram. Make a decision to see Instagram and Facebook and twitter posts for what they (sometimes) are…a beautiful moment between two sinners where Jesus meant more than their own agendas. You’re getting a glimpse into the life of two people who are trying to love each other well despite their own baggage and sin and pain. REJOICE in that with them. Pray for them.  And recognize that their entire relationship most likely does not, in fact, resemble the picture you’re seeing of them….and that’s ok. To the couples: Maybe we’re crazy and more sinful than most people and no one else is with me and Jackson on this one. But, if I’m not crazy and you’re reading this because you understand, let’s chat for a minute. First of all, be encouraged, because you’re clearly not alone. I bet our average pictures taken to actually posted ratio is somewhere around 20:1. We (I) sometimes take 20 pictures because it’s funny, and we (I) sometimes take 20 pictures because we’re (I’m) trying to get the one that makes us look happy and in love and all of the things everyone expects us to be. I’m going to go ahead and say that the majority of us in relationships are just as guilty as singles at looking at other couple’s posts, and longing to be people we aren’t. WE HAVE TO STOP THE MADNESS PEOPLE. No one’s relationship as flawless as their Instagram makes it seem, and you know what? THAT’S OK. Because us being imperfect makes Jesus more important and necessary. Our failings and our weaknesses in our relationships point to Jesus. 2 Corinthians 12:9 “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.”

Here’s the thing, relationships are hard. Really really hard. There is no one who is as aware of my sin as Jackson. And not only is he aware of my sin, he is directly affected by it. When I am insecure or impatient or unsatisfied, it’s Jackson who bears the brunt of all of those things. And that sucks. So why do the whole relationship thing if it’s so hard? Because my relationship with Jackson has lead me to a drastically deeper appreciation of my Savior. Jackson knows more about my sin than anyone because he is most affected by it. I hurt him. He hurts me. When I’m angry he bears the brunt of my anger.  When I’m insecure, it’s Jackson that sees it. And yet, he still chooses me. He still chooses to be with me. He chooses to love me through my insecurities and he chooses to forgive my unforgiving insults. Despite how unloving and unappreciative I can be, he still chooses me to be his wife (in 7 months and 15 days, praise God). And if it blows my mind that Jackson chooses me, how much more bizarre is it that GOD chooses me? Ephesians 1:4-6 says, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us inthe Beloved.” PEOPLE DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS. The God of the Universe chooses us to be his children, despite all of our junk and sin and issues. Not only is Christ aware of my exposed sin, he knows my INTERNAL sin. He knows my thoughts and my feelings and my attitude, and yet for some reason he still desires me to be his. For some reason, he chose to save me from death and grant me adoption through Jesus., and that’s crazy.   So let’s all just stop assuming things about each other and instead, rejoice. Rejoice in our short-coming. Rejoice in our victories. Rejoice in the picture that shows two sinners having a good date night. Rejoice in the likelihood of those same sinners working through an argument 20 minutes later. Rejoice in the struggle, because when we choose to rejoice, the struggle becomes pretty.

 

-Ya girl

Jumping on the blogging train

Well, it’s happened. I’ve started a blog. I know I know, you’re thinking that the last thing the world needs is another 20-something year-old girl, sharing her opinions on life, love, religion and everything in between. And, lets be honest, you would be right in your thinking because the world is full of blogs that are precisely that.

But, while the world may have no use for this blog, what if I’m not writing to appeal to the world? I have no intentions of this blog ever reaching more than my few friends who will click on the link as they scroll through their Facebook feed. I chose to start this blog, because maybe one person will read this and be encouraged. Maybe another 20-something year-old girl will close out of this page after reading a post and feel like she isn’t the only one in the world struggling with everyday 20-something year-old challenges that 20-something year-olds across the country are struggling with. That sentence was entirely too long, I know. That’s a thing you should be aware of if you choose to keep reading these posts-sometimes my sentences are too long and often, not punctuated to perfection, my apologies in advance.

I’m aware that my life looks drastically different then the 20-something year-olds who I sit by in class or next to on the bus. But there are some things that I assume are common themes in many of our lives. You know, like the struggle to balance being a good friend, attending all of your classes, calling your parents weekly to let them know you’re alive, loving your significant other well-all while trying to remember to eat three meals a day and brush your teeth before running out of the door every morning. These very real struggles are what makes your 20’s so exhausting/exciting/terrifying/incredible, so why not write about them?

And that’s my spiel. I have no clue what this blog will consist of-probably stories of the many embarrassing things that happen to me everyday on campus, what the Lord is teaching me or maybe I’ll write about how I’m getting married in 9 months, but I still suck at cooking and I can’t seem to keep my room clean for more than 2 weeks at a time. See, there’s another too-long sentence, but this is my blog so I’ll choose to keep it, because maybe someone else will feel normal for not always knowing how to punctuate every too-long sentence.

I was about to sign out (that’s blog protocol right?) but I forgot to tell you about me. Because maybe you’re reading this and we became Facebook friends 4 years ago and you don’t actually know anything about my life, so I’ll tell you.

My name is Reaghen. I’m 21 and I go to Texas Tech University. I am engaged to the greatest man I know, and we’ll be married in May. I am the middle child of three, but I won’t get started on the (very real) middle child syndrome. My brother is 12, he’s hysterical and frustrating, as most 12 year-olds are. My sister is 25 and might be the hardest working woman I’ve ever met. My parents are great. Dad is the Mayor and he’s a great one. Mom is the most selfless person I know. I’m convinced I have the greatest friends that exist. I love The Lord a lot, though I fail at least 100 times a day at loving Him well, as I’m sure you’ll read about. I love ice cream and traveling and Chacos and Christian rap. Jackson and I have a dog named Gunnar who is nuts but I adore him. I’m terrible at spelling and I’m even worse at staying organized.

Why is the name of this blog “Struggle Pretty”? One, because a band that I love, Penny and Sparrow, just released an album with this as the title. Give no credit to me for the beauty of the phrase, I’m simply an uncreative beginner blogger who could come up with nothing on my own. Second, because the phrase perfectly embodies what this blog is about. It seems contradictory at first, almost like these two words were accidentally placed together. But, if we’re honest, is not life often a struggle? It is hard and chaotic, unpredictable and scary. However, life is as beautiful as it is hard. We struggle and we toil and we suffer. As a Christ-follower, though, I am convinced that there is beauty in the midst of all of those things. They are a wonderful (and minuscule) portrait of the struggle and toil and suffering that Christ experienced for us to be capable of experiencing life in him. So we struggle, no doubt-but our struggle is pretty. It is beautiful. It is reflective of Christ. As Paul said in Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”. Paul doesn’t mean that Christ’s afflictions were lacking in anything, but rather our acceptance and rejoicing amidst our struggles is what is lacking. It’s through this rejoicing that we are capable of reflecting the very nature of Christ. That’s what this blog is all about. Struggling, rejoicing in that struggling,  and finding the beauty to be had in the midst of the struggle. We struggle, but we struggle pretty. 

That about covers it, I think. Thanks for reading. Check back for relatable struggles, embarrassing stories, and the opinions of a 20-something year-old girl.