Link to the podcast if you would prefer to listen to Get Strong with Jen and Jesus - Introduction.
In Get Strong with Jen and Jesus we will explore how my Catholic faith helped me to stay grounded during some of my darkest times. We will also take a closer look at the scriptures and how they help me to walk in sunshine and rainbow land every day. I do want to be completely transparent; I am not a minister and I have no formal training in theology. What I do bring to the table is my Catholic grade-school education, as well as, my college education at a Baptist University and a faith that I have seriously been cultivating since I was in 6th grade. I am a daughter, grand-daughter, wife, and mother who is honored to have witnessed miracle after miracle. I have made mistakes, but it is through God’s incredible love and mercy that I have grown in ways that I never could without Him.
As an educator, I frequently ask my students to sit with the material they have just read. Write based on what they already know. Then research. I encourage them not to just read one article and go “it must be true,” but to review several sources. Ask questions. Discuss their ideas with others. Take notes. Then just sit with all of it for a bit. I encourage them to make educated decisions based on everything they have learned coupled with what they believe. So, I want to encourage you to do the same. I encourage you to take out your Bible – read the scriptures for yourself – jot down some notes about your connections -- maybe go online and look at other discussions – talk with those around you --- then write what the scripture means for you.
In addition to research, we frequently talk about how words can have multiple meanings and I encourage my students to have a dictionary near by when they are reading (for most of us now, that is google/Merriam Webster online). I do not use it for everything I study, but I will refer to it for some passages, things that really grab my attention…or make me go “There is something more here. What is it?”
One morning I woke up with John 3:16 replaying in my head. I thought “There is something more here. There is something I am not getting. Something I am not seeing. What is it?” I jotted down the verse:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” John 3: 16.
Then I asked God to show me what I needed to get from it and walked away because it felt like way more work than I wanted to do at that point. Eventually, I came back to sit with it.
It was not some great revelation, just a reminder to grab a dictionary. I could have used almost all the definitions I found, but I chose to focus on one of the definitions I found for the word eternal: “abiding in fellowship with God.”
I grew up believing that God was a punishing God, there was no “fellowshipping” with Him. Basically, if you were good than good things came to you. If you were not good than bad things would happen, and you got what you deserved. It was not necessarily anything that anyone said or did, it was just the way my body and mind interpreted the environment around me. Nevertheless, I have visited with a few people who grew up believing the same. Sometimes I hear people talk about how God gives us hard things to carry so that we will come to him, but I don’t think that is what he wants either.
John tells us that God sacrificed his Son for us, so that we “might have eternal life” --- he wants us to live forever. Not just life after death, but life now. The baggage, the pain that we carry that keeps us from accomplishing all that we want is not from God, but from people who made choices that were against God’s will and inflicted their pain on us which caused us to begin to question ourselves which lead to feelings of insecurity, sadness, helplessness, anger, guilt, shame, and loneliness. Those feelings caused us to want to hide, to want to run, to want the pain to go away and eventually influenced us to make poor choices, which lead to more feelings of insecurity, sadness, helplessness, anger, guilt, shame, and loneliness. And, so the cycle continued. But, how do you stop the cycle when you are in pain? How do you stop yourself from running? How do you stop yourself from hiding out? How do you have time to heal when your schedule is packed?
I am not saying we can completely rid ourselves of pain, it happens, but we can certainly minimize the pain in a healthy way and take back our lives. Yes, this is going to require work and probably an amazing counselor – at the very least an incredible spiritual advisor.
I would like to say that the first way to help to alleviate the pain is that we can work to keep Jesus’ commandment: “Love one another as I love you” John 15: 13, but the fact is that when you are overwhelmed, in pain and exhausted it is really hard to love yourself, much less anyone else.
If you want to get stronger, the first thing I would recommend is that you sit down in “fellowship with God” and ask him to show you what he wants for you.
For those of you who might need a little assistance in being in God’s company your conversation/letter to God might look something like this:
1) “Hey God, yep, it’s me! Back again (or maybe “it’s been a while or I know we rarely talk) and I need some serious help! I am incredibly exhausted and so freakin’ tired of _____ /and yeah I might be a little angry too. You may have noticed /and I know I probably shouldn’t have _____, but when ____ happens I just get so frustrated (whatever you are feeling) and I am so sorry. I don’t want to feel this way anymore, God. I want to heal. I want to get better. I want to let this all go. Can you help me?”
2) Then sit and listen. I mean really listen. You may need to sit and wait a bit. If necessary, pretend that you are at the doctor’s office and they have just told you they are running about an hour behind schedule. Please don’t yell at the receptionist. Remember this time it’s St. Peter. Just breathe in deeply, close your eyes, and listen. You may just hear “Rest” Or “Be still.” You may hear nothing at all. There is a chance though, you could hear more… write it down.
3) If you hear “Rest” then write it down and go rest. If you hear “Be still” or hear nothing at all then write it down and wait. Believe it will come. If you hear more, then write it down and reread what you have written (some of it may not be what you want to see or hear --- some of it might be from You, but some of it may be from God). Before you reread ask God to show you what you need to understand from your writing and trust that He will.
To note: God is not going to ask you to cause harm to yourself, anyone, or anything else. He is not going to ask you to do anything unethical or immoral. If any of that comes out, keep writing until it’s all out and the nuggets of goodness, hope, and prosperity come out. If it takes a few days to get there, then it takes a few days to get there.
Regardless, of whether you use the suggestions my hope for you is that if you need healing, that if you need answers that you turn to our creator. He will provide you with the answers that you need in ways that you never expected. You need only to listen, rest, and be still.
Have a blessed and beautiful day ya’ll!
All my love,