Last night was my final night as the Director of Pioneer Clubs.
It felt bittersweet–full of nostalgia and a good measure of doubt. I’m very thankful that it was a wonderful night full of 70 kids enjoying activities, ice cream, relationships, and Bible exploration; I’m going to miss it!
The Christian life is a long journey, full of unexpected twists and turns; it is not a short trip around the block.
At merely 24 years old, it seems as if I’ve already made many of life’s “big” decisions. I accepted God’s gift of salvation. I chose and graduated from a great university. I married the love of my life. I have served as a Director of Youth Ministries for four years, and recently decided to take a leap of faith to pursue full-time international missions.
Thus far, life has been a crazy journey full of Kingdom fruit during the straight stretches and exciting opportunities at each twist and turn.
One of my favorite aspects of serving children, youth, and college students is their excitement for beginning their life’s journey. Because of this, the occasional young person asks me to help them translate their feelings into the direction God is leading them.
We’re all emotional creatures–our feelings are what make life enjoyable and interesting! Sometimes those feelings are affected by sin and are not to be taken as authoritative. Other times they lead us to places of strength in moments of transition.
When I’m asked to help, I attempt to direct students toward evaluating their feelings based on the “Fact – Faith – Feelings Train” that Campus Crusade and others have talked about for years. CRU’s intent with this analogy is focused on the assurance of salvation, but I’ll borrow it for a broader purpose here.
Whenever we’re in a time of listening to God’s voice in discerning our future, we must start with the facts that we find in Scripture and ask ourselves, “What does God reveal in Scripture? What is Christ’s mission for His Church? What should my life look like if I’m truly living by the power of the Spirit?”
Next, we must ask deep questions about ourselves. “Am I being faithful to those facts? Are there areas of my life where I am being unfaithful? Am I afraid to give more faith?” (An honest friend, mentor, or small group can be helpful here.)
Lastly, we can evaluate our feelings after thinking through the facts and our faith. If our feelings, prolonged or fleeting, validate the facts and our faith, we can savor them, rejoice, and be encouraged! If they seem to contradict our faith and the facts, we must dig deeper, evaluate what we actually believe, make the necessary shifts to align them with the facts and our faith.
Last night I felt bittersweet, nostalgic, and full of doubt.
We know from Scripture that God loves kids and wants them to come to Him in faith; I’m feeling bittersweet because I know that God is bringing kids to faith right here and now during this straight stretch. I’m beginning to feel the pains of the twists, turns, and goodbyes as I move on toward different Kingdom fruit. Feeling bittersweet is normal and acceptable during this time. It makes sense that I would feel this way.
Nostalgia can be healthy for a time, but I must remember not to dwell there too long. Paul urges us to forget what lies behind and press onward. For me, sometimes nostalgia can also lead to pride–and I know that’s not a fruit of the Spirit! My trips down memory lane must not be given more weight than they deserve.
What about feeling “full of doubt?”
When my doubts do not line up with what God has shown me, it can give me an opportunity to examine my inner struggle.
I acknowledge the fact that Christ’s mission for His Church is to make disciples of all nations. I know that 90% of trained youth workers are here in the United States serving only 3% of the world’s youth. So my wife and I are stepping out in faith to help meet this need. Those are facts I know to be true and I can agree with them. In this case, my doubt finds its bitter root in the fear that God will not provide for my family and me. My emotions are showing me the truth about what I really value and believe. I find myself crying out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Whenever there is a contradiction between our feelings and the facts of our faith, we can be sure God is at work. God uses those feelings to give us the chance to think through what we really believe. Sometimes those feelings help strengthen our faith and sometimes we need to re-align them with what He has called us to. As we mature in Christ, our feelings, affections, and intuitions become increasingly aligned with His by the power of the Holy Spirit. God tunes “my heart to sing thy grace.”
The Christian life is a journey full of twists and turns intended to transform you into a new creation. Will you listen to God on your journey and invite His transformation in your life?
Joe & Cori Grom are followers of Jesus from Louisville, Kentucky currently serving at First Presbyterian Church in South Charleston, Ohio. We’re passionate about training youth workers to strengthen young people’s faith in Christ around the world.