greater battles & unfailing love

Last Friday, I packed a duffel and a small backpack, grabbed my camera, squeezed into a car, and headed through light snowfall towards the shore of New Jersey for my last undergraduate retreat with my church. The theme of our retreat this year was based on Romans 8:31-39—"More Than Conquerors."

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I'm not sure how else to describe the weekend, other than this: it was beautiful, in both subtle and obvious ways. From the awe-inspiring, cotton candy skies and glistening snow on the beach, to cherished memories made with the other seniors and the sweet one-on-one time I had with my faithful Father, I was reminded again of His marvelous creations and His incredible, unfailing love for me. On the ride back home, my heart felt light. After weeks—no, months—of wearisome heaviness, spiritual attack, restlessness, and more that's quite hard to put into words, it was a very simple, yet powerful, change in my soul.

Do you ever use the word "wrecked"? Think: mind-blown, deeply moved, ready to melt into a puddle on the floor. If I ever get wrecked by a statement on the spot, it's probably one of these: "He is so loved. She was so loved. You are so loved." And whenever I do get wrecked, I know that it's God's doing, because He gives it to me when I need to hear it the most.

When I was grieving my friend's death, one of my family group co-servants came up to me as we were walking home after Bible study and said, "Chaereen, I think God wants me to tell you that He loves her so much." For the first time during that mourning period, I found comfort and peace in my heart. I had been in a really confusing state of numbness, with a bajillion questions racing through my mind. He loves her so much. I felt hot tears streaming down my face. It was as if it was the answer that I had been desperately searching for for a long while.

After sharing about my winter break with my servants team and praying altogether a few weeks ago, another co-servant stopped me and said, "Chaereen, I think God wants me to tell you that He loves your brother so much." It was the same exact wording. Man. Oh. Man. Does He know. He knew that I needed to hear that, especially after I had returned to Philly feeling troubled and uneasy about leaving behind my family without any solutions having been made about some of the wounds that had been opened and confronted over break.

And finally, during one Sunday service, I broke down. I was "wrecked" once again. We were singing God I Look To You, and I felt sorrow sting deep inside my heart because this is the very song that I listened to whenever I felt a surge of sadness overcome me last year. I would keep it on repeat for hours—while walking to class, while driving, while journaling—as the lyrics brought me so much ease. Hearing the words again sparked a wave of incredible sadness that led to uncontrollable sobbing.
God I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You, You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom; You know just what to do

I will love You Lord my strength
I will love You Lord my shield
I will love You Lord my rock forever
All my days I will love You God

Hallelujah our God reigns
Hallelujah our God reigns
Hallelujah our God reigns
forever all my days Hallelujah
This song pushes me to trust in the Lord's unfailing love and praise Him for being our never ending refuge and strength. It promises that we will love Him back. In Psalm 18, King David sings to the Lord to praise Him for delivering him from his enemies and Saul:
I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold... In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears... He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me... You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light... Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name. He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing love to his anointed, to David and to his descendants forever.
I want to love the Lord like David does. The Lord is always listening to me and rescuing me. He delights in me. What else can I do but listen to Him, delight in Him, and praise Him wholeheartedly like David did? When He loves me so much, is so faithful to me, and is so willing to support me, why am I sitting here worrying to the ends of my wits and carrying all this heavy burden?

Up until retreat, I felt like there was a faucet inside of me that wouldn't turn off. Every Sunday service, at random moments like driving on the freeway or sitting on the sofa and staring at the ceiling—I would cry, and cry, and cry. And I couldn't figure out why. Why is there so much pain in my heart? Why am I crying constantly, when my personal circumstances aren't bad at all?

Then, during our Saturday morning session—after I felt that I had cried out every last drop from my tear ducts—I happened to sit near a family group sister who's been going through a terribly tough time recently and decided to pray for her. The moment I wrapped my arm around her, she began to bawl and dug her face into my shoulder. She leaned against me in a way where I almost felt like her mom, cradling her and comforting her. And that's when I started to cry again; a cry so deep that I couldn't catch my breath. I sobbed right next to her, because in my own heart I thought I felt the monstrous pain that was piercing her heart. Knowing what was going on in her life and seeing how much it was affecting her made me all the more distraught and desperately ask the Lord to comfort her.

A few hours later, during free time, I shared all of this with a friend. She looked at me and said, "Chaereen, maybe you're seeing a glimpse of God's heart for your loved ones. Because as their Heavenly Father, He feels their pain and is crying alongside them, too. So maybe you should dedicate tonight's session to praying solely for yourself and your own spiritual health. You need to have a sound heart yourself, and you need to build a deeper trust in Him to be by the side of your loved ones and to fight these battles with them."

And so, that's exactly what I did that night. With all my might (which included hilariously scrunching my face really hard), I prayed and prayed and prayed for comfort in my own heart. For perseverance, for patience, and for strength in Him and through Him to fight for my spiritual life. Not for God to change my circumstances or anyone else's circumstances, but for me to trust that He will use everything for something greater. To fear the Lord and not be afraid of the spiritual battle nor anything of this world. To keep praying, to keep looking towards Him, and to keep seeking protection from Him. To glorify Him alone (Soli Deo gloria!). To have hope in the Lord... because He really, really loves me.

The sister I had prayed for and cried with confided in me yesterday that my crying had brought an unbelievable sense of comfort in her heart. It had allowed her to open up her heart and be vulnerable with me. And that's when it really dawned on me... that all of these tears are truly a gift from the Lord. He's been allowing me to deeply empathize with others and walk with them to encourage them, comfort them, and remind them of God's love. My purpose, in this season, for His kingdom work.

I am tearing up again as I type this!!!

The more I meditate on it, I think Psalm 130 describes the season that I am currently in.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy... I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning... Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
There it is again! His unfailing love. I'm remaining hopeful and waiting for the Lord to reveal Himself to me in the ways that He is planning to this semester. I am learning to be more patient and to understand that this weariness in my heart is temporary. Because when I am "wrecked", I am humbled. Again, and again. I am reminded that my lamp is kept burning by His fuel alone and that my soul is replenished with His bread alone. I am reminded to praise Him and love Him all my days. I am moved to love as He loves.

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