At the very end of the youth conference, my friend Jenny introduced me to a girl named Rachel outside the auditorium at night.
“Wait, before you guys go I have a word for both of you!” Rachel exclaimed.
Oh dear, not again.
She looked at me first, and then smiled. “I just saw you furiously writing. I feel like you already write a lot. Kind of like what Lisa Bevere said, I think God wants you to keep writing everything He is revealing to you down.”
“And you,” she said, smiling at Jenny, “I just saw you painting. I saw a picture of a little kids painting set. And I think your creativity is going to go up a level.”
“Wait, that sounds so accurate!” I exclaimed. “I have a blog. I write everything down. I take so many notes on my phone,” I said, astonished. There was no way she could’ve known that about me.
“So keep doing that. God loves what you write, and He will reveal stuff to you through your writing,” she said, confidently.
So here I am, writing, because I don’t understand anything at this point. And that’s okay.
The next day, I walked into my teacher’s room again early in the morning.
“What’s up?” she said, reading the ‘I need to tell you something’ look on my face.
“I went to My City.”
“And?” She said, smiling.
“I still feel terrible!” I cried, laughing.
“Oh, my Lea!” She hugged me. “My City isn’t God! My City can’t solve all your problems. They create these youth conferences to help students encounter God. But you, you already know what you know.”
“I mean, I thought God was doing something in me because I cried honestly a lot. But then I woke up, and I still cried and didn’t want to go school. My parents were even like, ‘you went to My City and your attitude is still this?'” I laughed.
“This is what I need you to do,” she said, gently. “You need to start learning to say no. The devil can tear you apart. Every time a thought comes into your head that makes you want to cry, you’ve got to say no.”
“Right now you’re letting all these birds poop on your head! Stop giving them power over you. Stop letting them in! Because when you let them in, you hear things like—”
“I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to do anything,” I said super sassily while rolling my eyes. We both laugh.
“Yeah. That. But you’re here. That’s already good.”
“I made myself go,” I said, laughing.
She takes my hands in hers. “This might be one of the hardest things you ever do in your life. This is a new season of growth.” She looks into my eyes.
“I did not think I would ever be able to say no to those thoughts. You gotta let go of mama now. Youth conferences will not solve all your problems.”
“So can you do that for me? Can you try to say no to those thoughts?” She pleaded.
“I’ll try,” I said. She nodded, still holding my hands, empathy flooding her eyes as she slowly let me go to class.
Today was an emotional day at youth group. Everyone was sharing their breakthrough stories from the conference. My friend Anna’s knee injury got completely healed. People shared about how God met them right where they were at, about how they asked leaders to pray for them not knowing what they needed, but then the leader somehow managing to hit every point so perfectly. They shared about strangers they randomly prayed for and emotional breakthroughs.
I ended up sharing about my friend Jenny’s word from my last post, and about what my teacher told me, and went on to share about how yes, I was that person who woke up after the conference thinking God did nothing, but that didn’t mean God wasn’t going to come through. I shared that it is okay to be in a season of waiting for breakthrough. And that yes, my week was still hard, but there was so much peace in that. Everyone cheered as I shared my teacher’s words, when I said I would never stop praying for a breakthrough.
Afterwards, a girl who didn’t come to the conference shared about how much pain she was in from a super rare, genetic, paralysis disorder. I could almost feel her pain through her tears as she bravely shared what she had been going through. Almost instantly I felt like I needed to pray for her.
Becky asked if we could pray for her. My friend Timmy took the mic first, declaring, “I think God wants to heal you right now.” When He finished his declarations, I took the mic.
“God, we declare this disorder to leave in Jesus name! I know this is rare and genetic, but it does not exist in the kingdom of heaven!” Everyone chimes in. “And I pray that you would help her to know that you are good, that you did not purposely inflict this on her, and that you do indeed want to heal her. God, we declare her body to be healed on earth as it will be in heaven, that this will no longer hinder her from anything you’ve called her to do!”
Becky took the mic last. We then went into a time of prayer, as she asked all of us who got something at My City to pray it into others.
“If any of you are feeling like a disappointment, I’m going to have Annie pray over y’all right now,” Becky said. My beautiful friend Annie had shared about how a lot of people were telling her she wasn’t good enough despite her quick recovery since her 7th surgery, but at the conference God had met her and took that whole feeling of disappointment away.
And I raised my hand. And everybody prayed for me. And as Becky kept declaring things more people walked around and found people raising their hands and prayed, and everybody was crying and holding each other while they were crying and it was amazing. I don’t really know how to describe what happened. There was just a lot of praying, and a lot of crying, and a lot of healing, and a lot of breakthrough.
Apparently the girl we prayed for, Maddy, with the rare, muscular, paralysis disorder was doing lunges in the hallway afterwards. Timmy said she could barely get out of bed this morning. I was jumping for joy.
I don’t get this. Not gonna lie, even though I love hearing stories of breakthrough, it’s a little bit frustrating to see breakthrough happen to everybody but you.
And I think we are sometimes quick to say why we shouldn’t be feeling something rather than just acknowledging the fact that we do indeed feel tired and terrible. Here’s the truth. It doesn’t matter whether you should or should not be feeling something. You are feeling it. You can acknowledge that it sucks. You can acknowledge that breakthrough didn’t happen to you. It’s okay to be frustrated.
My mentor LeeAnn texted me, “Your feelings will change like the surface of the ocean, but the lasting change is the deep still water underneath.” In other words, you will get angry at the world, and experience happiness, and sadness, and everything in between. But God’s work goes deeper than your feelings.
There is a lot of unbelief in me right now. I am undermining God’s promise for my life every time I wake up saying, “I’m going to die.” And my words may reflect the unbelief in my heart, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t doing something deeper in my soul.
Because faith is not acting like there’s no mountain in front of you, but realizing that there is a greater reality than that mountain.
And it’s okay to acknowledge the mountain. It’s okay to acknowledge the unbelief and the negativity. Because you can’t get over a mountain you don’t know exists.
So yes, we pray for breakthrough. We celebrate when God really does take all that pain away in an instant.
But I think more often than not, it doesn’t work that way. Not because God is purposely making us suffer to teach us stuff, but because life is a journey. I can’t say whether God causes suffering or allows it, but I can say that He is always working, and that he uses it.
So when I fail, He will always make up for my shortcomings. When I don’t think I can keep going, He will strengthen me. If it doesn’t feel like He is strengthening you, it doesn’t mean He isn’t there. When I don’t feel like God is doing anything, he is working behind the scenes. When breakthrough doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean its not going to happen. It’s okay to be waiting for something to happen. It’s okay to not know everything. It’s okay to have unbelief. It’s okay to get a C on a calculus test.
So now we have acknowledged the reality of where the heart is at. Since the words that come out of our mouths often reflect the reality of our hearts, it is so important to have a heart filled with so much of God’s word that there isn’t any room for unbelief. And I have acknowledged now that my heart is filled with unbelief, because there is so much room for it in my empty heart.
But now that I’ve acknowledged that, God can partner with me in fixing that. A heart filled with God’s word has got to come from the inside out, just like joy, or peace, or strength. Those things come from listening to Him. They come from leaning more into his presence. They come from getting wrecked by His love.
And it’s okay if your heart isn’t filled with joy, peace, or strength right now. You aren’t doing badly. Because you were not created to be stuck in a season like this forever. God has plans for you. So accept how you’re feeling. Begin to work on it. And just keep going, and going, and going. God just needs you to show up. And He will make the wait worth it.
My confidence is your faithfullness
And all your promises are yes and amen.