BY HANNAH TURNER
This piece is part of syndicated series in collaboration with Yale Logos for Lent 2021. You can read the original piece at https://www.yalelogos.com/home/what-we-need.
This past year was not just different because I unexpectedly lived in my childhood home for 10 months. This past year was different because I was living at home as an earnest, believing, practicing Christian. I was not the child, the sister, nor the friend that people remembered.
I think it was confusing for people who were used to the lukewarm Christianity that was so prevalent in our town. We were taught to keep our heads down, not to think critically about our beliefs, and just to make sure we show up to church on Sunday. That was not the true Christianity, which involves a deep relationship with God, that I’ve come to know. This shift became evident as the way I acted was transformed. Each morning I was hungry not for breakfast, but for time reading God’s Word. I brought up Jesus in every conversation because He was always on my mind. Naturally, people began to ask me the big existential-crisis-like questions一what our purpose is or what happens after death一as hope decreased and the days trapped in our bedrooms increased. I’m not sure if they realized I had the same questions. I was sure, however, that they saw I knew God—or something—because of those questions they asked.
Not to make it seem like I had it all together一I definitely did not. I did not want to be at home with my family after getting so used to living independently. I did not want to take classes online. I did not want to be separated from the only Christian community I’d ever had. I wrestled with the hardships of my life, the sufferings of the world, and the love of God.
Even so, I found myself repeating the phrase: “It might not have been what we wanted, but I think it was what we needed”.
The first time I said this I was pretty sure I saw it on a meme somewhere. Yet I became more and more confident that this was exactly what God wanted me to understand. This is exactly what God wants us all to understand. God has long desired for his people to know that their struggles were blessings. Throughout history, Jewish people expected一and wanted一their Savior to bring the chosen land of Israel out of oppression. However, God knew what we all really needed was saving from sin so we can enter into the everlasting kingdom of heaven. Over the last year, I’ve probably repeated this phrase comparing our wants and needs around a hundred times, each time becoming more confident in its truth. I said it when all my friends and I could do was FaceTime—instead of going on that road trip to Canada. I said it when my sister grew apart from her friends. Whenever there was something “negative” that happened, I recognized our disappointment but also our fallibility.
First, God saw that for us to have free will, we need choices. If God was the only choice, we would be his puppets forced to follow Him without room for love or true relationship.
Then God saw that we needed saving一but from what? The propensity to be led away from goodness, or the temptation to sin, is what we needed saving from. God saw that our hearts need to be transformed from doing things that are harmful to us. His relationship with us is not unlike a loving parent who would want to keep their child from running into a busy street. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection made it so we could be saved by grace through faith.
And that grace is what is working in the hardships of the Christian. It is a grace of transformation that uses the really difficult moments in life as an important part of God’s plan. God doesn’t promise perfection on Earth because there will always be people who choose to do wrong. God does promise His love, peace, joy, understanding, and everlasting life to those who put their trust in Him.
Those growing pains of that transformational grace do not always seem pleasant, but faith in His promise makes it all the more easy. I still had questions when I returned home, and a lot of things did not go how I wanted. Yet from those things I did not want to happen I was able to see how God knew what I needed. Being at home with my family led to God speaking through me to grow hope and faith in my sister. I’ve seen His faithfulness as He guided me through mental health challenges. His love shone through the other Christians in my life as they fought to be present even though they were miles away. So, although I might not want to be uncomfortably transformed, in this Lenten season I’ve felt it crucial to lean into these moments because I’ve seen God use them for what I truly needed.
“Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what He has done for my soul.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
because He has not rejected my prayer
or removed His steadfast love from me.” Psalm 66: 16-20
Hannah is a sophomore studying political science and religious studies at Yale.