Carrying A Lighter Load

Mackenzie Luck
Growing up I was raised in a Lutheran Church; I was baptized, confirmed and did everything that I thought I was supposed to do to go to heaven. As I look back, I never truly knew who God was. There were times when I was younger that I would get so excited about church and different programs that went on. As I got older, other kids were less excited about it, so I acted like it was a joke as well. After confirmation, church wasn’t an every week occurrence, and after I got a job, it wasn’t even a once a month occurrence.
On June 5, 2009 my mom’s only sister became really sick, and by the next afternoon she had passed away. It was so surreal. The next morning my parents and I got up to go to my sister’s high school graduation. We had to pick up my mom’s parents on the way there, but my Grandpa wasn’t feeling well. When we got back to their house after the ceremony, Grandpa said that he needed to go to the ER. It was about four hours later that he died too.
I wish I could say that those were the most painful parts of my summer but it was just the start of it. One of my mom’s brothers who had health problems since he was 19 got really sick and was very close to death. My dog that I love more than anything almost died in front of my eyes because she had eaten rat poison. My dad lost his job. My sister was going away to college.
All of these events pushed me into a pretty deep depression. It got so bad that I had a meltdown in the middle of a soccer game. I tried to reach out to God. I would pray to him and cry to him at night, with many nights of me crying myself to sleep. But I didn’t understand the full extent of God’s love for me. For years I believed that I had to trudge on through life only relying on myself. I had the overwhelming feeling that I shouldn’t tell others about my depression because they were living with their own problems, and I would only be a burden. I lived for years lonely, always putting on a strong face, and doubtful that anyone could really love me.
I turned to sexual impurities to fill the void of loneliness. Being the one friend in my high school group that never had a boyfriend when sex and dating were the most important things, I was drowning in the feeling of not fitting in. I used pornography and masturbation as a way to make myself feel better and to give myself the sense of fitting in with everyone else, but all it really did was make me feel ashamed and the secret was eating me up from the inside. I was so ashamed of how I handled my loneliness and depression.
When college started God blessed me with the best roommate I could have ever asked for! She was extremely strong in her faith, and the only thing I was sure of was that I didn’t know what I believed anymore. We became best friends. When I was at home by myself for winter break I started my search for a close relationship with God. However, being home I got sucked back into the same routine of sin that I had in high school. Feeling discouraged, I gave up and lived the rest of the semester having very little relationship with God.
That summer I decided I wanted to go crazy and live a lifestyle that seemed fun. There were a nights that I drank too much and even experimented with marijuana. I spent too much money, thinking that I needed to dress in a revealing way to get the attention of men. I did not like who I was becoming. When the school year started again I knew deep down that it was going to be different.
I had already decided that I wanted to check out Cru and see what all the hype was about; little did I know that that night was going to change my life. That fall I accepted Christ into my life with an understanding and joy that I’ve never felt before. I found myself in a community of people that didn’t know me, but accepted and loved me instantly. The rest of the semester I got involved in discipleship with an amazing mentor, bible study in my hall, weekly Cru meetings and I even started going to church again.
I have friends that love me, and I’m willing to embrace that love and give it back to those around me. Every day I find out just how much I have in common with others when it comes to feeling lonely, as if you have to take on the world by yourself. Even when I am alone, I don’t feel lonely anymore because I always know that God is there whenever, wherever I need Him. Now I fully understand the scope of God’s love for me and I’m no longer living a life where I feel like I have to take on the world by myself. Jesus’ load is light, and he wants to carry yours.

Being Awesome

Spencer Oberstadt
I’ve always been a bit of a movie and TV watcher. And I have always been inclined toward the brilliant hero characters. There is just something so intriguing about watching the hero do what he does best, be super awesome. Whether it is Neal Caffery from White Collar, Tony Stark from Iron Man, Michael Scofield from Prison Break, or my favorite, Sherlock Holmes, they all have something in common, they are awesome and I have always wanted to be like them. I have always wanted to be a Sherlock Holmes, someone who’s got it all together, someone who is clever, someone who is exceptional.
I switched schools a few times growing up so by the time I made it into 6th grade, I had zero friends. I found myself, like many people, working hard to be liked by somebody, anybody. I wanted people at school to like me, so I would try to find some sort of identity, but never really being able to find one that fit, one where I didn’t feel like an imposter. I did find some acceptance at my local youth group however. I had gone to church almost every Sunday of my life with my family, and I knew a good amount about being spiritual so I found myself fitting in quite well there.
At home, I tried to be the exceptional one. I have three brothers who all are super cool, but something I am exceptional at is finding faults in other people. My brothers were easy targets with how much time I spent around them. So in my mind, all I had to do was be better than them and my parents would like me more, which was, as I thought, pretty straightforward; serve in the tech ministry at church, get good grades at school, and don’t get caught when I broke the law. I even remember having a conversation with my older brother when I said, “I must be the favorite child, think about it.”
With God, I took the same approach. Read my Bible, volunteer, don’t drink, don’t swear. He should like me because I’m pretty good. Heck, I was pretty sure that I wanted to go to church more than my parents sometimes. I would say to God, “forget about those bad things over there, look at what I do to serve you.” I grew up learning that if I believed in God and Jesus then I would go to heaven. But that left me unconfident because I didn’t feel any different, plus that didn’t make me feel all that special. So I stuck with trying to be the super spiritual guy.
Then one afternoon in the summer before my senior year of high school, one of my best friends had come over to hang out and he wanted to watch a sermon that had changed his life a lot by a pastor named Paul Washer. From that DVD, I learned for the first time that I was like everyone else. You see, I share a similarity with all the hero’s I saw on TV, I’m messed up. I, like Tony Stark, have a huge ego and make plenty of dumb choices that hurt others and, more importantly, God, and no matter how much I try, no matter how many hours or dollars I give to the church, I still sin and, left to myself, that puts me in the same spot as the guy next to me, and my classmate who swears and laughs at me, separated from God. Under all those “awesome” things I was doing, what I was really trying to do was earn my salvation through works, which led to me saying Jesus’ death wasn’t enough. Also from the pastor, I learned that words aren’t the solution. That is, going around and talking about God isn’t getting me out of that separation from Him. Pastor Paul gave the analogy that if he came in late and said it was because he was hit by a logging truck, you would never believe him. The same goes for my life. If I tell you that I believe in Jesus and that He changed my life, but you don’t see it, why should you believe me? It requires evidence, new life, or as the Bible calls it, being born again.
So I looked into my life, and didn’t see any life change. I loved myself. I rocked, or at least most of me did, and the people around me hadn’t realized it yet. Plus, I enjoyed doing wrong; it felt good stealing and cheating. I said I followed Jesus, but my life said something else. That day, I prayed a simple prayer to God that He would change my life if he wanted to, and He did. I look back, and I can see how my life changed from trying to do the good and not the bad, to wanting to glorify God by what I did and hating my sin and how it offends God. And my life is still changing. Over the last few years, God has been working hard to form my life to look like what He designed for me. An example is that I have started to get better at seeing those around me the same as me, in need of a Savior. But as usual, I’m stubborn and slow to let him change me. And if you ask anyone who knows me very well, I still have a ways to go, especially in the pride department.
But that identity I was looking for, I found that as well. You see, I am exceptional, I do have it all together, well, in God’s eyes that is. The identity I have now doesn’t need to be worked for, it’s given to me. I am special enough that the God of the universe came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a criminal’s death, so that I could return to Him. So now, despite all the junk in my life, he looks on me and see’s me as I had tried for so long to be, perfect. That is the ultimate identity.
So where are you finding your identity? Are you looking to the good things that you do to cover up the bad? Have they experienced true life change? I challenge you to talk to God about it.

Losing my Pride

I liked to think that I grew up in a good Christian home where both my parents urged me to become a “good Christian boy.” At the age of seven I accepted Christ’s sacrifice for my sins and became “saved.” Being a child that young, I didn’t grasp what that exactly meant. As I reflect upon my youth, I realize that I our family had dysfunctions, as most do. At the age of ten both of my parents started working nights outside of the home, which left me craving attention. That spurred a drive to achieve more than was expected in an attempt to gain that attention. As a child I had the opportunity to go to the Kennedy Space Center, and even as a young child took the time to read their slogan, “Failure is not an option.” I took that mentality from that point on and set unrealistic standards of what I had to live up too. The pressure to do well in everything that I did caused me to put up a front for the world to see.
During middle school, I was invited to a youth group that seemed to have a positive influence on the kids who went there. I realize that I was there for the wrong reasons. Like most guys I was driven by what girls thought of me, and I originally came to youth group in the pursuit of a girl. As I continued to go to youth group, one of the youth leaders started to care about me. He was intentional with spending time with me, monitoring how I was doing, and genuinely showing compassion towards me. Eventually I didn’t even care about the girl because I was so interested in the content and the community in my youth group. This inspired me to start serving at the local bible camp doing whatever I could do to help. When I went back to school in the fall I would still really struggle because on the inside I hadn’t embraced what it meant to be a Christian. I lived in a manner that wasn’t genuine and didn’t see any fruit in my life because I wasn’t taking it seriously.
I struggled with things like pride, replacing God with sports, and addiction. I cared more about what people thought of me than what God thought of me. I became entrapped by clinging to sexual addiction and found myself degrading women and robbing them of the respect that they deserve as creations of an almighty God. The athletic ability that God gifted me with allowed me to excel in every sport that I was involved in. I was an athletic, intelligent kid and my community recognized me for it. I attempted to give the glory to God, but majority of the time I failed. A verse that I would always use to remind myself was 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I needed to realize that I am part of something bigger, and all of the good things are because of God, and the credit should go to Him.
During my summer before my freshman year of college, I contracted mononucleosis (which is a viral infection of the Epstein-Barr Virus) from one of my campers while sharing a soda. I had the rare case where my spleen swelled and then burst. After five days in ICU, and my chances of playing college basketball diminished, I came to the point where I had to rely one other people rather than myself. Sadly, this still didn’t get my attention. A few weeks later my parents became aware of my sexual sin with my girlfriend and the boundaries that we had crossed. A lot of words were said, but the only ones that resound in my mind were: “You’re a fraud, and you have lied to everyone that you care about.” It took having all of my pride being ripped out of me to get my attention on Christ. I came into college broken, looking for something, searching for a direction. As I sat in the lobby of residence hall, God’s first act took place in the form of my CA inviting me to bible study and CRU. The male friendships between the guys on my floor and various leaders in both IV and CRU have continued to encourage me. Without the influence of God through strategic individuals in my life, I don’t think that I would have realized that I would never be satisfied with anything but living and working in the ministry of Christ.
After having everything I knew changed through this radical process I finally had the opportunity to grow because I wasn’t holding myself back by lying to the people closest to me. I started being transparent with people who were keeping me accountable, and I started to realize the wealth of knowledge that surrounded me in the form of elders in the church and at college. By being open I learned that I am no longer alone in facing the struggles of addiction, in the pursuit of feeling loved, but that there are so many people who care about me. I am so far from perfect, and I am realizing even today that it isn’t about me, but about His work. I can be successful by God’s grace. The community that God has placed in my life at college has challenged me to be more than a person claiming to be a Christian and never “settling” because He has a plan. I now realize that nothing I experience is without purpose.

Having a God Who Will Not Give Up

Tim Thornburg
Coming to realize my weaknesses and dealing with them has been a process. When I was a youngster, I went to church and heard about a problem that I had. I knew something was wrong my whole life, that something was off. I learned in church that as humans we have a condition. Much like illness this condition was going to result in a spiritual death (separation from God). I learned this and heard that God had made a solution to my problem. He had sent His Son to take the punishment for my sin, which was the offer of restoring a relationship with Him. Well I wasn’t a rocket scientist, but this seemed too good to be true, so I accepted it. It was truly the greatest decision I’ve ever made. I prayed to ask Jesus to take my sins and invited Him to be a part of my life when I was in 3rd grade. Although I prayed the prayer then, the process of really owning what I had just done wasn’t so quick.
Middle school came and so did the pressure to fit in, to be popular, to make others laugh. I knew what my faith meant in light of eternity, but I was living in the present trying to make a name for myself. It was then that God got a grip on my life in a cool way. My good friend had moved to Reno, Nevada because his father was helping pioneer a church for the community, so I traveled out to visit him. The trip was a lot more challenging than I expected, and I realized at that time that my good friend wasn’t going to be there for me. He had changed, and I had not. This was a reality check in which I had to realize the things I hold comfortably and assume will always be there (like this friendship) are not. I remember breaking down in tears, and letting go of my perfect world that I thought wouldn’t be damaged, and had to trust that God would never leave or forsake me.
I would like to say that after an event like this I never looked to other things to satisfy me. It’d be great if I could tell you that in high school I never wandered off trying to please myself more than God. That wouldn’t be my story though. I was more like a prodigal son found in Luke chapter 15. I would run to things to satisfy me, they would turn out to drain me of moral character, deceive me into thinking my identity was not in Christ, and leave me tired, empty, and running back to my loving Father.
I also related to another character in the Bible named Daniel. Daniel was a captive due to his nation turning their back on their God and it eventually collapsing. This story is found in the book of Daniel chapters 1-5. I was like him as I was entering into college, in a foreign environment with a choice to make. Would I serve God and have my life reflect that or would I conform to the pressures of college and the lifestyles that I observed through the people in my dorm? Well, I didn’t make the right decision. I got involved in parties, drinking just to fit in, and would always try to one up someone, which led to multiple occasions of waking up with regret. I remember the last time I drank, I got sick, and I remember most of my friends just laughed more than anything. I tried to get the guys on my cross-country team to like me, but I ended up being a mockery instead. It didn’t take too long for me to realize I didn’t like where I was headed.
God took this opportunity of brokenness and used it to shape me once again. Like the loving Father he is, he never gave up on me and provided a bible study in my dorm with some caring upperclassmen. These men took me in, learned about my problems, and came alongside me in life. They encouraged me to get in the bible, held me accountable to good choices, and something I had no idea I needed, but they would stick with me in these hard times. They even encouraged me to go on a summer project (a summer long mission’s trip to some strategic location where you live with other Christians and are trained to go out and share your faith). I went on a summer project to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That summer I learned for the first time to share with complete strangers the love God has for them, and how He sent His Son to take their place in judgment and pay a penalty they could never pay.
If I could sum up my testimony in a story it would be the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15. The prodigal son is a story Jesus told the Pharisees about a young man who decides that instead of waiting for his inheritance, he takes it, goes away, blows all of it, and ends up in a bad spot. Thinking of returning home he gives up on ever asking to be a part of the family again and decides to return home to beg to be hired as a servant. To the son’s surprise his father runs out to greet him with much joy and calls for a celebration taking the son back in without a second thought. This is how I see God in my story, ever persistent, even when I am not, ever loving despite my wandering, and joyfully waiting for me after I’ve given up on myself. Being all in for Christ was, and still is a long process. I know I still make mistakes, but I know I have a God who will not give up on me. If I could share one verse that has meant a lot to me it would be Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

God's Gradual Process

Ian Hackett
I was raised in a Lutheran church in good ol’ Holmen, Wisconsin. I can honestly say that this church was, and is, a huge part of my life, as well as a huge part of my faith today. My amazing parents did their best at bringing me up in the values and beliefs of Christianity. I was in Sunday school, attended church lock-ins, did youth group, went to a weeklong bible camp for nine summers, went on mission trips, took first communion, and got confirmed. Through these experiences in my early days, I came to know the basics of Christianity: Moses doing his thing, David and Goliath, Jesus loves me, and died on the cross for our sins- what most kids learn at church.
As I grew older and entered high school, God was put on the backburner, and my bible collected dust on the shelf as I started taking on more and more responsibilities. God blessed me by not allowing me to fall into the temptations of drinking, drugs or sex which a lot of the people I knew where doing. It was because I didn’t do any of these “bad” things that I thought I had it all together. I mean, heck, life was good! I was a star athlete, popular, people liked me and my parents couldn’t be happier with me. I put my worth in the success that I had and completely obsessed over the sports I was in.
Sports were my life, especially wrestling. For 12 years of my life, I was a wrestler, relentlessly chasing the dream of being a state champion. I would sometimes practice twice a day, with tournaments on every weekend and meets during the week. Despite 12 years of unimaginable hard work, obsession, and time put into wrestling, I didn’t become a state champion. This left me feeling like a complete failure and a waste. After wrestling was over, I realized I did not have much of an identity. Wrestling was the only thing people really knew me for, and now it was gone. I was left wondering what my purpose really was.
My senior year of high school I got a job working at the local grocery store. One of my co-workers plugged me into this summer water ski team that his church had been running. Not only did we water ski all day, but we also would have group studies where we would look at scripture on our lunch breaks. I found myself using this ski team and the success I found in it as my new identity. But God had bigger plans for me with this team. I was asked to go to a weeklong camp where the whole team went to a lake up north. What I didn’t realize was that skiing was only a part of this camp experience. We had tons of group studies, sang worship songs, and even memorized scripture, which was a really foreign concept to me. As I was observing these kids and leaders, I noticed something different about them. They really stressed the importance of reading the bible because it helps us to learn and grow in our faith.
However, midway through the week something happened that I was not expecting. I was told that one of my classmates and football teammates, Brandon, had died in a car accident the previous night. I couldn’t believe it. I immediately broke down. Why would God let Brandon die? Why would he take away a life with so much potential? I decided to go back home for the funeral and leave the camp for a couple days. All of my confusion and questions about God went with me. After Brandon’s funeral and burial, I came back to the camp filled with so much sorrow and grief. The leaders and students didn’t let me sit in my sorrow, but instead exhibited a love and compassion I hadn’t seen before. They told me that God has a purpose for everything and pointed me to scripture to understand what was going on. The love they exhibited through pointing me to the bible made me realize I had been missing a crucial part to my faith- God’s word in the bible. I finally started to understand why people would read the bible and how it could be so life changing. Though the remorse for Brandon was not gone, it made it so much easier to live with it knowing that God had his hand in everything.
Shortly after this summer it was time for me to go off to college. Because I was the first of my brothers to go to college I had formed my idea of what college was like from the media and what others had told me. The first time my friend asked me to go to a party, of course I said yes because that’s what you do in college. At the last minute my friend said he couldn’t go because he was not feeling good. I didn’t go either and came to find out that the party that I had intended to go to had gotten busted. I took this as God guidance and looking back I see just how incredibly crucial that crossroad was in my life.
I was placed in Burroughs Hall, where I got to know the guys on my floor. I discovered that the majority of them were Christians and involved in this organization called Cru. I got involved in the Burroughs men’s bible study and went to Cru. Everyone would talk about this personal relationship with God. It was weird to me to think of having a relationship with God. But through my time with God in the bible, I learned that’s exactly what he wants from us. Once I realized that God isn’t just someone to worship, but that he wants to be active in our lives, I saw true life change. I saw more genuine friendships and experienced a comfort in this community that I hadn’t found anywhere else. I saw myself forgiving and exhibiting grace. I saw my faith and relationship with God grow through the year. Without this relationship, I have nothing to fall back on- not my success, not good grades, not pleasing others or being popular. Everything in life has some form of variability, but God never changes and that is why I hold fast to Him.
When I look back my story, I can see God’s hand in my life. Though I didn’t understand the purpose for all of it at the time, he has guided me to where I am today. For me, accepting Christ was not a definitive moment that I can point out, rather, it has been a gradual process for me learning that what Jesus did for us on the cross was to give us a way to have a relationship with him now.
Your story might not be like mine, but know this: God has a purpose for your life. If you want to experience true life change and a relationship that never fails, call on Jesus. Tell him you want that personal relationship, tell him you can’t take the burden of sin on your own, and tell him that you desire and love him above all else. Revelations 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus is waiting to start a relationship with you. He is waiting to take your sin, and he wants to change your life. All you have to do is open the door.

Wanting Freedom but Being in Chains

Dan Weltzin
Complacency and addiction. If my life had to be summarized in two words, those would have been it. You see, throughout my childhood I grew up knowing a vague church-based view of God. God is all-loving and forgives us for anything-as long as we ask for it. This naïve view of God was the basis for my reasoning on how I lived my life. I was told of freedom through Christ, but I felt like I was in chains.
Throughout grade school and middle school God wasn’t important. Despite going to a Christian school, I was never taught to live for Christ, read the bible, or meet and talk about my life and faith with others. Instead, those years were filled with a desire to be accepted based on my athletic accomplishments and later, a desire for acceptance through the opposite sex. This led to a life that was based on unhealthy habits such as sexual impurity through pornography, and relationships with girls, as well as seeking my identity in athletic accomplishments.
The worst part of my story is that these things catapulted me into having success (or so I thought). The summer of my sophomore year in high school I met a girl and we started dating. This relationship turned into an unhealthy one based on sexual impurity. Alongside this, I had great athletic accomplishments. I was called up to varsity for football as a sophomore and also excelled at basketball, track and field, and power lifting. The further into high school I went, the “better it got” and the more friends I had (or so I thought). At the end of my senior year I had been the football team’s captain, MVP, 2-time all-conference selection, and on the All-Area Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Football Team, as well as a two-time track captain, finishing top 5 in conference in the shot put, and making it to state two years in a row for power lifting. My relationship with my girlfriend had slipped even more into the physical side to the point where every time we hung out we’d be fooling around. My world came to a crashing halt one day during the final week of my high school career; my girlfriend suddenly broke up with me, and I badly sprained my ankle later that day at practice- one day before the sectional track meet where I was one of the favorites to advance.
Needless to say, I was no match with a bad ankle and missed making state; something I had worked extremely hard for and looked forward to. This string of events led me into a summer of depression and free fall, searching for fulfillment. Unfortunately this free fall included me looking to women to fulfill myself, leading to more impurities and further depression. I went through my first year at UW-Stevens Point feeling a different feeling each day; sadness, recovery, then more sadness, recovery, and etc. I knew there had to be something more. I lacked “freedom” and still felt like I had chains holding me down.
Then sophomore year came. Knowing there had to be more than what I was living for, I finally agreed to meet with two of my close friends; one who was going to Purdue and the other UW-Lacrosse. What I saw was two guys who were talking about deep issues and who were caring for each other in ways I had never seen guys my age care for each other. For the first time I saw two guys sincerely pray to the Lord in public.
The ironic part of this whole situation is that it all came after another hard event in my life; after a full season of college football at UWSP, as well as a full offseason of intense training, I badly hurt my knee and was forced to give up football for good. What seemed to be a killer blow in my life was really an event that helped free me. For the first time in my life I realized that there was more to my life than pleasing others and proving my self-worth through being successful at athletics. This led me to search for more, which led me to Christ.
After meeting with my two friends, I went through my sophomore year struggling to figure out how to follow Christ with my life. By the time I went home for the summer, I committed my life to Christ for the first time and immediately got into the Bible and started from the book of Matthew and read through the New Testament multiple times. The words I read impacted me and changed me in ways I cannot fully describe. It freed me. I no longer felt the weight of this life. By the time I came back to Stevens Point for my junior year, I was a totally different man; Christ had called me and had taken my heart over. In the next two years the Lord would use me in ways I never thought possible.
This whole experience has been so humbling and awesome at the same time. It wasn’t easy though; throughout the process the Lord has tested me and I have had to give up some things that were hard to give up. This includes friendships, hobbies and habits in my life that I had been dependent on, and quite frankly, my old self. If there are two words that describe my life now, they would by joyous and free. I am free to live in Christ and follow my wild heart to wherever He takes it and joyous because of the immense joy I have found in Jesus these past two years of my life. I consider following Christ my life, my joy, my pleasure, and my duty. I am called to follow him wherever he takes me and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about God, it’s that his plan will be more amazing, awesome, and adventurous than anything I could possibly imagine. That’s the journey I’m taking and there could be no better way!

What To Do When Your Salad Plate of Life is Stacked Too High…

Claire Wyttenbach
I became a vegetarian five years ago at Thanksgiving. I decided I was done with eating meat after I had to rip the leg off of the turkey and felt like a cavemen. So now instead of juicy steak, I enjoy imitation meat products and salads!
I love piling things on my plate whether it’s making a mountain of a salad or committing to many different things. This love for piling my plate high began in high school when getting A’s was just as important as being as involved. I filled my time with eight different organizations and leadership positions. Outside of school, I commuted for an hour, four days a week to my dance studio while also hurdling on the track team for two years. I started to realize the only way I could be successful was to always be on top of things and make sure things went the way I planned.
I soon discovered that it was impossible to always have things go the way I wanted, and I didn’t know to deal with failure. After experiencing multiple panic attacks, I started looking for areas in my life that I could control. I turned to my weight. I started carrying around a calorie counting book with me literally everywhere, and it soon made me consumed with my body image. I also turned to my family, but in a negative way. Because I was always anxious and agitated from stress, I would take out my frustration on them. I began seeing a psychologist to help me sort out my life, and he taught me the value of journaling to relieve my stress. Journaling however, didn’t help me heal – only deal with the struggles I was facing.
Graduation finally came. You would think I would’ve been proud of myself after having been recognized for my academic, athletic, leadership, and dance achievements, but instead I couldn’t help but feel cheated. I had put in all of those hours, I had worked so hard day after day, and suddenly none of it mattered anymore. I felt like I’d lost my identity. I would have to start with a completely empty plate in the fall.
My first semester in college started well and after becoming involved with Cru, I had the chance to go to the Cru fall retreat. I had always believed that I was supposed to be in control and Sunday mornings were my allotted time periods for God. At this retreat I saw for the first time what it was like to have God be in control of your life, and not just on Sundays. I grew up thinking God was a vending machine, giving me what I asked for, instead of someone I walk and talk with every day. At this retreat, people were in love with Jesus as if He was their best friend and read their bibles like it was The Hunger Games or something. I saw this peace and joy they had in Jesus, and I wanted that personal, real relationship as well. I learned that worrying and stressing out about life and the future meant that you didn’t believe God was big enough to handle it. When I realized that He was big enough and that I could completely trust Him in everything, I gave Him control of my life by asking Him to come into my life as my Lord and Savior.
Everyday I now experience the joy and peace that I saw others had at the fall retreat. I trust in the plan that God has laid out for my life because I know that it is so much better than my own. Now when I get stressed, praying has taken the place of journaling because while writing it down helps me deal, God helps me heal. I also turn to scripture, and one of my favorites is 1 Peter 5:7 that says “Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you.” I know I need to trust in the good plan He has for my life, regardless of what I’m going through.
I still struggle with piling too many things on my plate, but I now know that I can turn to God for guidance and comfort when things get really stressful or don’t go as planned. I thought I was happy and content with my life before knowing Christ, but I couldn’t ever have imagined how I feel now, knowing that He is real, is in control, and loves us so much. God showed us this love through the death of His perfect, sinless Son to make it so that me, an imperfect person, could someday be allowed to be reunited with Him in heaven. To return this love, He simply calls us to be faithful and let Him guide and direct of our lives. It may sound scary handing over the reins of your life, but I promise it is worth it. I gave my life to God, and it has completely changed my life for eternity.

Never Beyond the Reach of God's Grace

Bradley Krause
I grew up in an average home on a lake spending many days working in the garden, fishing, or working on the farm. I am the youngest of four children- one brother, two sisters, with a mother and father who would do anything to show that they loved me. The first time that I was asked to share my story I was very hesitant because I didn’t think that it was very powerful, I reflected on James 2:10 that states “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Even though I have not come from a past of “great” sin or a horrible background, God still broke into my sinful heart and brought me to Him- and that’s always a big deal!
I grew up in a Baptist church going every Sunday and going to Awana on Wednesday nights. It was one of those Wednesday nights that I remember coming home and crying that I needed Jesus as Savior of my life. That night on the bottom bunk with my mom I prayed a prayer, saying that I wanted Jesus to be king of my life. My life didn’t changed after that night because my heart was not in the right place to be changed. I did not want to do what I knew was right. I wanted to fit in with my friends, and I knew that that was not right. I also knew that I did not have a proper fear of God in me because I did not hate the sin in my life. I had no remorse over my sin. I wanted to be king of my life. God could have me on Sunday and Wednesday nights, and maybe other times if it was convenient.
This continued through most of middle school. It was some time 8th grade year that I went to a youth rally. We had a picnic and I saw our new youth pastor pray before he ate. It just hit me how important God was to this guy. Later that afternoon one of the youth pastors gave a talk about being sold out for God, not holding back parts of your life for yourself, but giving it all up to God and letting Him reign as the king of your life. That really hit me hard; that this was the night I truly surrendered my life to God. Before this I was just saying that God was God, but not living my life for him. These two verses hit me hard showing me that before this day I had not been a true Christian.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches whoever abides in me and I in you, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me,” Lord Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
I began to be discipled by the youth pastor. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but it sounded fun. I would hang out with this cool guy, and then read a little bible. We started reading a book called Changed to His Image- this was a great experience for me getting to learn from the youth pastor and being taught what it meant to be a follower of God, and not just being content with where I was. For the first time I understood what Jesus truly did for me on the cross. I was growing stronger as a Christian and was baptized the fall of my junior year.
My junior year also marked when I began to struggle. The youth pastor was moving to the east coast the same time my brother went to college. My two biggest role models left, leaving me back to where I started with my old friends. Let’s just say that they did not have the best influence on me. I soon realized I was slipping, but I didn’t know where to look. I knew God was my ultimate satisfaction, but none of my friends agreed. I was trying to hang out with an older guy that I knew was a strong Christian and could help me, but it was tough not having anyone my own age. I was in a very hard spot for a long time; I was not growing in Christ and if you are not growing you are going backwards.
I was always very encouraged by my bother every time he came home. He was growing by leaps and bounds closer to Christ, and I saw that in every aspect of his life. I realized that it was the great community that he had at his college. This made me so excited to go to college where I too could have some strong Godly friends that could really encourage me. However, I was so excited to get to college and meet new friends that I forgot about the impact I was having on my high school friends. They all knew I was a Christian, but I did not use the opportunities that I was given to witness and share my faith with them. That is one of my biggest regrets of high school.
God has brought me some awesome guys here at my campus that encourages me when I need it. God has truly reveled himself to me through scripture and prayer. Every day is a fight to seek God as it says in Tedashii’s song Make War, I want to “fight the good fight of faith…” James 1:2 reminds me that day after day I have to remind myself that there will be trials to strengthen me. I am the creature. I am not the creator. Life is not easy as a Christian, but it is rewarding getting to live and serve the God of the Universe.

Hope for the Hopeless

Braden Anderson
I am a hypocrite, and I am a liar. These are the thoughts that come to mind when I think about God and myself. I’ll start at the beginning. I grew up blessed. I have an amazing family; parents who love me and are there for me. I have two sisters and a brother who have always been in my life. My family inspires me, and growing up in a home that had built its foundation on God and the truth of the gospel meant that as a young little tot running around, I put my faith in God. I felt like I was at church all the time and did everything right. I was smart and athletic. I had friends, and people seemed to like me. Middle school wasn’t awkward for me, like it is for most, and it flew by. It wasn’t until the summer after 8th grade at summer camp that I realized what Christianity was all about, and I recommitted my life to Christ. Looking back now though, I can see where life started to change for me.
I started making more of an effort in life to be more of who I thought Jesus was. And I was coming up short constantly. No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. I started rating myself and comparing myself to those around me. My junior and senior years of high school were filled with a lot of searching. I questioned everything. I studied philosophies, and world religions, in order to figure out my own. I was a leader in my youth group, and with my friends. I would talk about God and pretend like I always had been the perfect Christian. I’d say I was reading my bible or really say anything at all that would make me seem better than I really felt or was. Depression started to set in. Depression, as I realize it now, has always been a part of my life. Depression is caused by a lot of things, but I didn’t know why it was happening with me. I didn’t even know what it was. All I knew was that sometimes, things seemed hopeless.
I graduated high school and came to UW-Stevens Point, which was my last choice. I wanted to be a pilot, but that cost way too much money so I came here. Right away, I got involved in Bible study and Cru. I started doing so much, thinking that the more I did the better I’d be. But no, the more I did, the deader I felt. I flunked my first year and was suspended from school. When I went home at the end of the year and found out I couldn’t come back for a semester, I sunk low. My parents encouraged me to see a counselor using their insurance, and I shot that down. That was a big mistake. I pushed everything aside and got back in to school. And everything seemed to be going fine. I was getting decent grades, and life was moving on… I wasn’t though. To cope with my depression I began to seek out unhealthy answers; through women in my life that I could use emotionally or physically to build myself up, through some really unhealthy nights of drinking, and through working too much. I thought I could run from my problems. Truth is, none of that worked, and only left me feeling emptier.
Finally, I sought out help for the first time. I began seeing a counselor and opening up to my parents about how deep the pain really went. But I also continued to try and cope my own way. When I finally began to stop, it was too late. I fell down the slippery slope and was suspended again. This time the university was going to make it permanent. I was sitting on a futon in my parent’s basement, when I got the news. I sunk lower than I ever have, and didn’t just think about suicide, but planned it. I thought the best way out of my mess was to get rid of the creator of it: me. I drove back to Point for work that night and a friend noticed something was wrong. They spent the night on my living room couch, not leaving me alone, giving me hope.
Friends and family surrounded me with love, pointing the way to Christ. I realized He was, is, and continues to be the only answer. That he had already taken my sins and my failures upon himself while he hung on that cross for the world, for me. Following the outpouring of love, I wrote a letter to admissions, begging them to give me a third undeserved chance, and I actually got one. They let me back in, and I moved forward to healthier places. Counseling, my family, and my friends all stood by me, and pushed me through.
When all I saw was brokenness, God saw Christ when he looked at me. I have come so far since that dark night, and have found myself on the path of victory. Even when faced with unexpected deaths and losses in my life recently, I find myself digging into the Word and seeking God rather than seeking instant gratification that would only leave me hurting.
In Romans we are told to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” That’s what we need to do. We isolate ourselves, instead of dealing with life. I needed to rejoice and celebrate with the one who paid the ultimate price for me.
At the heart of the issue and all issues is God. And to realize that he was, is, and will always be the only answer. And that though broken and a liar, Christ redeemed me on that cross 2, 000 years.