By Jenna Ebener
The last couple of months I have described how, while chaperoning at a middle school youth group retreat, God lifted me out of a period of desolation. He reminded me that as long as I look up and keep my eyes on him, I will not see my struggles as a burden.
When I came home from the weekend retreat, I wanted to stay in this time of consolation, so I reflected on what I thought I needed to do. While I know it is nearly impossible to replicate the feelings I experience each year on this retreat surrounded by 1,100 middle school students, I decided to focus on the music. I can still sing songs to God as directly as if he is right in front of me. So, each day, I make sure to stop what I am doing, pause to listen to at least one of my favorite Christian songs, and sing it directly to God. It takes only a couple of minutes, yet it can change my entire outlook on the day.
On days when I am positive and joyful, it is especially easy to find time to praise God. On the days when I am struggling, it can take a tangible effort to pause and praise. However, this simple act of refocusing on God never fails to lift my spirit at least a little. When singing is not enough, I have realized the importance of talking to someone, such as my spiritual director. As Fred Rogers stated: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” The simple act of stating my struggles and describing how God fits into them, again, lifts my spirit. I often do not even notice the exact moment it happens, but without fail, my soul feels lighter after confiding in a person of faith.
If I am still struggling, I know it is something about my perspective. Perhaps I am too focused on the news, my to-do list or feelings of unworthiness. During these times, I strive to find peace within my inner turmoil. I remember that God is always working through me: “Even when I can’t see that You’re working /Even when I don’t feel that You’re working/You never stop /You never stop working…My God/That is who You are” (“Waymaker,” Michael W. Smith). We are his handiwork and, if we give ourselves to God and try our best, he will take care of the rest. We just need to remember to keep our eyes on him.
One day, I had a song stuck in my head, even though I had not heard it recently. I had never connected with the song, so I tried to push it away. It was not until the middle of the night that I woke up, again with the song in my head, that I finally “listened” to the lyrics. The refrain is: “look up, child” (Lauren Daigle). I laughed at myself and realized why God had been pushing the song at me. I had been so focused on pushing the song away, that I did not listen enough to realize it was exactly what I had been telling myself since the retreat!
Are our eyes open to what God is trying to show us? In this time of worldly turmoil, do we see the wonders and power of God around us? Elisha prayed “O Lord, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw that the mountainside was filled with fiery chariots and horses around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17).
(Jenna Ebener, who has a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with disabilities.)