SPOTLIGHT - And If Not
About the Spotlight Writer
This is Katie Kirkland. She graduated from Baylor University in December of 2017. She is currently a full-time English teacher at the high school where she graduated from in Athens, Texas. She is engaged to a cool dude named Sam Hotz, who is studying to become a pastor. Katie hopes to one day be a professor at Baylor and be a youth minister for a church.
And If Not, God is Still Good
by Katie Kirkland
Prosperity Gospel. Something we all scoff at, but also something we all believe in to a certain extent. The idea that, if we are good enough, kind enough, faithful to God, read our bibles, go to church, give enough in the offering plate, and don’t sin too much, God will bless us in return; He will give us our hearts’ desire and let our plans go the way we want. I know in my own life, whenever something bad happens or when things aren’t going “my way”, I immediately start thinking, “What sin have I recently committed? What do I need to repent of and ask for forgiveness for? I should start reading my bible more and praying more. Maybe God doesn’t think I deserve this blessing…” How crazy of me to think that God’s blessings have anything to do with me. I mean, the audacity I must have to believe that I have any hand in the power of God and His power in my life is absurd to say the least. But then, why do we still believe that God will only bless those who “deserve” it? I wish I was speaking from a place of retrospect – I wish that this was something I no longer struggle with and that I had the quick-fix answer, but I don’t. This is something I still battle in my everyday life. It’s something I have always struggled with, from the time I accepted Christ as my Savior to right now as I write this.
I was saved when I was six years old. My father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother was a saint. They had recently finalized their divorce and I was sitting in big church with my mom one Sunday. I remember the pastor saying that God is our Father, He loves us, and would never do anything to hurt us – He wanted what was best for us and if we trusted Him and committed our lives to Him, we would be rewarded for our faith. This all sounded really good to me considering my father had never been much of one to me or my brother, so I told my mom that I wanted God to be my dad. She asked if I knew what that meant and I said I wanted Jesus in my heart to be my Savior. I don’t doubt that I really was saved in that moment. After that, I was on fire for Christ. I was that kid on the softball team that would ask to pray before and after every game with my team and the opposing team, too. I became known as the “church girl” and people who didn’t even know me at school would ask if I would pray for them or their family. I guess there are worse things to be known as in middle school, ha! I was at Falls Creek in the summer before high school, 2010, when I made the commitment to go into ministry at some point in my life. As a 14 year old, I was deciding to follow God through whatever or wherever He wanted. I never felt closer to Him than I did that summer…
Fast forward to the beginning of the school year: I had just started high school and was attending church regularly. A senior in the youth group had shown some interest in me and asked my mom if he could date me. I was thrilled and honored that someone as handsome and charming as him had noticed me. We started dating soon after, and I really thought I was going to marry him (#SmallTownExpectations am I right?). About six months into our relationship, he started asking about how I felt about doing things…physically. I told him I had every intention of waiting until marriage and he seemed to accept that answer. But, a month later, he didn’t like that answer anymore and decided he wouldn’t take no from me. I was raped as a freshman in high school. At 14 years old I was violated in the most intimate way possible. And I blamed God.
I was angry with God. I mean, how dare He allow something like this to happen to me? I had been so faithful to Him and devoted my life to Him! I planned to honor His calling and expectations for me as a follower of Christ by waiting until marriage and He allowed that to be completely destroyed. How dare He not give me what I wanted? How could He not bless me for my obedience to Him? I decided to “show God” by running from Him, as fast as I could. I stopped going to church. I stopped praying. I put my bible at the top of my closet with no intentions of ever reading it again. I started partying – drinking and doing drugs. Sleeping with anyone who gave me attention (I mean, why not? My promiscuity obviously didn’t mean anything to God since He let someone take my virginity so easily – why bother being “pure”?). I began fighting with my mom and pushing her away. I then became depressed and suicidal. I attempted suicide three times during my sophomore and junior years of high school. It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year that a friend of mine invited me to Falls Creek for our last summer as campers. I hadn’t been back since the summer before high school when I committed to ministry. Of course I said no, but my mom wouldn’t get off my back about going so I finally signed up as a way to get out of the house for a week. I didn’t want to talk to God ever again, and I definitely didn’t want to hear what He had to say. I had lived for Him and He had abandoned me. But, God met me there at camp, in the middle of my anger, shame, and fear. He met me where I was and told me about HIS plans for my life.
I remember sitting on a rock in the middle of the woods with my quiet time booklet. I flipped to the designated day and read the verse that we were supposed to pray over. It was Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” I scoffed at the page. All things will work for the good of those who love God? What kind of bull was that? I began to cry in anger. I couldn’t believe God was throwing this load of crap in my face, so I decided to throw everything I could back at His. “You know what God? You lied. This verse isn’t true. My plans were good! I planned to serve You! Follow You! To the ends of the earth and you let someone RUIN ME AND MY LIFE! How dare you do this to me? How dare you allow this to happen? I’ll never be the same again and You are to blame!” It was really quiet for a few minutes. Then, I felt like I was being hugged from all sides. And I heard God speak in my heart. The most glorious and peaceful moment of my life – to this point – was hearing God so clearly. He said, “Your plans are meant for good, but my plans ARE good. My plan for your life is much different than what your plans were. Trust me, child. I will never leave or forsake you. All things will work together for good, Katie. And what is good? I AM good.” I couldn’t breathe. I was at a precipice in my life and I was ready to jump. God met me in the woods. He met me in my anger. And He told me His plans for my life were good. And I believed.
I think we, as followers of Christ, need to ask ourselves this question all the time and remind ourselves of the answer: What is good? God is good. God is so, so good and He is so powerful and mighty and loving and gracious to us. The idea that we will prosper if we love God is not biblical but we tend to read the verse above and think it is. Our idea of love is something relational and reciprocal – if I love someone, it is because they have loved me and we show it to each other mutually. Therefore, if I am not being blessed or if things aren’t going my way, God must be mad at me. But this isn’t this case, Christian! God’s love is not conditional. It doesn’t waver and it isn’t based on anything we do or don’t do (praise God!). He will bless us and love us because we are His. Whenever hardships come your way, press into Him; not because you have sinned and need to repent. Not because you think God is angry with you. Press into Him because He is never closer to you than when you are struggling and feel alone. His plans for you are good because He is good. The Christian life is not easy. It is a biblical promise that we will face hardships as believers in Christ, which is all the more reason to follow His plan for your life rather than making one for yourself. If you do not prosper here on earth, continue to be faithful. Be courageous. Stand firm in your faith and believe upon God because your reward will be given to you in Heaven. God’s plans are so much better than our own. Our plans are flawed but His are good. When something difficult comes my way, I try not to fall back into the prosperity gospel belief and worry about what I must have done to get myself into this mess. Instead, I look for God in it. I ask the Father, “What do I need to do now, God? Where do You want me to go? Guide my steps and lead me out of this storm” I find Him as an anchor, and I trust that goodness and mercy will follow me all of my days. And what could be more prosperous than that?