A Greater Calling

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Our friend Jon shares an incredible testimony about his struggles with depression and how close he came to giving up… until God called him! Jon reminds us that each of us has a greater purpose in life and that we must patiently live out our calling.

“Don’t look at the past. The First and Last has made everything new and you are too! So lift your head and let your story be told!” – Flyleaf

 “Where to begin?” I ask myself. To share my story of how far I’ve gone in my life is so much to cover. But I’ll begin to say that my story is no more important than anyone else, because I believe everyone has a story to tell. We all have something of great meaning to share. My name is Jon and this is my story.

 I guess you can say I somewhat grew up in a “Christian home.” But really how can you define a “Christian home?” I went to church like everyone else. I tried to be a good person and all, but it’s perfectly honest to say that when I was younger I was never strong in my Christian faith. You can easily say I was a Christian on the sidelines. I was just simply existing. I knew of God and Jesus, but was I living a life as He wanted me to live? The answer is no. I wasn’t really yet a follower of Jesus Christ.

Throughout my life I tried to figure out my purpose in everything, and to find the deepest meaning to be alive and to understand my existence. There have been many seasons of winters in my life where it was too tough to handle, and that I would try to carry all the weight of my problems on my own.

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I had a bad habit of keeping everything to myself, and not speaking to anyone about it. Inside my mind I thought, “Why would anyone care?” I was stuck in a mentality that continued to ruin me. I was constantly drowning in my twisted thoughts and emotions where I was left to face myself. There was a voice that was telling me that, “You’re worthless!” “You’re not good enough!” “You’re not going anywhere in life!” “You’re pathetic!” And with that I believed a lie. I believed a lie of the expectations of what the world tells us how to live, and what other people say and dictate on how we should live our lives. It was the enemy telling me lies, and I just let it affect me.  All of this was completely messing me up inside. I did feel worthless. I felt I was never good enough for anything. I felt I was going no where with my life, and I did feel pathetic.

I started to fall into depression as a teenager, and it lasted throughout my years in college.  As the years went by it would just get worse and worse. It got to the point where I couldn’t feel anything. I was just so numb and empty inside. I didn’t want to be alive. I started to look at life in a dark way…I wanted to die! There were many times where I thought about killing myself and how would I have done it. At times I would ask myself why I was waking up every day and I couldn’t find a good enough reason to continue on. There were many times I wanted to call it quits right there and then. I felt worthless, hopeless, angry, bitter, selfish, alone, empty, numb, confused, and frustrated. Even though I had many people in my life such as family and friends…something was missing. There was a huge void in my heart. Many times I would fill that void and emptiness. I would seek out things that would only satisfy me temporarily. I would try to attain such instant gratification that the world offered, such as going out and getting drunk when I got the chance, to sitting in front of a computer and viewing inappropriate material that I shouldn’t be viewing, or trying to have all the materialistic things that I didn’t need and deserve. I would always take, take, take. It would be anything to make me feel something; to make me feel alive for a moment, but really everything was making me dead. And in the end I became so empty and broken. I believed a lie that all I see, have, and physically experience is all I get. I was dying inside. I felt like I was suffocating.

In the midst of all of this I felt that something was calling me. Something was tugging at my heart. Did I want to ignore it? I sure did. I was afraid what was going to happen if I responded to what convicting me. But then it was until one night I prayed to God while I was at my lowest low. I was extremely depressed and my heart was extremely burdened. I prayed, “Please God, take this pain away. Please take this hurt away. I cannot carry on with this burdened heart and sorrow. I cannot carry on this weight. Take it away because I cannot go on anymore!” Even though I prayed this prayer I was expecting something instant. But then I later realized that God was teaching me something. He was teaching me to be patient.

There are many ways people cope with what they go through both in a good way, and unfortunately in a bad way. For me to cope with all I was going through internally, art and music became an outlet that allowed me to deal with everything. But what really helped me cope was music. To be able to relate what people write about, and share personal stories and experiences is something I’m strongly attracted to.  The artist that I have been strongly attracted to is a band called Flyleaf. They’re a group of friends who are Christians who write about personal stories and experiences that had a message and moral that I was able to relate to immediately. The one thing was able to relate to strongly was with the personal testimony of the lead singer, Lacey, of her struggle with severe depression and suicide, and how God of the universe brought her out of that. Their music had helped through the tough times. Listening to their music and witnessing how honest and real they are with the gift that God has blessed them has changed me and has brought me closer to the Lord. It’s amazing how powerful an outlet like music can help and connect with others on a level that’s beyond of understanding.

I decided to give my life to the Lord in November 2008. I got baptized and from then it has been a crazy journey with many challenges that have be laid before me.  Even though there have been countless struggles since that time, I have learned to have complete faith in the Lord and not lean to my own understanding.  It was not until recently things have been really changing since September 2010. I felt God was calling me for something. My heart has been yearning for change, for connection, understanding, and above all an eternal love.  It was when I decided to join the young adult college age ministry called Afterhours at my church, Eastside, in early Fall. I truly believe God had guided me there. I believe my life had completely changed after that. It has been a complete blessing for me, but as well for Afterhours. I’ve been able to connect and understand with others there. It’s been a true gift to be able to have a community such as Afterhours and have such great fellowship with one another. I’ve never met such loving, caring people in my life. Ever since joining Afterhours, God has guided me to paths that I wouldn’t have done on my own. It is how I found out about My Broken Palace, which I am so thankful to be a part of and to be involved with such passionate, loving people. For awhile I’ve been yearning to be involved in something great that helps people that deal through issues that I’ve gone through, and so God has guided and placed me with My Broken Palace to help spread the voice and light of hope. Also through My Broken Palace, it is how I found about Derekstar whom are a group of amazing artists. I know God plans to use my gifts that He has blessed me to use to the fullest with them. It is no coincidence that I am with these two ministries that God has great plans for!

Bearing a gift of a new heart, I see life in a different way than before. I see it in a new light, and I don’t feel the heavy weight on my heart that I was carry for so long.  Looking back then and seeing who I am now, I am not the same person who I was, and I can see that clearly with God’s love. His love, grace, and mercy have brought me out of that darkest pit I was in. I am so thankful to be alive and to see each and every day! I am thankful that He has always been there for me despite of all of my faults and mistakes, and that He never gave up on me when there were many times I wanted to give up on myself. I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for His love. It has been truly amazing how God has been blessing me with everything one moment at a time. All the glory goes to Him!

There is so much that I have learned from everything that I have gone through. I can truly say that I’ve witnessed the growth and change within me. It’s only a feeling you can only experience yourself because all the words cannot describe the feeling of change I’ve experienced within myself.  As cliché as it sounds, everything happens for a reason, and that reason is because God has a masterful plan for all that goes on in this world. I’ve learned so much about myself, and I still continue to learn more as life goes on. I appreciate life in a new way.  I have a greater understanding in many things. After experiencing what I’ve gone through, my heart goes out to those who have gone through the issues, and those who are going through something right now.  I wouldn’t be able to recognize the pain and suffering in someone else if I hadn’t gone through it myself.  I am able to experience the sweet comfort of joy through the love and mercy of God’s Holy Spirit. To be able to acknowledge where I was and see who I am today…there is so much hope in that.

To anyone that reads this and is struggling with anything, I want to let you know that there is hope and this love.  The hope and love that God gave to this broken world by coming down to be with us is His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I want to say that if you are carrying a weight on your heart, I want you to know that you are not meant to carry that burden. You’ve gone through too much for your age and that you try to carry the weight of it all, and you fall right under. You are not alone! There is hope in the midst of all the suffering. I pray that you’ll just let go of whatever is weighing you down and give it to the Lord because He has already paid the price for our sins and our suffering. He is always there for you and will never forsake you. If there is ever a single thought or moment where you question your purpose or have doubt, I pray that God will guide you and open your heart. And if you ever feel or someone tells you that you are worthless, pathetic, and that you are not worthy of anything, I want to let you know that is a lie! You are worth so much more than you know! You are worth something! You were bought at a price! I encourage all who have a story to share it!  You never know how much it will help someone unless you voice your story! We need to love one another, encourage others, and help those in need. Be surprised that you’re still alive, because this is not an accident. God has implanted each and every one of us with a great purpose that only you can fulfill the way that you were made for! My dear friends never forget that! And never let anyone or the world dictate on how you should live your life. You have a purpose, a calling, and God is here to guide in that path that you were created for. I’m not talking about a job or a career, but really who you are as a person. When everything seems to be all lost, there is a hope deep within us still. Hold on to that hope and love. Joy will come! Keep forever hope, faith, joy, and above all love. Remember life is short and precious. So live it fully alive. Memento Vivere!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” – Romans 5:1-5