My name is Johnicia Bailey, but you can call me J.
I am 19 years old, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, but my life started to fall apart around my senior year of high school. I lost my grandparents, my parents filed for divorce, which hit me harder than expected, and my best friend moved to South Korea for a year. I was pretty lonely and depressed.
Let me tell you, three years is a long time for your life to be in shambles.
I had been raised in the church. I knew there was a God. I knew that Jesus died on the cross. I knew if I believed in Him, I could be saved. My mom held steadfast to His promises in the midst of her ongoing divorce, and through her I couldn’t deny the existence of God. I watched her rely on God and grow in her relationship with Him. I also witnessed Him provide for her and through that, He also provided for my sister and me.
But while my mother took her relationship with God to the next level, I wanted nothing to do with Him or the church.
Why did God let all this bad happen to me? What had I done wrong?
As my mother drew near to God, I ran away. I threw myself into a job that destroyed my self-esteem. I threw my college studies on the back burner and failed a class. For a whole year, I walked around with a hole in my heart. I felt numb and empty and worthless.
I struggled with accepting God in my life. Questions swirled in my mind: Am I a Christian? What does a Christian look like? What do I believe? After belief in Jesus, what comes next?
During a long talk with a close friend in the fall of 2015 over a hearty meal of orange chicken and chow mein, I realized I was so worried about what came after believing that I overlooked that first step.
When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He gave us a choice to follow Him or not, but I had never truly responded to Jesus’ call. In a tear-stained prayer in my car, I told God that I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t handle all the pain and hurt I carried for years.
After I made that decision, I didn’t want this to be one of those relationships I was passionate about the first three days and then gave up on. I remember saying that I’d take it day by day.
I’ll trust You today, God, and then I’ll wake up and say it again tomorrow.
I got plugged in at a local church, and there’s a change in me. My heart feels different. I know in whom I believe, and it’s an honor to be called God’s child.
But although I have security in my salvation, questions still rack my brain – why am I not moving forward? What does moving forward look like? What am I supposed to be doing? What does God want of me?
God revealed part of these answers in my life group at church. As we study Ruth and examine the spirit of a woman of God who doesn’t quit, I realized this: moving forward in faith looks different for each person.
For some it means taking steps to go, and for others — and for me right now — it means being still.
I don’t feel called to plant a church across the United States or spend Christmas abroad in East Asia – at least not right now. Some of my friends have expressed that God has called them to do things like that, and I desperately want to hear God’s voice to give me that kind of direction.
Instead, I have these faint feelings in the pit of my stomach. Right now, I have this feeling that I’m not doing something I am supposed to be doing in the place He has me.
Okay, God, if I am called to be still, what does being still look like?
That’s where God revealed the second part of His answer to me, in another Bible study where we are looking at 2 Timothy.
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. “ – 2 Timothy 2:22
Fleeing from youthful passions means to leave behind anything that distracts you from God. Passions are good, but they become bad when we focus on them more than God. Being the wonderful book that it is, the Bible tells us what to do instead – pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with others who call on the Lord.
This is what God has shown me about moving forward: to pursue is to have active faith in knowing that we are no longer bound by our sin.
So what am I supposed to pursue exactly?
Righteousness – it is a gift we received when Jesus died on the cross.
Faith – it is remaining in the truth that Jesus died for as and acting in a way that reflects our belief in everything God has done for us.
Peace – it is being unafraid – we don’t have to worry or be anxious because we know in whom we believe!
Finally, love – it is a result of God in us.
Being still doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means growing in Him. I am like a little flower, and God is my sun. Being still is soaking up His rays of love and peace. It means taking His words and turning them into food for our spirits. For me, it means staying a part of a campus ministry and my church, reading His Word, and most importantly in my life at this moment, pursuing love.
Love is something that I am desperately missing. For a while, I have been a slave to the fear of the future, not knowing how to move forward, and the fear of rejection, not knowing what others may think of me as I go.
However, 1 John 4:18 says,
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
As I’m learning to be still and focus on love, I’ve realized it’s an action. It is something I have to choose, despite my fears. God says the greatest commandment is to love Him with everything in me, and the second is like it – love others like yourself.
Loving myself means changing my thoughts on how I see myself and not letting what others say affect me. It means writing encouraging words on my mirror, reading encouraging books like You’re Already Amazing, and holding on to the truth that I am loved by the God of the entire universe.
Loving others means being emotionally giving, willing to help, and serving someone else’s needs outside of my own.
And finally, loving God means obeying Him. It means striving to know Him. As He has commanded, I will love Him with my heart, mind, body and soul. I will fall in love with God by taking the time to know Him. I will seek Him and draw near to Him. I will take that step towards Him. Because He is all I have and all I will ever need.
I may not have heard God’s voice on where to go next, but I will. I look forward to that day. Until then, I will pursue righteousness, faith, peace and love. Now is my time to be still and know Him. To take the time to seek God and grow stronger in Him. To hide His word in my heart and spread love where I am so when the day comes that God says, go, my answer will be, yes.