This has been my hardest, most rewarding, and most unhealthy semester yet, and through it, God has shown me my sin and His grace.

After my summer in Richmond, I felt incredibly well-rested and ready for a new semester. When I got to Mason, I jumped headfirst into a thousand different projects. Every single one has been a blessing in its own way, and many have been direct answers to prayer. But between training for and running a race, kickstarting a research project, working, preparing to study abroad, and helping to lead a Bible study, while also attempting to be a good friend, daughter, sister, and girlfriend, I burned myself out.

I tried to be Superwoman and found out very quickly that I was not. My overcommitment started to take a toll on my physical and mental health. By Thanksgiving break, I counted a day without tears as a victory. God used this semester to humble me. I thought I could be a good student, employee, daughter, sister, girlfriend, and friend in my own strength. I was wrong.

Sometimes God deliberately gives us trials in order to sanctify us:

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

Job 23:10 ESV

This semester was no exception. It drove me to rely on God as I realized that I cannot rely on my own strength; in fact, none of us can. In our own strength, we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. If you, like me, are used to relying on yourself to get the job done, drawing from your own willpower to stay up one more hour or finish that last task at work or run another mile, you know that this is so incredibly frustrating. We can do everything else – why can’t we prove ourselves to God?

First of all, we can’t do everything else. It is literally by the grace of God that we breathe at all! And second of all, we cannot prove ourselves to God. We are not merely sinless except for a few stains. Ephesians 2 tells us that we are all dead in our sins without the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. In our own strength, we are nowhere near being able to come before God.

But that is not how the story ends. We can’t make it right with God, and our own strength eventually gives out, and this is when grace floods in. By the grace of God, when we see our sin, we have somewhere else to look: the cross.

Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Grace is that God not only pardons our sin but also calls us His children. He not only dismisses the sentences of those who have committed countless crimes against Him and His creation but also invites them (us!) to His wedding feast. And the more we see our need for this grace, the more fully we are able to understand what a wonderful gift it is.

This semester, grace hit me like a tidal wave. Confronted with the reality of my limited strength, my failures to love others well and my repeated falling into sin, I had to look outside myself for salvation. I had to look to grace. As my sin piled up, I could not “do better.” I had to look to the cross. And there I found this wonderful grace.

We are not superheroes. We need grace. Praise God that we have that grace through His Son Jesus Christ, who died for us that we might follow Him and have eternal life (John 3:16)! And this is why, after this difficult semester, I can stand before you and say simply that I am rejoicing, and it is well with my soul.

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