by Heather Barton
Each of you is so very special to me and I want you to know I was truly blessed beyond words by your presence, love, sharing, and with-ness at Pilgrimage.
Romans 5:1-5 says, "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 boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Glory in our sufferings? Really? Yes, really! Remember our awesome God sees each of us and remains with each of us through every storm or struggle no matter the magnitude at which it impacts our life. While it is hard to think of our obstacles as something we should praise God for, it is something we are challenged to do in our walk of faith. “Even when my strength is lost, I'll praise You; Even when I have no song, I'll praise You; Even when it's hard to find the words, Louder then I'll sing Your praise. I will only sing Your praise...” is one of my favorite songs by Hillsong United on our Pilgrimage CD.
During Pilgrimage, you heard me say how purposeful God is, and of course, He made sure to reinforce that even more as I experienced our special weekend as a team leader. I hope you each feel how God is at work in you and how He purposefully placed you at Pilgrimage to grow your faith and/or to see you through an obstacle you’re facing right now.
As we have now come to a week after Pilgrimage, you may have had things pop up that are trying to test your faith or separate you from God and shake your faith. Some of you may be still on that mountaintop where it has got no hold on you and you know God’s got this. If you’re feeling something pulling you away at all, trust that our gracious God sees you and remains in control in the eye of the storm (another one of my absolute favorites on the CD) :) Those things that attempt to separate and destroy our faith are also the very things that shape and strengthen faith. You’re on your way to an unshakable and unbreakable faith! Hold tight to God, let go of the world, praise as you pray, and know that He is for you!
As Stephanie and I made the journey back to Richmond, God gave me a wink and I wanted to share it with you all. About 30-40 minutes after leaving camp, my brother called me full of life, yet also with a caring calmness. He tends to text rather than call, so it was amazing to hear his voice. It was even more amazing to hear his thankfulness for support and cards he gets daily, his love for a church community, and his eagerness to live out the purpose God has in store for him. God’s wink was just what I needed to close out my Pilgrimage experience, and I cannot praise Him enough.
Your sister in Christ,