Well, it’s been quite an emotional month and a half to say the least. I have had some of my darkest moments and some of the best moments as well. I honestly find it difficult to put it all into words. I have doubted the Lord’s faithfulness more times than I am willing to admit. There were plenty of moments when I knew it was all I could do to keep from screaming. I don’t know if the difficulties and insecurities I have been facing are over, or even close to it. However, I have learned at least one thing over the course of this month and that is this: that the only place where true and lasting and perfect joy is found is in Jesus. It’s in knowing that despite my MANY weaknesses, a perfect Father loves me. Joy is in the realization of my ultimate purpose—to glorify God and to further His Kingdom, not my own. I have learned that no matter how dark my days are, there is peace to be had at the foot of the cross in moments of true honesty with God. It’s in the moments of being physically on my knees, crying out to my Father, begging for peace and rest in Him that I have felt closest to God. And, no, the sucky emotions don’t just disappear into thin air and no I don’t start grinning like the Cheshire cat or something. No—that bit of peace from Jesus does truly give me joy, but maybe not in the terms or manner in which we think of joy. To most, joy means you’re happy and smiling and just feelin’ good, but I have learned that joy in Jesus doesn’t always take that form. For me, this month, that joy took the form of an assurance deep in my soul that God is good, God is faithful, God is loving, and He is to be trusted, even in what I perceive to be my absolute darkest moments. I can honestly say I have felt more intimacy and more dependence on Christ this month than I ever have. I have understood for the first time the importance of finding my joy in Him alone. I have understood for the first time that I truly have one purpose and one mission in this lifetime, and no matter what trails I face or don’t face, no matter what happiness I experience or don’t experience, that mission remains. And there’s a peace to be found in the steadfastness of that purpose. Knowledge of that one purpose removes the temptation to find my value anywhere besides God’s word. God doesn’t leave it up to me to decide my value or anyone else’s. He decided that before He even created me because He chose to use me and die for me and redeem me and wash me clean of the sinfulness that tries so desperately to consume me. It’s really beautiful, isn’t it? Yeah, I think so too. It’s amazing how much we plead for God to take away the trials we experience, yet we also plead that He will strengthen our faith and increase our love for Him—what if a lot of times those two things go hand in hand? Maybe these hard times are because God knows better than we do what we really want. We don’t think that we ever want to experience pain, but if it ignites in us a passionate love for God and His purpose for our life, then maybe it doesn’t sound so bad after all.