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A Letter to My Younger Self

Dealing with Failure and Mistakes

Live in the moment of rejection, failure, or mistakes while controlling your response to such experiences. Avoid becoming angry, downcast, or overly moved by the situation. Take setbacks in stride. Understand that making mistakes are necessary growing pains. Take calculated risks and do not avoid failure, embarrassment, or fear your lack of knowledge. Don’t quit or shrink from facing these seeds of growth. These moments bring reflection and revelation that sharpen your focus and put what matters in life into perspective. Identify what went wrong, seek guidance, or simply correct the error to improve and continue to apply this new knowledge. Positive growth will result.

Determine why and what God’s purpose is for you

God writes your story, but it is his story, not yours. Draw near to God in personal devotions and prayer to Him seeking his direction. God exposes to you, and sometimes others before you know yourself, what your gifts are. If others see abilities in you that you can use in God’s kingdom, take these conversations seriously and consider it before dismissing it. Capitalize on your time by determining the why you do what you do; otherwise, a bunch of experiences can lead to a waste of time. Prayerfully consider decisions and evaluate whether they meet God’s approval. Trust God to open and close doors.

Keep Learning and Seek Mentors/Models

Set aside time to learn and resist the attitude that you have arrived. Consider taking continued education. Don’t wait to solicit advice and guidance from others who are wiser and have insights that could prove valuable to you because they are further down this path than you are. Follow their advice, so long it is in keeping with God’s word and confirmed through prayer, regardless of difficulty or discomfort. Be respectful of their time, ask them questions, and follow through with applying their advice. Otherwise, you’re wasting their time. Study deeply.

Thankful for Wise Counsel

Surround yourself with older, wiser adults with good, godly reputations. When I heeded their advice (solicited or unsolicited) on matters about self, friendships, dating, what kind of woman I ought to strive to be, trials, career, what to look for in a husband, and more, I benefited greatly.

Contentment

Be thankful in every state you’re in. Know God is in control of every aspect of your life. You may desire good, godly things, so supplicate in prayer to your Father for them. Stay close to God knowing he does all things for your good and he knows your deepest needs. He is a mighty God! Trust him and avoid seeking your own solutions, especially those that do not align with his written word. True happiness is found when you walk with your Lord.

Enlist Accountability

Make a point to meet with like-minded friends, set goals, encourage each other and discuss progress or shortcomings. Make a plan and implement baby steps and revive your motivation by making small achievements and rejoicing in them too.

Delight in God first and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Talk often with your mighty Father in prayer, and he will change your heart.  No one has ever regretted being more Christ-like, being kind, taking a stand for the truth, doing what is right, and forsaking one’s sinful self. Grow an insatiable thirst for God’s word. Make time to read his word and good reformed literature to gain a God-centered worldview and how it ought to affect your relationships, career, goals, outlook, attitude, self-love and more. Study deeply, not faster as our culture promotes. We will fall short at this devotional life, probably our whole life; nonetheless, I have found that when I focus on my relationship with God, everything here below becomes small. I find more contentment and the “quiet” life grows more appealing. Take advantage of your single life knowing you are married to Christ and grow in holiness. Be involved in the church and school life.

Dealing with Others You Struggle to Like

Succinctly, it becomes easier to love others when you pray for them specifically and sincerely.

Honor and respect those in authority and persons of any age. Be kind; no one has ever regretted being kind. You’ll be amazed how God brings people back into your life. We will love each other perfectly in heaven, but charity goes with us from this earth to heaven with us. Do not be contentious but peaceful.

Redeem the Time

Ultimately, strive to press your time in service to God. Don’t wait until tomorrow or when you’re older to put away childish things or sinful habits. It is easy to be busy yet waste a lot of time. Time is a creature created by God, and Christ died for it. Learn from those who are industrious while maintaining a healthy balance with their devotional life, relationships, work, play, exercise, talents, and more.

Give yourself to others: namely parents and the family of God, especially those who are fatherless, widows, or widowers—you’ll gain the most from these experiences, and the recipients will appreciate your effort no matter how weak it may be.

Screen time has its appropriate place but be willing to evaluate how you spend your time and how it can better be used. Satan is subtle and preys on our sinful addictions. It will bear fruit; good or bad for you, your mental health, your relationships and church family, especially long term. On social media, not everyone is having such an amazing time as you think. You’re not missing out. Satan feeds you these thoughts. Don’t believe his lies. Consider your posts: Are they a good reflection of your heart and whose approval matters to you?

Consider the consequences of your decisions before acting on them; your sinful decisions always affect more people than just yourself. Be punctual; it never hurt anyone to be early.

Be a Steward of Money/Possessions & Give

Happiness is not born in riches. Those who have less pray for us as we have greater temptations in our affluence. We have abundance! We could stand to exercise self-control, living with fewer things, giving more, and not winking at our covetous hearts. After all, possessions we think are important will only burn up with fervent heat in the end. Let it not have power over us or divide our relationships.

Comparison

You will always find someone better than you. This is true for each of us. Avoid such an exercise because Satan is nearest you filling your mind with negative thoughts that you tend to believe. As the son or daughter of God, he, as your Father, does not want his child believing such lies. Be patient in your weaknesses and be thankful for your body, ability, health, strength, and the mind God gave to you. Be you while knowing whose you are.

Dating

Samuel learned from God when looking to anoint a future king of Israel from the sons of Jesse: look not on the stature of a man but look at the heart. Be attracted to one who does not love you first but loves you second to God. You know a person by their fruits, how they spend their time, their habits, what they involve themselves in, how they respond emotionally to situations and more. Refrain yourself in your physical involvement; physicality will impair your judgment of the person. Returning to certain boundaries becomes difficult. If someone truly loves you, they will honor you and respect your body and seek God’s help with you. Start a devotional life; praying with each other, or studying a Reformed book together, or reading God’s word together. This will strengthen you to resist temptations with each other, enable you to grow closer to God and each other and it will lay the most important foundation for your marriage. Date to marry or don’t date until you’re ready. Marriage has its challenges and hardships when you’re married in the Lord, so date antithetically! Marriage is not a mission field, and it is not meant to make you happy but holy. Marry in the Lord. God’s love letter to you prescribes what to look for in a spouse and how to behave together if you want a fulfilling relationship.

Be Humble

This can be harder for some more than for others. For those of you, who tend to struggle with pride, understand that you do not know it all and God does not need you, and you are replaceable. This is a harsh reality. Be confident in the abilities God gave you and allow others to speak well of you.

Allow no one to extinguish a good and upright passion or allow others to get you down. There are those among us, even in our own church family at times, who may be jealous or even envious of anything you may possess because God gave it to you. They may cut you down and make you feel small at times. These words may even cause you to second guess your abilities, your person, and your goals. Try to listen for any truth to what they are saying and if possible, give them the benefit of the doubt and evaluate whether it is something you should improve. Then run your thoughts past a trusted, wise advisor, who seeks your best benefit for guidance and encouragement.

Listen to Your Parents

Besides God and a spouse, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone who loves you more than your parents. Take their words to heart. They’ve been your age before and likely have regrets and see now what they should’ve done. They concern themselves most about your soul and rejoice when you walk with God. Heed their warnings. Allow them to prevent your hurt and shame and honor them and their rules. Ultimately, their love desires that you join them in denying self, dying to self, and following Christ, so that you may give God glory and enjoy him forever together.

*Gracia Schipper is a wife and mother and attends Grandville PRC in Grandville, MI.