It’s Okay, I’ve Got You

by Isabelle Ryerson

January 2019
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We are told all the time that having a consistent habit of prayer is extremely important to living an Orthodox life. I agree with this wholeheartedly, but it can sometimes be a really hard thing to accomplish. I will admit to being first among sinners when it comes to this. School and work provide lots of distractions, not to mention any family obligations and trying to have a social life on top of all else.

If you talk to pretty much any Christian, they can tell you at least one way in which they have witnessed God working in their life. Through habitual prayer, we are more open to noticing and appreciating how God works in our lives every day. I have my own growing list of ways I have seen God quietly working in the background of my life, but I have one vivid occasion on which God’s voice was loud and clear and it has to do with the sunset scene pictured above.

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At 17 years old, I spent my junior year of high school as an exchange student through the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program. I lived for 348 days in a tiny country made up of 18 islands located 200 miles north of Scotland in the North Atlantic Ocean called the Faroe Islands. I was almost 4,000 miles from home in a country where I didn’t speak the language, was completely unfamiliar with my surroundings and knew no one except for the host family I had met for the first time when they picked me up at the airport. To say that for the first few weeks I was overwhelmed by culture shock and homesickness would be an understatement.

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Despite growing up attending church every Sunday with my family and going to a private Christian school from preschool through twelfth grade, I was rather lukewarm in my faith during high school. Besides the things I had packed in my suitcase, God was the only other familiar thing with me in the Faroe Islands so I did a lot of praying. The tepid nature of my faith at that time made my distress calls to God feel awkward and unnatural but I was desperate for anything familiar that might help ease the homesickness.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
— James 4:7-8

During one of the first few days, I was sitting in my bedroom in my host family’s house writing an email to my parents when I looked out the window and saw the sun setting behind the house across the street. True to what James 4 says, when I was drawing closer to God, he drew closer to me and when I saw that sunset the words “it’s okay, I’ve got you” popped into my head. God was telling me that I needed to trust Him more. If I had already built up a consistent habit of prayer when times were good (at home) then when I was stressed and overwhelmed (abroad), it would have felt more natural for God to be the first place I sought refuge.

From that point, I decided that because I wasn’t going home for a long time it would be better to embrace my situation and start making the most of it. That decision to listen to God and trust His plan opened up the possibility for me to embrace my exchange year as one of the best decisions of my life.

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Every so often, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by school and work I have to go back and look at this photo. Especially now that I am getting ready to graduate and transition to a new stage of life, I have to continually remind myself that what God told me at 17 years old is still just as true today. Like God gave His promise to Noah through the sign of a rainbow, this sunset is another sign of God’s promise that He takes care of his creation. Saying daily prayers, even if it’s only something short, helps me to remember that.