Pulling out an old journal from college, I saw the same question repeated throughout. “Am I enough?” For three years, those three words constantly floated around my mind, yet on the outside it appeared I was living the dream.

College was my game, and I played it well. I didn’t miss a party; I made sure I was at all campus events, looking my best and entertaining everyone around me. I often said to myself, “These are the years that you can do whatever you want, right?”

Telling myself, “It’s okay; this is what people do in college,” seemed to justify making a fool of myself on weekends and feeding my flesh with the attention and approval of others.

Falling For It

Meeting me then, you would have never known that just a few years before, I had given my life to Jesus and allowed His love to flood my heart. Yet, somehow, that surrender became clouded by life’s opportunities and attention. I treated my world like a delicious buffet—I had tasted Jesus and wanted to move on to some other entrées to see how I liked those. I had spent a few years following God’s agenda, but I had decided now it was time to operate on Sara’s agenda.

I knew I should have been seeking a life filled with Christ, but instead I began to seek out Instagram likes, unhealthy relationships and Saturday morning hangovers. I constantly competed to be the best in everything, yet I kept coming back to the same questions. “Am I enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough?”

What masqueraded as a lifestyle of worry-free fun and adventure was really the enemy’s plan to destroy. The same outlets that filled me every weekend with excitement and laughter were simultaneously drowning me emotionally, physically and spiritually. The lure of the world’s ways had been dangled in front of me, and I fell for them like a hungry catfish. I had been hooked, and on the inside I was gasping for air like a fish out of water.

Losing Hannah

Then life came to a screeching halt.

On November 1, 2012, my phone rang, and everything changed with just a few words. Hannah, my 15-year-old cousin was dead.

I’ll never forget feeling the color drain from my face and standing silent with the phone to my ear. I could hear my family’s cries in the background. Family tragedies weren’t supposed to happen to me. I was in college; it was the time of my life. I thought I was exempt from such hardships. I was supposed to be having fun at a party, not planning a funeral.

And as I felt myself fill with despair and helplessness, the last three-and-a half years of selfish, careless behavior came full circle. I saw life from a different perspective.

At Hannah’s funeral, we sang a song called, “Place of Freedom,” in her memory.

There’s a calm that covers me
When I kneel down at Your feet.
It’s a place of healing.
It’s a place where I find freedom.

There’s a place my eyes can’t see
Where my spirit longs to be.
It’s a place of healing.
It’s a place I live in freedom.

I’m gonna’ lift my hands
‘Til I can reach Heaven.
I’m gonna’ shout Your name
‘Til the walls come tumbling down.
I’ve come to worship.

As we sang, I sat there with tears on my face and raised my hands in worship. I knew God was calling me home to Him. He was waiting, ready to free me from the world’s grip on my life.

Even though everything around me was falling apart, God was saying, “Sara, it’s time to wake up. Come back to me.”

Despite how far I had run from God, He used that tragedy to bring me back to His place of freedom. Under those awful circumstances, I found myself at the foot of the cross for the first time in a long time. He reminded me that I was His, that I was wonderfully and fearfully made and that He loved me despite my long nights and bad decisions.

Freedom in Surrender

While the process of surrendering my life back to Him wasn’t immediate, I left that cemetery with freedom in my heart. I knew I was being brought back to life. I knew I was being set free. Sometimes it takes Jesus being all you have to realize Jesus is all you need. In the midst of death, I found a new life. It was a divine juxtaposition.

Since that day, I can most relate to the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8, “For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” The parties were garbage, the embarrassing nights were garbage, and the desire to be approved of was garbage. I now know Christ is the only thing that satisfies my heart.

I finally have begun to see how God takes everything meant to harm us and uses them for His glory.(Genesis 50:20). I now get the chance to serve through my home church and help other young girls see that Jesus is better.

From a broken sorority girl who just wanted to be accepted, God built me back up to a girl who is now overflowing with the love of Christ. My journal no longer consists of questions like, “Am I enough?” It’s now a journal that tells the story of beauty for ashes. The place of freedom I sang about at Hannah’s funeral is not just the words of a song to me now but something I walk out every day.

Jesus is better, and I’ve never been more free.