Life brings us struggles.  What do we do when we are faced with these struggles?  Do we complain, pout, and become selfish and indignant that we have struggles, or do we rise and find purpose in the struggle?  God has never promised us a life with no struggle, but in Deuteronomy 31, He promised us that He will never leave nor forsake us if we are His children.  Turn to Him, trust Him, and let Him walk beside you.

Memorial Day is not easy.  It reminds us of the loss we’ve suffered.  It reminds us of the men and women that have given so much so that we can live free.  Honor their lives by living a free life.  Free of selfishness and self-doubt.  Live a life worthy of their sacrifice.

Below is the transcript of Michaela’s valedictorian speech. You can visit our YouTube channel to see and hear her deliver it before her student body and others in attendance at graduation.

“My name is Michaela Riggins, and I’m more than excited to be addressing each and every one of you today. In Africa, a proverb says it takes a village to raise a child.  Now in my case, it took the entire tribe. Before I go any further, I would first like to thank my tribe. Thank you to my mom and dad, Nana and Pa, Gigi, Aunt Kati and Uncle Bear, Aunt Ky and Uncle Lee, Aunt Jill, Uncle Dan, Erin, Joseph, and Ben, Sam, Eli, Kerah, and Bekah.  You are all my tribe, and without each and every one of you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I would also like to thank my church, my best friend, Mrs. Baker, and Mrs. Telchik.  All of which have been there for me when I needed them the most.  

These past few years have been nothing short of eventful.  Each and every one of us have seen the highs and lows of high school. We’ve all heard the expression, “High school: the best years of your life,” but let’s be real with each other.  Growing up isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard, and at times, it can seem impossible, but we know this: Romans five, three through five, says, “More than that, we rejoice through our suffering knowing that suffering worketh endurance and endurance worketh character and character worketh hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which is Christ Jesus.”  It’s a mouthful. I know.

But really try to break it down. We rejoice through our suffering. In March of 2020, I was blessed to be named best performer and advancing cast in One-Act Play and the state finalist and state champion in BPA. I cannot tell you how excited I was to compete at bi-district and nationals, but then my world was suddenly flipped upside down. COVID-19 hit, and I watched as my dreams slowly slipped away. And my life completely changed. I was so angry with God, because at the time, I thought that nothing worse could ever happen. Then, on top of this, over the summer, I became ineligible to compete the following year as an online learner, I was devastated.  I wanted nothing more than to tell God how wrong He was in an attempt to convince Him that my way was better than His. I was selfish. Then in June, I was given a wake-up call.

On June 16th of 2020, I came very close to losing my best friend. I was scared, angry, frustrated, and confused, but most of all, I was conflicted. You see, I knew what Romans five, three through five said, and I knew that God wasn’t going to give me any more than I could bare, but I had no idea how I was supposed to rejoice through this suffering. What if I lost him? What if this was God’s way of punishing me for my sins?  What if I never got to hear his voice again? There were so many ‘what if’s’ running through my mind from the second that I found out what had happened.  I didn’t know what to think or believe, but I do know that it was extremely difficult to turn to God and rejoice through my suffering. I wanted nothing more than to wake up and realize that this was all a bad dream, but I didn’t. Instead, I had to live with the hard truth that I was going to have to trust and rely on God more now more than I ever had in my life.

I won’t lie and tell you that it was easy. Because, to this day, I still struggle with this. I focus on the negative instead of the positive and the blessings or the lessons that God has taught me through my suffering. I know that each and every one of our struggles is going to be different, but there are a few things that every one of us can relate to.  Most of us are going to struggle to know our purpose in life, and others will struggle to know where the path ahead of them leads. The world ahead of us is full of uncertainty. Many of us will struggle to find jobs, and some will even struggle to find the funds for education. As difficult as the struggles are, it’s the struggles that make or break us.  As we grow up and face whatever path lies ahead of us, we are going to struggle, and that’s okay.

What really matters is how we react to the struggle.  Will we lie down, sulk, pout, and complain when things go wrong, or they’re hard? Will we rise up and be warriors who praise God even during our struggle?  Will we run away from our problems or face them head on singing worship, inviting God into our struggle? Will we complain when things are wrong and curse God, or will we trust and know that all things work together for His purpose?  Because right here, right now, everyone of us gets to make that decision for ourselves. We can choose to be selfish and complain, or we can choose to follow the love and strength that God has already placed inside of us.  So, what’s it going to be? Are you going to be a warrior? Thank you.”