”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
I prided myself on being a self-sufficient kind of gal. After all, I had overcome an abusive childhood, alcoholism and several divorces. I was finally doing great. I had a successful career, a beautiful home and sobriety—and I thought I had done it all on my own. “I can do anything I put my mind to,” I thought. But when I became ill with lupus, I met my match. The doctor’s words sent shivers down my spine: incurable, debilitating, possibly fatal!
The illness made it difficult for me to stay out of bed for more than a few hours at a time. In despair and fear, I thought of killing myself, but as difficult as living was, I had a greater fear of dying. . .lurking in the shadows of my childhood was the thought that I would surely go to hell.
In my early teens, when I became convinced that I could never be good enough to go to heaven, I ran as far from the church as I possibly could. I set out to convince myself that Satan and hell were ridiculous concepts and there were lots of people out there to help me believe that.
But faced with impending death, I was terrified that those Christians just might have been right. I couldn’t just snap my fingers and overcome my anger toward Christianity. What could I do to reconcile my feelings? I had no idea, but God had a plan for my life!
Through a strange series of “coincidences,” I ended up walking into a hotel to spend EIGHT DAYS with a church group. Nobody but God could have orchestrated this! I felt more than a little scared. . . like the lion being thrown to the Christians!
During the days that followed, I was surprisingly validated by the leaders. They were upset at the judgmental, perfectionistic, legalistic, “we’re the only way” kind of Christian that had sent me fleeing! I heard the good news without feeling condemned. I heard that God wanted me to be saved, that He loved me beyond my comprehension (which was pretty small).
Then they played a song about God creating me before the beginning of time, knitting me together in my mother’s womb, inspiring my first breath, being there when I smiled my first smile and took my first step. Do you think that made me happy? No! I erupted in a volcano of rage! IF He had been there all along, why hadn’t He done something to protect me from the life I suffered through? I just had a plain old fit! The feelings of being betrayed spewed out at God in words and tears of frustration. My anger formed a wall that kept His words from getting into my heart.
Even though they were a bit shocked at the intensity of my abrupt outburst, the leaders helped ease the anger and pain out of my heart. They talked quietly with me saying, “Trust us; if you will let Jesus come into your life, it will never be the same.” Their words began to give me hope and soften my heart. They told me again how Jesus had suffered and died so that I could be forgiven—and I really needed that forgiveness.
As the leaders of the group talked with me, I held my face in my hands, weeping in exhaustion, but still resistant. Suddenly, in my imagination, I saw Jesus standing in front of me. I almost stopped breathing. He was a gentle but powerful presence. His warmth spread into my heart and around my body as He stood patiently waiting for me to decide what I would do. Slowly, He extended His hand in my direction. In the blink of an eye, I felt the pain and confusion of the past flooding away. In it’s place, I began to feel sweet, quiet, contented JOY. I received the gift of BELIEVING and I knew He was REAL.
In the depth of my being, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never be alone again, that He would be faithful and that my life would never be the same. He would give me new understanding, new hope and a new future! Yes, a future.
I knew that there would be some kind of healing in my future. Over the first few years, He healed my feelings and now He has healed my body enough so that I am at gratefully at work serving Him.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God...
Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)
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A wonderful testimony which demonstrates how God is at work leading us to him. I could see Jesus standing there reaching out to you in his "gentle but powerful presence." A great message for those who have not yet taken this same step of faith to know that Christ is also patiently waiting for them "to decide what to do." Thanks for sharing.