Testimony

The bible passage that has become the center of my personal growth in the Lord is in Colossians. The one sentence that stands out the most to me is in verse 23 of chapter 2, “…but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh”. I have struggled with the desires of the flesh most of my life. That is why this verse caught my interest. Studying this verse led me to other passages that eventually helped me understand how to stop living in the flesh and live in the spirit.

I was saved at age five and baptized when I was eight. I grew up in church and heard bible stories about who God is.  I also attended a bible club where I memorized verses every week. But somehow, the application of God’s principles to my life didn’t sink in. Growing up in church, I learned about God, but I never really knew how to discipline myself to His principles.

 I have used that excuse my entire life. I may not have known how to discipline myself to His principles, but I did know about God, and I did believe in Him. I knew enough that when pain entered my world as a teenager, I could have sought the help I needed. Instead, I chose to rebel and run away. I believed in God, but I was mad at him. I’ve spent most of my life blaming God for the bad things that had happened in my life and using them as an excuse to justify my sin.

I lived out my teenage years in rebellion and turned to alcohol. I was always depressed, and I carried that depression into my adult life. I lived on an emotional roller coaster and have suffered many broken relationships as a result. I was sure that the sadness was a direct result of the pain I had endured. I see now that my depression resulted from the guilt I felt because I disobeyed God. But instead of admitting my sin, I kept blaming and kept running.

I finally became tired of running. Crying uncontrollably, I remembered what Jesus did for me on the cross. I admitted through my tears that the only reason I was at this place of brokenness was that I had taken my eyes off the cross. The revelation of my depravity was the reason for the tears. The shame and guilt of forty years of the wrong choices had finally caught up to me. I no longer could excuse or justify my sin away. I was at my bottom, that place of helplessness where the only thing I could do was crawl back and fix my eyes on the cross.

The journey of recovery started with Colossians 2:23. As I studied the Bible, I faced the pain that had sent me running in the first place. I had to face and feel the horror of the moment I had decided to run. I had to admit with shame that I had blamed God instead of turning to Him. I had to confess my sin and turn away from the selfish life I lived.

Today I do not suffer from depression. God has taken my addictions away from me. He teaches me how to love others. I have peace, as God has taken away my anxieties. I am becoming trustworthy as I stop hiding, and I am learning to trust others. I am learning to live free of fear. I don’t try to excuse my actions anymore. I am quick to own up to them and get right back on the path.

But this change did not come easy for me. The change God has made in me has taken a lot of obedience over a lot of years. I am not entirely whole. I still have more to learn and more growing to do. But as long as I keep seeking His direction daily, I am walking the path. I now live my life according to His will and glory, not mine. As I walk in obedience to His word, God is changing me.

Joy

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Ecclesiastes 9:7 (ESV)

The electricity is out.  Without the heat running, the house will get cold.  What if the power does not come back on tonight?  Will we have to go and stay somewhere else?  And how are we going to do that since we have been isolating for the last nine months?  Are we now going to risk getting COVID because the electricity is out?  And just like that, I burst into laughter!  These are the kind of thoughts that used to attack my mind when bad things happened.  But things have changed.

I have trusted God for the chaos that has been happening in this world for the last nine months.  Family and friends are getting sick with COVID one by one, and I am still trusting God for the outcome.  Am I seriously going to freak out now because the electricity is out? 

I then started thinking about the message in church this morning.  The Pastor is taking us through the book of Ecclesiastes.  Today I learned that we are allowed to live any way we want, but God wants us to live for Him.  I thought about this as I laughed at the irony of everything, and I wondered in amazement at the joy I live in these days.

 I know that I can do my own thing, and for most of my life, I did.  As I sat in the dark, I realized that I did not have hope in anything when I was living life my way.  I was always depressed and felt anxious most of the time.  The reason for this was because I had no one to hope in except for myself.  So, whenever things would fall apart, I had no one but myself to look for the strength and comfort that I needed.  It is an immense sense of relief for me to know that God is in control, and I can look to Him for what I need trusting that He will not fail me. 

I am not blissfully ignorant and think that all will be peachy just because I live God’s way.  He has a plan to fulfill in this world, and there will be trouble because of it.  Trusting in Him doesn’t mean we are not going to get caught up in the chaos.  I also will not always immediately start laughing when something terrible happens.  I may need to run to my closet and cry my fears out to God in prayer, and I do.  But because I am doing this, relying on him and not myself, I have the joy to walk through the trials.  God promises this joy when we obey His word.  

In choosing to do things God’s way and not our way, we will have joy despite the chaos. 

Friends

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20 (ESV)

People need the Lord.  People need fellowship.  People need people.

When I could get out to church every Sunday, I always came back home feeling renewed and ready to face another week.  There is just something about worshiping God with others.  The Spirit of the Lord fills each believer’s heart as we shout out our praises to God.  Of course, this type of worship isn’t the same with church streaming into my office at home.  Singing out loud by yourself with the dog giving you that clueless look with his head cocked to the side can be uplifting, and I do this often, but it is different when you’re not around others. I’m sure this Pandemic has caused you to have the same feeling of isolation and loneliness.   

I am grateful that the women’s Bible study group has still been able to find a way to meet every week.  Even though it is a virtual meeting, it has been the only time of fellowship that I have been able to have in the last several months.  It has been a time of blessing, sharing, prayer, and a time filled with laughter and tears.  But learning and growing in Jesus as we share His word.  This week has been challenging for me, feeling the enemy’s attack from all directions, and I became vulnerable before my friends.

It is scary to admit weaknesses.  I fear what people think of me.  I fear sharing too much.  But this week, I felt I needed to reach out and ask for prayer, so I did.  The prayer was so powerful as it humbled me to my weakness and renewed my strength in God with each word prayed by my friends.  As I said goodnight and closed out the app on my computer, I realized my peace was back.  I had not felt that in a few days.  I love praying with my friends!

I cannot wait until we can all be back in church and worship together as one body.  But until then, I am so grateful for my Bible study friends!

Place of Helplessness

“And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and watch.” (Mark 14:34, ESV)

As I lay there crying uncontrollably, I feel my daughter’s arm wrap around me.  She knows I need comfort, so she quietly lays next to me, not saying a word, just holding me tight with one arm.  She knows what just happened.  Another broken relationship, suffering from a broken heart again.  What she doesn’t know are the real thoughts that are going through my head.  The real reason I am crying.  My heart is hurting so bad I cannot stop the constant sobbing long enough to explain the tears.  So, I continue with the sobs while she continues to hold me.

Has this ever happened to you?  What broken heart have you suffered?  Maybe it was a relationship that ended or the loss of a loved one. Perhaps addiction has built a wall between you and a family member.   Whatever the reason for your despair, it brought you down to a place of helplessness.  A place that you felt you would never recover.  We are sure that this is it; we cannot go on.  We have hit bottom, and there is nowhere to go.  What now?  Have you been there?

There was a man in the Bible that felt this same despair.  He was innocent of the crime that the chief priests accused him of, but they crucified him anyway.  I imagine when Jesus went out to pray in Gethsemane that he was feeling the same physical sickness that we feel when we are suffering.  Knowing what was about to happen to him, he cried out to the Father and asked him to “Remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36, ESV)

Can you imagine knowing what you are about to face?  I would have run the other way.  But not Jesus.  He knew that this was needed to save people.  He knew what his mission was, and he planned to go through with it.  Jesus makes this evident when he says, your will, not mine (v. 36).  But imagine the mental anguish that he must have felt, knowing the physical torture he was about to endure.  I think if anyone knows the feeling of despair that we go through when our hearts break, it’s Jesus.

It was Jesus that I was thinking about on the night of another broken relationship.  I remembered what Jesus did on the cross for me.  I admitted through my tears that the only reason I was at this place of brokenness was that I had taken my eyes off the cross. I wasn’t crying uncontrollably because of another broken relationship.  The revelation of my depravity is from where the tears were flowing.  The shame and guilt of forty years of the wrong choices had finally caught up to me.  I no longer could excuse or justify my habits and addictions away.  I was at my bottom, that place of helplessness where the only thing I could do was crawl back and fix my eyes on the cross. 

 Start where you are. Don’t try to change your life to fit Jesus in.  Fall on your face and admit your need for Him.  Pray every day.  Be open to listening to His direction.  A little bit each day becomes more.  More becomes consistent.  Consistent becomes like breathing in and out.  As you walk these steps, Jesus fixes you.  Bad things in your life will fall away.  It isn’t because we got up one day and threw all of our habits and addictions into the trash. It’s because we fell on our face and let Jesus take our habits and addictions to the cross, where He nailed them for eternity. 

Just start!

Because I See

“Wine is a mocker and strong drink is a brawler; whoever goes astray by them is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1 (Net)

Tonight I was asked what verse stood out that caused me to stop drinking.  I wasn’t able to answer this question because it isn’t one verse that can explain it.  It happened because I changed the way that I was living.

 It started with a cry to God to be lifted out of my shameful life.  I knew that Jesus was the only way out of the guilt I was feeling.  So, I started praying. 

I eventually started reading the bible.  Then I started listening to online preachers that I trusted.  My life became even better when I began obeying the principles in the bible.  I added regular attendance to church, got involved with the Women’s Bible Study, and continued to follow and grow. 

The time between falling on my face crying out to God, and when I quit drinking was an eleven-year process. 

When asked to give a verse of how I quit drinking reminded me of the man in the Gospel of John that had his sight restored by Jesus.  He had been blind since birth, so the Pharisees took notice and wanted the man to explain it. 

Asking me to give just one verse made me want to cry out what he did; “… I do know one thing–that although I was blind, now I can see.” John 9:25 (NET)

Fruits

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

What does it mean to you to walk in the Spirit?  How well do you think you are doing?  As I looked through my journals, I came across this entry about walking in the Spirit. 

“The fruit of the Spirit is confusing to me.  Am I not supposed to do something for these fruits to be produced in my life?  If God produces fruit in my life, then what is my role in walking in the Spirit?  What does that even mean?  How do I bring such strong desires under the control of the Holy Spirit, and why is it so hard to do?  Why do I want to anyway?  Wouldn’t it just be easier to give in to these desires?  These questions are what I am going to attempt to answer as I learn how to bring my desires under the control of the Holy Spirit.”

I wrote this one week before I quit drinking for good. 

You can be happy to know that it is not up to us to produce the fruit of the Spirit.  That is God’s job.  Our job is to obey.  Is it worth it?  You better believe it is!

No More Tears

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more – or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.” Revelation 21:4 (NET)

How do you cope with the loss of a loved one? Do you blame God for your pain and run away, or do you run to Him for comfort?  You can take comfort if you remember that this life is temporary and you will see your loved ones again.  But yet, the loss can feel so devastating that it sends us running instead.

What do I mean by running?  Leaving God behind to find a different source of comfort is what I mean.  Being a runner myself, I know the routine.  When bad things happen, I get so mad at God that I decide living without Him is better.  Wrong!  Trying to find comfort outside of the realm of God leaves us unsatisfied and empty.  We not only don’t find comfort, but we also find ourselves wrapped up in unhealthy relationships, hanging out in the wrong places, and possibly, trapped in the middle of some addiction. 

The consequences we accumulate from running are why it is essential to keep our eyes on things above.  Especially since the best comfort and healing come from God.  I thank God that He understands how much we hurt when we lose someone.  We can raise our arms to Him and describe every emotion we are feeling from the loss.  We can openly tell Him how we feel about the situation because God already knows our feelings.  We are not hiding anything from Him by not admitting it.  Not facing the pain and not giving it over to God will cause us to run.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait until we are in the kingdom, where God will wipe away our tears, and death shall be no more.  Until then, let’s keep taking our pain to God in prayer.

Refuge and Strength

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (ESV)

Who do you turn to in chaotic situations?  Is there a significant person that you run to, or do you only rely on yourself?  I have heard people talk about how they solely depend on themselves.  Others say there is a significant person in their life that is called their rock.  I have experienced both in my life. 

There have been times when I put the responsibility of refuge and strength on another person.  There have also been times when I have only trusted myself to fill the need.  In both situations, I was unhappy and unfulfilled. 

It’s easy to turn to ourselves or cling to others when in need or trouble.  But since we are human, we are always let down.  God is there and won’t let us down, but we have to seek Him.

Coming to God and depending on Him to be our refuge and strength is not easy, but I can say, from experience, that it is more fulfilling.  The more we seek Him, the easier it gets.

Broken Heart

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

Who, or what broke your heart?  Did you turn to God or away from Him?  Every time something went wrong in my life, I ran away.  When did you stop running, or have you? 

It was eleven years ago that I fell on my face crying uncontrollably to God.  I humbly asked Him to show me how to rest in His arms.  I wanted to know how to discipline myself according to His principles.  I pleaded with Him to stop me from chasing after my desires.  I couldn’t handle the shame anymore. Another broken heart, and I was too tired to keep running.

As I got up the next day and continued living as I always had, God got up and went to work on me!  God does create a clean heart in us.  But we first have to be willing to give our hearts to Him.