“Your MINISTRY is found where you’ve been broken. Your TESTIMONY is found where you’ve been restored.”
It’s time I share my testimony. Get comfortable because this is going to be a longer post.
A believer’s testimony is so powerful! It is their personal story of God’s redemptive work that is a beautiful painting of God’s love and salvation in the soul of His creation coming back to true life. Just as each person is unique, each testimonial is unique except for one aspect – Jesus Christ. Christ is the beginning, the body, and the end of our testimony ~ we are only witness to this love letter that He is the author of. We can encourage others with this!
As you continue reading, I hope it stirs something within you. I prayed over this moment before writing this letter and testimony. I pray it is used to glorify God alone, that others may see His light and come to salvation in Him. I pray that through these words, God alone would be magnified and sought after.
To begin, as I look back on life thus far, I am thankful that I grew up in a home and a family that spoke of Jesus. I took it for granted. My home and my family was one that went to church, was involved in church, was a praying family, a close-knit family, that openly talked of Christ and the many stories in the Bible. I was taught to be thankful, to love others, to pray, to stay in God’s Word. I was encouraged to be involved with groups and ministries in church and in Bible studies. My family loves Jesus and are the most godly examples in my life and what a tremendous blessing they are! We share in this walk of faith and even those who have passed on have left a mark of their testimony on each of our lives.
And yet none of this made me a Christian, none of this made me an automatic believer of Christ. It was only a strong building block, a blessing that my formative years were saturated with truths of God and seeing His heart lived out by those around me; Jesus Christ was my cornerstone from the beginning.
Growing up, I attended a private school (which was connected to the church my family and I went to) that had classes focused on teaching Scripture, whose teachers went to my same church, with friends and classmates that I would see in the same Bible studies during the week; I participated in VBS, Awana, youth groups, women’s Bible studies as I grew older, assisted in the children’s ministry, partook in every communion, was the student doing all of her homework and projects on time with good grades, helped behind the scenes with deaconesses at church events and celebrations. I even went on a mission’s trip the summer after my high school graduation. My life revolved around this community; it was all I knew. Yet again, this did not make me a Christian. In fact, I honestly don’t think I was a true believer in Christ growing up. Outwardly I looked like it, I sounded like it, I had the appearance of what I thought a Christian was. I checked all the boxes, did what I thought I should be doing for Christ, was led in prayer to be saved at an early age (in elementary) but it was all outward behavior. It was a shallow faith, with hopes that my actions and good works would mean God saved me and I was saved from eternal life in hell, apart from Christ. Oh, but how wrong I was… I knew of God, but I did not know Him.
The first time I remember sharing my testimony was during the mission’s trip I signed up for in 2011 with the youth group and leaders from my church as we traveled to Haiti. I did this thinking I needed to; that it would make me look like a good person, something that was required of me in my life as a Christian. I remember I needed my mom’s help to write my testimony and what I remember most about it is that the testimony I shared on that trip had no depth and was spoken from an empty heart. I repeated “Roman’s Road” and had little to nothing to share of a personal relationship with Christ. I simply reverberated what anyone could do and what I was told to say without truly knowing the heart of Christ behind those truths.
As the years went on, I attended a local college, friends separated, moved to other states, started other aspects of life, I had a part-time job, was still living at home and even my older brothers and cousins were not always around. The life I knew was quickly transitioning. Old friends left, new people came in, yet I still felt stuck in the same place. Fast forward a bit more and now I have graduated, started a full-time job, moved into my own apartment, have developed longer-lasting friendships with a small group of girls, and have started to feel more and more distant with the church I grew up in. In 2014 I shared my testimony once again, this time as I was being baptized. Still, my actions were to further my stance as a believer of Christ. I was told that when you place your faith in Christ you should be baptized as a public testimony of your new life in Him. Since I was supposedly saved at a very young age, I was way behind in this next step! My parents never forced me to be baptized, but would occasionally remind me that it should be done. I remember the day clearly. I was nervous to get up and speak in front of my church (which is the exact reason it took me so many years to get there) but in my mind, “I had to do it and get it over with”. My testimony then, three years after the first time sharing, was more of what I thought was considered heartfelt and more knowledgeable, but still they were empty words. I was once again projecting the shell of a Christian.
As adulthood was moving in and more and more of my community that I had always known was vanishing, a new norm was settling over me.
A part of me had learned to balance my own independence from an early age, but I was increasingly and quickly moving into that independence I knew as a child, but now as an adult. Being the only girl in my family with two older brothers, I would often be playing by myself and learned how to be alone and how to be okay with it. As a child, being alone and independent was a pleasant escape. It was a happy place for me to be in and I immediately knew it was okay and I knew how to do it well. My home was filled with so much love, don’t get me wrong. My parents were always there for me and my brothers; they were supportive, corrective, loving. Our family dynamics allowed me to know and feel love intensely and how to extend that to others. My parents taught us how important it was to remain close no matter what, to be kind and to carry this outside of the home wherever we go. My heart was full of love always; my heart knew familial love to the highest degree possible. My heart was shown God’s great love before I recognized it and received it for myself.
The independence I had always known shifted into a place of loneliness. I was having to figure life out on my own but not in the way I wanted. Friends had left, new groups were being formed without me in a church that I called home. I felt as if I was being pushed out of the community I had always known and now had to learn who I was without them. Where did I belong? How did I belong? Who was I now as an adult, separated from this old life? And so I felt as if I had to navigate this apart from anyone I knew; I had to essentially rediscover who I was and where my worth was found. I began to jump around to different churches, never settling; the constant I used to have in group Bible studies was gone and my new job was my new constant. Everything I had known and done prior was falling to the wayside and the shell of this so-called Christian began to crack and crumble. None of it held up because I didn’t have Christ living in my being. My life was in my hands and I had a very firm grip over it. Loneliness sunk in more and more, worldliness was more appealing, old friends continued to drift farther away as I watched marriages happen, families begin and yet I was still stuck. The life I desired or thought I would have was not happening and I began to search for it in all the wrong places. I began living a life for myself, thinking I would get what I wanted on my own terms and soon was living a life of selfishness, sexual immorality, seeking confirmation in who I was in the ugliest possible way. I was seeking validation and allowing other people to determine my worth.
In the worst year of my life, I thought God had abandoned me and wanted nothing of me. I honestly had believed he had left me to live this life of sin because I was in too deep – I deserved it. There were several moments throughout this period of time that I lived with regret (even though my actions didn’t change), I hid from my family, my friends, and tried living two lives. During this time though, there was always this unexplainable feeling that would come over me and make me feel sick. It was a sickness that no one saw, but that I lived with daily. It was emotional, physical, mental and just this awful, creeping sense that would envelope me constantly. It’s hard to explain. All along though, the Lord was working in me. I believe the Holy Spirit was moving and Christ was calling out to me that this wasn’t a life that He desires for me. My body was not one for the Holy Spirit to dwell in and could not dwell in. Finally this feeling ate away at me to the point where I could not hide anymore and could not continue. As time went on, my heart and soul were becoming extremely weighted down by guilt and shame until I didn’t want to go on in life with it any longer. I felt I had driven a wedge between me and the God I grew up knowing, had been an embarrassment to my parents, and there was nothing left for me to offer.
And then the God I knew about became Lord of my heart. He became real to me.
I remember the night so vividly as if it just happened. It was the very end of 2016 and I was exhausted and drained from the sinful life I had been living. I had gone to bed but could not fall asleep, even though it was the most tired I had ever been in my life. I laid in bed crying, sobbing so much that not even that would put me to sleep. I remember laying there and not wanting to wake up with another day of this; I wanted it all to end. I was finished and didn’t know what else to do. And in that moment I surrendered my life to Christ and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. I cried out to Him to take over, to save me from a pit that I had dug so deep on my own that I needed only His help to crawl out of. That firm grip I had on my life was released and I pleaded for God’s mercy and forgiveness over me. I knew He was the only one that could save me not only from the life I had been living in, but more importantly from a life without Christ and from eternal death itself. I prayed and prayed as my pillow became soaked and my eyes were swelling but I prayed for God to save me from my sinful, self-seeking life. And it was in that moment – friend I will never be able to explain it perfectly because it was so personal and so real – but it was in that moment I experienced God’s perfect peace, His perfect love and His saving grace. He was in that room with me and I felt His presence. I truly felt God sitting on that bed with me that night, wrapping His arms around me, embracing me and tenderly letting me know He has me, He loves me, He forgives me and He will save me. The tears ended and I fell asleep in peace. While I only received a few hours of sleep that night, I woke up the next day feeling alive. Rather than the normal sickening sense I dreaded and carried every day, I woke up with a renewed sense of hope and freedom. My faith in Christ was made alive, was made real, and was made personal now with God. The peace of God that “surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7) met me where I was that night.
Tears of joy. Thankful that God chose me and sought after me. He never abandoned me like I had thought.. I still tear up as I think upon that hour. It is forever etched into my mind and my heart – the moment my head and heart connected and my eyes were opened to see God for who He is as Lord and Savior. You see friend, our actions, no matter how good they appear or are intended, do nothing to save us; living a life of what you think is good or what a “Christian” should look like means absolutely nothing if you do not place your full faith in Christ, walking out in obedience to Him, and living each day in communion with Him. A life in Christ is not a religion that feels disconnected, distant and only a list of outward behaviors; Christ is alive, is active, is in us through His Spirit, He has shaped our hearts with His hands and is closer to us than our own breath. A life in Christ is relational, wholesome, complete, and full of love and joy!
“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to the gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. …None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips, their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 2:15-16; 3:10-18
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:23-26
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the GREAT LOVE with which He loved us, EVEN WHEN we were dead in our trespasses, made us ALIVE TOGETHER WITH CHRIST JESUS. …for by God’s grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no man may boast.” Ephesians 2:1-10
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility… and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross thereby killing the hostility. …For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:13-16
It’s clear that there is nothing we can do to be saved from the wrath of God for our sins. We are all sinners, and no matter how hard we try, our good works are not good enough. Since the fall into sin from the beginning, we have been separated from God, undeserving of His love and promise of eternal life in Christ. The verses I just wrote from the Bible was me! I was living a hostile life, in secret, enjoying the passions of the flesh, creating misery and living a life on the path to judgement and ruin. BUT GOD, in all His love and glory stepped in to save us all from this self-righteous path, if we place our faith and live in Him. John 3:16! For God SO LOVED the world (amidst all of our evil and unrighteousness) that He sent His only (perfect, sinless) Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life! Christ in His death and resurrection knocked down those barriers dividing us from Him. Nothing I did was deserving of the Lord’s salvation, yet He loved me still to save me through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for all my sins. We are dead in our sins friend. When something or someone is dead, it cannot move, it cannot save itself, it’s over – so there’s nothing we can ever do to bring ourselves out of a dead state, we need the power of God’s saving grace to accomplish that. God is seeking after you and wants you. You don’t need to do anything but only to trust in Him with obedient faith. He will meet you right now, where you are.
“His (God’s) going out is sure as the dawn; He (God) will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. …for I (God) desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:3,6
It’s never too late to call upon the Lord and place your faith in Him. He desires our hearts and desires for us to love Him in return. Being saved does not mean life is easy now or that we don’t need to do anything further, but instead it’s walking out our faith, it’s a turning away from our old life apart from God and now living in the presence of God. Being saved means we are saved from the wrath of God and His judgement on us that should place us in the pits of hell but instead places us beside Him in eternal life in Heaven one day. We will stumble, we will grow and relationships with others may have to change, but God will help us through and His strength is enough. He is enough.
The change of heart I’ve had ever since the day I was saved 5 years ago is written well, from Sam Storms’ book One Thing, “what I thought was pleasing to God and what He wanted of me was forever transformed. Reading the Bible suddenly became a heartwarming adventure rather than a tedious discipline. I had to discard a good bit of what I thought was Christianity and rebuild from the ground up. My value system got turned on its head… the way I view the world and people and life’s ultimate purpose experienced a serious and significant overhaul.” My life in Christ now is a sanctifying journey. I’ve had to learn things all over again, His truths jump off the pages of Scripture and have depth and life to them. Worship music moves me so passionately. My heart finally has received and recognized God’s amazing love and is overfilled with Him. My worth is now found in God alone and not in man.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” Psalm 40:1-3
My dead heart has been transplanted with a heart for Christ, regenerated and pumping for Him. I am forever changed and there is no turning back. God has my heart forever.
Friend, I urge you to place your faith in Christ if you haven’t already. I urge you to surrender your life to God. God is abounding in love and mercy. It is never too late and there is nothing that you have done that God does not forgive. His grace covers all sins. He only wants you to turn to Him. I promise you, you will know freedom, a renewed spirit and joy and love that is unlike anything you’ve experienced.
I could continue on but thankfully there is a whole life ahead of me of sharing & proclaiming God’s amazing grace and glory! That’s why our command as believers in Christ is to not only witness and share God’s salvation by words but by our daily living as well. Jesus loves you, know that. You are so loved and so cared for, even when it may not feel like it. Jesus is calling out to you and wants you. There is so much beauty, love, joy and hope to be found when we give our lives over to Jesus. No matter where you’re at right now in life, no matter your story, turn to Christ. As I mentioned at the beginning, each testimony will look different and every believer’s encounter with Christ will be unique but it’s God’s glory and redemptive work that is constant and is to be found and praised in every situation.