God is Good to Me
The following is an excerpt from a message given to a woman’s group. This portion of the message shares personal testimony and focuses on God’s grace, mercy and faithfulness throughout our lives.
“I will never
leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5)
As a child, my family did the church thing on Sundays. But the secret hidden behind the front door was a house full of dysfunction. My father was physically and verbally abusive. As the younger of two girls, I received the brunt of my father’s abuse, which included molestation. My mom was beaten down, bitter and broken. My older sister, well, she ran away a lot and moved out when I was 7.
Before I jump ahead to 7, I want to share what happened when I was 5. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart, and live there all of my life. I can’t explain it, but I knew God was with me and that He was taking care of me. Shortly after I accepted Christ, I started praying a lot.
One night when everyone was fighting in the kitchen, I went into the living room, got down on my knees and prayed that God would get me out of the house. My prayer was interrupted when my mom pulled me up by my wrist and said I would be spending the night at the neighbors. That was the first time this had ever happened, and I KNEW it was God.
Along with praying, I started listening to praise songs. There were many nights when I felt that my bedroom was full of evil; nights when my father had been inappropriate with me. When I was afraid, I would pray that the evil would leave, and I would sing praise songs until I felt safe again in God’s presence.
So, back to being age 7…my sister moved out, which left me to bear the burden of our family dysfunction. That year my skin started turning white. The only explanation was trauma, so I was sent to a psychologist. The psychologist was the one who discovered the full extent of my abuse and filed CPS reports. My father fled from the house, my mother was threatened with losing custody of me if she allowed him near me, and our church let us know that our family was no longer welcome.
After hearing this, it may be difficult to understand what I’m about to say: GOD HAS BEEN SO GOOD TO ME! The neighbor’s house I slept at that night I prayed so hard - it was a Christian family. And the psychologist I was referred to was a Christian counselor. There are countless examples I could give you of God’s grace at work in my life.
This is the mystery of God – when we stay connected to Him, He can work His power into our lives to accomplish His will. Here’s an example – I get to use my electric toothbrush every morning because it gets charged every night. So when I go to use it, it has power. I can even take it away for weekends and it holds its power. But over time, without remaining in the charger, it loses strength until it has nothing left. That’s true of our faith as well…
I’d like to tell you that my child faith blossomed into a mature faith seamlessly, but that’s not the truth. By the age of 10 I was tired of all the family dysfunction. Over time this anger raged like a volcano. I was mad at my dad for inflicting such evil onto me, and I was angry at God for allowing it. I screamed, I cussed, and sometimes I refused to talk. I felt like everyone in my life who was supposed to protect me had wounded me… my dad, my mom, my sister, even our church family.
I decided that I didn’t need anyone; I could do it on my own. This was the beginning of 3 years I spent in rebellion, away from God. At 13 I started smoking. Pretty soon I was going to parties with under aged drinking. Then came boys and lots of inappropriate fondling. It was all topped off with a couple of joints I smoked. Those 3 years were the darkest years of my life because I was separated from God, and I knew it. Remember the tooth brush analogy? I had no strength left. At night I would lie in bed and cry myself to sleep, but I felt too disgusting to cry out to God.
There is a fable that goes like this: Once upon a time, the sun shone brightly upon the moon. Absorbing the warmth of the sun’s rays, the moon also shone brightly, reflecting the light of the sun. Slowly the moon began to dim, until at last the moon cried out to the sun, “I can no longer feel your rays and I’m not reflecting your brilliance. What happened?” The sun answered, “You let the world come between us.”
I’d like to pause here to give you an opportunity to ask yourself a question: What in the world is coming between you and God? Have you been wounded by someone close to you that you trusted? Has the church betrayed you? Jesus experienced both kinds of betrayal first-hand. Unforgiveness is like a dam – it cuts off the flow of living water into your life and out from your life.
As in all relationships, you will get out of your relationship with God what you put into it. You have to trust, give it time, and let it grow. Hold onto faith - the Lord promises that He will never leave nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5). That’s what I learned when I was 17. The summer before my senior year of high school I went to a Christian camp. I had spent a year going to church and trying to clean up my act to earn my way back to God. Remember in Romans when Paul says, “I don’t do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I don’t want to do” (Romans 7:15). That was me! I was desperate for the Lord and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.
I have never seen the beauty of the Lord more clearly than I did the day God showed up and told me He loved me just as I was. He had been knocking on the door of my heart and I let Him in. At that moment, I realized I didn’t have to do anything. Jesus had already done it all. God became my Father, the only Father I’ve ever known. He took my anger and replaced it with forgiveness, not because I hadn’t been wronged, but because I trusted God. God showed me that He was sovereign, and could use everything I’d been through for good. As I share my testimony with you, I can say with full confidence in my Lord that there is not one thing I would change about my life, because I trust God with all of my life.
Once you are in a right relationship with God, you will notice characteristics of your relationship with God that are similar to other high-priority relationships. For instance, we pay attention to those we love. We give God our undivided attention when we are still (Psalm 46:10). Our gaze is fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), and we’re listening for His instruction (1 Samuel 3:9).
We make time to spend with the ones we love; likewise we should spend time with God. Brother Lawrence said, "Think often on God, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who came to visit you: Why then must God be neglected? Do not forget Him, but think of Him often, adore Him continually, live and die with Him; this is the glorious employment of a Christian." 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
We communicate openly and honestly with those we trust and love. In our relationship with God there can be no secrets. God already knows everything. He wants us to be vulnerable and share our true feelings, even if they’re negative. Honest communication is a two-way street that involves listening as well as speaking. It’s a continual conversation with God.
We are committed to those we love. In the same way, we must be willing to go deep in our relationship with God. It’s like Peter on the boat… Jesus instructed him to cast his net into deeper waters, and when he did, he caught enough fish to sink 2 boats! Going deep in our relationship with God requires taking a risk, which is especially difficult if you’ve been wounded before, but the benefits far outweigh the risk.
I’d like to share more with you about my relationship with God. At 17 I got it! Instead of inviting Jesus to be a guest in my heart, I surrendered all to God; I gave Him ownership of my whole heart and He began to transform me. I knew that my life experiences were for a reason. I began ministering to children, youth and parents. This was a fruitful ministry that lasted 10-years. At the age of 21, I was introduced to a young man who was a youth pastor and seminary student. At age 23 we were married, and I thought I had life by the horns!
In my marriage, the honeymoon was over before it started. My husband performed the role of a minister within the church. However, he seemed to not be invested in our marriage. I felt alone and neglected much of the time. I was determined to make our marriage work. I did everything possible, while he seemed unmotivated. After 5 years, I was bankrupt emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally and sexually. I found myself once again desperate for the Lord.
God showed me that my marriage had become an idol to me and these circumstances were creating a critical and controlling spirit within me. I prayed, confessed, and God asked me to surrender. I let go, and within 6 months all was exposed in the light. I agonized, filed for divorce, and clung to God like a child at His feet.
Initially I was afraid, but once again I experienced God’s unfailing love and all sufficient grace. Only this time there was something different. I knew God as my Father. Now He was asking to be my husband. That is when my childhood faith matured.
The act of communion is a wedding proposal. Jesus is inviting us into a covenant relationship with God. Just like our wedding vows, a relationship with God requires that we are committed to Him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others and cleaving only unto Him. My husband and ministry had become competing affections in my relationship with God. Slowly over time, marriage and ministry had reached the top of my priority list, while my relationship with God fell behind. It’s been years since my divorce was finalized, and I’m still on my honeymoon with God! God is my all in all, He meets all of my needs! And I pray that He will never again have to compete for my affection. The love relationship I have with God is a passionate and intimate divine romance!
A life with the Lord is like a dance. Jesus is our faithful partner. God is our choreographer and audience – He’s the only one who knows the dance and knows when we are dancing life according to His will. His opinion is the only one that matters. The Holy Spirit is the music that gives the dance of our life a rhythm that allows us to dance in harmony with Jesus.
As we abide in God, He influences our actions. God’s nourishment produces visible spiritual fruit. When we live in relationship with God we find direction. In a disoriented world, we remain Christ-centered. This allows us to be authentic. God does not ask us to be religious in unnatural ways. Someone once said, “God desires spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.”
A life with the Lord provides an inner joy that transcends outward circumstances. As Christians, we experience the joy of our salvation, and the joy of the Lord strengthens us to serve God with gladness, rather than out of a sense of obligation or guilt.
It is my earnest prayer that God has ministered to your heart through my testimony. It’s been years since I have done any public ministry, and I am honored that God would still speak through me… this broken and cracked vessel of clay. God showed me that His glory is revealed through our brokenness. Like water leaking from the cracks, His love flows through us, even in our brokenness.
I’d like to leave you with a prayer from Ephesians 3:16-21:
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He will strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ will dwell in your heart through faith. And I pray that being rooted and established in love, you will have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within you, to Him be the glory in the church, in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever.”
Especially For You
Friday Study Ministries, Inc.