Over the past several years, God has shown me that even in the midst of painful trials, disappointing circumstances, and daunting challenges, He is always right there with me. He constantly showers me with His unconditional love. He reminds me that His plans are always greater than my plans.
I have shared various parts of my testimony the past several years, and I still remember the first time I shared it at UMHB at the Worship in the Quad ministry I was so passionate about. Side note, it was in the BSM that night because of the cold weather. I remember friends approaching me afterwards, thanking me for inspiring them with my story. Each time someone would thank me for sharing, I have tried to remind them that they too have a testimony worth sharing with others. Every believer has a story worth sharing, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
A few days ago, the world learned of the passing of the Reverend Billy Graham. Social media was filled with people from all walks of life paying tribute to one person who helped inspire so many around the world through his charismatic evangelizing of the Gospel. As I sat in my little office space at work, getting ready for another day of teaching, I was combing through social media, and I came across a quote attributed to Graham. It read, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Rev. Graham has now changed his address and is alive in the presence of God Almighty for all eternity.
As I have reflected on Graham’s impact on the lives of so many people, I remembered the impact he had on me growing up. I also remembered my own story of how I came to Christ. So, I thought I would share it with you here in this blog post.
On July 19, 2000, about a month before I started the first grade, I was at a Vacation Bible School at a church in Georgetown, TX. At a young age, I knew that Christ loved me more than I could possibly imagine and that I loved Christ more than anything else in the world. What I didn’t know was that the most important part of loving Christ was accepting Him into the heart, an act commonly referred to as becoming “saved.”
I still remember my bible school teacher approaching me and asking me if I wanted to become saved. I honestly didn’t know what that meant at the time. It sounded cool and I figured that it would probably be best to become “saved,” although I wasn’t sure what I was being saved from exactly. When I returned home, I couldn’t understand why my Nana was so excited. I remember asking her if all of this was really that important. She certainly assured me that it was.
Over the next several years, as a young kid, I had so many doubts. At one point I doubted if God really existed. That didn’t last long once I looked at all the nature around me and the stars in the sky and thought, “Well of course He exists.” Even then, however, as I understood more fully what salvation meant, I had doubts as to whether I was truly saved. After all, I didn’t understand what was going on at that Vacation Bible School. For the longest time I thought as if perhaps I wasn’t the person actually making that decision, rather someone made that decision for me. I wondered if I was genuinely a Christian.
These doubts were daily and consistent. I realized that the only way to erase these doubts was if I came to accept Christ into my life as my own decision, now that I knew what accepting Christ truly meant. After so many sermons, there would be invitations for anyone willing to take that most important step and accept Christ into their hearts.
Growing up, I remember watching various preachers in person and on television, and the one who seemed most encouraging on television was Billy Graham. I remember him sharing the Gospel in the simplest ways so that anyone could understand the beauty of God’s love and the plan of salvation. I remember hearing “Just As I Am” being played as hundreds of people walked to the stage to accept Christ. I remember understanding that this was something that needed to be done in my life, but always telling myself, I’ll do it next time. Next time. Next time.
The summer after my 7th grade year was one of the most depressing in my life. I was so miserably depressed that summer that although I never considered actually carrying it out, suicide became a recurring thought in my young mind. Before I continue, if you ever have these same thoughts and you wonder if life is worth living, let me tell you that you are important. God would not have made you if He didn’t have a purpose for your life. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are made in the image of a God who pursues you every second of every day. Please reach out to someone and remember that your life is worth living!
Also, if you have ever battled depression or anxiety, know that there is nothing wrong with you. It is not your fault that you are going through this. God is not punishing you. God loves you. I too have battled depression throughout my life, and I am here to tell you that even when I battle depression, I fall to my knees and ask God to guide my every step. I have hope and joy in these circumstances because I know of the unfailing love God has for me.
In the middle of this summer, I went to Youth Camp with some friends in Brownwood, Texas. One evening, a man who went by the name of Runks Runkles gave a sermon. I don’t have the slightest recollection what the sermon was about, but what I do remember is what happened afterwards. He asked if anyone wanted to pray a simple prayer, asking God into their lives. I prayed that prayer. He then asked those who prayed that prayer to stand. I stood, and as my friends, with their jaws dropped, looked at me, I understood right then, to this day no longer having any doubts, that I was saved. That night I had more joy than I have ever had or ever will have until I meet Jesus in Heaven, because I knew that I was a believer in Christ.
There are too many people in my life who inspired me to reach that point that I could never thank every single one of them. Billy Graham was one person who planted that seed in me that would later lead me to asking Christ in my life. Singers and songwriters, Bill and Gloria Gaither, were two others. One of my pastors growing up, Roy Smith, was another. Paul Cherry, an evangelist friend, was another. And of course, my awesome Dad and grandparents also instilled in me the value of trusting in Christ and putting my faith in Him alone. To everyone else, not mentioned here, I thank you as well!
Throughout my life since then, I have still faced many trials. From being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, living with constant pain since my freshman year in high school, watching my Dad struggle with cancer multiple times (and beating it multiple times), other loved ones struggling with pain and disease I could never possibly imagine, and still battling depression off and on, I have faced many hurdles in life and will continue to do so. God never promised me or anyone an easy life.
What He did promise me was that when I fully trust in Him, I can feel joy in the midst of pain. What He promised me was that even when I doubt, He still loves me unconditionally. Even when I question why bad things happen, He is still there, and He feels my pain, understands what I am going through, and He waits for me to once again turn back to Him, a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could possibly fathom. Even when I ask for healing, ask for trials to end, ask for the desires of my heart, and He says “Wait” or just flat out “No,” I still trust that He is sovereign and that He still has a plan for me and will use me for His glory. And this gives me joy.
People may ask me why I have so much hope, so much joy, and so much peace. I would tell them that the answer is JESUS. If you’re reading this now, know that the answer is Jesus. For you and me, and for every other human being on this planet, He died a very painful and brutal death. He rose from the dead, and He will return one day to bring those who have accepted Him to live with Him for all eternity.
My Dad has definitely been an inspiration throughout my life’s story. To give you an example, I was struggling one day at college (Mary Hardin-Baylor) with my health problems. As I was struggling with this, my Dad, who was battling an infection after having beaten cancer the first time, text me some encouragement. Even as he was battling pain far worse than I can imagine, Dad texted me, “It came to me in my weakness, that God moves strong. He is shaping me into something awesome for His glory alone. Show me this text in a month and we’ll praise Him [Christ] together. Love you boy!” With Jesus Christ by his side, Dad overcame that infection in addition to beating cancer at least 3 times. What this example shows me is that even in the midst of painful trials, we can have hope in Christ Jesus. My Dad still reminds me of this daily.
I will tell you right now that you will still face struggles, but even in the midst of those struggles, you can still have joy in Christ Jesus. It all starts with accepting Him into your life. If you do this, you will still face many challenges, but you will have that assurance that Christ goes before you, that He is there to guide you throughout those challenges, and that one day, we will spend eternity with Christ and without any pain or sorrow. All you have to do is accept Christ into your life, trust in Him, and live for Him.
Please do not wait. You may not have tomorrow. You may not have the next hour. The time to accept Christ in your life is always right now.
If you are unsure of what to pray, pray this prayer.
“Lord Jesus, I come to you today, and I thank you for loving me so much. I understand that I am a sinner. I am truly sorry. I want to turn away from those sins and start following you. Please forgive me. I believe that you are God’s son, and that you died to take away my sins. I believe that you rose from the dead and will return for me someday. I understand that the only way to spend eternity in heaven is through you, Jesus. Come into my heart and save me. I love you and I want to follow you for the rest of my life. I ask you into my life. In your name, I pray, Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God. Now, go tell others that you have asked Jesus Christ into your life, and share your story with others. Share what Christ has done in your life. I also encourage you to frequently read God’s Word. If you can’t afford a new Bible, biblegateway.com is a great resource that has the entire Bible in numerous translations. Always remember that you are beautiful and you are constantly pursued by a God who loves you so much.
If you still have questions, contact your local pastor, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am praying for you and I love you.
Some words of encouragement:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NIV)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)
Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. – Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Forever by Kari Jobe
Because He Lives by David Crowder Band (song originally by Bill and Gloria Gaither)