We all have struggles and I am no different that you. I’ve tried writing my testimony sooo many times. And each time, before hitting the “publish” button, I would exit out of the window as fast as I could. I’ve been ashamed of the girl I use to be and scared people would think less of me. But those are lies from the enemy. Last night Jesus had laid it on my heart to share with you my struggles, temptations, and my messy past because all of it brings God all the glory! So, get ready for a story of redemption. A story of grace. A story of hope.
I always longed to be loved: by my parents, friends, and when middle school came around, boys. My mission was to find love and to be loved. This journey began when little ol’ me was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of three years old. The doctors had no clue why or how I got it seeing as no one in my family has it [besides my grandparents due to old age]. I was in constant pain from my jaw to my toes, in flares, and always switching medication in hopes of finding a cure.
Shortly after my diagnosis, my mom turned to God because she didn’t know what else to do. Going to church became apart of our weekend schedule. I would hear the pastor preach how good God was and how much He loved us, but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t wrap that idea around my head. If God was good, why was I hurting? What did I do to make this pain happen? Was God punishing me for something that I did? The enemy continued to feed me these lies to the point where I became angry, hurt, and very doubtful and confused towards God.
Doctors had prescribed me a variety of medications, each different from the next: shots, pills, infusions, and steroid injections. None of which put me in remission. The pain was still there, hurting more each day. And the worse my disease got, the more my heart grew bitter towards God. Why wasn’t he taking this pain away from me? Could he not hear my prayers? The enemy continued to engrave lies into my mind.
In high school I was totally convinced that Jesus didn’t love me. I thought if I did all the right things like go to church, get plugged in at youth group, do all the “right” and “Christian” things, go to church camp, that I would feel better about myself. But I still felt empty. I was doing these things because that’s what I was told to do. (I was missing the whole relationship aspect of it)
So when religion didn’t fill me up, I ran away from it as far as I could. I chased after boys hoping they would make me feel loved, valued, and wanted. I changed myself to be the girl they wanted so they would like me. I went further than I wanted to so they would keep me around. But after each slip up, I felt guilty, lonely, and dirty. Each guy that ended things with me broke me more than the previous one.
Then I figured that if I were to numb the pain, it would just magically go away. I tried forgetting the hurt at the end of a liquor bottle and searching for the next high. It still hurt. I couldn’t escape it. I questioned if I was every worthy to be loved.
College rolled around and I told myself that I was going to pick up my act and get my life together. I went to a tiny Baptist university, thinking that those worldly temptations wouldn’t be there. But they were and again I fell into lust, partying, and searching for love yet again. There I was turning to guys to fill me up, friends to make me feel like I belonged, and drinking and getting high to fit in. I went to church here and there (usually when I felt guilty from the night before) to prove to people that I was a good Christian girl. But I wasn’t fooling anyone. They knew I was a mess and they labeled me as a hypocrite. I felt like the Sinful Woman.
In 2013, my sophomore year of college, everything went downhill and got better all at the same time. I remember sitting in my two door Toyota Solara with tears streaming down my face as I listened to my mom break the news to me that her and my dad were getting a divorce after twenty four years. I was broken and my family was broken too. People around campus didn’t have anything nice to say about me. The people who claimed to be Christians pointed the finger at the party girl and they judged me.
Feeling worthless and being absolutely exhausted from living a double life, I did the only thing I could do. I cried out to Jesus, begging Him to take control over my life and surrendered everything to Him. I begged Him that whatever His plans were for me, I wanted it. I was exhausted trying to be my own god. I failed every single time.
Life didn’t get easier when I followed Jesus. People where still whispering about me and in fact, I was mocked for following Jesus by old friends. Because I removed myself from my partying friends, I didn’t have any friends. The guys who were once interested in me, ran the other way when they found out I wouldn’t give myself to them. I recommitted myself to live a pure lifestyle and promised myself that the next person I was going to date would be the person I was going to marry. (Which just so happened to be my husband!)
I wasn’t used to be being alone- I had always had a lot of friends and was always talking to some boy. However, I knew that in order to follow Jesus, I needed to get rid of the things that took my eyes off of Him. That semester, was dedicated to being completely alone with Jesus and learning to love Him.
I joined YoungLife to become a leader on campus so I could encourage, lead, and speak truth into high school students who were also hurting and who were looking for hope. During leadership training, I met Savannah. She was over the top extremely bubbly and so joyful…and to be honest, I was really annoyed by how happy she was haha. But then I realized that her joy came from Jesus and I too wanted that kind of joy! We read through the bible together, talk about it, and encourage each other to live it out. The more I read and learned about Jesus, the more my heart craved Him. I started building a relationship with Him.
Growing up in the church and in a Christian family, I had heard the gospel hundreds of times and rededicated my life to Jesus at every single church event growing up. It wasn’t until I was nineteen years old that the gospel convicted me. It pierced my heart to know that a perfect God loved an imperfect person like myself. It blew my mind that Jesus wanted all of me and despite all of my junk. He still desired me. How could he love me after I betrayed Him? How could he continue to chase after me while I continued to chase after the next guy? How could he forgive me when I couldn’t even forgive myself?
Jesus was The One my heart had been desiring my whole life- he was the love I had been searching for after all these years! There was no turning back. Jesus accepted me when my friends turned against me. Jesus chased me when I was chasing after guys. Jesus fulfilled me when drugs and alcohol didn’t. Jesus was all I needed.
I don’t know your story or your current struggle, pain, but I do know this. Unlike us, Jesus never changes. His love runs deep for us, even when we don’t feel like being loved or when the world labels us as “unlovable.” Jesus says you’re redeemed and you’re made new in HIM. You don’t have to have a perfect life to be loved by Jesus. You don’t have to know a certain amount of scripture or be able to understand the Bible. You don’t have to know all the right answers or do all the right things. Jesus just wants you the way you are, imperfect. And when you let him into your life, and begin to know him more, he begins to change your heart. He begins cleansing you and he gives you a new identity. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” // 2 Corinthains 5:17