Sometimes we get to a place in our Christian journey, that in order to move forward or take that next step, it is often necessary to look back at where we’ve come from – to reflect, to remind us of His goodness, and sometimes to give us motivation to keep moving forward.
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of the there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
Each of us certainly has a story to tell and no two situations are exactly the same.
The Apostle Paul’s story in his own words:
Philippians 3:5-7 (CEV)
5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old, and I am from the nation of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Hebrew. As a Pharisee, I strictly obeyed the Law of Moses. 6 And I was so eager that I even made trouble for the church. I did everything the Law demands in order to please God. 7 But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless.
2 Corinthians 11:23-33 (CEV)
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a fool to talk this way, but I serve him better than they do. I have worked harder and have been put in jail more times. I have been beaten with whips more and have been in danger of death more often. 24 Five times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip.25 Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. 26 During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord’s followers. 27 I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm.
I’m the eldest of two daughters born to a young couple in Richmond, VA. Mom would always take us to church while dad stayed home. I remember I never even liked going to church – something about how people behaved so proper and “holy” inside the building and so rude and mean outside the building. Eventually, I learned to fake sick so I could stay home with dad too. Then dad eventually ended up in jail and was released on house arrest some time later. When I was 12 years old, I’ll never forget the man and woman (who would later become my spiritual parents) who were going door to door talking to people in our neighborhood about Jesus. I thought it was all a load of crap, until whatever they said to my parents manifested some very notable changes. Like my dad going to church and reading a Bible……??? Never saw that coming. I’m not even sure if he realizes that it was the changes that God did in his life that really drew me into my personal relationship with God. I figured if God could do a “180” in my dad who was usually high, drunk or lounging on the couch without a care in the world, then He must be real.
We all became Christians that year and became heavily involved in our local church. I graduated high school at age 16 as valedictorian. With the possibility of going practically anywhere I wanted to go, I defied almost everyone else’s plans for my life of becoming a doctor or lawyer and listened to God’s plan instead, and headed off to Philadelphia College of Bible (since called Philadelphia Biblical University, and presently Cairn University). It was 5 hours away from home which is exactly how far I wanted to be at the time! I graduated from there with a B.S. in Biblical Studies and met my husband in the process. We got married one week after graduation in December of 2001 and decided to stay in the Philadelphia area. Two years later we started a church which in the years to come would grow and develop amazingly in the community. Our only son was born in 2007.
2012 was the year I call “my 180” where I literally lost everything I had in Philadelphia, except God and my son. I had just spent the last 72 hours packing up my two-story, two-bedroom townhouse apartment that we had lived in for 8 years. I had gotten a total of about 10 hours of sleep in those 3 days and had an eviction deadline to meet. November 21, 2012 at 10:38 p.m. is when I got into my Mitsubishi Endeavor packed with every personal item I could possibly fit in it, along with my son and his booster seat. Crying as I pulled out of our apartment complex that night, praying that God would give me strength to drive safely through the night and make it to my parents place in VA as the next day would be Thanksgiving. They were expecting us for the holiday weekend, but had no idea that we were coming to stay indefinitely. How would I explain that in the last year I had lost my job, husband, home, car, and church?
Thankfully, I made it through Thanksgiving, telling my parents the story as best I could. Then came Christmas, and the New Year. Getting up out of bed was the hardest thing to do each day during that time, and having contemplated thoughts of suicide on two occasions I was crying out to God in a way unlike never before…..and how grateful I am that he hears our cries! He not only heard me but He answered me in a way that I cannot explain, through the power of His Holy Spirit that comforts us in ways that no one else can. One day I managed to pick up His Word and started reading again. I didn’t know where to start, so I started in Genesis. Every day when I was home alone while my parents were at work, and the kids were at school, I just saturated myself with worship music and His Word. The problems did not dissolve overnight and the pain, sorrow, anguish, fear, doubt, shame and stress certainly did not vanish either. But God through His Word and the presence of His Spirit in my life held me tightly every single one of those dreary, depressing, dark days, giving me a little glimpse of light that shined a little brighter each day. The main thing I learned is that not only did Jesus die on the cross to save me from my sins, but because of my relationship with Him, he also had given me the strength I needed each day to make it through the pain and circumstances of life.
This of course, is the just the short version of the story. Nevertheless, looking back helps me in my day-to-day current struggles. Whether it’s a co-worker who seems to want to make your life a living hell, an ex- who will do anything to get you out of your Christian character, a home/family situation that just keeps getting worse and worse, that bill/debt that you just can’t seem to pay off, a vehicle that no matter how much maintenance you have done on it just always seems to have a new issue every six weeks, that temptation that keeps causing you to stumble in your walk with God, a child having problems at school, or the nervous breakdowns you seem to have every other day…..just remember Hebrews 13:5:I have had and witnessed my share of unfortunate circumstances, but one thing I know for sure, is that if God had not been with me through it all, I wouldn’t have made it this far. Remember you lived through all that -because of God! And you will continue to live through today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that, as long as, He’s with you. Keep trusting, leaning, and relying on Him daily.
Don’t forget your own story!