The instant I heard his story, I longed to share it with everyone, including you. But, the decision to share it could not be made lightly. This was someone's private, personal and life-changing story and I in no way wanted to overstep those privacy boundaries. The story is too precious.
The morning after hearing what had transpired, this person called me and asked me to share his story with you, on this blog. Overcome with praise and thanksgiving, I told him that I would be honored to.
This friend of ours has lived a hard life, a life many of us could not imagine living. At a young age, he had to drop out of school and help shoulder the responsibilities along side his single mother by working and caring for his siblings while his mother worked three jobs herself. He confesses to being exposed to terrible things and while he thought he had put those images and things behind him, he knows they continued to affect him into adulthood. His adult years improved and there were happy times, but this did not last.
After several personal and job-related struggles within a period of a couple years, this friend of ours found himself in a very, very dark place. Dark and angry forces gripped him and effected all aspects of his life. This lead to more personal losses. He felt alone and defeated and contemplated the unthinkable more than once.
"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Our friend wasn't completely unfamiliar with God and church. He has very fond memories of attending a small, country church as a boy. But, church and all that went with it stayed in that church on Sunday mornings and the rest of the week was lived in stark contrast.
"But, be doers of the word and not merely hearers, who deceive themselves." James 1:22
After leaving home, he stayed away from God and the church for 40 years. Could he go back? His recent losses and the invitations of friends and neighbors prompted his return to church. He heard the alter call and yearned to go forward, but resisted. How could he ask Jesus into his heart- this dark and angry heart?
A week later, after a neighbor gave him an Upper Room Devotional, he was struck by the very first reading that dealt with, none other than, anger. He cried and for the first time in a very long time, he started talking to God. He poured out his heart and asked God for some sign that his pleas for help were being heard. All of a sudden, a compelling thought came into his head. He was to call this neighbor and ask her to take him to her church down the road.
"...the Lord hears when I call to Him." Psalm 4:3b
He called her and she was happy to oblige. Once there, with his neighbors behind him in the pews, he went forward and poured out his heart to the Lord as he stared up at the picture of Jesus. He felt the Lord speaking back to him. He called our friend His son. In the midst of his praying, our friend, again, asked God for a sign. Within seconds one of the doors at the back of the church opened. As our friend continued to keep his eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus, a figure came up to his side and spoke to him. He was the minister of the church. He asked our friend what was going on and our friend told him that he was talking to the Lord. The minister sat down behind him with his neighbors. He continued to speak to God and began to thank Him for those who had helped him and prayed for him.
"The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." James 5:16b
He thanked God out loud that his neighbor had even called the minister. From behind him, he heard the minister say that his neighbor did not call him. His neighbor confirmed this and our friend's knees went out from under him and he fell, overwhelmed by God's grace and love for him and for sending this sign. The minister said he never stops in at church this time of day.
Several hours later, as he recounted this story to us in our living room, his face relaxed and glistening with tears of joy, we rejoiced with him. He has been made new. He knows he is forgiven and the hope that comes with Jesus Christ is alive in Him. He sees in his own face something new- the joy that comes with knowing you are loved, cared for and forgiven by the God Most High.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Cor. 5:17
In our conversation, I shared with him a story from a book I had recently read (Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John ) that had made me think of him. In it, a young girl named Annette, wishes to invite Jesus into her heart but believes He would not want to reside in a heart full of hate and anger, so she chooses not to invite Him in when she hears Him knocking. She was sharing these feelings with her grandmother who responded with this...
"None of us can stop ourselves from thinking wrong thoughts, and it isn't much good trying. But, Annette, when you come down in the morning and find this room is dark with the shutters closed, do you say to yourself, 'I must chase away the darkness and the shadows first, and then I will open the shutters and let in the sun'? Do you waste time trying to get rid of the dark?"
"Of course not," said Annette.
"Then how do you get rid of the dark?"
"I pull back the shutters, of course, and then the light comes in!"
"But what happens to the dark?"
"I don't know. It just goes out when the light comes!"
"That is what happens when you ask the Lord Jesus to come in," said Grandmother. "He is love, and when love comes in, hatred and selfishness and unkindness will give way to it, just as the darkness gives way when you let in the sunshine. To try to chase it out alone would be like trying to chase the shadows out of a dark room. It would be a waste of time."
Does this resonate with thoughts that you've had in the past? "If I just clean up my life a little bit, then I'll be good enough to go to church or to ask God for help. God wouldn't want to have anything to do with someone as messed up as me. He has enough to worry about."
As our friend thankfully discovered, these are false truths. God wants us to lean on Him, to hand our burdens over to him. Ask Him in and allow Him to take away the guilt and hatred and anger and hurts.
"Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22, ESV
My friend's prayer (He prays now! Praise God!) is that his story will be a testimony to the goodness of the Lord and an inspiration to others who may find themselves in despair as he was. Let the light in, friends. No need to chase out the darkness first. The light of the Lord will take care of that. If you'd like to let Christ's light into your life, please share this desire with someone of faith or go here.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11Pin It