I was raised in a Christian home, and since I was born I’ve gone to church every Sunday almost without fail. By the time I was six years old I had already developed a deep love for the God of the Bible. This God loves the whole world, heals the sick, feeds the hungry, wields complete control, brings justice, and has compassion. I don’t know how much of this I understood at such a young age, but God was my hero. No one could compare to Him.
One day my mother set down with me on our front porch and told me that my sin hurt God and separated me from Him, but that if I trusted in what Jesus did on the cross—dying for my sins—that I would be forgiven. That’s all I needed to hear! I didn’t want anything coming between me and God. And I was so glad that He cared enough about me to take care of my problem.
I continued to grow in my knowledge of God and to tell my friends about Him for many years. He was my best friend, and I had no concept of Him NOT existing. I loved telling other people about my best friend—I genuinely wanted them to know Him, too. I frequently had the sense of His presence near me.
At about 12 years old I found myself in the middle of a fight with a good friend of mine, writing down swear-words about him because I knew I wasn’t supposed to say them out loud. (Mom and Dial soap had taught me that lesson long ago by then.) As I wrote I was suddenly and deeply convicted, and I could almost hear a voice say, “Do you realize what you’re doing?!?” It was at that moment that I realized being a Christian was more than simply being buddy-buddy with Jesus. He was my king, and He deserved better from me.
Not long after this, I moved far away from all of my friends to a small town. I was crushed. I was so lonely that I wanted to die… I even prayed for death at least once. I knew that once I died, I would be with this God that I loved and I wouldn’t have to be alone anymore. Thankfully God didn’t answer my prayer, and I came to know Him in ways that I know now I couldn’t have without the isolation, but my depression persisted for years.
Over time I made some great friends, friends I still hold dear today. I still struggled, but I found joy in serving at church, doing whatever I could. I found joy in listening to others when all I wanted was to be heard. I loved entertaining people with music. And while everything seemed great, I was still full of fear—fear of being alone again. All the while I still longed for the life I had as a child, one full of hope and joy rather than fear and pain. Maybe that life was gone for good.
Today I sit halfway through a four year seminary degree. I have challenged many of the ideas I was raised with, wrestled with questions I’d never thought to ask, and grew apart from God for what may have been the first time in my life. It’s a common trap: you’re picking at and dissecting and poking and stretching this living, breathing relationship and it’s hard sometimes to get back far enough from the organs and cells and atoms to see the person standing in front of you. But when you get those moments you see something so much more brilliant than you saw before. The song at first listen is catchy; then you learn how the notes and rhythms and lyrics are woven together to make that song and it loses something special. But then you back away again and hear what you heard that first time and you have a new appreciation for it. And that’s where I sit today.
This past week I have been forced to back up and see the big picture, to train my eyes on where all of this is going. The two weeks before that, I spent studying the very life of Jesus on earth. And as I see Jesus at work—first during His life, the way He loved people and served them, then God’s design for all of human history—I suddenly find that I’m back. For the first time in 15 years, I’m not longing to escape. I’m not afraid of being alone. And for the first time in 15 years I genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, want everyone to know this God that loves me.
So what changed? Nothing. Everything. I see clearly that Jesus is coming back to complete the work that He started on the cross—the work of making all things new again. I see that no matter what happens tomorrow, He is faithful to save me because He already has saved me. You see, He saved me the first time by paying the penalty for my sins so that we wouldn’t have to be apart. He is saving me now by teaching me to love what is good and walk away from the sins that have strangled me for years and years. He leads me to the truth through the Bible and through Christians who see what I can’t or won’t see on my own. And He will save me when He comes back. There will be no more pain, no more fear, no need for today’s faith because then He will be here and all will be right again, this time for good.
Please, if you don’t know this God of love, if you’re afraid your sins won’t be forgiven, if you don’t see a hope for the future, you can change that right now. You must believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died and rose again to pay for your sins. If you trust in Him, you will be saved.
I would love to talk with you about this. If you have questions, I’d be happy to try to find the answers for you. More than anything I just want you to be there when Jesus comes back. There is no reason to let anything come between you.