I was asked to write out my testimony a few weeks ago for my upcoming trip to Colombia. I had not yet written out this story, though I have shared bits and pieces of it with many as it has unfolded over the past year, and I figured it was time to get it down on paper.
Later that week, the Lord prompted me to share it at our weekly gathering of women at our new church. We have three small groups that meet on the same evening and then we all come together for Big Group time. As I spoke, women from one of the groups began to laugh, open-mouthed, as this testimony, written a week prior, confirmed and echoed everything their book study that week had been talking about. God is wildly cool like that.
May the Lord speak truth to you and encourage you today.
I do not personally have what most would consider a radical salvation story. I will say that it is radical – as all of the salvation stories of those who have said yes to Jesus are radical – when we look the depravity of our sin in the face and accept that we are saved by grace through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. That is indeed radical. But I do not have the testimony of some – a defined moment where I turned from my rock bottom or my crisis moment to Jesus. What I do have is a story of small moments and small victories won, small and not-so-small decisions, and ground won in my heart for the Lord in the normal day-to-day trials.
I made the personal decision to put my lot in with Jesus when I was seven. Some might say that is young, which it is, but I understood. I knew what I was saying, and I had thought as deeply about it as a seven-year-old can ponder anything. I was ready to be all-in. The thing is, though, that just as we grow in understanding of math and reading as we grow up, so our hearts also grow, as does our understanding of a messy, complicated world.
As I made that journey through adolescence, teenager-dom, and into college, I was faced with many moments where I had to choose Jesus over and over again. He never left me, he never gave up on me, and he never stopped pursuing my unruly heart. There were days of being close to the Lord and days where I’m sad to say I honestly didn’t think of him. While I never turned away from him or stopped believing in him, there were definitely moments when I took my salvation for granted, when I relied on my own strength rather than his, and when I sought my own desires over his will for my life.
Through these varied seasons, God has never stopped working on my heart. I may not have one moment of radical transformation, but I do have many, many little testimonies of his sweetness in a lonely moment, his correction in a tough moment, and his radical kindness in some devastating moments. Thankfully, God does not rank our stories. He uses them all, no matter the package they come in, and often especially because of the unique packages they come in. One of these stories, the one I want to share today, is one of my more recent episodes in this grand adventure of owning my new identity in Christ and stripping off the old.
This particular story of God’s transforming work in my life was ushered in when my husband and I got the surprise news just under a year ago that we would have to leave a place we called home and deeply loved to move over 5,000 miles away to the completely other side of our country. We were told to leave our brand new home we had just moved into, a church community in which we were deeply rooted, and friends who had become family. We both had our individual emotional reactions to what felt like an uprooting of everything we felt God had established so faithfully in our lives. I remember the day we found out; in God’s kindness, it was a church night. As worship began, I felt the upheaval in my heart, the gripping dread of this new reality, and all of the tearing away it was going to leave in its wake. I responded with immense sadness to our news, an irrational yet sneaking suspicion that God had mislead me to believe we were called to new and exciting things in our current home, and, simply put, a broken heart. As friends came around me and comforted and prayed for me, I knew God was speaking a clear message to my hurt heart. Kindly, yet firmly, he asked: Am I enough? If I take it all away – the wonderful friends I have given you, this piece of the country you love, the amazing ministry opportunities I’ve placed you in – if I take it all away, am I enough?
As I choked back my tantrum tears, I feared that answer. I realized that the reality of my broken-heartedness might mean the answer was a whispered, no. Despite this tough realization, though, I knew that God did not despise my honesty. Rather, he called me to be able to replace that honest answer with an emphatic and obedient: yes, you are enough.
And so I cried some more, a lot more, among friends and alone, but at the same time I squared my shoulders and pursued the Lord, that my answer might be, if not emphatic, at least a quiet yes.
The beauty of our Savior is that he does not wait on high, sneering down at his children, waiting for them to get it together before we can be in relationship with him. Rather, he pursues us, as any good father would. Knowing this truth and through wise council God had placed around me, I became convinced that the only way to move through this season of upheaval was to fix my eyes.
The beginning of Hebrews 12 says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Jesus, while he was on earth, walked the road I was about to walk – going to a place that was not his home, being torn from people he loved and cared about – and much more than I was being asked to do. He had pioneered the faith he was asking me to have in his good plans for me, and he had perfected that faith through his finished work on the cross as he rose again. Because he had gone before me, I could trust him to walk this road with me, having faith that he would make good from it.
We see this kind of pattern all over the Scriptures.
Joseph acknowledged how God takes the evil of the world and makes good out of it: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Esther was wisely counseled to consider God’s sovereignty in placing her exactly where he wanted her: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)
And Paul acknowledged that God’s plans are bigger and more perfect than our own could ever be: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever – no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” (Philemon 1: 15-16a)
As I write from the middle of this season, I can say that he has not left my side, that he is with me, and that, even when the good is taken away, yes, he is enough. When we find ourselves in an “even if he does not” situation, as the men facing the furnace did, he is enough. When he responds to our requests, as he did to Paul’s, that his “grace is sufficient,” he is still enough. But often, in his kindness, as he takes away, so he also gives back a double portion, though it may look different than we imagined it would. He’s just that good.
No, all of my tears were not instantly dried. I still felt and feel the pain of that uprooting. There will be a day when my every tear is dried and all that is wrong will be made right, but today, I still feel the sting of all that is not right, even in the midst of what I recognize as God’s peace and kind provision. Despite that paradox, through the uprooting I have been taught that only when I fix my eyes am I able to have faith that my God knows better than me, that his plans are good, and that, yes, he is not just enough, he is more than.
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”