My Personal Testimony
My Christian life began with a lot of preconceived ideas about God and what He expected of me. Thinking the Christian life consisted mainly of behavioral change and performance, I thought I could handle it. I tried to measure up to every standard set by those around me, most of which were legalists. (I did not realize what a legalist was at the time. I just thought they were perfect people!)
Any time there was a problem or crisis in my personal life, I thought I could fix it by more Bible study, longer prayers, and reading more “how-to” books. Then, if things did not improve, I felt it was because I had not done something perfectly enough… so the cycle would start all over again! The more I tried to prove to God what a good Christian I could be is the more exhausted and defeated I became. This went on for years! I could never admit to anyone how miserable and defeated I was because that would be admitting (to myself and others) that Christianity had failed. All the while, I knew there had to be something more than what I had. I would read books by authors such as A.W. Tozer, and Andrew Murray and they seemed to have something I did not have.
I would often go for pastoral counseling only to hear more “how-to” work harder to obtain peace and victory. But nothing changed. I had done everything I had been taught and it all had come to defeat and failure. Thoughts of suicide frequently came to mind. I was in complete despair!
It was at this time and in God’s perfect plan that a concerned friend gave me the book entitled Sidetracked in the Wilderness by Michael Wells. This book was not on any Suggested Reading list that I had seen in the past. I was so confused and depressed I had to read some things the author said twice! He was so open and honest about defeated Christians. I began to think just maybe I wasn’t insane… just at the end of my own strength and resources. Maybe there was hope!
I was seeing a Christian counselor at this time who told me I was dying beautifully [2 Cor. 4:10]. That sounded good to me since living in my condition wasn’t very appealing. This counselor introduced me a book entitled Handbook to Happiness by Dr. Charles Solomon. He also suggested I attend a conference and workshop at Grace Fellowship International in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Through these ministries, I have been humbled and broken as God began His wonderful process of revelation and restoration in me. I began to realize how my Christian life had been fueled by self and my own determination to try to be what I thought God wanted me to be. I had not understood the power of the flesh and how deceiving it can be.
When I realized my co-crucifixion with Christ (Gal. 2:20) and the reality of the precious indwelling life of Christ, I was set free from the bondage to sin and self. Only Christ can live the Christian life in and through us. Major Ian Thomas has said “it is profoundly simple and simply profound”!
God has continued His work in me through many deep valleys and long nights in my life that include disappointments with children, a broken marriage, and a battle with cancer. (Yes, all those things do happen in the lives of Christians in this fallen world.) But through it all, He has proven Himself faithful to be my strength, my comfort, my sustainer and my hope. He Himself is my peace! (Eph. 2:14)
“[Christ declared] These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
(When I was asked to write this for Lifelines (Abiding Life International publication), my first thought was that I probably don’t have anything to say that has not already been said by someone else. That brings thoughts of being guilty of plagiarism! Phillip Yancey once said “Words allow a writer to leap across the gap and enter the consciousness of other human beings.” That is a weighty responsibility for someone that does not know how to write. However, after talking to the Lord about it, I trust this will help someone that has maybe had similar needs or experiences. -L.M.)
The graphic above is an allusion to the Foootprints poem.