Nine years ago this week, by the grace of God, I put my faith in Jesus Christ. So, I thought it would be appropriate to share my testimony of faith with you all today.
My life before Christ
When I share with others that I’ve only been a follower of Jesus for the time that I have, many are surprised to hear that I grew up going to church very regularly. Nearly every week growing up, our family would attend a small, traditional church, go to Sunday school after services, and every summer my sisters and I would attend church camp. The Bible was read in church, Bible stories were taught in Sunday school, but I never understood why all the ancient stories and why Jesus dying and being raised from the dead had an impact on my life personally.
For most of my life, I believed in God, but I was not following Him. I had no idea there even was a difference. I understood God to be a holy judge and that if I followed the Ten Commandments well enough, I would be accepted into heaven. I remember a specific moment from my childhood where I questioned, how do I know when I’ve done enough for God so I can go to heaven? Which I later learned is the opposite of the Gospel message.
For most of my life, I was a Christian by name, but not at heart, which isn’t a true Christian at all. Aside from having some strong morals because of what I did know about God’s commands, I followed my own path and my own understanding. But, in my late teens, I started seriously questioning the existence of God. I had a powerful experience my last year at church camp and reflected on that camp high thinking, I feel like God wants us to feel close to Him all the time, not just one week out of the year. That thought impacted my prayers in a positive way, but not my lifestyle or even my beliefs about God. I prayed before bed many nights that God would show me what it looked like to be close to Him. I wanted that, but had no idea how to experience that. And eventually, by the time I left for college, those prayers were prayed to a God a seriously doubted even existed.
Coming to faith in Christ
As I drifted from God, I became more self-focused, needy for attention and recognition for my accomplishments, the way I dressed, the guys I went out with, and the roles I got in school plays. I started playing ukulele and writing songs and became obsessed with music and the desire for fame, even though I denied it to myself and others for years. Music became my outlet for anger and I hurt several people because of the songs I wrote and publicly released. I destroyed relationships with the two people closest to me at the time, and I started realizing I was on a self-destructive path I had no idea how to get off of.
The spring of 2012, when I was home for spring break, I went to a party with a whole bunch of high school friends. A few of my friends told me they’d be leaving to get ice cream and French fries and that I should meet up with them at McDonalds. Being the introvert that I am, I left the big party shortly after my other friends did and I was expecting to show up and we’d talk about boys and gossip. When I arrived, I realized I had walked in on a conversation about Jesus and Bible studies that these two friends had joined. I was so confused and felt very awkward. A year ago, these friends were into the same kinds of things I was, not God.
I sat there for awhile, panicking a little because I had absolutely zero to contribute to the conversation. But as they turned to me to ask how I was doing, I told them about my fears and how I felt like my life was spiraling out of control. My friends told me that Jesus could set things right and that I should start pursuing a relationship with Him. They encouraged me to start a prayer journal, start writing to Jesus about what I was going through, and to tell Him my regrets and my desires to change.
In that moment, it clicked. Jesus is the answer. I didn’t know it at the time, but I later learned, it was the Holy Spirit who intervened, opened my eyes, made my heart His dwelling place, and made this realization possible. This was the moment God saved me from my sins. I went out and bought myself a journal and began praying. I also wrote an extremely long letter to God about all my regrets and the idols in my life (the things that I valued more than Him) and told Him how deeply sorry I was for the mistakes I had made, how desperately I desired a relationship with Him and to experience His power in my life.
My new life in Christ
When I returned to campus after what was a completely life-changing spring break, I was a new person. I felt it, but I also didn’t understand what had happened to me. I felt that camp high feeling again, which I later learned was the presence of the Holy Spirit, and I was afraid that I would lose that feeling, the desire to rush back to my dorm between classes to journal, to spend my evenings alone at a picnic table listening to sermons my friend sent me, and eventually reading the Bible myself for the first time.
By the grace of God, I began growing in my new faith fast. I learned that I had been saved by grace through faith as I read in Ephesians 2 and that it was never about my own works. I learned that when I put my faith in Christ, I received the Holy Spirit, who opened my eyes to the truth and gave me the ability to understand the Bible for the first time in my life. I learned that this was not just a phase of my life, but that this change was permanent.
As I grew in Christ, I changed for the better. I became more focused on Christ and less focused on myself. I became obsessed with God, totally in love with Him and hungry to know Him – a major shift from my old obsessions and idols. Six months after that night at McDonald’s, I met my husband at a music school we both transferred to and he was such an inspiration, teacher, and encourager to me as a new believer. And he continues to be, though I will admit our path of growth has not always been a pretty or straight one. As the years passed, by God’s grace, I found reconciliation in both the relationships I had destroyed, which had been a source of guilt for a long time. God has done countless other great works in my life since and I praise Him for it all. I truly wouldn’t be the person I am today without Christ and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I still love Him and I’m beyond grateful that as a doubting teen, He heard my prayers to be close to Him, whatever that meant.
I now know that being close to God is not about the things I thought it meant: going to the right church, simply calling myself a Christian, living a moral life in my own eyes, and being good enough to earn God’s favor. I’ve since learned that God used my upbringing to prepare me for the moment He had already planned for me to surrender my life to Him. I’ve learned that I can confidently call myself a Christian, not because of my own efforts, but because of the Gospel message – the truth that out of God’s goodness and great love for unworthy sinners, He sent His perfect Son to die for our sins and be raised from the dead, to forgive sins and promise eternal life to all who put their faith in Him! My works are no longer rooted in an attempt to gain His favor, but are now an outpouring of my love for Him and a desire to follow His commands, because I trust that truly following what He says in His Word is what’s best for us. I’ve since learned that though our God is a holy judge, He is also our Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. A healthy balance of understanding all His attributes leads to deeper trust in Him.
Put your faith in Christ
God declares in His Word that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation (John 14:6). Maybe you can relate to my early story of growing up in the church or in some other religion, but you’re not close to God or you don’t feel like your faith has had a significant impact on your life. I encourage you to pray to Jesus. Ask Him to show you what true faith looks like in your life. Start seeking Him diligently, even if you don’t feel His presence. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” That is a promise to cling to. Reflect on your mistakes, your flaws, what might be idols in your life (the things that you put before God), confess them to Him, and ask Him to redeem those areas of your life and help you change. Put your faith in the Gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ requires full surrender. I know this can be scary, but what He promises is far greater and far better than anything we are tempted to hold onto. He assures us of this over and over again in Scripture and I personally can attest to this as well. You can trust Him.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” -1 Peter 1:3 ESV
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20 ESV
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