Overwhelmed By the Message of the Cross
Growing up, I could clearly see the destructive power of sin. Grace and salvation, however, were not introduced to me until I learned about them in Sunday school. When I was about five years old, one of my neighbors began riding the Sunday school bus to the Apostolic Faith Church. I started attending with her and continued even after she moved away a short time later. For many years I learned Bible stories from kind, faithful Sunday school teachers and bus drivers. Most importantly, God’s plan of salvation was presented and planted in my heart. I’m thankful that the Gospel is simple; from my earliest remembrance it made sense to me and I believed it. The contrast between the lives of people who lived for God and those who didn’t made an impression on me. The difference was dramatic and I wanted what God’s people had.
As I grew older, even though I wanted to be a Christian, I struggled with the thought of not fitting in. I knew living a Christian life was different and would separate me from my family and friends. Since I only attended Sunday school and not other church activities, my interaction with Christians was limited. Still, the Lord spoke to my heart. I had trouble going to sleep at night because of the fear I felt about not being right with Him. I would lie awake trying to negotiate with God. I would ask for His help and in exchange I would make a list of things I would try to do better. These prayers would give me a measure of peace, but when morning came, nothing had truly changed.
Victory won on Easter Day
By the time I was fourteen years old and in my first year of high school, my decisions were getting worse. My grades were very poor, my friends and I were participating in wrongful activities, and I was failing in many ways. I continued to hear God’s voice, but I was getting further and further away from Him. I had gradually stopped attending Sunday school, but on Easter Sunday everything changed. I went to Sunday school that day, listened to a recording of the Easter message, and the Lord spoke to me directly. I considered the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross and it overwhelmed me. I knew I would never find love or acceptance anywhere that would match what He offered. That day, I knelt at an altar of prayer, asked the Lord to forgive me, and gave my life to Him.
To my surprise, my fears of not fitting in gave way to the greatest sense of acceptance and belonging I had ever known.
The change was instant and dramatic. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” I do not have any words that could better describe what happened that day. Even my desires were changed. Living God’s way was no longer a struggle; it was all I wanted to do. And, to my surprise, my fears of not fitting in gave way to the greatest sense of acceptance and belonging I had ever known.
That night my mind went back to all of the nighttime prayers I had previously prayed, and I hoped that this wonderful change was real and permanent. I didn’t want morning to come and find myself back to life as usual. I was not disappointed! The salvation of the Lord was genuine and lasting.
Salvation was life changing, but I am also extremely grateful that the Lord directed me to a church that values and encourages prayer. A special room for prayer is open before church services and the altar of prayer is open following the meetings. During the days, months, and years that have followed, I have found that spending time there has been an anchor for my soul and essential for spiritual survival. The Lord has met me there often and has always provided the strength, guidance, joy, and peace to move forward in my walk with Him.
Learning about a deeper walk with God
After I was saved there was a lot to learn about growing in the Lord. He was faithful to direct my steps and provide what I needed, when I needed it. If God wanted me to be sanctified, then that was what I wanted too, but I wasn’t sure if I was qualified. Was I old enough? Had I been saved long enough? Did I know enough about the Bible? I wondered all of these things, but felt uncomfortable asking.
Then one night after church while praying at the altar, an older saint asked me what I was seeking for. Her question answered all of my questions. Surely this wise, godly woman would know if I were qualified to be seeking for an experience! I replied “my sanctification.” She prayed with me, and the Lord wonderfully sanctified me.
During the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, a spirit of revival fell in a mighty way. I had the opportunity to attend services at the Portland camp meeting and I witnessed many friends receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was an amazing experience. Those powerful prayer services continued to encourage my walk with the Lord. However, discouragement came when camp meeting ended. I had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I was struggling to understand why God had passed over me and seemingly blessed everyone else. As I worked through my discouragement, I spent time reading the Bible and praying. During this period of time, I learned one of many important lessons about “walking by faith rather than sight.” As I prayed quietly, I determined that I would daily do my best to serve the Lord regardless of how I felt. I committed to Him that even if He never sent another blessing my way, I would still serve Him. I meant it, and in the quiet of my room He filled me with His precious Holy Spirit.
Comfort in tragedy
As I continued to consecrate decisions to the Lord, He provided guidance and blessed my life. He opened doors for me to complete a college education in nursing, and gave me a wonderful boyfriend who later became my husband. However, challenges came during my first year in college that really shook my faith.
As I finished my first semester, I planned to visit family for Christmas break. I was looking forward to spending time and sharing gifts with them. I especially looked forward to visiting an uncle whom I had not seen for some time. I did not have any siblings and he was only a few years older than me, so we had grown up together. I had been praying for him and was hopeful that he would be moved to get saved himself.
As Christmas morning arrived, we gathered and waited for the time of celebration to begin. When my uncle did not come out of his room to join us immediately, we delayed awhile longer. As more time went by, we impatiently called out for him. Our impatience soon turned to concern. Our concern turned to tragedy when a family member entered his room to find that he had died.
The grief and turmoil I felt was intense. I turned to God for answers, but I was also feeling angry and a sense of betrayal that He had allowed this tragedy to happen. As the days passed my confusion seemed to grow. I was taking a required religious studies class at the time and that added to my uncertainty. However, a project in that same class unexpectedly offered much-needed clarity. I was required to interview a religious leader of a faith different from my own. When I met that person, one thing became very clear: this man was more confused than I was! I was anxious for the interview to end and I left with great appreciation for the living, mighty God that I serve. I recognized the need to stop questioning Him and trust His sovereignty and perfect plan for my life. Through the grief and pain I began to find His comfort and strength priceless.
I am now a hospice nurse, working with terminally ill patients and their families, and I can see how the Lord has used my uncle’s death and other painful experiences to allow me to reach others who are going through difficult circumstances.
Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” and I have found that to be true. I am now a hospice nurse, working with terminally ill patients and their families, and I can see how the Lord has used my uncle’s death and other painful experiences to allow me to reach others who are going through difficult circumstances. I can relate to their sense of loss. It is my constant prayer that God can use me in this role to be an extension of His kindness and compassion.
Many years have gone by and the privilege of serving the Lord has only grown more precious to me. I reflect on His work in my life with amazement and gratitude. God gave me a wonderful, godly husband, and blessed us with two children who also love the Lord. He has filled our home with joy. There is a great feeling of peace and security knowing that He holds my future and it is with excitement that I anticipate meeting Him in Heaven one day.