When Jesus found me, the place of my lostness was not the world, but the church. I was nurtured in a loving Christian family. At the age of thirteen I gave my life to Jesus, and lived an earnest life for God. But then something happened that showed me that deep down my relationship with God was not very real at all:
As a South African arriving in Australia ten years ago, I was plunged into a crisis of confusion, fear, depression and grief at the loss of cherished dreams and ideals into which I had poured energy and creativity in my thirties. Painful memories of things I hadn’t dealt with in my childhood kept coming into my mind. I was tormented by doubts about God, because He seemed so far away. The good thing is that God used all these circumstances to deal with that kind of lostness that had always characterized my relationship with God, and to draw me close to his Father-heart:
After about a year of intense spiritual struggle, I finally approached my minister for help and confessed that I was in trouble spiritually. I told him that I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of failure, and that I felt so far from God, even though I was crying out to Him for help every day, that I was afraid I wasn’t even saved! I asked him where I could go for some counselling. He said. “You have carried this burden long enough. Today, God is going to set you free.”
My minister and his wife held my hands and prayed for me and I confessed out loud that I was lost. In my spirit, I knew I was still holding on to the idolatries that had been at the centre of my life for years –my parents, my children, my successes, my life’s dreams. I knew I had to let go of these things and hold onto God, but I was afraid of His judgment for all the years I had tried to earn His approval by serving Him, all the time not being real with Him in my heart. Somehow, having two people with strong faith, praying with me, gave me what I needed in that moment. In my spirit, I just let go, thinking that I was going to fall a long way with nothing to hold on to, and not knowing if God would be there. But He was! In a single instant I experienced what I can only describe as an encounter with the living God, and the one word that best describes that encounter, is “grace.” Immediate forgiveness, and total acceptance of me, just as I was – poor, lost, vulnerable, afraid, and with nothing to offer but my brokenness.
During the week following that encounter, I was physically very weak, and I cried, and cried. I was intensely aware of God’s Father-embrace. I was completely set free from the anguished fear that had gripped me. I felt cleansed, healed and restored, with a deep trust in God for my future, and my heart overflowed with peace and joy. If I had to come to Australia and experience all these hardships, just so that I could return to the Father-heart of God, then it was worth it. All I had lost was nothing compared to what I had gained. I am seeing more and more every year how God is doing good things in my family and restoring the years that the locusts have eaten.