I thought I was a believer, that I had strong faith. But what good is faith without works? “Faith without works is dead” That’s what James 2 teaches. I would claim to be a Christian, but I didn’t go to church, I was resentful of the church. How can these people be such hypocrites? How can they continue to do the opposite of what Jesus teaches? Do they really do anything for the poor and needy or do they just care about themselves?
It wasn’t till recently that I realized I needed to ask those questions to myself.
When I was 19, I was still claiming to be Christian but continued sinning without repentance, not following what God teaches us. My only communication with God was, when I fell into brokenness and begged for help, when that didn’t seem to work I would scream at him and yell, wondering where he really was? Having gone to High School in an awful environment, I dropped out. I was severely depressed, I had never had a job, had no car, no license, not even an ID. I felt like I didn’t even exist in the World.
After a while, I dusted myself off and ventured out, I got my GED, got a job, got a car, and had some new friends. I thought everything was going great, not noticing that it was God who was guiding me through all of this. However, I still felt the same emptiness and loneliness.
Then everything changed, I met a young 21 year old woman named Jane. My entire life was different after that. We fell in love right away, spent almost every day together and within three months I asked her to marry me. She said, yes! I was happy beyond belief. Of course we both lived at home, I only worked 12 hours a week for minimum wage at a Taco Stand and she was in college. We obviously couldn’t get married right away. But man was I convinced this was the girl of my dreams.
There was one problem though, she wasn’t a believer. She grew up with an Atheist father, and spent most of her life with the same beliefs before now being an agnostic. I talked to her about my faith, told her about my experiences and others experiences. I felt I needed to save her.
But I was the one who needed saving. I still had the same resentment, bitterness, anger for the World. I had no compassion, no love, no drive to be a better Christian.
After many discussions and a few arguments, I gave up on trying to convert her. I went through an occasional interest in YouTube sermons and a few bible reading days here and there but I was still the same guy. After a while I would settle back in to the same habits.
Jane and I went through some rough patches and had some dark moments. My anger and depression were getting out of hand. At one point the engagement was called off, she left and went to her sister’s house.
I was alone in our home when I began to scream at God, I yelled, I cursed at him. I blamed everything on him, why did he make me this way? Why do I have depression and anxiety? Why can’t he just take it all away? I convinced myself I needed no one but me. Then I did something the bible teaches us not to do, I put God to the test. I told him that he needed to prove himself to me right now.
There was silence, the quietest silence I had ever heard, I could feel it. I truly felt alone, I collapsed and wept. I was more broken than ever. I begged for forgiveness, I told him to lead me, guide me. I immediately felt calm and relaxed, accepting everything that happened.
The next day, Jane came over to grab some things and I asked her to listen to me, I told her everything I needed to change and what I have done wrong. She was very resistant, but I kept praying to God, asking him to guide me in my words. Finally she cried and said it was exactly what she needed to hear. After a long talk we decided to get back together. We still have our rough patches but things have never been as dark as before that.
I started reading the bible more, watching sermons from all over the World but was still convinced I didn’t need church. Meanwhile Jane’s mother had become a Christian, she was an alcoholic and was close to dying. She had hit rock bottom and turned her life around, she kept writing Jane letters telling her about God and bringing God up to her every time they talked. I was unaware of the changes going inside Jane’s mind.
Then one day Jane said, “I want to go to church” I was shocked and excited. But also at the same time I was scared, I didn’t want to go to church, I still believed I could be a Christian on my own.
We searched for a while and finally found a church. We started going but didn’t go as often as we should have and didn’t full commit like we wanted but we still considered the church our home. Then one day a notice was posted on their website, the pastor had decided to quit ministry and the church was up for sale. Jane and I were so upset that we decided not to go through the whole process again.
For almost a year we watched sermons online and had discussions on Christianity. She had started going to a university which required religious studies courses and before long she was teaching me things. Every time I asked her about her beliefs she kept telling me she wasn’t ready to call herself a Christian, she still wasn’t sure. At one point during a time when she was feeling guilty about her mistakes and depressed about what other people had done to her. I told her “Go over and sit down and pray, confess all your sins and offer your heart to Jesus.”
She did this but when she came back she described the experience as “Weird” and that she still wasn’t sure if she was a believer. This went on for months finally I asked her why? She looked down and said “Because I don’t feel I am worthy”
I told her, “None of us are.” She smiled and looked down, I gave her a hug, looked at her, then asked her the question again, she looked up at me and said “I am a Christian” Her smile lit up the room, I hugged her, and felt a new love radiate through my body as I held her. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. When she offered her heart to Jesus, he took it, like he always will to anyone who asks. But we still needed to find a church.