I have quite a few friends who have known me for several years. Many of those friends have commented that I’ve changed drastically. My answer is always the same. God changed me. Often, they follow with a second question: How?
Well, the answer is simple, but it’s not easy. Simply put, God put within me a new heart. He erased decades of pain and misery and put a heart filled with joy in me. How He did that is where it’s not easy.
You see, a lot of people look at God with a skewed viewpoint. He’s either some distant spirit in the heavens that’s detached and uninvolved in the affairs of man, or he’s a benign grandfather figure that grants wishes. There’s always some variance to these themes, but they seem to be the prevailing ideals of God. Neither are accurate, at all.
What I have found, in my own experience, is that God truly is love. It is His most dominant characteristic. He is a loving father that wants his children to be happy and healthy. Just as a loving father sometimes needs to step back and let his children make their own choices and learn from their mistakes, so it is with God.
There were a lot of years where I knew God. I first accepted Christ as my savior at age 9. But I didn’t really want a relationship with Him. I confessed Him with my lips, but I didn’t live as though I was His child. I loved the world and lived for it. The results of that behavior is that I got caught up in the world and all its trappings. I never found fulfillment and I was always miserable.
Eventually, my self-will run riot led to all sorts of pain. I became addicted to substances. I ruined a marriage. I got in all sorts of trouble. I ran my business into the ground. And I suffered for many years, thanks to my own willfulness. I created my own misery by living for this world.
But God is not one to turn His back on His children. No, not at all. All the while I was caught up in all that misery, God continued to reach out to me and call me home. Sometimes it was through another person sharing their story. Sometimes it was by running across a piece of literature that just “happened” to be there. And sometimes, it was just a still, calm voice in my soul saying, “It will be alright, my son.” Somehow, some way, God kept chasing me.
Then came the bottom. There came a point in time when I had run so far, for so long that God had to let me experience the consequences of my actions to the fullest. It was then when I understood that hell is real, because I experienced a very real taste of it. Hell can be defined as the complete separation of God from man. It is when God says, “Ok, have it your way” and He allows us to pull away from Him.
Let me tell you, when you’ve gone your whole life feeling the presence of God in your life and that presence gets removed, there is no greater emptiness. There is no sadness in humanity that can compare to the sheer void of when God finally withdraws His spirit from you. But, while there is life, there is hope.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:13
That is the scripture that went through my head when I no longer felt God – when I was at my emptiest. When I finally pushed God away enough for Him to withdraw His spirit from me and let me experience the full consequences of my actions, He reached out one more time and placed those words on my heart.
So I did. I spent the next 5+ years seeking God with all my heart. I read hundreds of books. I read the Bible cover-to-cover a few times. I read Bible dictionaries, commentaries, expositions and any other piece of Christian literature I could get my hungry hands on. And it changed me. The man I am today only resembles the man I was 6 years ago in appearance. The way I think, the way I feel and the way I act are a stark contrast to the man I once was.
God doesn’t make hard terms with us. He simply asks that we seek Him and a relationship with Him. He wants us to know Him. He already knows us. I don’t think God wants us to go to the extreme I did. But I do think He wants us to spend time in His Word, the Bible, and to spend time with Him in prayer. If we do those two simple things, He will transform us in the best person we can be.
So, to answer the question I posed in the title of this note: What Has God Done for Me?
- He has freed me from the bondage of self.
- He has freed me from addiction.
- He has provided for my physical needs.
- He has given me peace and serenity.
- He has given me my family back.
- He has given me my friends back.
- He has brought a host of wonderful new people into my life.
- He has given me hope for a future worth living for.
- He has given me more happiness than I thought I’d ever experience.
- He has given me life when all I knew was death.
- He has given me His presence in my heart and life, which is beyond amazing.
- He has shown me that there are no limitations to what He can and will do for those who love Him.
What has God done for me? Everything.
Today, I am a very grateful and happy man. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because I have God in my heart and He continues to shower His love on me. All it takes is having a relationship with Him.
To all my family, friends, and acquaintances, I share this testimony with you in the hopes that you will come to understand God a little better. God is love. God wants you to be happy, healthy and fulfilled. But God will not force Himself on you. He will knock on the door, but you have to open it. I hope in sharing my personal story you will become willing to open the door.