“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
Jeremiah 29:12 (NIV)
I have three very different children. One child sees everything in black and white with very little gray. Another child doesn’t think the rules necessarily apply personally. And still another child struggles with submitting to authority and will weigh the pros and cons of getting caught before deciding if disobeying will be worth the inevitable punishment. All three children born from the same genetics, all three children very different.
Have you ever heard this question asked by well-meaning Christians? When talking about someone they know or someone they love fiercely, if they see a person choosing to live in sin, they wonder if that person ever truly accepted Jesus into their heart and made a decision to follow Him. Because, they argue, if they truly were God’s child, would they live a life of deliberate disobedience?
Every time I hear that question, I cringe a little. At one point in my life, I was that Christian in question. I accepted Jesus into my heart at six years old. I knew what I was doing and I remember making a conscious choice to have God rule my life. And for many, many years things went really well. Then I hit a period of time when I questioned if doing things God’s way was really working for me. When I sought after a godly husband, choosing someone in a leadership position in a Christian organization, I got an abusive relationship instead. When I tried to break free from that relationship, I got stalked across state lines. When I chose to do what I thought God wanted, I got hurt. It appeared as though my nonbelieving friends were more authentic, nicer, and treated me better than those who claimed to represent God. At the same time, someone else I loved was experiencing a similar situation… with a man who claimed to also love God. As a result, I took a detour from what I knew was right, ignoring God’s whispers for me to turn around, and took a path that wasn’t honoring to my Father. However, during the period when this was occurring, while I ignored His voice, He never stopped talking, never stopped asking me to come back.
From all outward appearances, people would’ve been able to question whether or not God truly lived inside of me because I was doing a great job of ignoring His voice in certain areas of my life. While I never completely turned my back on Him, there were areas that I made off limits.
God did get me back… stronger than ever. While I don’t like to admit that time in my life where God didn’t get all of me, it’s part of who I am. God used that experience of mine to give me compassion and understanding for people who are caught between doing it their way and surrendering completely to Him. It taught me a valuable lesson as well – only God knows a person’s heart. It’s not our job to judge where a person is in their relationship with their Father. That’s His job, period. Our job is to pray, love, and only if God makes it very clear, gently rebuke and encourage a fellow Christ follower to turn from their sin and ask God’s forgiveness.
I want to encourage you today, my friend. If you have taken a detour in your relationship with Christ and think it’s too late for you, let me be the first to tell you it’s never too late. God will continue to call His children back to Him and He will continue to invite those who aren’t His children to experience the freedom that comes with complete surrender to His ways. Will it be easy? Maybe not. But speaking from experience, it will definitely be worth it, every single time.
© Cheri Swalwell 2015