So, how did great joy replace the worst despair I had ever felt in my life? My turning point came when I heard these words of Jesus from John 6:37 (NIV):

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

And then there was this other passage in Acts 2:21 (NIV):

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Jesus himself said that He would not reject me if I went to Him for help! And I had clearly already been “calling on the name of the Lord.” At that point, I saw a little bit of God’s loving and merciful character, and I felt His love for me. I started trusting Him to help me. How could I not? I knew I could never be good enough on my own, but I saw the truth that He was utterly trustworthy, powerful, and loving, and He promised to help me!

I saw that this love actually motivated Jesus to die for me and that He actually did take away my sin by substituting Himself for me, His own right standing with God for my sin.

It was like the Sun rose and took away all my darkness and emotional pain!

I believed: HE set me free!

Charles Wesley wrote the following hymn in 1739 on the first anniversary of his own experience of conversion. If you understand the older English, it clearly expresses how I felt!

On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul He shone
And filled it with repose.
Sudden expired the legal strife,
’Twas then I ceased to grieve;
My second, real, living life
I then began to live.
Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine,
Power with the Holy Ghost received
To call the Savior mine.
I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me He loved, the Son of God,
For me, for me He died!
I found and owned His promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I knew
When written on my heart.

What happened next? I was baptized, and I became motivated  to pray, read the Bible, and learn all I could about Christianity. I went with my father to whatever church meetings he would take me to.

I distinctly remember going with Dad to a small Baptist church in a nearby town where Don Basham was speaking. Dad had read Basham’s book, Face Up with a Miracle, and he wanted me to hear him in person. At the end of his message, Basham invited anyone to stay and pray for more of an experience with God. In the traditional Baptist style, there was an altar call while the congregation sang the hymn, “Showers of Blessing.”

I knew I wanted as much of God as I could experience, so I went forward and prayed with the others there. It was a life-transforming experience for me! I felt the presence of God, and all I wanted to do was worship God with all my heart.

Yes, I spoke in tongues, but I knew that was only an outward sign of a powerful inward experience of God living in me and of me worshiping Him. I was never the same after that night.

Prayer and worship became habitual for me. I loved God so much I couldn’t hold back the worship!

I didn’t know at that time, but shortly thereafter I would be faced with — you guessed it — gay feelings. But these spiritual experiences when I was nine and ten years old were not only unforgettable, but also filled with an overwhelming joy that I just could never ultimately convince myself to give up on God.

I would need those joyful memories when I hit puberty and my gay feelings first hit me.

Have you ever experienced your despair turning to great joy because of your relationship with God?

* Photo courtesy Uditha Wickramanayaka, Creative Commons.

  • Yes, but not when I was so young. And I can’t recall one particular incident of transformation, so much as a growing, gradual process with some mountain-top moments. Perhaps I am too English to have let the emotion over-ride. Lol! Even my deliverance from cigarette smoking was not so much a flooding with joy, as a deep stream of gratitude at being set free, and a bouyancy as the days passed and the addiction did not return.

    • You don’t have to have a dramatic emotional experience all at once to become a Christian, but becoming a Christian will change your emotions as well as your thoughts and decisions. Obviously I am more emotional than average so my experience with God has been a very emotional one.

  • Marshall, that’s a great way to put it: “despair turning to great joy.” I received that a while back, and it was strangely the exact opposite of what I would have expected. No dramatics, no hallelujah choruses… it was a kind of quiet and mundane experience, not particularly charged with emotion. Just a sudden and lasting assurance that Christ is mine and I am Christ’s.
    There are still days when I fall into my old melancholic habits, but not back into the same hopelessness and despair. I know that my redeemer lives, and that’s enough. But I sorrow for people who feel that despair, because it’s so terribly crippling. It sucks all the life out of you and leaves you feeling and wanting and caring for nothing.

  • Great story Marshall, and although this was written a while ago in the history of this blog, I haven’t read any other stories like this. I hope others will do the same regarding their experiences with Christ. I had my first significant experience with Jesus when I was 5, where he taught me how to tie my shoes and snap my fingers in two different dreams within a month’s time. After that, I was obsessed with having my children’s bible read to me and I told people I wanted to be a priest. I didn’t attend Church much after that but I was confirmed at 7 years-old. Still, my feeling of closeness (like he was the person I loved the most) stayed with me and I continued to pray in and out of my childhood. Later, I became born again at a Carmen concert when I was a Jr. in high school. After that, my supernatural experiences kept coming more and more quickly (although I didn’t have any influence from churches like that) until I eventually went to a charismatic church when I was 22. Now, I go to a pretty non-charismatic church but I still retained my beliefs and find that I can function in any kind of Church. Over the years I have attended a great number of denominations and I appreciate each one of them for some aspect of their perspective and way of worshiping. F
    My most influential epiphany was when I was reading 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” It is such a short verse, but all of the sudden I realized that 1. I can’t love as well as God can, 2. I don’t know love at all until I know God’s love and 3. I have to let Him love me, which was my biggest problem. The things I did after that allowed me to feel God’s love more deeply and many days a week I would weep from how amazing it felt to feel so unconditionally loved, unlike how I felt previously. This still happens to this day, but not as often that it is as intense. I try to share this message with others as often as I can because I know how many there are who don’t feel loved, truly loved.

  • Marshall

    Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. I seek to do that with great joy, because He is better than everything we give up! Also I want to love others in an unselfish way as Jesus taught. I currently do my best to live out that kind of love with 15 other friends on a farm near the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. I love talking about what really matters, and seeing a friend's heart turn from pain to joy, from fear to peace, and from despair to hope! My writing tends to focus on the topic of friendships with other guys. I have never married and am currently the oldest author on YOB.

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