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.