By: Cynthia Butler
Jennifer had lived two extremes: a Baptist missionary and later an agnostic drug user. “Christianity is something I’ve outgrown”, she thought; but meanwhile her life was spiraling downward. Sure, she had accepted Jesus in her childhood and even felt a tingling in her chest when she did. But there were certain things she just couldn’t reconcile. In college she met people of other religions who were apparently going to Hell despite their seemingly good lives. And during her missionary assignment she met ministers who were apparently going to Heaven despite their hypocrisy. It just didn’t make sense.
But inconsistencies had already soured her faith long before that. As a child she had questions about the miracles in the Bible and about accounts of demon possession. “Those things don’t really happen anymore,” she was told. What parts of the Bible were still applicable, she wondered? Years later and after much searching she would finally find out for herself that the world in the pages of the Bible and the modern world are not so different as she had been taught.
Even while she was still living in doubt she had an experience that foreshadowed this discovery. One morning, soon after her disillusionment as a Baptist missionary, she and her husband decided to visit a church of a different denomination. Near the end of the service people were asked to come forward for prayer so that they could be healed. But they were also encouraged to pray for healing even in their seats if they did not wish to come forward. Jennifer’s eye had been watering for no reason for a few weeks. No one could diagnose it except to say that the tear duct was making too much fluid. Of course, she had been led to believe that miracles were a thing of the past, but what could she lose? She prayed for God to heal her eye. He did- that very day. Her husband called it coincidence. Jennifer didn’t really know what to think about it, but she never forgot what happened that morning.
The journey was just beginning. One unexplained event wasn’t enough to counteract the years of confusion. And things would only get more confusing as Jennifer looked for truth and found more lies. At first she explored other religions. She read up on new age philosophy and perused Hindu scriptures. But neither of these seemed any truer or more applicable than the Biblical view she was rejecting. She visited the Unity Church of Christianity, a group that respects Jesus but spreads a universalist outlook. Their belief system appealed to Jennifer, especially the concept that no one will go to Hell. She attended there for several Sundays. But after a while, she grew tired of church life. After all, why attend church if everyone goes to Heaven anyway? Why even live within moral boundaries? She had resisted temptation throughout high school and college, but now she intended to find out what she had been missing.
Ironically, it was an acquaintance from church that first introduced her to drugs, and she dove in readily. Soon she met Steve, a stoner, who was almost a personification of her rebellious desires. “This guy is so awesome,” she said one time while she was high. “He’s everything I want. And you know what? He’s either a reward from God for finally rejecting all these lies that I’ve been fed and trying to really pursue the truth, or he is from Satan to lead me astray. But I want him either way.”
Jennifer had already left her husband along with her biblical notions of right and wrong. After her divorce, there was nothing stopping her from moving in with Steve. At first it seemed like exactly what she wanted: someone to show her the party life, someone who wouldn’t judge her, someone she could get stoned with every day. But after a while, drugs seemed to get in the way of life, and her relationship with Steve began to crumble. Gradually depression crept in until she was on large doses of three different antidepressants each day. Where were the answers she had been looking for? Was life just one disappointment after another?
It was when she met Jeff, that things turned a corner. On their first date, he asked Jennifer, “What do you think about the Bible?” She figured it was just a book of mythology, but Jeff understood it to be the word of God. In fact, Jeff was a “full-gospel” believer. He asserted that everything in the Bible is still true and applicable to the modern world; even supernatural occurrences. This was a totally different teaching from what Jennifer had received as a child. “There’s still prophesy, and there’s still discerning of the spirits,” he told her, “and there’s absolutely still demons. It’s demons making you depressed.” Jennifer had never considered this possibility, but it immediately made sense. In a way, she had invited them because of her lifestyle choices. It was a strangely encouraging thought. She had bought into the notion that depression is a life-long chronic illness; that it can be managed, but not cured. “This is just the way I am,” she thought, and she was going to therapy to learn to deal with that. But she realized as she was listening to Jeff, that depression was not a part of her identity. It was a lie from Satan; a lie that she had believed. Jennifer wasn’t instantly healed that night, but she did instantly have hope. And, in time, Jeff’s “full-gospel” faith inspired Jennifer to reconsider Christianity. “I’ve been really thinking, maybe I need to give this another try now that I have the whole picture,” she confessed to Jeff. So she apologized to God for her sinful behaviors and for her arrogance. “I’m sorry that I misunderstood,” she prayed. “I want to come back and try again.”
The rebirth of Jennifer’s faith wasn’t a miraculous revelation or an unmistakable feeling; it was a choice that Jennifer made. She didn’t have all the answers when she decided to pursue the ways of Jesus again; but, of course, neither did she have all the answers when she had left her Christianity in the first place. It was only after her leap of faith that God began providing her with the kind of assurance she had so desired.
Jennifer was being redeemed; her mind and body had been reclaimed by God, but the damage that the devil had done would not be undone overnight. In time, Jennifer realized that she was under a curse. Her unfaithful heart had already taken its toll on two marriages, and it had begun to do so again in her third marriage. She had heard at church about family curses, patterns of sinful behavior that are passed down from generation to generation. After talking to her father, she discovered that her mother had marital struggles just as she had. Perhaps Jennifer had been courted by the same demons to which her mother and other family members had fallen victim. Jennifer read a book that addressed family curses. While reading it, God convicted her and she agreed to repent of the sin of unfaithfulness and to resist the devil. Repentance and resistance were the keys to her freedom. What had seemed like an overwhelming compulsion soon became only a passing temptation, and she discovered she had the power through God to refuse destructive behavior.
One time after the curse had been broken, Satan attempted to regain control on her. Jennifer woke from a dream with a plan to use her work e-mail to secretly contact an old boyfriend. “Wow, this is a really bad plan,” she thought getting out of bed and walking into the bathroom. “It could potentially destroy my marriage. This isn’t very smart, but I guess it’s what I’m going to do.” As she stood at the sink washing her hands, she realized all of a sudden, “Wait a minute. This is from Satan. This is not me making this plan.” At that moment, she spoke in her mind, “I reject you Satan and any demons,” Before she had even finished the thought, she saw a shadow flee from her, and she was immediately clear-headed.
As Jennifer slipped out of the devil’s hold on her she also started to wean herself off of the medicines that had been stabilizing her damaged spirit. Each time she stepped down her medication she felt a familiar moodiness. But Jennifer realized that it was lies that had led to her darkest moments, and it was a lie that held her captive to depression. She now believed the truth of God’s deliverance and was ready to embrace the “abundant life” He had promised. Through this realization and the guidance of a Christian counselor she was emotionally restored!
Depression wasn’t the only healing that God granted Jennifer. Canker soars had been a regular occurrence for her. Eventually she found that a regimen of supplements combined with plenty of sleep and avoidance of certain foods would prevent them. But if she didn’t do all of those things the soars would return. When she and her husband moved to a one-income budget to prepare for their daughter’s birth, they could no longer afford the supplements. “I guess I’m just going to have to go back to having canker soars all the time,” sighed Jennifer. “Well, no, I don’t think God is giving me the gift of a baby and then make me have canker soars for the rest of my life because of it,” she reconsidered. Jennifer decided she’d go to her church next time they had healing prayer. Then again, she thought, “I’ve been healed of other things without going to healing prayer. Why don’t I just ask God for it?” So she prayed to God for healing and stopped taking supplements. She didn’t get any more canker soars after that during her pregnancy and has only had minor ones since then. But the painful canker soars of her past have never returned.
These steps of healing- of restoration- have been true blessings, but more than that they have been confirmation of God’s love. It’s as if He had been reaching out all that time with the answers in His hand waiting for Jennifer to grab hold of them. Just as He said centuries before, “You will seek me, and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)