From a Religion to a Relationship (Seeking a Personal Relationship with God)

Posted on Posted in Christian Testimonies, Faith

If you asked me 5 years ago how long I’ve been a Christian, I would have instinctively answered, “my entire life.”  I grew up in a loving home with strong Christian values – values like honesty, kindness, and thankfulness.   I attended weekly mass and religious education classes.  I completed the sacraments of first communion, reconciliation, and confirmation.  I said grace before meals and prayed “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” every night before bed.

I had a religion.  Religion is something you DO for God.  But what I’ve discovered over the years is that it’s not about DOING.   There’s a lot more to being a Christian than being baptized, going to church, and being “a good person.”  Those things are important, but I’ve learned that it is only through God’s grace that we can enter His kingdom and through Jesus Christ that we can develop a personal relationship with God.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

When I take a moment to reflect upon how and why my faith has grown over the past five years, I can clearly see that God strategically placed certain people and events into my life to lead me closer to Him.

After the birth of my first child, I joined a Christian moms group with the intent of getting a break from breastfeeding and diaper changing, as well as an opportunity to meet other moms in the area.  What I received was so much greater than that!  It was the first time I was able to be completely transparent with the struggles I faced in my marriage, as a new mom, and with my faith.  It was the first time I engaged in fellowship with other Christians in a small group.  It was through my small group Bible study that I learned how to turn to God and His word for direction instead of relying on my own limited understanding or seeking advice from others.

As I spent more time with women who were growing in their faith, I noticed they prayed as if they were having a conversation with God. This was drastically different from what I was used to and it opened my eyes to the idea that someone could have a personal relationship with God.  It became very clear to me where I stood in my walk with Christ – I believed IN Him, but I didn’t KNOW Him.  I didn’t fully understand His word or how it connected to my everyday life.  I let my circumstances determine my mood and looked for fulfillment in the wrong places, which often led to feeling lonely, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

In 2013, I stepped outside my comfort zone and began attending a new church.  For the first time I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit during a worship service and was literally moved to tears.  I started praying more often, at first by using daily devotionals or song lyrics until I became more comfortable talking openly to God.  The more I sought a relationship with God, the more my faith grew.  With a group of women from my church, I read the Bible from cover to cover for the first time.  It brought up lots of questions, but I made the decision to put my trust and hope in the Lord despite my doubts.  That decision has been life changing.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 ESV

One night when I was going through some personal struggles in my life, I came to the realization that I needed God.  I prayed for Him to make himself real to me.  I told Him I wanted to know Him and have a relationship with Him.  I asked Him to cleanse me of the negative thoughts and feelings that were holding me back so I could be filled with the Holy Spirit and live a life that honored and glorified Him.  I asked for forgiveness for all the times I relied on my own understanding and tried to do things MY way.   I wanted follow Him and do things HIS way.  I prayed for God to give me direction, to grant me His wisdom to make sound decisions, and to enable me to let go of self-serving behaviors so I could fulfill His purpose for my life.

That night and many nights thereafter, I asked God to take control of my life.  I asked Him to make himself real to me.  I told Him that I wanted to know Him and that I needed His strength and power to follow His will over my own.  I wanted more than a religion – I wanted a relationship.

As I put my faith and trust in Him, God started calling me to do things that I had never taken an interest in before – things like starting a fundraiser to help place orphans and foster children into loving homes, dust off and read all the Christian books in my library, lead small groups at my church, make prayer a part of my morning routine, and talk openly about my faith with others.  God called me to bless my husband and look at my marriage as an opportunity to develop my character and strengthen my relationship with Him.  He gave me a new perspective on my role as a stay at home mom.  He even called me to start writing – about health, parenting, marriage, and faith – to inspire others to grow and encourage them to seek a deeper relationship with Him.  The more I got to know Him, the more I wanted to share how He was changing my life and encourage others to do the same.

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:15-16 KJV

God has transformed me from a girl with a religion to a woman who passionately seeks to know and love Him.  My focus has shifted from wanting to build my resume to wanting to build His kingdom.  He has shown me that I get more pleasure out of serving others than serving myself, enabled me to let go so I can move forward, and taught me how to find meaning and value in knowing Christ and sharing His Word with others.

Through studying God’s Word, He has showed me how to turn my problems into provisions.   Instead of asking, “Why me?” I ask God what He wants me to learn.  I believe that if God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.  It takes more faith to get us through our hardships than to get us around them – when God takes us THROUGH it instead of delivering us FROM it there is a reason.  He desires to change us – to turn our weaknesses into strengths and to mold us into His likeness.  He transforms us from the inside out.

My relationship with God has given me a new perspective on parenting, marriage, my health, the power of prayer, and life in general.  I have learned what it means to love unconditionally, forgive wholeheartedly, and trust in Him completely.  I am committed to following Him.  In doing so, I am “saved” – saved from those weapons of self-destruction that tore me down, stifled my growth, and prevented me from living out my purpose.  Saved from a life where I didn’t know God and which focused upon myself.  Saved TO a life with meaning and purpose.

The key message that I want to share is that, unlike most things in life, faith means believing in order to see, not seeing to be able to believe.  He doesn’t want to give us all the answers.  But the more you trust in Him the more He will reveal Himself to you.  I also want people to know that true happiness and fulfillment don’t come through our own personal accomplishments or our circumstances, but through a relationship with Him.  I had a “good life” growing up, but in giving my life to Him I gained something much greater and more significant – a clearer purpose, a deeper relationship with Him, and a fresh perspective.

Developing a relationship with God starts with opening our minds and hearts to receiving Him – to asking Him to come into your life and make Himself real to you.  He and only He can transform the broken pieces of your life into something beautiful.  It all starts with saying “yes” to Him.  He can transform your life into one of meaning, purpose, and true fulfillment.

jen
If you would like to reach out to me and/or are looking for resources to grow in your faith, you can leave a comment below or email me at fueledfitfocused@gmail.com.  If you have a story you would like to share, please email me with “Broken to Beautiful” in the subject line and I will follow up with you.  Thank you.

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