“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV).
I love the Word of God… I love the Words of Jesus… His words are always true. He doesn’t try to sugar coat anything. He just tells it like it is. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV).
When I was younger, I remember being told that if you’ll just come to the Lord, your life will be so much happier, so much easier. So, when I first began this journey with Christ, I was wearing rose colored glasses. I really thought everyone at church would love me, and that my family and everyone else who knew me would be as happy for me as I was. Bless my heart! I was so naive. Was anyone else out there as ignorant of the truth as I was?
I quickly learned the cold, hard truth when I got home after church on the Sunday that I was born again. I was around 12 or 13 years old, and I was so overjoyed as I ran into the house after getting off the church bus. “Mom, Dad – guess what?” I shouted as I ran into the den. “I got saved today – I’m born again!”
I’ll never forget my mom’s reaction as she and Dad exchanged a look (You know the kind of look I’m talking about, don’t you? A look that says, “Oh no! She’s really lost her mind this time – she’s gone off the deep end!”), then Mom said very coldly, “I do hope you’re not turning into one of those holy rollers like the Whites (Mr. & Mrs. White were the church bus ministers who were instrumental in leading me to Christ. They were living testimonies of the love of Jesus and I can only pray that I can be as Christ-like as they were.), because if you are, you’re just going to have to stop going to that church.”
So much for everyone being happy for my new found joy! I was totally unprepared for the response I received, and as I look back on it, I see that my ignorance about the reality of living a life with Christ led to much confusion over the years, as I eventually backslid because I couldn’t really be saved and be so hurt by people who loved me, could I?
When my stepfather, the man that I loved and thought of as my Daddy molested me a short time later, I was certain that God didn’t really love me, and that I must be too wicked for Him to love and save me. I remember trying so hard to be a good person so that I could earn His love, but failing miserably as I was a slave to the rebelliousness, sin and pain that shackles people who have been abused.
- By the time I was in my mid to late teens, I fell away from the Lord. Oh I still believed in Him – that faith never wavered, but I didn’t believe that He could really love me. And I couldn’t change myself, no matter how hard I tried. You see, in my naivete, I didn’t realize that I was in the midst of a war for my soul. I had no idea that the enemy was persecuting me, and because no one had taught me what to expect and how to combat it, I felt like dying…
BUT GOD! I didn’t know it then, but Jesus had chosen me! And He had no intention of losing me to the enemy. “My sheep recognize My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from Me, for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from Me” (John 10:27-29 NLT).
Oh, to be sure, I lost my way for several years, and yet every time I sinned, there was a war raging inside of me. When I got drunk for the first time, I heard the voice of the Lord telling me, “Don’t do it,” but I ignored Him and did it anyway. When I got high for the first time that same night, again I heard Him speak, but I didn’t recognize His voice. I didn’t want to hear what He was saying to me, so I continued to ignore Him. When I committed the sin of fornication, I heard His voice again, telling me, “No Cheryl, don’t do it,” but I did it anyway. And when He told me not to be unequally yoked, I argued with Him and told Him that I would change my future husband’s heart. I’ve been married to that man for more than 31 years now, and the only one who has changed is me!
But do you see? He never let me go! He kept loving me, wooing me, drawing me and I was like a moth drawn to a flame… I couldn’t resist Him. Out of everyone in the whole world, He was the only One who knew every dirty detail about me, and He still wanted me! Such love is hard to resist… He loved me through my own private hell… He loved me when no one else did! He loves me with a love that won’t let me go!
And because of that unrelenting love that He has shown me, I, like the prophet Jeremiah respond to Him saying, “O Lord, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; Everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, “Violence and plunder!” Because the word of the Lord was made to me A reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not. For I heard many mocking: “Fear on every side!” “Report,” they say, “and we will report it!” All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling, saying, “Perhaps he can be induced; Then we will prevail against him, And we will take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten (Jeremiah 20:7-11 NLT).
So you see, my beloved brothers and sisters, in this world we will suffer for Christ, but His never ending love makes it all worth it! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV).
Cheryl A. Showers