“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you…” Ephesians 1:15-18a
There are some stories that move me to tears. Some that cause my heart to overflow with joy and praise to the Lord for all that He has done. Some stories cause my heart to ache and bring me to my knees in prayer, desperate to see God move on behalf of one’s life. Most stories of God’s mighty work take years to shape, and it’s in the waiting that beauty is formed. It’s in the desert seasons that God strips away the chaff, and creates something in us far more beautiful than before. Her story today captures all of the above. Her story is one that ushers me into the presence of the Lord in praise and adoration for all that He has done to redeem one life from the pit. Her story has the potential to change you forever as you witness God’s hand at work in her life. Her story changed me.
Her story began tragically. When she was just nine days old, her father was brutally murdered. Growing up without knowing the love of a father, her childhood years were spent envious of other girls who attended Daddy Daughter dances and received love, protection, and attention from their fathers. She longed to have someone to call “Dad”. There was a void inside that she couldn’t seem to fill, an aching emptiness. This longing for love that wasn’t being met grew over time. The pain was so intense that it drove her to extreme measures to fill the void within. In hopes of easing her pain, she relentlessly pursued anything and everything that she thought would bring her happiness – destructive relationships, affirmation, and people pleasing among other things. Despite the fact that these pursuits only brought momentary relief from the storm raging inside of her, she continued to seek comfort in them.
Yet because the Lord rises to show us compassion and never ceases to pursue us with His steadfast love, God divinely placed a group of people in her life when she was a teenager who told her how much God loved her and wanted to be the father she never had. The words almost sounded too good to be true! Oh, how she wanted to know the love of a father! But sadly, even though she “prayed the prayer” to invite Christ into her heart at the age of 18, she went on to live many more years of a fruitless and defeated Christian life. Although she did believe that she had a Savior and wanted to grow in her walk with the Lord, she was neither equipped nor eager to make Jesus the Lord of her life. Selfishness, compromise, defeat, and sin-confess cycles still consumed her life and kept her from knowing the abundant life in Jesus Christ. There was no growth, no fruit, and no lasting change. Nothing in her life set her apart from the world. Her attempts at appearing holy were stained with the guilt of hidden sins, and her life was full of secrecy and shame. She longed to be like those Christian women she saw at church who seemed so in love with Jesus, but she didn’t know how. She was stuck in a life of sin and complacency. Keeping one foot on each side of the fence, her Christian life was at best lukewarm. She knew she needed God’s love and even wanted it, but she wasn’t ready to be “all in” and live for Him alone. The sacrifice appeared to be too great.
You might say she had forgotten God, but God had not forgotten her. One divinely appointed day seven years later at church, she sat through the very sermon she needed to hear most called “Turning the Tide on Sin” based on Psalm 51. God’s Word became alive to her in those moments, and it was as if the words from that passage lept off the page and pierced her heart, just the sort of thing that God’s Word tends to do. The verses within the Psalm accurately described her spiritual condition. She was in desperate need of God’s mercy. She recognized that she needed to be washed and cleansed from her sin. The Holy Spirit stepped in and brought a true conviction of sin, not guilt or shame, but a godly sorrow. She’ll never forget that day, the day that God gave sight to her spiritual blindness and ministered directly to her heart. For the first time, she was able to see the difference between true repentance versus feeling sorry and condemned for her sin. She had a new perspective. She was finally able to see how her sin grieved the heart of God, and that changed everything. She found God that day, broken and unsure of how to pick up the pieces, but she knew that she needed the victory that was available to her. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, she would overcome the grip of sin and shame on her life. That day, her life changed forever. That day, she surrendered every area of her life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, refusing to turn back to her old ways, and committing to a life in pursuit of Christ.
Her new life in Christ was far better, but certainly not easy. The walking out of her repentance began a two-year journey of confessing her secret sins that bound her in shame for so long. It was a trembling step of faith that she took to seek restoration with others that her sins had wounded. With the prayerful support of a Bible teacher and mentor, she walked through one of the most difficult seasons of her life toward freedom with God by her side and His strength within her, leading her every step of the way. And because God is good and does abundantly more than we could ask or even imagine, He also brought a new friend into her life who prayed with and for her, taught her about God’s Word, and held her accountable to being the godly woman Christ was calling her to be.
The Lord carried her through this trying and difficult season, growing her each day as she chose to follow Him in obedience no matter the cost. Countless hours spent in prayer and in the Word have changed her from the inside out. It’s been beyond incredible to see first-hand how God has mercifully brought “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19) to her soul. She has been set free from the lies she believed for so long, and she now walks in truth. What Satan intended for evil, God meant for good in her life. He healed and restored her marriage of twelve years. For the first time, her identity in Christ is secure, and she daily lives on the promise that she is a new creation in Christ and has an eternal assurance in Him. Now, she is that woman who loves the Lord, a wife, a mother, a woman of noble character! Because she has seen first hand what God can do to restore a broken, empty heart, she now has an insatiable desire to minister to other women who find themselves in the pit that she once resided in. Every opportunity that God allows her, she shares her story to point other women to the awesome Healer, Redeemer, and Restorer, Jesus Christ. What I love about her story is that she points all the praise, honor, and glory to Christ, because He deserves it. Her story compels me to love Jesus more. Her story is filled with the truths of God’s rich mercy and grace. She is my best friend, my sister in Christ, my accountability, and a blessing that is difficult to capture into words. I’m following harder after Jesus because of her presence in my life.
Ivette, thank you for loving Jesus like you do, and thank you for sharing your story. You’re an agent of His truth and grace. You radiate God’s love to all whom you encounter. I am a life that was changed. I love you.