Editor’s Note: Jesus Is for You, based on the bestselling book Jesus Is ____ by Judah Smith, is filled with heartfelt and honest stories that reveal what it means to experience Jesus and discover the real life He promises. What would it be like if someone were completely, 100 percent for you? The loser. The rising star. The drug addict. The good Christian kid gone bad. The undeserving overwhelmed with gratitude. Whoever you are and wherever you’ve been — Jesus is for you and He’s not going anywhere.
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I was born and raised in a religion other than Christianity. On the positive side, I was brought up with morals, guidance, community, and a vast amount of Bible knowledge. But I was also instilled with rules, boundaries, punishment, guilt, shame, and isolation. I lived in fear of doing wrong and embarrassing my family. I was taught the Scriptures in negative ways, and I was made to feel like no matter what I did, it was never good enough for God.
My mom had medical problems most of my life. Then, when I was sixteen, my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Overwhelmed by this new diagnosis and an already sick mother, I tried to turn to God. But despite all my efforts, I never felt that Jesus was my friend. I never experienced that kind of relationship where I could talk to Him about my issues.
One week after my eighteenth birthday, my mom died unexpectedly. I felt so alone. She was the glue of our family. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day.
She and I had been the strong ones in our religion, but now God was the last person I wanted to cry to. I started to feel like He was a mean, cruel God. I resented Him… then I hated Him… and eventually I quit believing in Him completely. I left religion, I left God, and I didn’t look back.
Eight months after my mom died, I met the man who is now my husband, Justin. He believed in God and had been to church at one point, but he wasn’t religious, which worked out well for me.
Just shy of our wedding, when I was twenty, my dad passed away from cancer. The church my family had been part of had already decided that we were sinners, that we were people who didn’t walk in the ways of God. They forbid us to talk to any of our family or friends. So when I needed help the most, I felt like neither God nor the Church was there for me.
Fast-forward to the present. I am twenty-three now. A little over a month ago, my husband’s family invited us to their church. We made a deal. We would attend once and keep an open mind. But if we didn’t like it, they would leave us alone.
At first I was terribly uncomfortable. Wait a minute. They serve coffee? Is that woman wearing jeans? Why is there a stage full of instruments? Then a man in camo skinny jeans, boots, a white shirt buttoned to the top, and thick black-rimmed glasses stepped up to the microphone and began to talk about God, Jesus, and love.
That morning, I found out who God really is. I was moved to tears. The message was about God’s love — not just for anyone, but for me specifically. I was leaning forward, hanging on every word, convinced that this was for me.
I realized that the entire time I had been angry with God, He had been there for me. He loved me even when I didn’t love Him, even when I turned from Him and hated Him.
He had never left my side.
I had read the Bible before, but it was like I was hearing God’s Word for the first time. It’s not about rules and discipline and hate. It’s about love, forgiveness, and sacrifice. God gave up His only Son, Jesus, knowing full well what was in store for Him, and He did it out of love for me and you. Wow.
Since that first Sunday, my husband and I have both been hooked. Obsessed may be a more appropriate word. For the first time in twenty-three years, I actually feel a bond with God. Our lives have changed so much. My personal relationship with God is incredible. I continue to learn new things every day. Jesus is with me, holding my hand when I need Him and letting me cry on His shoulder. He never judges; He simply shows love and patience.
I am happy to spend the rest of my days knowing that Jesus is with me: loving me, forgiving me, encouraging me. He is the best friend I’ll ever have.
Excerpted with permission from Jesus Is for You: Stories Of God’s Relentless Love by Judah Smith, copyright Thomas Nelson.
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Do you know someone like Alicia, someone who is far from Jesus, or who has walked away from organized religion because of a trauma or disappointment in God? How can you show that person who God really is, the One who is with them and for them today? Who in your life needs to know how much God loves them? Come join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear your thoughts! ~ Devotionals Daily