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It is sometimes difficult to see that God is paying even the slightest attention when our lives are a mess. I mean, where is He, exactly, when you really need Him? The "God is great," "God is good," and all the other "God is terrific" stuff is hard to find during times of turmoil and tragedy.
I know I did not think God was so "great" when my now ex-husband was dragging me up a flight of stairs by my hair. No way was God "good" when my bones ached from punches and kicks, and my eyes burned from hot tears of despair and fear. God did not seem so "terrific" when I stared into the hate-filled eyes of my husband as he held a knife to my throat or a gun to my head and sneered, "If you scream one more time I will kill you."
My parents divorced when I was young, leaving an emptiness in my heart I could never understand. As a teenager, I felt apart from girls my own age, and I rebelled strongly against any and all authority. I had given up on God long before I ran away at the age of fifteen to marry the eighteen year-old man who in one year went from being the love of my life to my abuser, jailer, kidnapper, rapist, and attempted murderer. By the time I was "sweet sixteen" there was no doubt in my mind-if God existed it was certainly not in my world.
After the birth of my son and my divorce, both at the age of sixteen, there was no room in my life for anything but the here and now. Practical things consumed me, like going back to school, working, child care, housekeeping, paying bills, and learning how to be a mother. I was so very lost.
I filled my days with busy take-charge tasks. I filled my nights with alcohol, drugs, parties, and self-destruction. I filled my soul with empty promises and emptier pursuits. Over the years, another marriage and divorce, several broken engagements, more than one abortion, and frequent extreme weight gains and losses left me even more emotionally crippled.
Why couldn't I find happiness? Why did it seem as though nothing I did worked out? Why did I feel so worthless? The feelings of utter helplessness and hopelessness, the unrealized dreams, broken promises, and dead-end streets overwhelmed me.
One summer evening I was taking a walk in my neighborhood when I noticed people going into the neighborhood church. Suddenly my legs developed a mind of their own, virtually propelling me up the steps and through the doors.
Alone in the church balcony, I looked toward the pulpit and saw the statue of Jesus with outstretched hands, looking right at me. Hot tears fell down my cheeks as emotions I could not explain filled my heart and soul.
What was wrong? What was happening to me? Why was I sitting in a strange church crying like a baby? When the Pastor began to speak, it was a message of being lost, without direction, without hope, without faith-and how it did not have to be like that. He talked of how we needed only to listen to the Holy Spirit and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and He would be there-just like that.
My walk with the Lord started that day, a day that forever changed the course of my life. Suddenly I wanted to know more about this relationship with Jesus of which the Pastor spoke.
Over the next decade the world opened up to me in ways I could never have imagined. Opportunities, experiences, and spiritual illumination did not make my life perfect, but it was a life of healing and hope, a life of promise where before there had been empty desolation. Psalm 71:20 says, "Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up."
And bring me up He did. Jesus Christ took my broken spirit and my lost soul, filled with guilt and pain, and turned me around, setting me on a new course. He filled that empty place in my soul I was trying so desperately to fill with drugs, alcohol, relationships, material goods, work, and empty pursuits. He forgave me the sins that weighed heavy on my heart, showing me I no longer had to carry the burden alone. He can do the same for you.
I did not "get religion." I "got a relationship"- a relationship with Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 5:17 says it all: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come " Are you ready for a new relationship and a new life? No matter what we have done, no matter where we have been, it is never too late to change direction, because GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS
If you would like to turn your life around, pray this simple prayer from your heart:
Dear Heavenly Father, I have been going down the wrong road and I want to make a u-turn toward You. Thank You for giving Your Son as a sacrifice for my sins, that I might not die but have eternal life with You. Please forgive my sins and come into my life. Fill me with Your love and the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name, amen."
Adapted from the book series God Allows U-Turns (c)2001 by Allison Gappa Bottke. Used by permission of Promise Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing in association with Alive Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. To obtain your copy, please visit your local bookstore. For information on future volumes or to submit your own u-turn story for publication, visit the website at http: //www.godallowsuturns.com.