My journey with the Lord started when I was very young. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior while still in elementary school. My mother sought refuge in the church when we were growing up, and no matter where we were, what country or state, she always made sure our foundation was in God and in the church with fellow believers. Somewhere along the way, the attendance and service in church became my primary focus, and the relationship with God was somewhere after that. I would profess I was a “Christian” for as long as I can remember, but there was not a genuine connection to him and his word. On countless occasions, I did find my connection to Jesus through music and following his will (mostly when I felt comfortable with doing so), but there was still a void in fully connecting on my part. He knew me, every aspect of me, but if I’m to be honest, I didn’t know much about him.

Along the line, I got married, then nine years later, divorced. It’s through that stretch of intense separation, change, and difficulty, that I was really able to see just how much the Lord loved me. There were plenty of times in my life where Jesus had come through for me in major ways, but at one of my weakest points he’d shown me just how extraordinary He truly was; how unfailingly present he’s always been. I was completely out of my element, usually having everything under control, structured, planned – this, without a doubt, was not the optimal period in my life for any of those things.

During this time I remember getting on my knees and praying to God every night and feeling the comfort of the Holy Spirit being there right beside me. I would pray referencing Judges 7, where the Lord gave Gideon such meticulous instruction on how to win the battle against the Mideanites. This conveyed so much to me about obedience and following God’s will, even if the path doesn’t seem as if it’s the right or obvious way… it’s HIS way. This also showed me that when I’m weak I could be made so much stronger because of the Lord’s unwavering presence in my life, so long as I chose to follow his will. Praying with scripture also taught me that there is complete assurance in His word. If God could bring so many through such wide-ranging trials, surely he could do the same for me.

I’m learning, that obedience to God = trust, and confessing my weakness = strength. Everything that I thought was “the norm” isn’t normal at all, but a lack of understanding and intention. Attending church just to attend, serving just to serve, and feeling satisfied with checking off boxes – that wasn’t what his will was for me at all. I’ve never felt this much excitement about getting to know more about God. My life with Jesus now has expanded beyond the church, as he’s shown me truly how great my influence is in the lives of others. He’s given me a second chance, a new and loving perspective, and for that I am so grateful and so humbled.

— Shawna Gooding, Baptized July 2018
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