Today's post was written by BH member, Suzie Gonzalez.
I was born and raised in the church. My daddy was a small town preacher for part of my life and an insurance salesman for the other part. I pretty much knew how to act like a Christian. I went to a Christian high school and a Bible College, Moody Bible Institute.
Spiritually, I was one way on the outside but different on the inside. There were times in my life when God really convicted me. I would surrender for a time then eventually go back to my old ways. I wanted to blame God and say this whole “Christian” thing didn’t work. But deep down, I knew why it didn’t work. My heart wasn’t completely in it.
At Moody I found the love of my life. He became my best friend and then my husband. I didn’t think life could get any better at this point, although I was living a comfortable, lukewarm Christian lifestyle. There wasn’t much passion or conviction for the things of God in my life.
Four years and three children into our marriage, life became very complicated. Things began to unravel. My husband turned to alcohol, and for the next five years of our marriage, he lived in alcoholism as his escape from reality. Anyone who has been there knows what it’s like and what goes along with it. It’s very painful for everyone involved.
Those five years of my life were my wakeup call. I had been comfortable and complacent for so long. I had also been very proud and self-seeking. I believed the world revolved around me. This is where I truly met God. My world as I had known it was completely shattered. Everything I had put my trust in was crushed. My life was in shambles. I knew where to turn, but this time it was different. This time my heart was broken and in despair. This time I was sincere.
I cried out with all my heart to God for salvation and deliverance. I knew God was my only hope because I had nothing else to hold on to. God strengthened me and grew me through much prayer and many tears. His Word and His praise became very real to me. He gave me the ability to praise Him even when my heart was dying and to confess that He was so good even though everything seemed so bad.
About two years into this nightmare, I was constantly begging God to please change my husband. One time, it seemed like God was telling me, “Suzie, I want to change you.”
“Me?!” I thought. That didn’t seem right. I wasn’t the one with all the problems. I was the one getting hurt! (I was also the one still dealing with much pride and arrogance.)
I am so grateful and so undeserving of my Heavenly Father’s patience towards me and the grace and mercy He poured over me. He did soften my heart. He gave me a heart to learn His ways and to obey them. I didn’t always get it right the first time, but His discipline always brought me back in line. He taught me how to love someone when they didn’t love me. He taught me how to forgive when forgiveness wasn’t being asked for.
My husband and I were married one month shy of twenty-nine years. I lost him to an eight year battle with cancer. I did not love anyone or anything on this earth the way I loved him. That was the hardest thing I ever had to live through. God strengthened me, helped me, and sustained me with His righteous right hand. I had begged God for my husband’s life before he passed away. When it began to dawn on me God wasn’t going to let me keep him I had to make a decision: “Would I still love God if I couldn’t have my way? Would I still follow Him?” He had already prepared my heart for that very moment because my heart cried out through all the pain “No matter what, I will follow.”
My Heavenly Father has brought me through so much during my life. He’s supplied my every need and many wants. He’s given me such healing especially through my children. Now I know why He gave me six (one daughter and five sons)! They have come around me like a mighty fortress to protect me and support me. The blessings and favor He surrounds me with is overwhelming.
But even after all this, sometimes I still wander. Sometimes I still listen to the lies and sin. When I’m in this awful place, sometimes my heart feels hard because I’m not listening to my Father. When I feel that hardness, fear grips me because I don’t want a hard heart. I cry out to God for His mercy and grace. You know what He does? He hears my cry. He rescues me and restores me to Himself. I still cannot understand it. I just know it’s ALL Him. The way He draws me. The way He loves me. “Oh God make my heart faithful to You always.”
“Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.
I cried out to Him with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!” -Psalms 66:16-20
May the love of Christ absolutely overwhelm you!