Ten years ago I lost my faith: it had drifted up and down, but then, suddenly, it was gone. Not that I didn’t believe in God anymore. No shame or guilt or even anger. I just felt numb, didn’t know why, and didn’t know how to come back.
Looking back, I think I was depressed. If I wasn’t then, I certainly would be eventually—lying awake for hours, crushed by despair; suicidal, barely able to cope with everyday life, struggling along, alone. I couldn’t put my feelings into words. I kept going to church, reading my Bible, even teaching Sabbath School on occasion.
By grace, my faith returned, little by little. The first step was to see myself as I really was: to see that my strengths—being nice, naive, and nonconfrontational— resulted in an inability to see people as they really are, even while they helped me show non-judgmental love and acceptance to others.
Seeing God’s gifts in me alongside my deficits began my upward spiral. My self-condemnation started to ease. I improved my diet; started to exercise regularly. My brain fog cleared; my ability to see and know God grew.
Then early in the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, ARISE [an evangelistic, Bible-study group] offered their free online course. I’d heard about ARISE: Church youth would go to Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia, and come back on fire for the Lord. We would get Bible workers figuring out how to put into practice what they had learned. It seemed to be for the younger generation, not for someone who had teenage children.
Nevertheless, Ty Gibson and David Asscherick were a wonderful TV discovery. As they told the Bible’s amazing story of a promise made and kept, my vision of God took on amazing clarity: God became real to me. I saw my own sinful human self, but I also began to see myself as God saw me: as the person I could really be if I was willing to give my will over to him. I was a woman beloved by God.
I now know that my experience of finding God and finding a new life is not unique.
Charlotte Elliott, born 1789, of a family of gospel ministers, was a talented writer, especially of humorous poetry, even though frequently bedridden by age 30. When a visiting family friend talked to her about the peace that only a personal relationship with Jesus can bring, she was initially annoyed at his interference, but slowly softened. What did she have to lose? But how was she to come to God? Her friend, Dr. César Malan, reassured her that it wasn’t anything that she needed to do. It was God who would fill the gap.
She had only to come to Him, just as she was. It was the only way to begin. Slowly she started to grow in her love for God. No longer writing for entertainment, she now penned poems about her Christian experience. God’s love replaced her previous feelings of helplessness and condemnation.
More than a decade later, struggling with a feeling of uselessness, she recalled her initial conversion experience. “Just as I am.” That’s how she first came to God, and that was how she needed to continue. Sitting alone in the quiet house that day, she wrote a poem, one that would go on to help me and many other desperate searchers see our completeness in the love of God.
“Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
God is calling every one of us. I may hear His voice, but what do I do next? Seeing God’s holiness makes me fear that I can never be saved. I may realize His power, but I don’t yet realize His goodness. I may know I need Him, but I don’t yet love Him: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). Every day I struggle with the tension between the truth that God has offered salvation—full and free—and the lie that Satan bombards us with: Am I, and can I ever be, good enough?
But then I see Christ. I see He has done it all. All I have to do, sin-condemned, is come. For God has condemned sin. And because He has, there’s no condemnation left over for me (see Rom. 8:1).
“Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
The law exposes me. But it can’t change me. It’s God’s love that changes me. The consequences of my sins have already been dealt with when Jesus died on the cross. Gone is the struggle to be good enough. Now all I desire is to live my life for the one who loved me so much that He gave His Son to die for me.
We may fear losing our salvation, or doubt its validity. But our salvation depends, not on our law keeping, but on our choosing Jesus as our Savior.
He then covers our sins completely. My body may fail me, but my mind is set on Him. One day my body will be made new, but my mind is already His.
I—and you—we don’t have to earn His acceptance. We already have it. We can grow because we are living out His love implanted in our lives: “For what the law was powerless to do . . . , God did” (Rom. 8:3, NIV).
“Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt; ‘fightings within, and fears without,’ O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Sin shames me. I am frustrated by my continual failings. My mind is constantly fighting against my body, wanting to do right. The whole of creation features this war. One day God will conquer all. As Charlotte Elliott learned, my completeness and yours is found in God, the one who defines reality, who “gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not” (Rom. 4:17, NIV): God calls my holiness into existence out of nothing. Christ’s faithfulness guarantees me the promises of adoption, of salvation, and of redemption.
“Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!”
Elliott seems to be speaking about someone starting a walk with God. But in fact, we renew our walk with God every day. No matter our yesterday, each day is a new day. And starting to walk with God is the same as continuing to walk with God.
Every day I need to come to Jesus: Elliott’s struggle is one we all know. We can all drift away from faith. Life’s trials or riches can pull us away from our dependence on God. But when feelings or failures threaten to pull me away from Him, I remember, with Elliott, that I may always come to Him, just as I am. For “those he called, he also justified; [and] those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30, NIV).
Jennie Mowbray, an accident and emergency physician, lives in New South Wales, Australia.