After the birth of my son in 1997 I began to have some health problems. Over the next several years my health declined very gradually. But by around 2007 I was nearly bedridden. Over the following 2 years I went to a couple of different doctors and only improved slightly. Despite all of this, my faith was strong. I was frustrated and wondered why this was happening, but I never doubted that God loved me and had some kind of plan that I just couldn’t see or understand.
In 2008 we began attending a church that taught the “goodness and grace” of God. They were ”kingdom now” believers, meaning that they believed everything Jesus spoke of as part of his Kingdom was real and available to believers right now. I learned that it was indeed God’s will for every believer to be well and that Jesus “paid for my healing on the cross”. I learned how "powerful" and "interactive" God was.
I fully believed that God was absolutely good and wanted only good things for me. I had what I felt was a very real and interactive relationship with him. I genuinely loved God and often felt what I believed was his presence. I fully believed he was going to heal me. We loved our church and the people there were our family. I had many “prophetic words” given to me confirming things I believed God was showing me in my own time spent with him. I lived in this “supernatural reality” where my life was part of this great plan and my future held all of my hopes and dreams, if only I believed and trusted. I spent most of my time going to church meetings, “spending time with God”, studying what the Bible said about “the kingdom” and healing, watching or listening to Bible teaching, and watching videos of people testifying about their own healing experiences. My favorite thing to do was to “be in God’s presence”.
All of this culminated in my attending a 3 day “healing conference” in September of 2009. The conference was about an hour from my home, so I booked a hotel room so that I could be closer to the church where the meetings were held. I was excited to have that time with just “me and Jesus”. During the conference meetings there were moments where I experienced such intense bliss and euphoria. This was mainly during the worship times. At one point as I stood and worshipped I felt as though I left my body and was looking down over the auditorium. It was the most strange and amazing experience. I remember in that moment asking God why it was happening and what he was saying to me. But I heard nothing. Another intense experience was when my friend and I became overwhelmed with laughter. We laid on the floor laughing so hard we were crying. I had seen this happen to others and had always been skeptical of it. This was the first time it happened to me. I also experienced a “tingling” sensation in my hands and feet. This sensation would come on me days and even weeks later whenever I would worship God. I felt as though God was confirming to me that he that he loved me and that he was real.
Despite all of these seemingly wonderful experiences I was having, I had not gotten the healing I so desperately desired. On the last day of the conference one of the ministers was teaching about how “words of knowledge” are actually “prophetic words”. He said that when you hear a story of someone who’s been healed, it is an “invitation” for God to do the same thing for you, so just “grab onto it” and believe it for yourself. Then he began rattling off a bunch of “testimonies” of people who had been “healed” at other conferences where he and this team had ministered. As he shared the stories, he named many of the health problems I was experiencing. I began to weep and tremble. I just KNEW this was my answer! I fell to the floor and wept. I was absolutely overcome with emotion. I fully believed God was healing me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and love for God and his love for me. It was like he had created this moment just for me.
That night after the conference was over I drove an hour back home crying and praising God all the way. I didn’t physically feel any different, but that didn’t deter me. I believed I was healed. When I pulled into my driveway I sat in the car for a moment before going inside. I wondered what I should do now regarding the strict diet I’d been on and the medicine and supplements I’d been taking. I asked God what I should do, should I stop doing all of those things? I felt so strongly that he said that I was now free from doing all of that. I cried and thanked him and went into the house. That night I stopped taking my medication and supplements, and began eating the foods I’d been avoiding.
I honestly wish I could say that from that moment on I was healed. But that is not the case. For the next 2 years I ignored my symptoms, believing that I was “being healed gradually” and that what my body was “manifesting” wasn’t “reality”. But I struggled painfully with my faith. I lived on an emotional roller coaster. I was in a constant cycle of being frustrated, confused and hurt over my ongoing illness, to surrendering all over again and trusting God. But I just couldn’t get past the feeling that if what I believed was true I shouldn’t be feeling sick! I felt like God was abandoning me. How could such a good God who loved me so much allow me to suffer so much? How could I go through such an amazing “healing experience” and still be ill?
At times I literally felt like I was going insane. Looking back, I can see that my rational mind was screaming at me to face reality. But every time I came to that point of frustration, I would squash all of those rational thoughts. I would fall back on my belief that God was good and that he was working in ways that I didn’t understand.
But in October of 2011 rationality finally won. My health had deteriorated further and I could no longer ignore it and convince myself that I was getting better. I had to come to terms with the fact that I WAS NOT HEALED and that I was not GOING to be healed. Despite my many “experiences with God” and all of my prayers and the prayers of others, I was still sick. I realized how depressed I had become. I spent many days in my bed crying and praying and trying to understand what God was doing in my life. Why was I living this way? I knew it was time to ask some hard questions. I knew that I must allow myself to really doubt…to really evaluate what was happening to me and what I believed.
Ironically, during this time an evangelist couple we know invited my husband and I to a church where they were ministering for the weekend. At this point, we were both at the breaking point with our faith. As we say in Texas, it was “shit or get off the pot” time. Either God healed or he didn’t. Either he was good or he wasn’t. And either what the Bible said was true or it wasn’t. And if God did heal people, we needed to actually see evidence in our own lives. Both my husband and I hoped that God would finally “show up for us” at these meetings. To our surprise, our friends asked us to minister with them. Even though we were struggling, we believed God must be calling us to do this, so we went for it.
This was a small church in a little West Texas town. The people there were the real deal, down to earth, sweet people. Many of them were there because they were desperate for a miracle. I stood in front of that church with a group of church-goers gathered around me and prayed a prayer with them. I said, “God we are all here because we choose to believe that you are real, that you love us and that you do what your word says you will do. Some of us have been disappointed and hurt, but we choose to trust again. We know that you love us and we are asking you to intervene in our lives.” Many of those people cried as I prayed. The room seemed filled with love, hope and expectation. If there was a more perfect moment for God to “show up”, I don’t know what it could have been.
Later on at the meeting I was praying for a young boy. As he looked at me with his big blue eyes filled with anticipation, I could feel all of the faith I had left drain right out of me. I found myself saying the “right things” but inside knowing it was wrong. I felt sickened by the thought that I was standing there giving him false hope. Later that evening my husband and I sat and prayed with an older woman who was in tears because of the amount of pain she was in. She had severe pain in her knees and was telling us she just couldn’t understand why God hadn’t healed her when she’d been asking him to for years. (She had surgery on her knees a few days later.) On the way home I cried as I realized that I had more compassion and love for those people than God did.
Over the course of the next few weeks I continued to doubt and to question. For me it became no longer a question of whether or not God was “good”, but instead a question of whether or not God was REAL. I was amazed by the fact that my initial reaction to the thought of God not being real was a sense of relief. Suddenly I realized that if he was never there, that meant he wasn’t just sitting by watching me and others suffer. My husband and I went online and quickly found a community of Ex-Christians who had been down the same road we were now walking on. We were amazed as we read their stories. At this time we were still leading 2 very active groups at our church. But we knew we could no longer do that with all of the doubts we were having.
We took a “sabbatical” from church and continued reading everything we could about the origins of the Bible and the errors it contained. We looked intently at the parts of the Bible we’d ignored our entire Christian lives (that alone would have been enough to turn us!). At first it was difficult for me to digest all of it. While these things did bring a sense of relief, I also grieved over the loss of my “father”, “friend” and “constant companion”. It felt strange not to think of myself as “special” and “called”. I wasn’t sure how to think about life and the world. It was a strange mix of emotions. But that quickly gave way to a feeling of peace. My mind became so much calmer and clearer. After only a few weeks my depression lifted and I no longer felt like I was on that emotional roller coaster.
So, it’s been almost 4 months now since I jumped off the Jesus-train. I have been taking good care of myself and seeing a great doctor. I have already had some improvements in my health and believe that with time and some hard work I will make a full recovery. I no longer see myself as incapable and overwhelmed with life. I have a new sense of confidence and appreciation for life, relationships, and living in the moment. I see the importance of making good choices and believe in my own ability to create change. Ironically, I’m a much more optimistic person now than when I was a believer.
Now I’m just enjoying the simple life…living and thinking freely for myself!