The Hope from Our Stories
Sharing her struggle with the Christian faith openly, Nelle Lim discovered that God could use her experiences to encourage others.
I’d grown up in a Christian family. I’d memorised the verses. I’d stayed away from all the vices that a good Christian youth was supposed to. My entire young adult life was devoted to serving and knowing God . . . and I was subconsciously waiting for my returns.
In hindsight, it wasn’t a biblical expectation. But somewhere along the way, I’d believed that if I did my best to live “righteously”, God would reward me by giving me the things that I wanted: a husband, a family, a career I could be proud of.
But when life failed to live up to these expectations by my late 20s, I was devastated. Why was everyone else who lived “less holy” lives getting what I wanted? I blamed God for failing to deliver on His end of the “deal”, even though I’d done my best to live rightly and obey Him. “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11)? Yeah, right.
I decided I was done with trying so hard to be a disciple of Christ, and planted myself firmly away from God and anything to do with church for three years.
Turning Back to God
Fortunately, God knew exactly how to bring me back to Him. Towards the end of the three years, He sent a former mentor to speak to me about my disappointments, and to work through the erroneous beliefs I’d held about the Christian faith.
I began to see that my expectations about what I should get in life had blinded me from an even greater truth: God was the one who truly knew what was best for me. After several weeks of long dialogue, I finally repented and came back to the faith.
A year later, I wrote an article for YMI, Our Daily Bread Ministries’ young adults’ arm. Headlined by a tongue-in-cheek title, “How Christianity Ruined My Life”, it captured the irony that it was only in having my plans “ruined” by God, that I was able to find true peace and joy.
I was surprised by the number of page views the article drew. Who knew that a less-than-politically-correct sharing about doubts about the Christian faith could actually become an inspiration for readers who were also searching for God!
Nothing He Can’t Redeem
Someone from the US read the article, and a few others I’d subsequently written, and left a long, frustrated comment on one of them. He, too, had been grappling with life being remarkably disappointing, especially in light of several promises he felt he had received from God in his youth. The YMI team asked if I’d be open to respond to him, as it seemed like his words came from a genuine struggle. I was more than happy to do so, and an unexpected friendship emerged from our back-and-forth emails.
We spoke at length about our faith struggles, our perceptions of God, and the questions that we were still trying to work through. It wasn’t so much about providing “answers” for this new friend, as sharing a kind of solidarity in dealing with the challenges of lifelong discipleship.
It’s been a little over a year since we began our correspondence. Even though our lives still don’t look like what we want them to be, my friend has said that he’s appreciated hearing how I’m working through some of these issues. Perhaps seeing how God can still meet our needs, even if He doesn’t give us what we want, has given him a glimpse of hope that he, too, will have his own breakthrough with God one day.
I was moved to know that God could use one of the most ruinous seasons of my life to bring a little encouragement to someone else. It has helped me see that God doesn’t waste any of our experiences: If we commit our doubt, pain, and hurt into His hands, He can redeem even the worst things for our good and His glory.
Nelle Lim is an educator, a writer, and an academic. Writers like Philip Yancey, Eugene Peterson, and Annie Dillard have been her lifelines, their incredible words helping her reach for God throughout the years. She loves a good hike, reruns of classic TV, and having meals with close friends.