For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 KJV
One day, in the midst of my emotional crisis, my best friend Maria came to visit me. She had married and moved to California. We occasionally were able to get together when she visited her family in North Idaho. I don’t remember how the subject came up, but we started talking about religion.
I will never forget what happened next: Maria looked me square in the eye, and said with conviction and boldness, “Sara, I know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
I was speechless. The subject was quickly changed and I was secretly wondering how, when I had always been the religious one, did she suddenly come to be so convicted and sure of her faith? I trusted her and her statement haunted me. Those words “I know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior” rang over and over in my head, long after she had left for California. They ate at me and wouldn’t leave me alone no matter how hard I tried to block them out. I didn’t know at the time, but her statement would be one of the most important things that ever could have happened to me and my broken life.
After Maria left me with those haunting words ringing in my head, I decided I needed some answers. I wasn’t sure where to turn, but I remembered my mother’s deep, unwavering love for this God she had been willing to die for. I was so tired of running from Him and everything I thought He was.
I made the decision to dig out my mother’s Bible that she had routinely studied before she had died. As soon as I opened it, I began trying to read it. It was a version of the Bible that used the Hebrew names for God. I wasn’t able to focus on the meaning and I had to put it down. I couldn’t explain it, but something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t finding the answers I needed—just emotional and spiritual agitation.
Suddenly I remembered my little red King James Sunday School Bible that had been rescued from Ruby Ridge, and I went searching for it. When I found it, the only place I could think to turn to was the one and only verse I had memorized so long ago. At that moment, my memory took me back to when I was a little girl in Iowa, seeking my teacher’s approval and that life-changing piece of candy. I opened to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
As I stared at those words in red, a miracle happened. I felt a physical weight lift from my shoulders. I began to sob. I could feel a love like I had never experienced before filling my heart. Suddenly, I knew Jesus was there with me, and He was for me. He understood every pain and every hurt I had ever endured, and knew all my faults and failures. And in spite of all these things, He still loved me.
Still sobbing, I wiped my eyes and read the next verse, John 3:17.“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” Those words cut to my core; I knew deep inside that they were true. “For God so loved the world…that the world through Him might be saved…” The God I had been running from for so long was nothing like what I had thought. Instead, I realized He actually cared for me. I met Him for real for the first time as I pored over that little Bible. I was desperate to know more about Him.
Jesus had conquered death. Death. That unchangeable, life-altering enemy that I had feared and hated for so long. The thing we all must eventually face. As children, Death usually first introduces itself by claiming our pets. We then go on to grieve the loss of our friends and family members. Finally, we must face this dark enemy ourselves. Many of us like to ignore the fact that no one gets off this planet alive. But Jesus conquered it! Death was not the end. I suddenly had assurance that this world was not all there was and that I would see Sam and Mom again one day. That when my journey here was through, waiting for me in heaven was eternal life. I knew, deep down, that my temporary time on this earth was just a test and I needed to make it count. I desired to do exactly that. I would show God how grateful I was that my life had purpose and meaning.