God Has Always Been with Me
Carol Chan—Houston, Texas, USA
A COMPLACENT LIFE
I have been a member of the True
Jesus Church ever since I was baptized at the age of two weeks. At the time, I
was very sick with asthma and my mom didn’t think I would survive, but I pulled
through after the baptism.
When I was four, my family moved
to Vancouver, Canada, and thankfully my asthma soon disappeared. However, my
family stopped going to church after we immigrated, so growing up I didn’t know
who God was, and I didn’t pursue Him, read the Bible, or pray. During my third
year at university, my parents, after some encouragement from a church member,
decided to rejoin Sabbath services, and I followed them.
After graduating from university,
I got a great job with a major airline that allowed me to travel the world for
next to nothing. My mother not only bought me a car, she bought me clothes,
packed my lunches, and allowed me to live at home rent-free. My colleagues
thought I was so pampered and lucky! I thought I was invincible.
My spiritual life, however, was in
decay. Although I attended services consistently, I was always the last to
arrive and the first to leave. When members invited me to stay for lunch I
would decline and make excuses.
I had many worldly friends, and
every weekend I had something to do and somewhere to go. I couldn’t even pray
for five minutes without fidgeting. During such a short prayer, I would be
thinking about movies and lunch and what I wanted to eat. For me, food was more
important than anything.
My life was so smooth and
complacent that I felt I really didn’t need God at all. But I thank God that it
was not His will for me to continue living my life without Him.
FEELING LONELY AND HOPELESS
In 1999, I got married to a
non-believer. Two years later, my husband was relocated, and we moved to
Copenhagen, a beautiful city with much to do and enjoy. With hardly any notice,
we were transferred in the winter of 2002 to a tiny fishing and oil town in
My world turned upside down. From
having friends, a great job, and so many good things provided by my parents to
having no friends, no job, and no parents close by, I became extremely bored
and lonely. I would walk through town wishing someone would talk to me.
Not only was it lonely, the winters
were difficult to live through. Each day was bitterly cold, and some days would
be dark for almost twenty-one hours. I also did not have the luxury of owning a
car, so I took the bus through the harsh winters, walking to the stops and
waiting for the bus in the cold, dark, and sleet.
We lived in an apartment on a
hill, and the sidewalk froze whenever it was cold, causing me to slip and fall
every time I went shopping. The worst part was that everything cost about three
times more than what I was used to. For example, a restaurant pizza cost about
fifty dollars and a Coke seven dollars. Because I enjoyed food so much, this
was a truly horrible situation. My husband and I grudgingly ate canned food and
rice to save money.
I complained to my husband and said
I couldn’t live like this, and he told me not to worry because we would be
there for only a few months. But then one day he received word that we would
need to stay a minimum of two years. I started to get really worried. I didn’t
want my life to consist of feeling bored, sad, and lonely all the time and having
to pay an exorbitant amount of money for everything.
For the first time in my life, I
suffered panic attacks. Then I developed insomnia and anxiety until everything
snowballed into a state of depression. Every day, I felt this darkness surround
me, and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t feel like doing anything and
would constantly cry. The worst part was that my brain could not switch off
even when I wanted it to.
In this state of hopelessness, I
started to seek God for the first time. He moved my heart so that I would kneel
down and pray, and I also started to sing hymns.
One night, I dreamt that I was
praying with the Holy Spirit, and I was joyful when I woke up. But the insomnia
didn’t improve. I was so exhausted and anxious that I didn’t even want to live
anymore. There was no joy in my heart. I thought that I would end up in a
mental asylum and people would forget about me.
I talked to my parents about my
struggles, and my dad suggested that I go home for some rest and spiritual
healing. It was two weeks since I had last slept, and, needless to say, I was a
The next morning, I was on a plane
back to Vancouver.
JOY AND SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
My dad and a church sister picked
me up from the airport and took me home. A couple of hours later, the pastor
arrived at my father’s request. The first thing he asked me was if I had the
Holy Spirit. Please, I thought, don’t talk to me about the Holy Spirit, I
just desperately need something that will help me sleep.
He kept telling me to “ask, seek,
and knock,” so we got on our knees and prayed. As we prayed, I heard the church
sister sing the beginning of “Frère Jacques,” a French nursery song. The
English translation of the lyrics is “Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,
brother John? Morning bells are ringing, ding dang dong.”
I thought this was quite peculiar
and questioned her about it afterward. She replied that she was not even aware
she was singing it! From that day forth, I was moved to pray for the Holy
Spirit because God cared about me and understood my troubles.
That night, I lay in bed for
several hours and tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep. When I closed my eyes in
another attempt to sleep, it suddenly felt like my body was moving at great
speed through dark space. I opened my eyes and saw that I was still in bed.
When I closed my eyes, the vision
came back. As my body hurtled through the dark space, a giant wall of fire
appeared before me. And as I went through the fire, I cried out, “God help me!”
I opened my eyes, and the vision
vanished. I wondered what it meant. The fire didn’t feel sinister in any way.
On the contrary, my faith was strengthened. It wasn’t until much later that the
vision made sense after I stumbled across the following Bible verse:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto
repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I
am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Mt3:11)
The next day was Sabbath, and I
had gone fifteen days without sleeping through the night. I attended service
and earnestly prayed for the Holy Spirit. I was so exhausted, but I paid
careful attention to the sermon. It felt like my soul was thirsting for the
That night, my brain switched off
and I slept, albeit fitfully. I was so thankful that I could be refreshed even
just a little bit to continue my spiritual pursuit.
Throughout the week, my insomnia
would come and go. I continued to pray for the Holy Spirit but didn’t notice
any change in the way I prayed until Friday. What happened during the Friday
evening service is something that I will never forget.
The pastor invited the
congregation to come up and pray in the front of the chapel to receive the laying
of hands, so I went up. During the prayer, I felt the pastor lay hands on me,
but nothing happened and he moved on.
All of a sudden, I felt a shot of
electricity go through my body, and I couldn’t control my tongue, which seemed
to be going a hundred miles an hour. My first thought was, So this is what it’s like to
have the Holy Spirit. During the prayer, I was so thankful and joyful that,
after all these years, God granted me His precious Spirit. I felt that God took
away my sins that night.
I thought that everything would be
fine after I received the Holy Spirit, but it wasn’t. I went through a period
of doubt and spiritual battles because I didn’t understand why God gave me, a
sinner, this gift.
I discussed my doubts with a
sister, and she explained, “It’s not our place to ask why. When we receive a
gift, we just say, ‘Thank you.’” I realized that she was right, that we
shouldn’t question God but should accept what He gives us.
So in my prayers, I stopped
doubting and instead gave thanks to God for the Holy Spirit. After praying in
this way, I started to have a healthier attitude and began to recover from my
depression. More significantly, my insomnia ebbed away.
When I thought about going back to
Norway, however, I worried that I would revert to my depressed and hopeless
state. I would be alone in faith, with no spiritual companions. I spent a lot
of my time in prayer asking for God’s help. I thank God that He granted me the
peace that I prayed for.
After eight weeks back at home in
Vancouver, I was spiritually renewed and filled with joy at the prospect of
reuniting with my husband and getting to know God better.
THE BLESSINGS AND PROVIDENCE OF GOD
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first
the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added
to you.” I earnestly sought God’s kingdom and righteousness, and blessings
began to pour into my life.
On my flight back to Norway, I
thought that since I had gone through so much, it would be nice to take a trip
to Italy with my husband. The following week, my husband called me from work
and said the company had just given him a free one-week trip for two to Italy
and asked if I wanted to go.
Another time, I was on the bus and
decided that I would have Bible study and sing hymns that night. My husband usually
watched television after dinner, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to
concentrate. That night, I told my husband that I was going to have Bible
study, and he said he was going to watch television. He turned on the
television and the cable was out. I had my Bible study for one hour and the
cable came back on after that.
Three months in Norway turned into
five and a half years. By the end of those years, I had many friends and a good
job. God also provided a new place for us to live. I no longer slipped and fell
going to and from the market because our new apartment was above a supermarket.
My husband was facing another
transfer, and it was possible that we would have to move elsewhere within
Europe or to North Africa. I was worried that we would be sent to a country
where there was no True Jesus Church. Although I had maintained my faith in
Norway, I wanted to be able to worship with other members.
While we were vacationing in
Vancouver in the spring of 2008, we received a long-awaited phone call
concerning our move. My husband told me that his company wanted to offer him a
position in Houston. I was so happy! Not only did God hear my prayers, He knew
my thoughts and worries and understood my needs.
In Houston, blessings from God
poured in. I fasted and prayed for things to go smoothly when we moved, and God
gave me a great apartment and a great job soon after arriving. I thank God that
I am able to attend Houston Church and have the opportunity to serve Him. Not
only can I worship with other members, I also get to fellowship with them and
enjoy this blessing!
I have a greater understanding now
for what Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
And not only that, but we also glory in
tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance,
character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love
of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to
us. (Rom 5:3-5)
I believe that I wouldn’t be here
today if I hadn’t suffered panic attacks, depression, and insomnia. I would not
have actively sought God because my life was so smooth and carefree in
Vancouver. But through tribulations, I turned back to God and He renewed me.
When I look back at my life, I can
see how God has always been with me even though I turned my back on Him. He has
blessed me my whole life, but I never appreciated His blessings or made the
effort to follow Him until I faced difficulties.
My encouragement is for members
who are blessed with a good life—be careful and maintain your faith because
this is the time that you may face trials and fall. But if you fall, don’t
forget to look for God. He is the only one who can bring you back up.