It was at a church revival in the South where it all began for Josh -- but not from the words of a preacher. Josh’s encounter with the Gospel came from his uncle interrupting his time hanging out with friends.
“Josh, I’ve been praying about this and I’ve got something you need to hear,” his uncle said. He then opened his Bible to Romans and explained how Josh’s sins kept him from a relationship with God, but how God took care of that through Jesus. Josh’s eyes were opened, and his heart was touched by his uncle’s prayerful concern for him. He prayed to receive Christ.
Although there had been great celebration at his church concerning his decision and baptism, there was little discipleship.
“It was more like, ‘Great! You’re in! Welcome to the club--now let’s move on.’ So I moved on and was never challenged in my faith. I knew deep down there should be something more, but nobody encouraged me to read the Bible on my own.”
When Josh was a teen, he came face to face with disappointment with the sudden and tragic loss of his father. Not the disappointment you feel when others let you down, but the deep disappointment accompanied by disillusionment when you believe that God did.
Josh had never outright denied his faith; he just refused to listen to God. “It’s God that killed Dad, and not me.” His heart engaged in what would become a bitter battle: “God if You’re the orchestrator of life and you want me to have peace, why did you take Dad away? I mean, You could have stopped it -- couldn’t You?” But all Josh heard was silence. “I got to the point I didn’t want to listen to Him anymore, thinking You’re not doing me much good right now!”
“One of the big components of sin is me. When I put myself in front of God, it’s when sin happens. At the moment of my dad’s death, I truly felt I needed to let God be in control. But I wasn’t allowing myself to speak to God on a daily basis. And that’s where I started listening to the enemy who said, ‘You mean you’re still going to believe in this God who ruined your life? You had it made; you could have gone to any school. You could have had anything you wanted. You were an only child.’ Then I watched the bills come pouring in, and the family suffering. That’s when I said, ‘God is this worth it?’ Then you hear a sermon that God is the sustainer of life and He provides a hope for the future generations. And I thought, what hope did YOU just provide, God?!"
And that’s when the bitterness started. Once that seed of bitterness gets implanted, if it’s not taken care of, it can grow into an infestation. And that’s what I let happen. I just grew so bitter and angry and said, “God, for you doing this to me, I can’t listen to you any more.”
Going to parties, staying out all night, lying, drinking, and vandalizing became ways to fill the disappointment he felt towards God. “Perhaps the worst thing was the harsh relationship I developed with my mother,” he stated. “I didn’t take into account that she had just lost her husband, friend, and family provider.”
Josh became silent for a moment.
“I just treated her like garbage.”
Although hoping to go far away to college, the only scholarship he received was for the local one in town. “God undoubtedly kept me close by and living at home for reasons you’re about to hear,” he shared.
I leaned forward, interested.
Josh shared how he lived a lie for three years – from his Senior year of High School through his Sophomore year of College. “I was living at home and still going to church. I would put on my church happy face, wear that mask, and go in. I was even on a church leadership committee, doing all kinds of wonderful things. As soon as I walked out, it was off with the mask. Let’s get back to the reality that life stinks and I just need to deal with it.”
As Josh was dealing with life with his own limited resources, he woke up one morning to find a single-spaced seven-page letter next to his bed stand. It was from his mom. Although packed with Bible verses, one verse she shared brought him to his knees, digging deeply into his soul. It was a familiar verse but his heart heard it in a fresh, new, and unfamiliar way—almost as if for the first time. – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
That morning God showed up through a simple verse, reminding Josh He had never abandoned him. He was there-- in the midst. Through those years of disappointment God had provided a divine appointment and Josh accepted the invitation. While his relationship with his mom didn’t change immediately, they were able to begin a journey of restoration, acknowledging the hurt and loss of trust between them.
If you ask Josh about his story, you will soon learn all the ways God kept him in his journey through disappointment. “I feel like God has prepared me to share His goodness in the midst of hard times—because I’ve personally experienced it.”
Author: Jackie Perseghetti