The City Blog

Caroline's Story: Filling the Emptiness of My Heart

My whole life I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God, I prayed to Him when I needed Him, and I attended church on Sundays with my family.

If you would have asked me this time last year, I had it all. I had just graduated college and began my career, bought a brand new car, had some of the coolest friends I could ever have, and finally had the “perfect” relationship with my boyfriend that I just knew was the answer to all my happiness.

It was my birthday weekend in October and my friends and boyfriend spoiled me rotten. We celebrated all weekend and partied like the college nights we never wanted to end. I thought to myself, what more could I possibly want?

I woke up the next morning and missed church because I was too hungover. I laid in bed the entire day and can honestly say I have never felt more empty in my life, as I did that Sunday.

The question I kept asking myself was what is missing? I have everything I’ve ever wanted and yet my heart is still not full.

Little did I know, I was broken in places that only Jesus could heal.

The Lord was stirring in my heart and as much as I tried to keep running from Him, I couldn’t ignore the fact that even in the midst of this sinful life I was living, He was still pursing me.

Over the next week I cried out to Jesus for help. I made a promise that whatever he would have me do, if he would just show me the way, then I would follow him.

The Lord made it clear to me that I needed to break free from the stronghold sin had on me. This began with ending the sinful relationship I was in. Now this didn’t happen overnight and difficult is an understatement, but through Scripture I was able to see God’s promises and I clung to them relentlessly.  

Jesus began filling the emptiness in my heart that only He can fill and through His abundant grace, I was saved.

Over the last year I have experienced an overflow of The Lord’s blessings. I was given the opportunity to move to San Diego for work and the way every little detail has fallen into place, I am confident I’m exactly where God intends for me to be.

Two weeks before moving here, the most special woman I have ever known, my Nana, fell suddenly ill. Within days my Nana could only move a finger to acknowledge she knew I was beside her. For months I’ve tried to find the words to explain the feeling of peace that filled that hospital room as I held my Nana’s hand when her heart stopped beating.

Pastor Clayton King described a similar time in his life by saying, “It was the weakest I’ve ever been and the strongest I’ve ever felt.” This understanding that the Holy Spirit was with me in that moment is something I will never forget and never ever take for granted. I will be eternally grateful that even through the darkest of times, may the name of The Lord be praised.

I was encouraged by a friend who had heard of the Vision Pathways program to try out Harbor City and the first Sunday I walked into this church I was welcomed with open arms. It still amazes me that after moving across the country on my own and leaving everything I have ever known, I have never felt more at home than I do with the people in this Church.

I had prayed to find Christian friends to do life with, and to say The Lord answered my prayers just isn’t enough. He has provided me with far abundantly more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. My heart has never been so full.

All the glory to God forever and ever!

Stand Down Stories 2017: Being Buried vs. Being Planted

There was a theme in this year’s Stand Down stories.  The theme is that sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried. But actually you’ve been planted.  In past e-mail, I told you about some of the new sprouts coming from seeds planted years ago.  This story is about a new planting.

I met a woman from my generation who many years ago was called into her commanding officer’s office to take a letter.  He raped her.  After the rape, she cleaned herself up and replaced her torn panty hose with the spare she kept in her desk.  She told no one.  Now years later, she is suffering the mental health consequences of that rape.  She has made three unsuccessful attempts to get VA services, but she has no way to prove the rape.

Today after a lengthy search of many denominations, she is a Jehovah’s Witness trying to prove the authenticity of her repentance so that she can return to fellowship.  This process can take months or even years.  One of her “serious sins” is her military service.  She is receiving VA housing assistance.  Can you see her predicament?

I listened to her all weekend.  I learned that when her circumstances improve, she becomes suicidally depressed. (Seems counterintuitive but more common than one might expect.)  She seems to be getting to that place again, and I was concerned.  I strongly encouraged her to get help.  At one point, she mentioned that she needed to talk to a woman who understood military sexual trauma.  I know women who met her criteria and started making arrangements.  My mental health resources are not Christians.  I thought that these resources combined with her religious beliefs closed the door to the gospel.  I felt dead and buried.  Later in the day, she told me how much she valued the help I had given her by listening.  She wanted to continue the discussion.  I was shocked!

I prayed overnight for an open door to the gospel.  In the morning, I asked her to tell me more about how she became a Witness.  Eventually, she described the process of restoring her fellowship.  This gave me the opportunity I needed.  I asked her when and how she would know for sure that God accepted her repentance.  She paused for a long time.  Her face changed from pensive to sad.  Eventually, she said she didn’t think she could ever know, that no one could know for sure.  I let that thought sink in and then quietly and gently said, “I know.”  At first the gospel sounded like extraordinarily good news to her.  She had never heard the concept of adoption.  She wanted to know more, but she began to understand that her Father was a person.  Witnesses do not believe God is a trinity and that Jehovah is a force not a person.  These new ideas directly contradicted her religious indoctrination.  She shut down.  I changed the subject.

Before she left Stand down she asked for my number.  I don’t know if she will call or not.  What I do know is that the gospel is not dead and buried.  It was planted.  May the Gardener bring it to life!

Posted by Jackie Vance with