The Message of the Cross – Healing and Strength

On June 4, 2023, I made the most important decision of my life. On that day, I brought all the baggage from my old, sinful life to Jesus on the cross. Now I too am finally a happy daughter of the King. I am especially grateful to God for the kind, loving way in which He knocked on my heart.

To His glory, I would like to tell you today quite openly about my very personal path to my conversion.

Ecclesiastes 2:1 (ESV) says: “‘I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity.”

This passage describes my life to date very well because I was also curious, wanted to get to know this world from its most beautiful and fun sides, accept as few boundaries as possible, and fulfill one life dream after another. Basically, my ultimate goal was to make myself happy.

Especially in my youth, I got to know the so-called pleasures of the world and learned to love them for a while. There were weekends, for example, when I went to Youth meetings on Saturdays, afterwards to the nightclub, and then back to church on Sundays. And that wasn’t the only thing…. What hypocrisy! – I knew that. But I wasn’t prepared to choose either the narrow path or the broad path, although I had already chosen long ago.

Just as I was starting to try this and that, moving farther and farther away from God, I fell head over heels in love with my current husband on a Pentecost weekend.

There is no question that Rudi had a good influence on me at this crucial crossroads in my life, because I gradually began to change and became much more conservative. Today, I am doubly grateful for this, because who knows how far away from God I would be today if I had chosen a different husband back then. I am slowly beginning to understand this wise saying: Life is lived forwards and understood backwards. So much undeserved grace and protection!

However, the somewhat changed lifestyle that followed still did not make me a child of God. I knew that very well. Although I had actually really been touched by a sermon or a testimony here and there over the last few years, I became a master of repression, distraction, and postponement.

Today, I am downright ashamed of how consciously I organized my priorities and plans for everyday life in such a way that there was always something more important than dealing with my relationship with God.

Somehow, from the outside, I still had a fulfilled life: I was healthy, I learned a profession that I enjoyed, I was able to find the love of my life quite early on and have now spent ten very happy years of marriage with Rudi. We have two healthy children… I could go on with this list for quite a while. But I think you know what I’m getting at.

I was and am so richly blessed with my life. Every time I received one of these or other material gifts of grace, I thought to myself: Now I actually have everything. One life dream after another was fulfilled. But no, over the last few years, I noticed more and more that something was still missing.

But God’s speaking only really started about four years ago, during my first pregnancy. I’m sure some other parents are also familiar with pregnancy apps that allow you to track how your baby is developing so wonderfully from week to week. I can’t explain many things in the world, but this baby, who grew in my belly and was eventually born as a perfect little girl, made me realize that this completely ingenious concept of the creation and development of a little baby can’t be a coincidence and can’t be man-made.

Even with my second pregnancy, I couldn’t shake one thought: If I acknowledge God as the creator of my children, indeed of the whole world – and I undoubtedly did – how could I ignore the rest of the Bible, especially Jesus’ huge sacrifice on the cross and the offer of eternal life that came with it? As I was, I began to pray repeatedly for these two miracles in my belly.

Through various nudges in everyday life and as the children grew up, more and more questions arose in my mind over time: What am I living for in this world? What do I want to achieve? What values do I want to pass on to my children? What am I working towards? What will my legacy be? Do I really want to use all my time to fulfill my own wishes?

Little by little, I became aware of my boundless self-centeredness in the big questions of life but also in small everyday situations with my husband and children. So I started looking through Christian books and sermons on YouTube to find out how I could be a better wife and mother. But what a surprise: They all pointed out what is aptly summarized in Matthew 23:26 (AMP), “You [spiritually] blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the plate [examine and change your inner self to conform to God’s precepts], so that the outside [your public life and deeds] may be clean also.”

On New Year’s Eve, I drew the motto for the year from Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

It was a real goosebump moment when I held the card in my hands. How appropriate for my situation!

But again, I kept Jesus waiting with His arms stretched out wide. Everyday life rolled in, and more and more thoughts of self-reflection came to me. I saw myself more and more in a different light, saw more and more sins and mistakes. But every subsequent attempt to shed my bad qualities, such as selfishness, envy, and resentment failed.

In a very special way, God also used my role as a mother and my children to humble me and show me my limits in every respect. The high level of responsibility, selflessness, and love necessary to be not just any mother, but a good mother and wife I could not draw from myself, no matter how ambitiously I tried. And so, disappointment with myself and my life was suddenly a constant companion.

I was quite envious of those mothers who were able to place their children in God’s hands every morning, who were able to find real comfort, understanding, and guidance from God and His Word in the face of the many worries and uncertainties of this world. I realized more and more that I wanted that too.

So I started to listen to other more evangelistic sermons, dug out my old, now rather dusty Bible, and downloaded a Bible app. And suddenly everything touched me. My heart was so thirsty for these messages, for this new life according to Jesus’ example. I realized more and more how much sin I had already accumulated with my actions, words, and thoughts and that I was producing anew every day.

This re-evaluation of myself was so astonishing because for many years I didn’t think I was such a bad person. I only skipped a few Sunday services, tried to keep to the commandments I was familiar with as best I could and as long as it was convenient, and generally displayed a passable character.

But far from it, dear ones! How often have I wrongly judged others, blasphemed, lied, and much more? At some point, it was very exhausting to keep up appearances, because inside I felt completely different.

On some Sundays, to be honest, I didn’t even know why we went to church at all. Out of habit? Because of our loved ones? Out of a sense of duty? Sometimes it was my husband or a voice inside me that said: “Yes, you are going!”

All those years, I was accompanied by the feeling that I shouldn’t stray too far lest I be the prodigal son from the parable who had such a long way to go home. Where did that come from?

Well, I’ve been going to this church all my life, I’ve learned what’s right and wrong in the children’s and youth classes. I grew up in a Christian home and got to know God’s Word from an early age. Even before I was born and throughout the years, my mother in particular prayed for me incessantly. Her service to God was and still is a huge example and testimony to me. And God has finally answered this faithful prayer! I’m sure there are many mothers who have been praying for their children for decades, and I just want to encourage you not to give up. You should have experienced that moment of joy when I was able to tell my mom after almost thirty years that her prayer had been answered!

I found myself in Mark 4:12. There it says: “Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand.” Oh, how many conversions and baptisms I have seen, how many testimonies and sermons I have heard! But I didn’t want to hear it. I lacked the courage and the desire to deal with this topic.

One evening, I was reading the chapters in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus was crucified and – I don’t know how many hundreds of times I have heard these passages in my life – but suddenly they went straight to my heart.

I sat in front of my Bible and saw my sins on the cross, saw exactly how Jesus suffered for me. And suddenly it all made sense. The tears started to flow, and I began to feel ashamed for the many years of consciously rejecting this huge act of love and sacrifice.

I could tell you today about countless situations in which God spoke to me with exactly the right words through other people or His Word and convinced me bit by bit that the narrow path does not only include renunciation, prohibitions, limits, and unattainable standards, as I had previously thought, but He showed me what I would gain.

Nevertheless, something was still holding me back from conversion. One evening, in a conversation with my husband, I tried to put this “something” into words. Together, we realized that there were essentially three points that made me doubt. Well, inwardly I prayed briefly that God would please clear up these doubts for me, and we left it at that.

The next day, we read the Bible together in the evening – a wondrous new addition to our evening routine that has not yet been implemented very often, mind you. It was my turn to read the Bible, but I didn’t get very far. My voice began to tremble, and my eyes filled with tears because in just one short paragraph, my three counter-arguments were refuted. All three at once, within a few verses. I looked at Rudi and asked: “How many more supposed coincidences must happen for me to recognize God’s words as such?” Three thematically unrelated fears, fortunately voiced out loud the day before, were shattered the next day. “How loudly should God still call out to me?” I thought.

Shortly afterwards, I gathered up courage and wrote to one of our church elders, who fortunately took the time to meet with me at short notice. I went into this conversation and finally to Jesus on the cross with a huge backpack full of sin, worries, fears, and insecurities

What happened next is described very well in Psalm 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Immediately after my prayer for forgiveness, I felt freed from this huge backpack and was suddenly so grateful, so free. I knew immediately: “From now on, today and here, I am Your child, Lord! Take my life into Your hands; lead, guide, and shape me!”

At the time of writing this testimony, my conversion happened a few months ago. Although I’ve only taken a few figurative steps in my life of faith, I’m overwhelmed by how incredibly changed I feel and how many answers to prayer I’ve already experienced. The Bible always seemed boring to me before, and praying was a bit like talking to myself.

But now I draw infinite strength and wisdom for all life situations and everyday problems. I feel I have arrived, free, loved by my Father, valuable, and much more carefree. I can now bring everything, no matter how small, before God and place it in His hands and watch as He gradually rearranges my life and my priorities.

I am grateful to God for this with all my heart!

Anita Grötzinger, Herford (DE)

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