Reason to Trust #17 [Hannah]

Hannah BrownAge: 33 // Favourite Food: Toss-up between homemade spaghetti bolognese and peanut butter and honey sandwiches. // Dream Job: UN humanitarian aid worker… failing that, an artsy fartsy designer with a lucrative Etsy business // Current Season: Happily married, first baby on the way, saving for a house, working full-time, having far too much fun, and lots of naps… I think that’s called a season of plenty?? // Met Jesus: At Sunday school when I was five—but I didn’t give my life to Him until 18 years later (good thing He’s patient) // Favourite Verse: Isaiah 54 – the whole chapter. // Instagram: @hansy_b

I’ve known God pretty much all my life. I remember being in Sunday school as a little girl singing ‘Father Abraham’ and playing with felt board cut outs of Noah leading camels onto the ark. I would sit with my mum on a long wooden pew in that little country Anglican church, sing from a dusty old hymn book, and stuff my face with the Arnott’s Family Assortment that was inevitably served after every service.

In primary school, my Christian friend invited me along to Girls Brigade (this was before puberty hit and I didn’t really mind being dressed in quasi-military attire).  It was fun, despite the daggy drills we did, the bible verses we were supposed to learn, and the songs (oh lordy, the songs!).

I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t talk to God. Admittedly, the conversations I had with Him were embarrassingly narcissistic—there wasn’t a whole lot of biblical basis to my prayers (read: none), but I somehow knew from a very early age that He existed, He was omnipresent, and He wanted to talk to me.

When I was 16, my brother, who had recently become a Christian, invited me along to a little AOG church in Wagga to watch him play guitar. I sat on the front row as the worship music played and tried the hold back the tears—I was so moved by the beautiful atmosphere in that church. I know now that the Holy Spirit was ministering to my parched, lost little soul, but all I knew then was that I felt better for sitting in that service (albeit a bit embarrassed for having sobbed my guts out in front of complete strangers).

There were many more little encounters with God like that over the years, but through them all, I don’t ever really remember making a determined commitment to give my life to Jesus. I knew that’s what I had to do to become a Christian, but I guess I felt like I didn’t have what it took to live, what appeared to me, to be a pretty straight up and down lifestyle. I know now that salvation has nothing to do with my ‘good deeds’, but my little belief system was a bit skew-whiff when I was growing up.

It wasn’t until the bottom fell out of my life that I really made the commitment to follow Jesus—and it didn’t happen the way you’d expect. I was 23 and living in Newcastle with my boyfriend, who worked out of town during the week. I had no friends and I was desperately lonely. I developed a pretty severe case of depression and anxiety during that time. I’d go for days without speaking to a single soul, and I constantly lived under this thick cloud that seemed to sap every ounce of happiness and energy in me. I’d cry for hours and hours and there were times when I thought it’d be easier to just end it all. The depression ended up putting such a strain on my relationship with my boyfriend that we eventually broke up.

I found myself in a city of half a million people without a single friend in the world. So the day after my boyfriend moved out, I took my bleary, tear-stained self off to church. I had experienced church enough to know that the people there were supposed to be nice, and therefore they kinda had to be my friend. At that point, I didn’t really have a thought about becoming a full-on lets-all-hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya Jesus lover, I just knew I needed to be around people who would be kind to me.

I arrived home after the service that Sunday morning, sat on the end of my bed and said to God, ‘alright, if I’m going to do this church thing, then I might as well become a Christian’. So I prayed the sinner’s prayer (because that’s what I’d been taught to do), and that was that.

God took a hold of me that day. I’d only prayed that prayer as an afterthought—as a means of fitting in with my newly found church friends—but He took it as an invitation to come into my life, to rid it of every dark and broken place, and give me peace and security that I’d never known before.

And He did a deep work. Nothing in those early years of being a Christian seemed to come easily, I had to fight tooth and nail for my salvation. I had to declare God’s word until I was blue in the face, I fasted and prayed, I made a fool of myself in worship, and many many more times, cried my eyes out on the front row of church.

The turning point with the depression came a few years in. I’d had some small victories with it, but it was slow going. I’d bought Lisa Bevere’s book, Out of Control and Loving It, which is all about letting go of fear and control and completely trusting God with your life (seriously, the book was written just for me). But for weeks, I couldn’t get past the first page.

The book opens with a scripture from Isaiah (another one of my favourites):

“Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendour, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:1-2)

I realised God was telling me that I was weak, bound up and dominated by fear. He was saying that my inheritance in Him was right in front of me, but I had to lay a hold of it. I was, however, slightly incensed at His suggestion that I was the one responsible for setting myself free. Wasn’t that His job? Hadn’t I been sitting here all this time waiting for Him to zap me or something? Didn’t He think that if I knew how to ‘free myself from the chains on my neck’ that I would have done it by now? I stewed on that for several weeks until He whispered to me one morning, ‘the only thing that keeps you bound is the lies that you believe’.

That was it. Jesus said that I would know the truth and the truth would set me free (John 8:32). So it made complete sense that lies were the thing that kept me bound.  In fact, that’s the only thing that keeps Christians from being the most flippin’ dynamic world changers that ever existed.

It wasn’t easy undoing all of the lies I’d always believed about myself and God. It was terrifying to even attempt to believe that God had adopted me into His family and that I was now forever His—even more terrifying to trust that He’d never reject me and that He was enthralled by my beauty (I confess, I still scoff at that one a little bit, but I’m a work in progress). Believing God’s word over the warped beliefs that were so entrenched in my mind was like throwing myself off a cliff and expecting Him to catch me. But slowly, slowly, as I began to trust that God means what He says, His words changed me. The more I trusted His word, the less of a hold the depression had on me.

The start of my journey with Jesus was ten years ago, and I have to say that, now, I’ve never felt more alive. I remember when I realised after YEARS of fighting depression that it wasn’t there anymore; God had radically healed me, and I know it’s never ever coming back. When God sets you free, you really are free indeed. My only regret now is that I didn’t give my life to Jesus when the invitations presented themselves over the years; I could have avoided so much additional pain. But God has this amazing way of restoring the years that have been robbed from us.

So why do I trust God? He’s never left my side. Through my entire life He’s waited for me, sought me out, hedged me in, and pursued me to the ends of the earth. He’s comforted me in my darkest moments when I thought I’d rather die than live, He’s lifted my head when I didn’t have the strength, He’s spoken courage into me every time I cried out that I couldn’t go on anymore, He’s bottled every tear, He’s ever so gently led me towards freedom, and He’s given me a life more beautiful than I could ever imagine. He’s spontaneously appeared to me in the form of friends, mentors, leaders, and, in the most precious moments, as Himself. God has been my most faithful friend, my greatest lover, my dad, and the anchor of my life. I never ever wanted to become a daggy, hand-clapping, beige‑wearing, religious nut bag—which I guess is why it took me so long to make the decision to follow Him—but I never expected that by becoming a Christian I’d find myself in the middle of the greatest love story ever.

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One thought on “Reason to Trust #17 [Hannah]

  1. Rubot says:

    <3 Thank you for your boldness and sharing something so close to your heart. Praise God for His grace and that hope we can find only in Him.
    I pray that as your story reaches many people (both women and men) that their hearts would find courage in your testimony.

    All those that know you are blessed by your heart and desire to see others included/loved – There are less lonely people in the world because of you.

    Bless x

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