God may allow us to experience hardships to renew our faith, purify our hearts, or even to bring a nonbeliever into His flock. That was the case for Melanie and her husband, a Muslim couple in Bulgaria.
Two years ago, Melanie’s husband was in an accident that resulted in the amputation of his leg. Their lives turned upside down. Melanie’s husband was unable to work. Their minimal savings disappeared quickly. The two were crushed emotionally as they struggled to keep their heads above water amid both financial and physical crisis.
They turned toward their Muslim faith seeking relief in the midst of their struggles, but became increasingly disappointed. Instead of finding peace, they continued to worry. Instead of feeling joy and rest, they lived in fear of the future. Instead of discovering purpose, they lost all hope.
One day, Melanie saw a poster inviting “all who are experiencing hardship” to come to a meeting at the local Christian church. Ten people attended the meeting with Melanie.
The pastor greeted them and asked, “Did you bring along your problems?” The crowd replied that problems were all they had to bring. The pastor responded by saying, “I brought along Someone who wants to take them from you. Will you give up your problems to Him?”
For Melanie, this meeting was the beginning of a new life with Jesus. Just as Psalm 55:22 says, Melanie discovered that she could cast all her anxieties on the Lord and He would sustain her. He would not let her fall.
As they continue to walk with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Melanie and her husband have discovered a God who bestows peace and joy and gives their lives purpose. They have found the God who takes all their worries and fears and turns them into blessings.
Today, both Melanie and her husband attend church regularly and are involved in Bible study. Through the aid of friends at their church, both of them have found jobs. Though life is not perfect, they are moving forward one step at a time as they follow Jesus.
As a single mom living in Ukraine, Samantha* faced a struggle that parents across the globe fear. Her daughter was terminally ill. For two years, she cared for the toddler, watching in helpless agony as her daughter suffered extreme pain daily.
It took its toll, and Samantha became consumed by depression, anger and the lonely feeling that no one could help her. Hope was something that she could not muster. It seemed unfair that such a small child should have to deal with so much. Samantha also felt cheated as she contemplated the reality that she might lose her daughter forever.
One day, Samantha sat on the bus crying uncontrollably. A fellow passenger asked if she needed help, but Samantha replied that no one could help her. She relayed her situation to the friendly man to prove that there was no hope, no solution, and no relief from pain. The man was on his way to a Bible study and invited Samantha to join him.
After that first Bible study, Samantha began attending the meetings regularly. She studied the Word and talked with the pastors and other Bible study members frequently. Her daughter was lifted up in prayer constantly, and, most importantly, Samantha started a relationship with Jesus Christ. As she turned toward God, she began to feel peace and discover hope.
For two more years, Samantha took care of her sick daughter, and she learned to rely on God every moment of every day. The thought that both she and her daughter were destined for eternity with their Lord and Savior calmed the storm that was her life.
When God eventually called her daughter home to heaven, Samantha rested in the abundant peace of knowing that they would be reunited one day in the presence of the Savior. In fact, she consoled others by reminding them that there is no suffering or pain in heaven.
Samantha credits her strength to her glorious God who promises eternal life free from the struggles of this world. She recognizes that her trials are light and momentary compared to an eternity with Jesus. Her inner peace and joy show people that God changes hearts and gives solace, even in sorrow.
“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15
Anastasia was raised in a Bulgarian home with traditional beliefs. When she heard about the new Evangelical church fellowship group that had started in her village, she viewed it as a destructive cult.
During afternoon coffee with a friend, she expressed her indignation over the presence of the new church group. Much to Anastasia’s dismay, her friend shared that she had attended two of the church services and had sincerely enjoyed them.
Not long after the coffee outing, Anastasia scraped her leg on a rusty nail. The scrape turned into a swollen and painful infection. Unable to walk, Anastasia called her friend for help.
The friend immediately brought the pastor to Anastasia’s home. The pastor skillfully administered a tetanus shot and cleaned and bandaged the wound. That was the start of healing for both Anastasia’s leg and her heart.
Anastasia was moved by the genuine response and attitude of the pastor who had rushed to her aid without even knowing her personally. She was impressed by the pastor’s kindness and his ability to talk openly with her. His faith had been acted out in such a selfless and loving manner.
The experience encouraged Anastasia to visit a small group meeting, and soon afterward she accepted the Lord as her Savior. Since then, life has become much more fulfilling for Anastasia. The more she grows in her walk with Jesus, the more she discovers the depth of God’s peace. Her heart is full of joy.
Anastasia remarks, “May God bless all the workers in His field, and equip them with strength, inspiration and all they need to be even more fruitful.”
Ilija accepted Christ through a home church group in Serbia started by Veran, but his faith has been tested. Ilija is 60 years old and has battled health issues, including diabetes, for the past 12 years.
He took pills and injections, but last year Ilija’s condition got considerably worse. His blood sugar rose really high, he lost weight and suffered systemic fatigue. Ilija didn’t know what to do, and he began losing hope that things could get better.
Veran often spoke with Ilija about God’s sacrifice and the character and capacity of Christ to heal our diseases and cleanse us from our sins. Ilija didn’t understand some of what she told him, but faith was the only option he had left, so he grabbed hold of the lifeline offered to him.
It’s so common for us as humans to turn to the Lord of the Universe as our last resort, but nonetheless, His grace and endless love are there waiting for us the moment we do. Ilija has experienced much healing both physically and spiritually.
While it has not been an easy spiritual journey for him, Ilija gives thanks to Jesus for all that He has done in his life. Ilija testifies that Christ gives him rest and peace and holds him together. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17