Chapter 3 Temptations
I get irritated by testimonies which state “….and since I became a Christian I have never looked back, I have gone from strength to strength.” Do they really expect us to believe that they have never been tempted to stray from the straight and narrow path, never gone through times when doubts and fears have nearly swamped their faith? Being a Christian is definitely not the proverbial “bed of roses”, but we do have God’s love and power to see us through whatever life throws at us.
The night I became a Christian, I felt as though I was walking on clouds. God’s presence was almost a physical reality. He walked beside me and we talked to each other all day. My life changed completely. I got involved in a lot of evangelistic outreach, and learned how to talk to others about my faith in God. But after a few months, things started to happen which could have dragged me away from the Christian path completely. From my conversations with other Christians, this experience is not uncommon. Temptations come about in areas of our lives where we are weakest, and find hardest to resist.
My life up to that point had lacked love and warmth (in the home environment) and friendship (isolation had deprived me of friends, and also of the social skills necessary to make friends.) So although I had a lot of new Christian friends, it was hard to make any close friendships, and I often had the feeling of being lonely in a crowd. My first boyfriend was someone I met at college. He was into LSD and cannabis in a big way, but I thought if I talked to him about Jesus often enough he would change his ways. He didn’t, but God protected me from being dragged into the drugs scene.
The next person to offer me love and friendship was a girl slightly older than me. She had just become a Christian, and was in a state of confusion because she was a lesbian, and had been told that her way of life was not acceptable to God. She tried hard to dress and behave in a more feminine way, all to no avail. As I shared her doubts and struggles and worries, my own faith suffered setbacks. I had gone back to live at my parents’ house around this time, perhaps not the wisest of moves. My job, in an office, was also causing a lot of stress.
It was time to move on. Seeing an advertisement in a magazine for staff to work at a Christian conference centre, I applied and got the job. Working and living in a totally Christian environment was very encouraging and supportive. The staff had Bible studies and prayer meetings together. The work was not too hard physically, and virtually stress-free. The pay was terrible, though!
I started to go to a local Pentecostal church, getting to know the people, becoming involved in outreach, prayer meetings, and Bible study. Then suddenly, everything changed. I started dating a young man from the church, and everything was wonderful! The problem was that he was married, but separated from his wife. Many of my friends from the church knew her, and were not at all happy that he had started dating me.
Immediately, we were both ostracized from the church, and were no longer welcome at any church meetings. As partners in adversity, we were drawn closer together, and decided that our only course of action would be to move as far from that place as possible. So, loading all our possessions into two cars, we drove to the other end of the country, found ourselves jobs and somewhere to live, and a church, which would accept us.
Life was hard, all the more so because my other half was fond of spending money on unnecessary items. We had little to spend on food, or household appliances. But I had made my choice, and backing out was not an option. We lived from one crisis to another for several years, and when my boyfriend’s divorce was finalized, we married. By that time, we lived on a boat, which may sound idyllic, but in England’s winter climate it was very uncomfortable and, at times, dangerous, out in the harbor.
After six years together, I was offered a job which had self-contained accommodation as part of the wages. When I accepted the job, I had no idea how important that accommodation was going to be. Just a few months later, my husband told me he did not love me. It was a terrible shock, he gave no reason, no explanation for his sudden change of heart. I cried for 24 hours, then recovered enough to ask him why. He had, he said, fallen in love with someone else, someone I knew well, and who was several years younger. But, he promised he would not leave me, as long as I let him see the other girl when he wanted. This was definitely not a situation I agreed with!
So, he had the boat to live on, I had my apartment above the shop. I applied for a divorce. People from the church I was going to rallied round to help and support me. I got involved in the church drama group, the choir, and every church meeting I could, as well as taking up all the hobbies I enjoyed, like rowing and Scottish dancing.
It felt as though I had come through several “blank” years – the “years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2 v.25). But in fact, those years had strengthened my trust in God. I was thankful that God had brought me through relatively unscathed, and fortunately with no children.
Links to Gwen’s testimony: