"Daily, I was asking God to be on the throne of my life. I didn’t understand that God would take me through a breaking process, nor that Christ didn’t just want to be on the throne of my life, but wanted to be my life."
Throughout college, graduate school, and my work experience in social services, I saw tremendous inconsistencies between psychotherapy and Scripture. The more I analyzed psychotherapy, the less convinced I became that it held any real answers. I believed Christianity had an answer, but what? How could accepting Christ change the shattered lives of the street kids I worked with? I thought they needed Christ and therapy, so I tried to combine Christianity and secular theory for the "best of both worlds."
I saw a series of contradictions in life. The Bible promised peace that passes all understanding, that keeps our hearts and minds by Christ Jesus; but Christians I knew of in the 50’s and 60’s were having nervous breakdowns right and left. The Scripture also promised joy, yet my church sponsored the largest Christian mental hospital in the country.
I had been in church and Christian schools all my life. At the age of 27, I had received assurance of salvation through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Yet in spite of all that, I struggled terribly with anxiety, inability to conquer sin, and trying to reconcile psychotherapy and Biblical teaching.
By 1972, I had decided that what I was doing just wasn’t working. As Director of Professional Services for a Christian residential treatment center, I did not see lives being transformed.
To drive home the truth of my condition, and the insufficiency of my efforts, God showed me five things:
- God promised peace that passes understanding, and I didn’t have it. I had peace with God, but not the peace of God. I had to confess that I couldn’t attain it. If I were to obtain that kind of peace, it would have to be a gift.
- I couldn’t achieve victory over temptation, and God didn’t expect me to. That, too, would have to be His gift. What a relief it would be to give up that battle.
- I would not be able to find life’s answers in therapy, nor reconcile humanistic behaviorism and psychotherapy with Scripture.
- If I had these problems, and if I was an average person, most other people probably were having the same problems; they just weren’t talking about it.
- Although I had asked God to control my life, I had never lost control. I knew if I lost control, there might be a high price to pay. It might cost me my education, position, salary, home—all I’d worked for, especially if God had a different method of changing people than what I had learned in graduate school! The problem was now clear, but I had no idea what the solution could be.
Alone in my struggle, with no place like Exchanged Life Ministries to turn to for guidance and counsel, I only knew I couldn’t go on living as a hypocrite. I wrestled with whether I could trust God. Was I to just let go of everything and trust Him, with no replacement plan in sight? How could I trust the God who, in His sovereignty, I deemed responsible for my plight?
Finally, in spite of my fears but because of the promise of the fruit of the Spirit, I decided to trust Him and Him alone. More than anything, I wanted the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
So, without understanding what I was about to do, I bowed my knees, giving up rights to my job, education, salary, position, esteem of my family and colleagues. I committed my life without reservation into the hands of the Lord. And nothing happened! I was glad to have the struggle over with, but I still had no idea what to expect.
Two nights later, God filled me with Himself. Suddenly, I had peace that passes all understanding, joy without measure, freedom, and victory, experientially! It was so amazing—I couldn’t sleep, trying to figure out what was happening. It actually took a while for me to connect this experience with my prayer of helplessness, brokenness, and abandonment, and realize that I had been filled with the Holy Spirit.
I began reading books in search of an understanding of what I was experiencing. As I tried to implement in my work the truth I was coming to know, I met opposition, even though it was a Christian organization. But when I read Handbook to Happiness, by Dr. Charles Solomon, I realized there was at least one other person in the world who believed as I did and had experienced what I was experiencing. He, too, knew there was more in the Christian experience for the hungry in heart.
Dr. Solomon’s book put into words what had happened to me. I wrote to thank him and, surprisingly, he wrote back inviting me to the first Grace Fellowship Conference. Once there, I felt sure God meant for me to work with him. But when I received no such invitation, I returned home to wait for God to move. Two years later, another letter arrived from Dr. Solomon in which he said he hoped someday we would have the opportunity to work together. Invitation or not, that was all the encouragement I needed. I wrote and told Dr. Solomon I was coming to work with him.
In July 1974, I quit my job, put my house up for sale, and moved to Colorado with my wife and four children. I had no visible means of support. Grace Fellowship International had no work for me, no money for me. After four or five months of training, I began receiving $500 a month. Of course, it was costing at least $1,000 a month to live, so our cash reserves from the sale of our house continued to dwindle. I couldn’t qualify for a mortgage, and with houses in Colorado costing an average of ten thousand dollars more than comparable homes in Michigan, there was no way we could afford one.
In the midst of this situation, God led me to Ephesians 3:20 "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." As I read it I thought, "I’ve only been looking at what I can figure out on our income, which is minimal. I’ve been asking God for the barest necessities." After I shared this realization with my wife, Betty, we asked God for what He was able to do. We asked Him for a three-bedroom house with a family room, a fireplace, a large yard for our boys to play in, a place for our boys to play basketball, and a double garage.
Looking through a real estate listing book that same night, I found a vacant house with even more features than I’d asked God for, and an assumable no-qualification VA loan at 7% (interest rates in ‘74 were 12-14%)—and, it was in the exact neighborhood where our boys had paper routes. (I had complained to God about not being able to get them routes closer to home.) Once we closed on the house, we put all but $1.00 into buying paint for the interior. Yet we never missed a meal or suffered for lack of anything.
I worked with Grace Fellowship International for 12 years. In 1986, along with several others, we founded Exchanged Life Ministries. In the years since, I have served in various capacities including counselor, director of training, president, and chairman of the board.
Once my decision of surrender and commitment was made, and God transformed my life, I had only one desire: to follow God’s leading, taking steps of faith. I never cease to thank Him for the privilege of knowing Christ as my life, for the transformation He made in my thinking about how counseling should be done, and for the great privilege I have had in sharing Christ as the answer to every relationship, every marriage, and every need.