Found By Grace: Emma's story
Today we're sharing the beautiful testimony brought to us by Emma Bentley, a very special girl to the MP team! There's something so incredible about seeing God's work over the course of somebody's life - and we hope Emma's story encourages you, inspires you and reminds you of God's sovereignty over our lives. We'll leave you to read it for yourself...
I am not where I expected to be.
I grew up in a small town in the countryside in an incredibly loving, eccentric, non-Christian family with little exposure to church outside of harvest festivals and school assemblies. Growing up, I had no interest in learning about God; while I didn’t actively oppose it, I simply wasn’t interested. To me, God was an abstract concept that you spoke to or asked for things when you were sad. It wasn't until I reached sixth form that I was introduced a little more to the idea of Christianity as I became friends with a group of Christians. Their faith didn’t bother me, just as my lack of faith didn’t bother them.
In order to truly understand the enormity of the change in my life over the last three years, you will need to know that I am a planner. I plan what I am going to eat every night of the week, when I'm going to wash my hair, what I'm going to wear tomorrow. Uncertainty scares me. Change is even more terrifying.
Throughout high school and sixth form, the plan was to work hard, get good marks and get into university; that was the ultimate goal. After I arrived at uni and the initial excitement of freshers and a new city died down, I was not happy.
"Going out clubbing and drinking was not fulfilling or fun. My course was overwhelming and the workload was tough. I was lonely."
I realised I had absolutely no idea what my next move was. I felt paralysed without a plan; university had always been the goal, and now I was there, I didn't know what to do next. I grew increasingly frustrated with myself - everyone else around me seemed to have a plan and was getting on with it, why couldn't I do the same? They seemed to be doing fine, and I just felt inadequate.
On a visit at home, I was invited to church by one of my friends. I went along mainly out of curiosity; I wanted to know why all these people my age kept going back to church every Sunday. What was so interesting or exciting about it? I don't remember anything specific about that first morning at church with my friends, but for some reason I wanted to keep going with them. When I went back to uni, I bought a Bible and started to read it, to find out for myself what they were talking about in church.
Who was this guy called Jesus, and why did my friends seem to like him so much?
What started out as an intellectual curiosity started to grow into a fascination, but I still wasn't completely convinced. It wasn't until I went to Newday, a week-long camp, that I made the decision to follow Jesus. I’d heard about the great sacrifice that Jesus had made, but I finally started to understand that because of this I didn’t have to be afraid anymore. I realised the future was already planned out for me. All I had to do was give into it. I like to be in control and I love to be right, so giving in to someone else did not sound like my idea of a good time.
At one of the last meetings at the camp, the speaker gave a call to anyone who wanted to give themselves to God to go down to the front of the tent. I had absolutely no plans to move, but my feet decided for me and I started walking. I found myself somewhere unexpected: a giant tent in the middle of a field in Norfolk, surround by seven thousand of my peers, all worshiping Jesus… and I was joining them.
As I prayed to God that first time, I found myself crying with relief. It was as if I’d been fumbling around in the dark for years, struggling to find the key to open the next door, and suddenly a switch had been flicked and there was a kind hand holding open the door for me.
I can’t say that my life was transformed overnight, because it wasn’t. Just as God slowly revealed himself to me, He began to slowly shape my life into something unexpected.
God was there in every conversation I had with my family, even as I fumbled to answer their questions and give explanations of things I didn’t quite understand myself yet. I began to see him working in their lives as well as mine. I started having lengthy midnight discussions with my sister about heaven and hell and life after death; my mother started going back to church; my atheist father started to read the Bible. I started dating an incredible, Godly man whose own deep-rooted faith provided me with an amazing example of how to fully trust God’s plan. I went back to university to start my second year and realised that the Philosophy half of my course tested my new found faith to extremes.
Once again, I found myself somewhere I didn’t expect – a ‘baby’ Christian debating faith with Philosophy students who were pretty sure that God didn’t exist. While this could have been damaging to my growing understanding of Christ, it did the opposite. I found my faith grew stronger in light of the difficult questions I had to consider. The more my faith was challenged, the harder I looked for reasonable, logical answers, and the more certain I was that God was the answer.
The one verse that has stayed with me is Jeremiah 29:11:
‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ (JEREMIAH 29:11)
I have clung to these words in moments of uncertainty and fear, of which there are still many. God has given me hope for the future when I have been most despairing. He has placed people in my life at exactly the moment I needed to hear what they had to say. He has made opportunities drop through the letterbox when they were never expected or asked for. Because of his faithfulness and the way He has proven His promises, I can trust that the plan He has for me is greater than anything I could dream up.
Releasing myself from the burden of my uncertain plans and giving in to the certainty of God's plan is more freeing than I had ever thought was imaginable.
Sure, my life still has its ups and downs. I still plan what I'm going to wear the next day or eat for the rest of the week. I still struggle with uncertainty and I still have to tell myself to calm down and to turn my worries over to God. But I am no longer weighed down by it.
The Lord knows the plans He has for me, and boy, are they good.
So, here I am, somewhere I never planned to be. Sat in a Starbucks, having just devoured a blueberry muffin and an eggnog latte (Hello, Christmas), in a city I am completely unfamiliar with, married at twenty-one, unemployed and with barely two people I can call friends! This crazy road I am on is foggy and uncertain and full of dangers and triumphs, but Christ is the one who leads me down it.
And it is marvellous.
Emma recently moved to Leeds with her husband, Tim, and is studying Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of Leeds. She has a passion for encouraging those in need and loves to hear stories of God’s perfect timing. She is currently dividing her time by applying for jobs, reading all the books that were considered wildly unsuitable for an English Literature student and resisting the urge to bake constantly.