April 7, 2023

In time of despair, Bible verse leads to life-changing moment

(Photo illustration by Brandon A. Evans)

(Photo illustration by Brandon A. Evans)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion has invited our readers to share a favorite Bible verse or a favorite quote that helps remind them of God’s presence in their lives and/or helps center them in their relationships with other people. Here is part one of their responses. See part two)

By John Shaughnessy

Jon Smith remembers that summer as a time of despair in his life.

Without warning, the father of three had been laid off from his job, leading him to worry about how he would be able to provide for his family.

Yet in the midst of those dark days, everything began to change for Smith because of one seemingly out-of-the-blue moment.

It happened when the member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Fortville was invited to attend a Bible institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he signed up for a three-day seminar called “Life in the Spirit.”

“At the end of the three days, as I was being prayed over, a [Scripture verse] came to one of the men ministering to me,” Smith recalls. “He said, ‘I don’t know if this is prophecy or not, but Matthew 6:33 keeps coming into my mind: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all else will be given you besides.’

“When he said that, it was like an electric charge shot down my spine and all worry and stress vanished. He did not know me personally, and certainly did not know my employment status or state of despair.

“I knew in my heart that God was speaking to me through him to say that he was in charge, that I was loved, and that he would provide. From that life-changing moment, I have turned my life and every area of my life over to him, and I trust in him completely.”

That trust in God has been at the core of his life for the past 22 years, Smith says, noting that he was laid off in July of 2001. And that trust in God guided him through the months ahead before he gained employment in January of 2002. That trust was apparent in a defining moment during November of 2001, before Smith found a job.

“My oldest daughter Rachel and I attended an open house at [Father Thomas] Scecina Memorial High School in November 2001,” Smith recalls. “On the way home, she expressed a true desire to attend high school there. I told her that she could. She said to me, ‘Dad, how is that possible? Tuition is a lot, and you don’t have a job!’

“I told her that if the Lord wanted her to attend Scecina, that he would provide a way, and two months later I was employed with a strong company and she attended all four years at Scecina, graduating in 2006.”

Smith says the wisdom of Matthew 6:33 “changed the course of my life and has become my mantra.”

“I have given my testimony and witness many times in classes and conferences, as well as personal counsel since that time, encouraging others to trust in him and believe his promises.

“God is good! All the time!”

What is God up to?

David Garrison has always had an appreciation for the late C.S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and Chronicles of Narnia.

“Virtually anything Lewis has ever written has had an impact on me and my faith, starting with his masterpiece, Mere Christianity,” says Garrison, a member of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Martinsville. “He has a way of boiling our faith down to its pure essence.”

That essence—God’s love, hope and plan for all people—is especially captured for Garrison in this quote from Lewis:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.

“What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.”

There is an undeniably bold power in God’s plan for people, Garrison believes.

“The audacious claim God makes on our lives leaves no room for negotiation,” Garrison says. “We can’t play at being a Christian. It asks a lot of us, it can be uncomfortable, and maybe it will lead us where we don’t want to go.”

Accepting the struggles and celebrating the successes of life

One of the joys for Mary Withem through the years has been seeing how her four children and five grandchildren have come to embrace the three phrases that she has constantly used to accept the struggles and celebrate the successes of life.

“I must have used the same three catch-phrases all my life,” says the member of Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Parish in Indianapolis. “Now I hear my children and grandchildren say them.”

When she faces disappointments and heartbreaks in life, Withem relies upon these words, “This too shall pass.”

When she experiences times where she has to wait on people or deal with moments that take far longer than she would have hoped, she tells herself, “Patience is a virtue.”

“Most of all,” she says, “when you can thank God for winning some of these battles, you can say, ‘All’s well that ends well.’ ”

‘This is what God asks of you’

Dee Suding has a gift for doing calligraphy, which once led to a special request from the late Msgr. Paul Koetter, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The priest asked her to use her flowing writing talent for a Bible verse he wanted to have framed for his desk.

So Suding did her artistic lettering of Micah 6:8, “This is what God asks of you: Only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.”

In creating the artwork for Msgr. Koetter, Suding was inspired to read more from Micah, but the verse she copied for the priest always stayed special for her. It also became special to her husband, Gene.

“It became my husband’s and my favorite quote, and we placed it on the bathroom mirror as a daily reminder,” says Suding, a member of St. Agnes Parish in Nashville.

“I had it placed on the memorial card for my husband who passed away this past November.” †

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