When I was nine years old, I gave my heart to the Lord. I walked to the front of the church, told the pastor that I had accepted Jesus into my heart, went through some Bible classes on what becoming a Christian meant. That was my very first God encounter. It was simple and uncomplicated. In my heart, even at such a young age, even if I did not fully understand the magnitude of my own sins, I knew I needed a Savior. That Sunday began my journey with Christ.
I was recently asked to share on God Encounters in my life. I sat down to write some notes. I began to reflect on the first time I remembered encountering God and the timeline of miracles – both big and small – that was evidenced in my life over the last 30 years. Beyond my salvation experience (which was a miracle all its own), I remember my first miracle. I was on fire for God, read my Bible every day, attended Sunday school every week, prayed, and talked to God. In a simple yet profound way, I understood that Jesus was my best friend. My life was pretty crazy at that time. My dad was an alcoholic. My mother had been killed years earlier. I was being abused in my home regularly. It was chaos, yet I was completely in love with Jesus.
It was during Christmas, and I was about ten years old. My family was wrapping Christmas presents in the living room, and my stepmom asked me for the tape to use for one of the gifts. I started looking and looking…. and looking. I simply could not find the tape. Because I had been abused as a child, I immediately felt fearful that if I did not find that tape, I would be in big trouble! I looked everywhere I could think. As a 10-year-old little girl, I decided to go into my bedroom, lie across my bed, and pray about it. I covered my eyes and started asking God to please show me where the tape was. Within seconds, I got up from the bed and walked straight to my parents’ bedroom, into their closet, and picked up the tape from a shelf inside the closet. Now, I know this is not some earth-shattering miracle. It was my miracle, something God had done for me. My childlike faith believed God heard me and what mattered to me mattered to Him.
God is in the small things, and He is in the big things. God encounters look different for each one of us. Yes, God encounters, through the years, I have experienced them both big and small.
God saved me from death, the morning my mother was killed, I was in the car with her.
God saved me the day I was choked, almost to death, by an angry relative.
He was there when I had nothing in my refrigerator or cabinets to feed my children. He showed up as a loving neighbor knocking at my door with a warm meal.
I encountered God when my 1984 Mercury broke down on the side of the road repeatedly. With two toddlers in tow, and we began the walk home, he showed up as a friend who just happened to be driving by.
God was there when a random one hundred dollar bill showed up in my mailbox, with no name or address, when I thought I would not have food to eat for the week.
He was there my first Christmas alone as a single mom… and He was there my seventh Christmas alone.
God was there when I was beaten, homeless, and hopeless.
I have encountered God in thousands of ways in my life. He shows up in every season, whether we acknowledge Him or not. He is there. Every step in life’s journey leads us to an encounter with our King.
Sometimes, when life has beaten us down, we are worn out, and just tired of being disappointed, it is hard for us to see the encounters of God. Through His faithfulness in my own life, there are a few things I have learned about God encounters:
Do not fear the encounter. We often fear what we do not understand. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 You may be in a season when you look to the left and to the right and cannot see God. You may fear your future. You may fear what your children are going to become. You may fear that you will always be alone. You may fear your financial future. I do not know what you fear today. But, I want to encourage you that in order for God to show up and do a miracle in your life, you need to be in a prime position. The problem with receiving a miracle is that you have to be in a position to get one. None of us want to be in that position! God encounters come at the perfect time, His timing, and in ways we do not understand. Do not fear an encounter with Him. He’s going to show up.
Do not fret the encounter. Has God ever showed up in your life? Has there ever been a time when only He could have answered your prayers? Of course! Then, why do we fret that He is not going to show up this time, in this situation? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t’ worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. And then…. You will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Stop worrying if God is going to show up. You will encounter Him. We spend more time worrying about life than actually living life. The recipe for God’s peace is clear — Do not worry about anything. Pray about everything. Tell Him what you need. Thank Him for what He’s already done.
Do not fail the encounter. When God shows up, He will show out. He will move mountains. He will bless. He will give freedom. He will replace anger and bitterness with joy. Do not dare, fail the encounter. When He does show up, you must not forget to praise Him all the days of your life. Don’t be a fair-weather Christian. When God shows up for us, we get excited and thankful for about 30 seconds, then we just add another thing to the list. We start asking Him for something else. We start looking for the next high—the next God encounter. If God never does anything else for us, He has already done enough. He paid for us to live in eternity with Him. He fills our soul with joy. He gives us peace others cannot begin to comprehend. He turns crying into dancing.
Let us all be patient between our God encounters, expectant of future ones, and thankful for the miracles He has already done.
Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.
The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting. Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.