Welcome back to our interview series! This week’s interview is with our sister in Christ, Rachel Ward.
1. When did you accept Jesus, and what was that experience like for you?
Accepting Jesus has been a process over years rather than a prayer in a moment for me. I prayed a kind of prayer of salvation when I was 6 years old, but I didn’t come to a full realization of the real meaning of the gospel until I was about 13.
For years before, I had been struggling with perfectionism and self-righteousness. I did everything right on the outside, but I missed the joy that comes in knowing God and relying on Him entirely. I prayed but didn’t know God. I read His Word, but it was only to “check the box.” I witnessed, but did so without a full understanding of God’s mercy – the very center of the gospel. I thought I had to muster up faith, love, and obedience.
When I finally realized it wasn’t up to me, I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. Prayer, I realized, should be my first response to sin. In repentance, yes, but also to ask God to change my heart, for only He can make my desires align with His.
Instead of feeling the weight of pride and guilt, I felt the humility and joy that comes from relying on God for grace.
2. Who or what has had the most impact on your spiritual journey?
When I think of the people in my life, I would say my mom has impacted my faith most consistently and faithfully. She’s always been ready to answer my questions, hear my apologies, and show me what it looks like to follow God every day–even in the most mundane parts of life.
I also have a friend who has pointed me to Jesus more times than I can count. I’ve seen her go through loss and injury over the years, but her faith in Jesus and thankfulness through all the pain has always humbled me and pointed me to Christ.
3. Why do you personally continue to seek Jesus? In what ways has He changed your life?
That’s a question I’ve struggled with for years. Why follow Jesus? What difference does he make? But then why do I keep up with my best friends? Don’t I just keep up with them (“seek” them, in a way) because they are worth knowing?
Ultimately, I follow Jesus because He is the most wonderful, most forgiving, most holy, most amazing, most funny, most faithful, most creative Person I know — and knowing Him is the best thing I can experience. The reason Heaven is going to be so amazing is that I’ll be with Him! He, in and of Himself, is worth pursuing and knowing.
And Jesus really does change everything. He’s taken the burdens of self-righteousness and perfectionism off my shoulders innumerable times. He’s freed me and shown me what consistent, unconditional love looks like.
He’s given me a real purpose in life. Anticipating His will has brought me excitement and hope on hard days. When I’m scared about the future, He is my hope. When I’m lonely, He is the one who I can talk to. When I fail over and over and over again, He is faithful. He is worth seeking and knowing.
4. What is the hardest struggle for you about being a Christian and/or believing/obeying the Bible?
My biggest problems are pride and fear and, therefore, evangelism is one of the hardest things for me to do. Sitting behind a computer and witnessing to people online is easy for me. Giving my testimony to a room full of believers is pretty easy for me too. But give me a school bus of my unbelieving teammates or a one-on-one discussion with an unbeliever, and things tend to go downhill.
I think my main problem is that I often feel like I have to give a full presentation of the gospel in every witnessing encounter. My brother, though, said he often just tells people, “Jesus has made a big difference in my life, so I wanted to share Him with you,” and hands them a tract or tells them a bit of his personal testimony. Greg Koukl, author of Tactics, says that he just aims to put a “stone in their shoe” — give the person he’s talking to something to think about (read more about that here). When I aim to do the same (and rely on God in every conversation), evangelism becomes much more natural.
5. What characteristic of God do you appreciate/connect with the most?
His faithfulness. No matter how prideful or disobedient I am, God always welcomes me back with open, forgiving arms. I like to think of God as “my steady” — the only thing in my life that will never change and never move. He is my rock and He always remains faithful, no matter how unfaithful I am. And if you are a believer and trust in Him, He is your “steady” as well.
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”Psalm 18:2, ESV
6. What are your favorite books of the Bible and why? Any specific verses that are special to you?
That’s always such a hard question to answer! The ones that come to mind are Deuteronomy, Romans, and Psalms. Deuteronomy reveals so much about God’s character, Romans explains the gospel very clearly and is always a convicting read, and the Psalms are very comforting and relatable.
Psalm 139 has been a favorite passage of mine for a long time, and I like to think of Galatians 2:20 as my life verse. I memorized Psalm 139 when I was younger, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Galatians 2:20 is a challenging verse for me, and it is such a good reminder to surrender everything to Jesus.
7. What does spending time with God/reading the Bible look like for you? Any resources you’d recommend or advice you’d give to someone struggling in this area?
I’m currently reading through the Old Testament, one chapter at a time. Sometimes I have to keep my goals small and consistent, but I want to start memorizing Scripture more consistently as well.
To anyone struggling, I would say to always remember who you are spending time with when you read God’s Word. Here’s something I wrote on my blog last year on the topic:
When I don’t want to read the Bible, I recall that I’m not approaching a book; I’m approaching God Himself. God’s Word isn’t powerful because it’s old or reliable. It changes people because God changes people. Reading God’s Word will impact your day because it is God’s Word.
Think of devotions and quiet time as your time to sit in the throne room of God. Just as you become like the friends you spend time with, God’s Word will change you because you’re spending time in God’s presence when you read it. Don’t just “read the Bible”. Go sit in the presence of your Creator, Savior, and Friend to listen to what He wants to tell you. When you learn to love God, you’ll learn to love His Word too.
8. What are some unique ways you’ve found to connect with God?
Ooh, I love this question CoCo!! The #1 way I connect with God is through prayer. Though prayer itself is not “unique” per se, the habit of prayer seems to be unusual for many Christians. I struggled to “pray enough” for years, but I missed that the point of prayer was getting to know God and learning to rely on Him. I try to make an effort to go to God about everything and rely on Him before I do anything else.
And ironically, I just said “try to make an effort”, but God is the one who prompts me to pray in the first place and gives me the grace I need when I fail in this area. Prayer teaches me to have total reliance on God. Prayer is really the opposite of self-righteousness — which means I need it every day!
9. Can you share a time (or two) you’ve experienced an answer to prayer, or seen God in your life? Any particular moments you just knew He was there? Nothing is too small. 🙂
Another great question!!
I think when we are younger and less solid in our faith, God answers some very odd and specific prayers to help us trust Him more. Once, when I was younger, my brother needed a vacuum (I don’t remember exactly why… XD) and he couldn’t find it. I prayed to God and asked Him to have my brother find the vacuum “in 10 seconds”. I promptly began the countdown. 10…9… 8… When I hit “0”, my brother shouted, “I found it!” The exact answer to prayer was so unusual, so specific… I still look back on that time when I’m doubting.
Another time, more recently, I prayed at night for God to give me a purpose. The next day he gave it to me. I had a discussion in school about whether lying is always bad or if there is an exception. I took the stance that lying is always bad, and I found myself debating adults on the topic (respectfully, of course ;). I wrote an essay on it, but I got sick and wasn’t able to read it in class. The next year, the topic came up again, and I wrote another essay on the topic. This time, I lost my rough draft the night before I was going to read it in class. I prayed and prayed, asking God if He really wanted me to read the essay in class, to please help me find it in time to type it and finish it. 🙂 I found it soon thereafter and typed it up. The following day, my teacher opened the opportunity to read our essays out loud to the class. She usually only let us read portions of our essays, but that day, for some reason, she made an exception. I read my essay out loud and that was that. I still don’t know why God had things happen as they did, but the exact answers to prayer and odd “coincidences” make me sure that God had a very special purpose for me and that essay, despite the two years of roadblocks that got in the way.
10. In contrast, can you share a time in your life when you experienced great fear/doubt/opposition in your walk with God? If it was in the past, what helped you get through it?
There have been many, many times that I’ve had doubts and lost all interest in God. In these times, I have to realize 3 things.
- The doubts are often a result of sadness or a mood swing.
- Faith is a choice, not a feeling.
- I cannot muster up faith, but I must pray to God for faith instead.
Again, I have to rely on God rather than myself (have you caught the theme running through this interview yet? XD).
11. What has God been teaching you and/or been doing in/through your life in this season?
Like I mentioned before, I’m learning a lot about evangelism. God is slowly taking away my fear of witnessing and giving me the words to say. He is showing me that the hardest part of evangelism is starting the conversations, and He is giving me easier conversations and opportunities to help me get used to speaking about my faith in public.
12. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the person reading this? Any words of encouragement or advice?
Just a reminder to rely on God for everything and enjoy getting to know your Savior. Salvation is a gift and being able to know God is a part of that gift. And let me assure you, knowing God is a joy.
13. Where can we connect with you?
I’m a blogger, so you can find me on my blog at joyfulcreationsblog.com. I also post occasionally on therebelution.com. You can email me at email@example.com as well. I would love to connect with you all!
I’m a teen girl, and I love writing, all things active, and dancing to music in my room. 😛 I especially love to swim and run and am forever grateful for the grace I receive every day from my Savior, Jesus.