For a long time, Gwen Smith struggled to find meaning in the Bible and feared that God had forgotten her, but he spoke to her through a song one morning at church and she learned that his timing is perfect.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to attend church and reflect on God and his teachings. Yet, for so long, the Bible seemed unreadable, like it was withholding its message from me.
In my 40s, life became a downhill slide with severe episodes of depression—to the extent where I did foolish things where my health and safety were concerned. Then, Derek Prince visited Dunedin and I attended; all I took away at that stage was that I needed to read the Bible regularly. I was at rock bottom, so I started to do this and hoped it would lead to a better outcome. I was determined to read a chapter of Proverbs every day, almost legalistically.
Then, my daughter, who was friendly with a Salvationist in her class, asked if she could go to her youth group. She needed me to drive her, so I started attending The Salvation Army with her in the mid-80s. Eventually, I heeded the call to the mercy seat (a little reluctantly).
I had become a communicant member of another denomination at secondary school, and I had felt like that was similar and sufficient; the uncertainty of going through another step of faith only to end up like the previous time, held me back. However, it was rewarded immediately. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. I felt drawn to contribute in some way, even though my fear of public speaking was never far away. The Bible became meaningful—it had life—and much of what I had heard in my early years of church attendance became familiar and a joy to come across in its context.
However, as time went by, God seemed to become distant and silent again. I had been disowned by my family of origin several decades before; a family, I was to learn through counselling, that was dysfunctional. This was quite a shock, as it was the only family I had ever known. It was strict, but not abusive in any way and there were no alcohol or divorce issues. It seemed right and proper at the time.
I wrote in large letters on an A4 page: ‘Lord, speak to me even if it is to say, “Thanks Gwen, but no thanks”’. An answer came to my plea one Sunday morning through a Salvation Army song. Many songs I knew, but not this one. I was incredulous; it felt like God was speaking to me in front of the whole congregation.
In this song, ‘His Love Remains The Same’, written by John Gowans, it says, ‘Don’t assume that God’s dismissed you from his mind, don’t assume that God’s forgotten to be kind … Don’t assume that God will plan for you no more, don’t assume that there’s no future to explore’. It still gives me goosebumps. Every line spoke to me, and to sing it added to the power of the message and to my vulnerability. God hadn’t disowned me after all.
God still speaks through His Word. His timing is perfect. He has given me a new family, a new outlook, a new future to pursue, health and energy in my senior years, and I find it such a privilege to be serving him through The Salvation Army.