Last year I met a beautiful woman about my age at a conference where I was speaking. I don’t know many details about her life. I don’t if she is single or married… if she has kids or not… if she works outside the home or in her home. But what I do know is she’s been going to church for a long time.

Not only has she been going but she’s been involved serving, giving, and doing all the right church stuff.

But, something was missing.

“I never could quite put my finger on it until this weekend,” she whispered. “I never knew what it really meant to have a relationship with Jesus. But hearing you explain it, something clicked. I walked forward today. I gave my heart to Jesus.”

She brushed her long dark hair away from her eyes and I could see the sparkle, the joy, the realization of salvation. Scattered pieces of faith coming together to make the picture of Jesus more clear, more solid, more applicable in her life.

A fresh vision of hope.

And I wondered what part of what I shared made this profound click happen in her soul?

Of course, it was the Holy Spirit moving… but somehow in the midst of me sharing the broken places of my life, things came together in hers.

It got me thinking about us doing life together here at (in)courage. A few moments whispering truths back and forth over the internet learning how to navigate life as Jesus girls. But all that we talk about is for nothing if our hearts stay far from Jesus.

It’s not about momentary motivation to make it through today.

It’s not about spiffy quotes to ponder and put into practice.

It’s not about relationship tactics and turnkey solutions.

It’s not about bite-size pieces of peace to make life a little more manageable.

It’s not about making our lives look and feel a little better.

It has to be about Jesus.

And drawing our hearts into His reality. His grace. His love. His hope. His forgiveness. And most of all the free gift of salvation because of Him.

If you’ve ever felt like this woman from this weekend who can’t put her finger on what’s missing but is just bouncing from one religious activity to the next… sweet sister can we chat?

God doesn’t want us to have a religion. A religion is where we follow rules hoping to do life right, and we serve God out of duty because we think we have to.

God wants us to have a relationship. A relationship where we follow Him. And we serve God not out of duty but out of delight because of the realization of who we are in Him.

For years, I defined myself as the broken child of a broken daddy. I went to church to get a little “God goodness” in my life. But it was like putting fresh paint on rotting wood. I was living just like those talked about in Isaiah 29:13, “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’ ”

It wasn’t until I realized I didn’t have to be defined by the circumstances of my life. I could be defined by the reality of who God says I am. I wasn’t a broken child of a broken daddy… I was a forgiven and loved child of the Most High God… my Heavenly Father.

I didn’t need a little “God goodness” to rub off on me… I needed God to invade the deepest parts in me.

I didn’t need to be just following the rules. I needed to be following God Himself.

So, I knelt down in the midst of my messy, chaotic, confused life… and started a relationship with Him by simply saying yes.

Yes, I am a sinner in need of a Savior.

Yes, I acknowledge Jesus Christ as the son of God, sent to die on a cross and be resurrected on the third day to save me from my sins.

Yes, I want Jesus to be the Lord and Master of my life.

Yes, I am a now and forever will be a forgiven and saved child of the Almighty God.

Yes, I will follow Jesus today, tomorrow, and every other day I’m blessed with on this earth.

Oh sister, let me quiet the voice of Satan screaming to resist this process because you won’t be able to live this out perfectly. Jesus has never ever asked for us to be perfect. He simply wants us perfectly surrendered. I often pray, “Oh Jesus… I am such a mess but I am Yours. Show me… help me… forgive me… reassure me… and pour your tender mercy upon me.”

And He does.

And He always will.

My imperfections are safely tucked within the reality of His perfection.

And I simply press on by continuing to say YES moment by imperfect moment… day by imperfect day.

By Lysa TerKeurst

  • Donna

    When you begin and every day on the journey Home it’s the same. We need, I need Him. I need His voice, I need His wise ear, I need to know He loves me. I need His comfort, and especially like you said “your tender mercy.”

    Thank you Lysa. Thank you Heavenly Father.

  • Amy @ themessymiddle

    Ah yes! Perfectly surrendered so that we can truly hear from him — what “God is whispering”

    Perfectly surrendered was written on his hands. What’s written on ours?

  • Kris

    perfectly surrendered. This is a theme in my life these days. Bless you Lysa for this. I needed the reminder.

  • Lisa H

    I was this woman. But, I had been baptized a young girl. I left the church for 18 years and always thought I was ‘OK’ because if things went well for me I would think it was because I did something right but when things fell apart, I was quick to blame God. Thats the only time I thought of Him.

    I got back to church in 2005 after my world was turned upside down with a divorce. I came to church each and every Sunday with my children. I joined our choir, I joined our quilt group, I joined our adult bible fellowship classes. I also sat alone each week, I refused to get to know anyone because of how they might view me, I was living 2 lives. In church and out of church. The two did not mix well. I had a past. A past I thought was horrible and I didn’t deserve to be in church.

    In 2008, God introduced me to a woman who now knows everything there is to know about me. I had no idea I could open up to someone so much and they would still like me, let alone love me, support me, encourage me, teach me, and yes sometimes correct me. As we talked over the months and now years, I realized something was missing from my life and its what you described as a relationship with Christ. I never realized it was a 2 way street with me and God. He wanted to know me and wanted me to know him. And so began this journey that I was not expecting but has been so wonderful.

    On June 9th, 2009, my friend baptized me for a second time. I knew I didn’t need it for my salvation but I needed it for me. I needed something to look back on and something to hold onto and something for someone to witness to help me say I am doing this for me as a declaration that I am starting new with God. I am dedicating my life back to Jesus and I want more than anything to know him personally because in spite of all my issues, past lives, problems, etc. he loves me and just wants me back to him. He will and has forgiven me. I chose to give up the fight of hiding my issues from him and I just handed them over. Anytime I see the baptistry I envision all my junk floating in that water because I left it there for him to take care of.

    I never knew there could be such a longing to know more and more and more about Him. It is an awesome feeling!


  • Jennifer

    I need to pray this more often: “Oh Jesus… I am such a mess but I am Yours. Show me… help me… forgive me… reassure me… and pour your tender mercy upon me.” I’m more apt to fall into despairing over my circumstances until I can’t take it any more, then I run to Jesus. But praise God I’m learning!

  • wanda

    Something I need to remember as I sit comfortably in my own promise of salvation.
    Who around me needs Jesus? I must be willing to share…even in my most forgetful moments.

  • Lauren

    I agree with almost this entire post. I just hate when people talk down on “religion”. Religion by definition is a fundamental set of beliefs. As a Christian, how can anyone say they don’t want that? I have a fundamental set of beliefs, guidelines that help be grow closer to Jesus every day. He did come to earth to create a new law and to create establish his church. After his Resurrection, he stayed on earth for 40 days before he ascended to God the father, and is says in John 20:25 that, “There were also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Many of those things were those rules you mentioned.

    It just really hurts me when people assume that those of us who do have a “religion” and do follow rules and love the order and grace that they bring into our lives, don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus our Savior. Because we definitely do.

  • kristal

    I LOVE this quote: “Oh Jesus… I am such a mess but I am Yours. Show me… help me… forgive me… reassure me… and pour your tender mercy upon me.” This needs to be my daily prayer right now. I have been so inconsistent in my daily walk with Him, and I am a mess right now because of it. Yeah, on the outside, things look good…but my inner turmoil is one of saying “Jesus, help me, give m hunger for You. I want more of You” but then being so stubborn that I refuse to make the small sacrifices He asks of me (get up 15 minutes early…what?????)
    Tears burned my eyes as I read this post. I KNOW that I have accepted Christ as my Savior…but I also know that I need more of Him and less of me every single moment of every single day. Thank you, Lysa, for this post.

  • Kaitlin @ Perceptions & Passions

    Beautiful piece. I attended some form churchmy whole life; from Catholic elementary school K-6th to church hopping in early college years. I knew the Bible stories.

    I even prayed sporatically.

    But something was missing…

    It wasn’t until I met my now husband 4 years ago that I was saved and “got it.”

    I love the image of painting fresh paint on rotten wood because that’s EXACTLY what it was.

  • Lina

    Oh Lysa,

    Thank you! I needed to hear these words today… you are truly gifted of God..

    Be Well,

  • Katerina

    Just lovely. I agree with Kristal and can understand the thoughts “Oh Jesus… I am such a mess but I am Yours. Show me… help me… forgive me… reassure me… and pour your tender mercy upon me.” Luckily we always have his forgiveness and mercy! Praise God!

    I also can understand Lauren’s point on so-called organized religion. No matter what church you belong to, whether it’s a denomination or not, we’re all part of a religion. Christianity IS a religion and the beauty of it is that God’s grace and love are everywhere. Some people may have had a bad experience with organized religions and have a bitterness toward them but I know of people who have had bad experiences with non-denominational churches too. There’s not a one-size fits all with Jesus. I think it’s totally prideful and un-Christian to say “I get it and you don’t.” I don’t think anyone can say God is in one place and not another. God is everywhere and loves everyone. That’s what makes loving Jesus so unbelievable and beautiful. He loves us whether we’re organized or totally not. :)

  • Shirley

    Thank you for this message because I am a mess. So much has happened in my life this past year that there have been times I wanted to throw in the towel. This message reminds me that I have Jesus in my corner and as long as I have Jesus walking beside me I will be alright.

  • Nancy

    I needed to be reminded of this today. thank you!

  • Nancy Franson

    What a gift, to be able to share your stories, in all their beautiful, glorious messiness, and have Jesus use them to bring someone home to him. We never know how the Holy Spirit will use our words. He just calls us to bear faithful witness. What a privilege, getting to do this via the internets and blog world!

  • Lisa

    Having a relationship with Christ is so much more than going to church and following rules. I mean these things help, it is wonderful to fellowship and serve together, but the worship has to come from within us. The Church is only there to help support and enhance what we already have going on within us.

  • Julie Sunne

    Beautifully said, Lysa. Jesus is not about a band-aid fix, He’s a whole body fix: renewing our earthly flesh, transforming our temporal perspective into divine, one cell at a time. It’s all in the “yes.” We need to be reminded about His love, mercy, and grace continuously to complete our transformation. Thank God for communities like (in)courage and Proverbs 31 Ministries that are willing to hold hands and lend ears through the process.


    Not perfect but perfectly surrendered. Good wisdom!

  • Terri

    Oh please pray for me. I so relate to this post. Something is missing. And I have prayed about it, and I don’t know what it will take to make that leap. I know He has been active i my life. I want to have that joy in the Lord. Why don’t I?


    “I simply press on by continuing to say YES moment by imperfect moment… day by imperfect day.”

    Thank you….God inspired and in God’s perfect time.

  • Dawn

    Perfectly surrendered… and re-surrendered… again and again. Yes. This.

  • Tatuu

    Oh Jesus… I am such a mess but I am Yours. Show me… help me… forgive me… reassure me… and pour your tender mercy upon me…AMEN!