Jan 15, 2018
Hi, you may not remember me, but we ‘spoke’ online a few years ago about JWs and Jesus. I was hoping to have contact again and maybe have some support. I still struggle at times but mostly believe in Jesus. That’s about all that’s clear to me: I have to have faith in Jesus.
And so, Cyndi was back in my life.
As she wrote, we had talked online a few years before that. What I remember from that email exchange was a lot of topical questions as is common when people first leave the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They want to know about the Trinity, the 144,000, and the end of the world. At that time, our discussions just served to frustrate and confuse her more. She was obviously looking for a new truth to replace the one she left. Naturally, she thought this new “truth” would be a convenient list of doctrines she could now obey and thereby recognize falsehoods. Though it would be easier to just hand someone a list of Do’s, Dont’s, and Doctrines, I’ve never been interested in directing people to more religion. Sadly, that’s what many former JWs have been trained to look for. When they don’t find the perfect church, they give up. For this reason, I’ve never advised joining a church as the answer. It’s much more important to SUPPORT and DISCIPLE a person until the One who is greater than any human teacher has their trust. Yes, it takes many hours of prayer and patient teaching, but that is the privilege of co-laboring with Christ.
I’m not sure what year it was our relationship had begun, but I do know she had joined our Prayer Meetup early in 2016. As a result, she was receiving consistent prayer at that time. From an email dated from that season, I’ve extracted several statements that show where Cyndi’s struggles were.
It was clear she knew the Gospel by stating “I’m a sinner. I broke God’s commands in so many ways. I know my only hope is the sacrifice of Jesus. I believe in Jesus with my whole heart.” But like many Christians — especially those who’ve been abused within a religious system — she struggled with finding “the right church.” After going through the specifics of several fellowships she’d been part of, Cyndi shared,
“I don’t know where to go to church. I don’t know who is teaching the truth about God in every aspect. I don’t agree with Christmas, Easter, etc. I don’t believe “once saved, always saved”. I don’t know about post-trib, pre-trib. I can’t understand why there are so many denominations, yet one God, one Bible, one faith. I don’t understand how God allows such confusion when choosing a church and having a leader there who teaches God’s Word is something very serious. How in the world can I decipher truth from lies when I can’t understand the Bible from Genesis to Revelation? That’s why I would be at church: To learn!”
To complicate matters, due to being the ONLY Christian in her family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she expressed her depression and loneliness and wrote,
“so church for me is something I want because of fellowship. Yet, I can’t relax and go to a church because I’m worried about it being a church God disapproves of!….How in the world am I supposed to know where to go? How can I obey God’s command to not forsake the assembling? Even if I tell myself to just go and it doesn’t matter, I eventually come back to fear and doubt about churches. If I’m not part of a church, where do I find fellowship? If I’m not part of a church, how can I serve? If I am alone all day, everyday, how can I be a “light” to others? How can I go out and talk to others about Jesus without having some type of training (just like there’s training to talk to ex-JWs about Jesus)?”
“I don’t know where to turn for fellowship and love and support.”
Well, what does fellowship, love, and support look like? Is it telling someone to go to this or that church? Cyndi had already tried that. She even got baptized at one. Her involvement with church only proved to deepen her confusion. We exchanged a few more emails and our Prayer Meetup lifted her in prayer, but ultimately our conversations stopped in 2016. Where did she go? I learned later she had joined a Facebook group and wrote “I thought it was going to be more Christians talking to JWs about Jesus, but woah! I feel like a piece of meat in a tank of piranhas.” I understood. Facebook groups can be wonderfully supportive and informative for those exiting the Watchtower. But I’ve also watched innocent questions receive vicious replies from angry ex Jehovah’s Witnesses who’ve turned their backs completely on God. Even so, Cyndi wrote, “maybe this is what I need. Maybe defending my faith in Jesus while talking to JWs will help kill all the fear associated with the “what if?” question I seem to always have. Or maybe I’ll end up going back to the Kingdom Hall. Who knows? I just desperately want to know God, what pleases Him, what worshiping Him looks like, etc. I really can’t believe JWs are the ‘truth’ because they lower Jesus to an angel. I can never believe He is a created being, an angel. Just doesn’t match Scripture, as far as I know.”
Then, two years later in 2018, she contacted me through Facebook asking if I remembered her. “I was hoping to have contact again and maybe have some support. I still struggle at times but mostly believe in Jesus. That’s about all that’s clear to me: I have to have faith in Jesus.”
When I wrote back, her response had changed from the frustrations she expressed about church fellowship, unhealthy Facebook groups, and instead asked about the one-on-one Bible study I offer in the book of Galatians.
We set up an arrangement and began sharing a weekly study in Galatians via email. Cyndi kept the schedule and answered the questions. When she didn’t understand something, she probed further. As we covered Scripture, we also got to know eachother better and shared our lives and personal struggles.
Having so fond an affection for you,
we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God
but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
(1 Thessalonians 2:8)
Though Cyndi responded correctly to the questions about faith in Christ alone being able to save us, she continued to deal with uncertainty about being born again and felt little connection to God.
“I just have a weird feeling that I’m not born again and I’m lonely & without anyone because God is not pleased with me. God is the God of the fatherless…I read Ps. 68:5, 6 because that verse came to my mind. I thought it would comfort me to read God is my Father, but instead all I could see was that God sets the solitary in families BUT THE REBELLIOUS DWELL IN A DRY LAND. I feel I must be rebellious if I’m in a dry land. Alone.”
When would she feel God’s love for her?
My greatest joy in discipleship is when “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30) It’s been a journey recognizing when that time comes. For some, it’s within months, for others it takes years. Cyndi and I had gone through Galatians over the course of a year along with many, many side discussions. We both continued to pray. Then at the start of 2020, she mentioned a new discipline she was undertaking.
“ I love memorizing verses because I think if we are all thrown in jail one day for being Christian we’ll have memory verses to meditate upon…the Holy Spirit can recall the verses to mind. 🙂 What do you think?”
I thought this was great! Even writing back that it looked like she was “making the truth her own” knowing she’d get the joke. She would send messages telling me how each week she had memorized a verse. Then last month, she wrote,
“I went for a walk with my dog today and was just thinking how much peace I feel lately. It must be from God. I can sit through a whole meeting while my mom listens on the phone with the speaker on and I feel nothing but sadness for those who are being taught lies and thinking they are pleasing God. Used to be that I would want to throw up and I’d get so nervous if I heard a meeting, or if my mom made a comment about JW beliefs. I would pray and pray God would lead me back to the JWs if it really was the “truth”. Now it just rolls right off of me. I’m not scared anymore. I was also thinking last night that I finally really believe I am saved and forgiven in Christ. I wasn’t too sure before. I wanted to believe but was scared to. Perfect love casts out all fear. I believe God has changed me and relieved me from the fear of JWs that I have had for soooo long. I am amazed!”
This was absolute music to my ears. Cyndi was being embraced by the presence of her Savior. She felt the love and the love was casting out the fear that had her bound for so long!!! Praise God! Thank you Jesus!
But God’s love does not stop there. He was filling her cup to overflowing because she was now feeling love toward others!
“I really feel God is at work in me causing me to love others (and I usually don’t care for people). I feel love for my sisters in Christ at the church I go to. I’m so thankful to God as I have felt scared and lost for so long. I don’t know why He is changing me now when I feel like I prayed for years and years to be changed and be pleasing to Him, but I guess it’s just in His timing and His way. Praise God! “
God’s timing. Who has not wondered about that one before? All I can say is because of His timing, Cyndi gave me renewed joy and a humble heart to give Him all the glory!!! He is ALWAYS at work even when we pray and pray and pray and don’t seem to receive the answer. Then one day there it is!!!
Like a new Christian full of the energy of the Holy Spirit, Cyndi set her heart and mind to writing letters to members of her JW family. She asked for specific prayer wanting so much to be accurate and loving in sharing the Gospel with them. I rejoiced in her solid new birth and prayed for her new role as witness to her family. But it’s never just the student who has changed. My role would become less and His would increase! And praise Jesus, it didn’t take long! Cyndi was excited to share recently that He’s given her someone to share the Gospel with outside of her own family. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this. God has us preparing to witness to someone we know and care about and once we’re ready, He sends us to someone else!
“Guess what? I was at physical therapy today and was talking to my therapist. He asked what I did for the weekend and I mentioned going to church. Then I sort of jokingly said, ‘do you want to come to my church?’ and he said ‘no, I don’t do that.’ Then he said he used to go to church but he hasn’t been in a long time. So I asked which church and he said he was a JW. I almost fell over. SO I told him my mom is a JW. And we talked a bit. I asked him what does he think one must do to be saved and he said ‘repentance and working faith’. So I asked him if I wrote something for him about God and the Good News, would he read it. And he surprisingly said he would. He said he has an open mind about a lot of things. So I am adding him to my list of letters to be written. Please pray for me and him. I asked him if he thought he was saved, and he said…noooooooo!”
And there it is. After all these years, the student is now the teacher. This is how the church grew in the first century and continues to grow today. I know that Cyndi is equipped to help this man because God prepared her for that encounter in His perfect timing.
Giving support to one ExJW extends far beyond their own struggles. God will multiply through her now. She has now become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the truest sense. Cyndi will still have to deal with her personal weaknesses as all Christians do, the frustrations of having an entire family in the Watchtower, and I’m sure the past hurts from church will resurface in some other fellowship. But she’s no longer seeking the “right” religion now. She walks in the perfect love of God casting out fears before her. She is sure in her salvation and humbly asks for prayer knowing all good things come from God, not any human organization or agency. Now that she knows the love that surpasses understanding, I have full confidence that she will always desire to keep herself in God’s love (Jude 21)
Praise God for His Perfect Timing!
Keep yourself in God’s love,
*This woman’s name has been changed in the article to protect her privacy.