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CHAPTER 3: THE CRISIS POINT
When nearly 32, having been a Christian for almost 11 years, I was reading my Bible one evening. The words of Jeremiah 16 v2 stood out to me. “You must not marry or have sons or daughters in this place.” I knew without question that God was speaking to me. After all the years of loneliness, struggling, hoping and longing, it was exceedingly hard to read those words in black and white. I could not understand why most Christians were allowed to marry so easily and I was not. It was extremely difficult to accept.
On reflecting deeply about the matter I weighed up my thoughts about marriage, how good God had been to me and how I had grown to appreciate Him for Himself. I told the Lord that, at any rate, of my own accord, if I had to choose between marriage and God, I would choose God.
Shortly after this, when talking to Christian bachelor whom I knew well, I told Him what God had said to me and was filled with a wonderful sense of triumph, victory and joy.
At home I was flooded with happiness and peace. Joy, delight, exultation poured over me in waves. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I was radiant, transformed and felt like the ugly duckling who had become a swan. For the first time in my life, I was totally happy. Before this I had known spiritual joy to a much less degree, but it was always mixed with unhappiness and was like a candle compared with the sun in what I now experienced. My Bible, which I thought I knew well, now lit up and became a new book to me. The words were like honey and made my heart melt. I saw Jesus in it everywhere. Doctrine which had always seemed rather dry came alive to me. Day after day the love of God poured into my soul. I couldn’t wait to get home from school to be alone with the Lord. My heart felt bursting with indescribable joy. Every day I prayed and read my Bible by the hour and I knew I had caught the wind in my sails where prayer was concerned. I asked for every blessing I could think of, for my own soul, the family, the church, our country and the world. Often I woke in the night and was so happy I could hardly stand it. I had never been so alive in my whole life and felt pretty, attractive, loved, wanted and confident.
Loneliness and the longing for companionship totally vanished. I became a complete, whole person. Scales seemed to fall from my eyes, and I saw the Lord’s purpose in all the Lord’s pathway along which I had come. Day after day I basked in oceans of peace and was living in a completely new world. It was as if I had died and gone to heaven, and yet I was still on earth. It seemed as if a gigantic wave had suddenly bowled me over. The intensity of God’s love for me was overwhelming and I wanted to hug and hug Him in my soul. I was filled with gratitude to all the Christians who had preached the Gospel to me and had helped me on my journey to God. Heaven, the Promised Land, was God Himself.
My heart was set free like an eagle escaping from a cage and soaring into the sky. It was as if I stood on the summit of a high mountain with a breathtaking view before me and I couldn’t wave hard enough to other Christians to encourage them to climb up to see it as well. In my soul it was as if I was dancing on the roof-tops, as if I wanted to do cartwheels and handstands all over the place, as if I was a windmill that had suddenly caught the wind. In my spirit I felt absolutely irrepressible and unconquerable. I could have stood alone against an army. When shopping I was so happy I could have whizzed my bag around my head for sheer joy. I did not actually, physically do any of these things, but it is the only way I can attempt to speak of how I felt in my soul. There are insufficient words in the English language to describe what I experienced.
Outwardly I appeared perfectly normal. My landlady saw nothing unusual in me. A fly on the wall of my room would only have seen a woman quietly reading her Bible and writing her prayers and thoughts.
I had a completely new interest in school and felt a great love for the children. As I rode to and from work on my scooter I sang hymns. Every gift I had was enhanced and my mind seemed to expand into a mountain. I saw God in everything. The whole world came alive. I drew diagrams, wrote poems and saw marvellous spiritual patterns and pictures in maths, literature and science. Nature videos and music absolutely lived to me. Jesus was the key which had unlocked my mind; I had laughs and laughs with God about the things I could see.
When I took assembly and told Bible stories in my R.E lessons, the children listened like mice and every eye was on me. My quarrel with God over being single was entirely gone, as was my resentment over having to earn my own living. During this period I had the hardest class in the whole of my teaching career, but God’s love was so marvellous it carried me through, and it was one of the happiest years of my life.
Three and a Half Years
This unbroken joy, day and night, lasted for three and a half years from January 1968 to June 1971. It absolutely transformed me and completely healed me of all my old wounds. It was the most wonderful honeymoon imaginable. No happily married couple can ever have known the heights of delight, pleasure and joy I experienced. It was heaven on earth.
In previous years I had read many books on Revival, and knew what had happened to me was what I had read about. I knew too that I was not deluded because of the way the Bible came alive to me and, increasingly, sin was overcome in my life. In the months prior to this experience, I had sought earnestly to judge my own self and put right any wrong I might have inflicted on another person. Anyone who had hurt or wronged me I totally forgave. I had felt revival was coming and did not want to be guilty of hindering it.
What I came to realise as time went on was that this blessing had happened only to me. It was personal and private. I tried to tell other Christians about it, but they did not believe me. It did not affect the people I mixed with nor did they see anything unusual about me. I do not know of anyone who was converted through me at this time. This was not how I had pictured revival happening, but at that time I was unable to pass on the blessing I experienced and enjoyed, and had to leave the matter with God.
During this period of revival, God impressed upon me 1Cor,14 v.32, “The spirits of the prophet are subject to the control of the prophets.” Nothing I did at that time was bizarre or strange. I did not clap, dance, wiggle, wave my arms, shout hallelujah, fall down, go into any kind of trance, experience any physical kind of glow or tingling, or show any lack of self-control. I read my Bible and wrote my prayers and thoughts every spare minute I had. The intense joy and delight I experienced were in my spirit, soul and mind, This led to a wonderful sense of physical calm, well-being and wholeness. God also impressed upon me that I must not neglect any of my normal duties; so I carried on at school, and behaved towards my landlady and parents as usual. A booklet by Madame Guyon edited by Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis, entitled “Life out of Death,” greatly helped and reassured me. I knew that what she had written about had happened to me.
After three and a half years the joy faded and was followed by three and a half years of spiritual dryness. The Bible was as dry as dust and I could not pray. It was like the famine in Egypt after the years of plenty. But I still knew my earlier experiences had been real and wonderful, that I was a different person and that God was with me. In spite of feeling spiritually empty and barren inwardly, God never failed me in any of my public duties. This period clearly showed me that the blessing I had known was totally from God and was not of my doing. Since then, I have lived a normal Christian life, apart from a second period of private blessing and revival from February 1990 to February 1993 which was very similar to the first. This time I had no following dry period.
Since 1968, I have had heavy ongoing burdens and many trials, but have had a new, deep, inner spiritual strength to bear them because I have been so basically happy and contented. The old wracking sins of envy, resentment, bitterness, discontent, and restlessness have never returned neither have my chronic inferiority complex, sense of frustration or loneliness. I have lived a truly fulfilled and purposeful life. God and His children have been my greatest interest and pleasure.
Over the years God has clearly shown me that, although He has greatly blessed and helped me, I am only an ordinary clay pot and still carry a rotten, fallen, fickle human nature within me. Often I have failed and made plenty of mistakes. I have been disciplined, corrected and forgiven much. Also I am keenly aware of the amount I have to learn and at times need to be reminded of the spiritual alphabet.
Looking back I realise that the reason why God kept my revival experience hidden was because I could not have been trusted to be used to help others at that time. It would have made me spiritually puffed up and conceited. I have needed many years of normality, failures and trials to help me have a true, sober estimation of myself and to learn to give God all the glory. “The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day and the idols He shall utterly abolish.” Isaiah 2v17,18 AV.
God has been the most wonderful husband to me since 1968. As He promised in 1956 He has “added all these things” in a far, far better way than I ever dreamed of. He also did “deliver me” – hence the title of my booklet.
I have no wish whatsoever to be married. I love living on my own and can’t wait to get home after a meeting. In the house I am never bored or nervous at night. Since the age of 32 I have not known five minutes of feeling lonely. God is my Friend and my Companion. He has been marvellously faithful to me. While I value good friends at church I have no special friend. I go everywhere on my own, but always feel complete and never alone. All my problems, needs and decisions I talk over with the Lord. Nothing that married people do or say, where marriage is concerned, upsets me. I am free and comfortable with them, and enjoy hearing about their children. I long for them to be blessed as I have been.
Being called- “Miss” does not trouble me one iota!
The more I grow to know God, the more sinful I see myself to be. Certainly I need the ministry, fellowship and correction of God’ people. Also I highly value the practical help, good advice, wisdom and needful home truths of my sister and her husband. There are dangers in living alone as well as blessings.
I have found that the more I consider God’s wishes and feelings, the more He considers mine. My happiness lies not in my circumstances, but in my being in the centre of God’s will.
In 1971, when my landlady died, I bought the house where I had been a lodger, and have modernised and furnished it to my own taste, but I will never forget the time when God first revealed His love to me. My shabby lodging seemed to change into a palace! Mr. Right did come along. It was God Himself. He didn’t whisk me out of teaching. Instead He transformed school and me and stood alongside me in the stress and severe battles of work until I retired in 1994. He has been as dear and precious to me in my retirement as He was at school. I have the joy and security of knowing I shall never lose Him.
Concern for Single Christians
For the past 33 years, I have been inwardly happy, contented and at rest, but have never forgotten how I used to feel during the first 11 years of my Christian life. Nothing since then has been as bad as the old inner trials.
I have a deep concern for single Christians. This of course includes people who are bereaved and divorced. Today’s moral climate is far worse than when I was young, but what God has done for me He can do for anyone. There is no sin or mountain of sins too bad to be forgiven. No wounds are too deep for the love of God to heal completely.
I Owe Everything to Jesus
I owe everything to the death of Jesus on the cross. His free forgiveness and His shed blood, which atoned for my sins. I only stand clothed in His righteousness. Any blessing I have received has been solely due to the sovereign, unmerited grace and mercy of God. The Bible has been the means of my salvation and blessing. It has been my guide, my comfort and my anchor.
I thank God too, for the love shown to me through the faithful preaching of godly ministers and the prayers, examples, forgiveness, kindness, patience, long-suffering and forbearance of many Christian friends. Good books too, have been an untold blessing.
I greatly look forward to heaven, having had such a foretaste of it on earth.
Book © (Copyright): Betty Vivian
Hard copy booklets available. Write to Miller Avenue Baptist Church, 285 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941, USA