Sheila’s testimony

How God Changed my life

Sheila Jacobs

Sheila Jacobs

‘Good news,’ said my mum. ‘Grandma’s coming to stay.’ I groaned. Not because I didn’t love my gran, but because I knew she’d be talking about Jesus all the time. Although I’d liked hearing stories about Jesus when I was a kid, and actually considered myself a ‘Christian’ – though I never went to church and lived entirely according to my own rules – I didn’t want all that ‘Jesus stuff’ now I was in my mid-20s. I was into a pub and club lifestyle! Still, I was feeling pretty low about life in general. A few negative things had happened – my parents had split up, a close friend had died at the age of 28, and I didn’t have a job. I felt anxious and stressed much of the time. Gran arrived and wanted to go to the Christian book store in Colchester. Rather reluctantly, I drove her there, and while we were in the shop I found a book called I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh. I was intrigued. It seemed you could know God personally through a real friendship with Jesus! I decided if it was true, I wanted that. ‘If you’re really there, Jesus,’ I said in my bedroom one July evening, ‘come into my life and handle it, because I can’t handle it anymore.’ There was no blinding light, but I felt a peace I hadn’t know before. I went downstairs and my mum said, ‘What’s happened? You’re smiling.’ Shortly afterwards, I got a good job. And of course, now I knew Jesus was real and life could be lived on a deeper level, I had to find a church. Truthfully I didn’t want to because I thought all churches were boring. But I went to the Elim Church in Braintree, and experienced the presence of God in a way that wasn’t boring at all. Giving up… Just because you become a Christian doesn’t mean life is going to be perfect. In my early 30s, while studying for a diploma in theology, I became ill with what was later diagnosed as Meniere’s disease and I couldn’t work. I developed agoraphobia as well, so my dream of becoming an evangelist seemed over. ‘Lord,’ I said, ‘all I wanted was to work for you.’ ‘I don’t want you to work for me,’ came the reply. ‘I want to do my work in and through you.’ Around that time, someone sent me a copy of Sit Walk Stand by Watchman Nee. It revolutionised my idea of what it meant to live a Christian life; I saw that just as you can’t rescue a drowning man who is struggling – you must wait till he gives up before you jump in a save him, or he will drag you under – so God was waiting for me to give up, to rest in him, to ‘let go and let God’. So I did. I’d always wanted to be a writer. But I’d recently failed a writing course and no one wanted my novels. One summer evening, I was walking my dog by the river; that was about all I could do in those days. That evening I gave up my lifelong ambition to publish a book. ‘It’s an idol,’ I said to the Lord. ‘And it may not be your will. I don’t want anything between me and you.’ Three weeks later, I saw an advert in a Christian paper saying that Christian Focus Publications were looking for new children’s books. I had a couple of sample chapters in a drawer, and thought, ‘I’ll send them. That’s the last time.’ So I sent them and forgot about it. No one had ever shown any interest in my novels before… amazingly, the publisher wrote back asking for the complete manuscript. There was a problem. I hadn’t written it! I crashed Aliens and Strangers out on my old typewriter and they accepted and published the novel – in total I wrote seven books for them, including Rollercoaster Time which won a CBC Gold Award. And again… As my health improved, I knew it was time to look for work. But years of illness and writing Christian novels doesn’t actually qualify you to do anything. I could not get a job. Then one Saturday I went to a church meeting in Sudbury, Suffolk, and was ‘slain in the Spirit’. Afterwards I realised I’d been robbing God of worship for years. So I didn’t ask him for anything, including a job, I just praised and worshipped. A week later, out of the blue I had a phone call from someone I knew in publishing, asking if I ever edited books. From that time to this – over twelve years – God has given me enough work to make a living. He also opened a door for me to publish several more novels, including Watchers (2002/2009), a futuristic action adventure story with a Christian message. Sometimes people will read books rather than go into churches…I found it impossible, though, to get my Watchers sequel published. In the end, once again I gave up. ‘It may not be your will,’ I admitted to God. ‘I’ve prayed for six years for this, but I’ve obviously got it wrong. I give up.’ Two days later, again out of the blue, I had a book deal for Watchers 2: Renegade and the reprinting of Watchers – more than I ever expected. Watchers 3: Countdown followed the next year. And now in my writing, and in my editorial work, my focus is on Jesus and the gospel. For me, it is about telling people through the written word (as well as by speaking to them and showing them) that God loves them. After all, two books played a big part in my coming to know Jesus, and then learning to rest in him. When I was ill, I never thought I would be able to ‘go into all the world’ to tell others about the Jesus I have found to be real. But God has done something new in recent years. Freedom from illness and agoraphobia was and is wonderful – the result of Jesus’ wonderful promise to set the captives free – and now much of my evangelism is ‘out there’ in street work. I often ask people to think of the person they love most in the world and say, ‘You’d die for them, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s how much Jesus loves you.’ But life’s not perfect and never will be while we’re on this earth.  lovely Christian mother is in a home with dementia. I asked why this had happened, but God just showed me that he’s in it with me. That’ enough for me, and I have found it to be true. He says he’ll never leave us or forsake us, and even though I often get things wrong, he’s always been faithful. People leave us; sometimes they want to, and sometimes they don’t. He never will. Jesus can make your story a ‘story for his glory’.  Knowing him and his love is real life, real freedom.  If you don’t know him, do what I did. Find out for yourself! 

Sheila J.

 

Please Note: Sheila’s testimony is not a result of being prayed for by The Healing Bus