Melinda Clendineng has been married for 22 years and is the mother of 3 young adult children. She’s also a reader of this blog and sent me this moving and inspiring testimony to God’s grace in her life, which she’s given me permission to share. You can follow her blog here

I grew up thinking I was a believer because I had “prayed the prayer” when I was 4. At the age of 36, when my children were 3, 5, and 7, I came down very suddenly with a debilitating central nervous system disease that caused excruciating nerve pain for the next 11 years. At the end of year 10, the Lord intersected my life and saved me! He knew exactly what it would take to break my self-righteousness and trust in myself, and none of my suffering was wasted.

Prepared for service
One year after I was gloriously transformed by the grace of God, he chose to heal me of my pain, and I have been pain-free now for 3 years. However, in that year, God clearly showed me that He had been preparing me for service in His kingdom long before He saved me. I came to terms with the fact (I thought) that I’d be in a wheelchair and in terrible pain for the rest of my life, and I saw that I had an automatic mission platform from which to minister to others – that of deep suffering. I began at once to share Christ with everyone at the hospitals and doctor’s offices where I frequented.

I now work with people who are suffering from old age, disease, broken relationships, and other forms of severe suffering. I have an automatic “in” with those who suffer when I tell them my story and when I tell them I can relate to their incapacitation (I was in a wheelchair for a long time), their pain, their loneliness, their depression, their doubts and fears about God and the future. The Lord has given me a passion for Christ, a passion for sharing the gospel and making the gospel a part of everyday life (I’m training to be a NANC-certified biblical counselor).

Deep and abiding relationship
I could not now be ministering to the people I minister to had I not gone through what I did for all those years. I cannot imagine being any happier in Christ than I am right now, even if He had chosen to save me earlier in my life. I have a relationship with God that is deep and abiding, and has and will continue to withstand the test of time and suffering. I am absolutely passionate about sharing the good news of the gospel with anyone who will hear.  I was so deceived for so long, and the Lord saved me, so He can save anyone who will humble themselves before God!

God has given me a fearlessness to talk to people who are suffering terribly, and gives me ways of sharing the love of God with them. I do chronological Bible studies with some (recently, a hospice patient of 70 truly came to know Christ after we had done this for 9 months!), expositional Bible studies with women alzheimer’s residents in a nursing home (we went through the book of Romans over the past year, and now are going through John) and they devour hearing God’s Word like it’s the most precious thing they ever heard (which it is!) . I have seen them change, little by little, as a result of the entrance of God’s Word into their hearts once a week on a consistent basis.

Walking by faith not by feelings
The longer I am a believer (4 years now) the more I love the gospel and the less I understand it!  The love of Christ and loving Him in return is the only thing I live for now – it wakes me up in the morning and keeps me ministering all day long, every day, day in and day out.  Of course, I still battle my sinful heart, but God does not let me get by with continuing to sin for very long.  Sometimes I look at people at church who are sort of nominal in their love for God, and they seem to be able to get by with all sorts of things in this life – but I cannot.  I realize that if I’m going to work in God’s fields, I must do it His way, and that means I must be a clean vessel, a humble, repentant one.  Consequently, I sometimes go through bouts of very deep discouragement over my sin and the consequences of not knowing or walking with Christ for the first 46 years of my life.  I am slowly learning to walk by faith, not by sight, and not by my emotions.