HOPE in a Life Surrendered
~By: Susanna Kozlow~
God's plan for me in this last year has been full force “uncomfortable." I would never have chosen these uncomfortable adventures for myself, but through them, God has been able to triumph in me and through me in order to give HOPE. This hope is knowing that a life surrendered to Jesus Christ is a complete life.
I dedicated my life to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ just six years ago. It hasn’t been very long. I have always believed in Jesus, but He had no place in my actual, everyday life. My life was consumed with the love of everything this world had to offer outside of any eternal perspective. Jesus had no place in that lifestyle, and, quite frankly, I really didn’t want Him there.
My husband and I enjoyed our lives. One summer, his kids came to live with him permanently, and I instantly became a stepmom. That was a role I had no experience with, or even wanted, because kids were not in my story. Shortly after, I became pregnant with my daughter, and life as I wanted it began to change. A few years later, my son came along. So, there I was--a married woman with four kids. I would reach out to Jesus every time my marriage would take a plunge, but when things got better, I would stop talking to Him.
This pattern continued until one day someone noticed me and invited me to this place called “The Well." This is a training ministry whose heart and mission is to help women see freedom through knowing Jesus. I walked in thinking these women were crazy. They hugged you constantly, and they looked into your eyes when they spoke to you, and that was a bit much for me. I attended here and there, but there was something there I couldn’t shake. There was a realness that I had never experienced before, so I began to attend regularly. I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ in the parking lot of The Well after leaving a Bible study one afternoon.
With that, my life began to change in a way I never could have imagined. Within The Well, women noticed me, but not just me, they noticed my surrender to Jesus. I spent time with women who dedicated themselves to seeing me grow in Him. And I was given an opportunity to “TRY." I started leading Bible studies in my home without even knowing what I was going to lead or say. I just wanted to serve Him. I always had in my heart, just try. Women came, and we learned Scripture together.
Early in 2017 came the first blow that I thought I would never survive. My husband left for work one Saturday morning and never returned. I didn’t hear from him until three days later when he confessed to taking all of our finances and told me he was leaving me and his kids. As I watched my security, my love, my sanity, and everything come crumbling down, I got on my knees and I grabbed onto Jesus’ feet. All I heard time and time again was, I’m here. I am always here. Just abide in Me.
What came next was a whirlwind of God's provision over me and my kids. The body of Christ stepped in and began to help me build again. God stepped in and showed He was and still is my provider. I clung to Romans 8:27-28: "And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Those who know me know that is my Scripture of promise God has placed in me. It is Truth. No matter what life looks like on this earth, there is something greater. God's plan is GREATER, and He promises to take care of His people according to His purpose. With that provision from God through His people, I was able to find a new house for myself and my kids, close to their school. I proclaimed my home as God's home, and that is exactly what it has become--God's house, where I hold Bible studies and prayer groups.
Later in 2017, I attended a training conference held by The Well called "Operation Train Up a Woman." I remember the founder closing it out by saying, “You leave here today with a fire in you to either start something or join something." With that, a fire ignited in me, but I really didn’t understand it at the time. I started leading in my church. Doors began to open for me that didn’t even make sense. Friends laughed as they would say,“You just have God's favor." But what I had was a fire in me that wanted to advance this thing called the Kingdom of God no matter where I was in my life. His mission became greater, and I became LESS. I would wake up every morning and ask the Holy Spirit to help me. I was mentoring women one-on-one, but I didn’t have enough time in my day to meet with everyone individually. So, I started an accountability group, and that began to grow. I taught in my church and in my home. I was in complete AWE of what God was doing.
In 2018 my husband returned, and we began trying to build our lives together again. Forgiveness was something that I needed to make a conscious choice to do most days. It didn’t come naturally. He had a new career, and he made a decision to travel for work Monday through Friday. I knew that Satan had his aim on my husband, and he had him for so long that getting him out of his grip was not going to be easy. I watched as my husband would make mistakes. I watched as he chose himself over his wife and kids, and God was not even in the picture. I watched as he began the same cycle over again; the same cycle that he was accustomed to for the last twelve years. I would pray for God to step in. As I prayed, I knew and believed that God will take care of His people, and I would cling to that truth.
One morning that year, I started my morning prayer as I always did. I would pray for God to use me, and I consistently prayed for Jesus to help me have His heart and to feel what He feels. I opened my Bible to Matthew 9. I started to read, and as I got to verses 36-38, which I had read countless times, I began to sob.
When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:36-38 NIV
You see we pray to have the heart of Jesus, don’t we? What happens when He shows you, and you feel it? With that my fire blew up, and the Holy Spirit put on my heart that I would start a ministry to bring truth and understanding about the Kingdom of God and who we are as His ambassadors of His Kingdom here on earth. There was an urgency in me. I went to some of the women in my accountability group and said, “We are going to start a ministry, and it will be our writing and our studies and our mentoring." Most of them looked at me as if I had absolutely lost my mind, but they locked arms with me. I explained that we can’t sit here and watch as there are women drowning in their lives; women in our churches thinking it's okay to live mediocre lives attending church Sundays and doing nothing else; women attending Bible studies weekly who stay in their seats waiting for Jesus to come down and knock them out. I saw it every day. We can’t proclaim to have allegiance to the greatest warrior that walked this earth, Jesus Christ, and not pick up our swords and fight in this war. We can’t be okay being comfortable. With that, these amazing, faithful, God-fearing women came together, and we began to get the ball rolling. But, what would come next was the unexpected.
In 2018, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She was a woman who spent her entire life serving God and was on her knees daily praying for her children. I watched as my mother suffered for almost a year. I cried countless nights asking, WHY? It was a pain I had never felt before. I wondered what God truly wanted me to do. There I was with a ministry that wasn’t off the ground yet, and I had signed on to teach in my church. I had no idea how I would do it all with that amount of pain. BUT, GOD!!!
2019 was the year that brought the most pain in my life. In March, my mom lost her battle with cancer and went to her true home to dance with Jesus. I watched God's faithful and sovereign hand in all of it. I cried so many tears that opened up so much truth in me. God used me in so many ways during that time as I mourned. And He used not only me, but my entire family--all of her kids.
Then came April. Not even a month had gone by from the time I lost my mother when my husband came home from one of his trips and told me that he was leaving me and my kids and moving to Texas. Within a week, he had his bags packed and walked out, and I didn’t stop him. Why? I knew God knew this would happen. It was no surprise to Him. And there I was--no job, no true savings, no husband, and a broken heart, once again. BUT, GOD!!!
All I thought was, HOW God? How do You expect me to move forward with all You have placed in front of me with all that has come down on me? I was just finishing up the study at my church, and I had already signed up to do another. I spent some days angry and sad. I was angry that I was thrown these punches and angry that God allowed it and still wanted me to move forward. I was sad that I had no time to sit on my bed and cry because I had kids to comfort and a ministry to tend to. I wanted this pain to go away and thought HOW do I do all of this with all this pain? But, here is the 'how.' God was not expecting me to handle it all, He just wanted my obedience, and He would handle all of it. Back to Romans 8:28.
You see, we follow a Warrior Christ; a Jesus who was born onto this earth as a man who risked it all for the glory of His Heavenly Father to fulfill His purpose of bringing truth and freedom. FOR US!!! He taught through His obedience to God, for the purpose of God's Kingdom here on earth. SAME as today!!! He suffered and died a gruesome death, for US. That is the Jesus we follow. Do we really think following this Jesus is easy? Do we really think it will be painless? We are fighting in a spiritual war!!! Everyday!!! Do we not get wounded in a war? Do we sit back and think, I'm going to sit this one out? NO!!! Our enemy doesn’t take breaks. His only goal is to take us out of our God-given purpose on this earth. We are warriors for the Kingdom of God. We proclaim allegiance to JESUS CHRIST alone. Why would we think it will be easy? Everyday we have to die to ourselves. EVERYDAY.
I love this saying by David Platt: “True Christianity is when you love the glory of God MORE than your own life.” What does that mean? You have to love God's Kingdom more than wanting to fix any problem going on in your life right now. You have to love that person who has hurt you to the core more than giving yourself a reason to hate them. You have to trust God with His truths no matter what your enemy tells you to feel. You have to truly understand that making disciples is your only mission on this earth. Why? God wants ALL of His children. God wants those ladies you are teaching in your Bible study. God wants that friend or family member who has hurt you continuously. God wants that child who has walked away from Him and has cut your heart in half. God wants that husband who has abandoned all his responsibilities and hurt you like no other. Those are God's children who need to see Jesus in YOU everyday. His mission moves forward regardless of your situation today.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2 NIV
Consider it pure joy, friends, when you endure suffering of any kind. Now James was either crazy, or he really said, “consider it pure joy.” How? We have to love the glory of God more than anyone and anything in our own lives.
My husband is destined to be a disciple of Jesus Christ! I will proclaim that! My kids are destined to break generational chains, and that isn’t going to be easy. If God thinks I am the one to stand in the front lines of this war, so be it. I will consider it pure joy to endure any suffering.
We live in a broken and ugly world. Families are being torn apart. Addiction is killing not only our youth, but parents and adults. Women are struggling to put food on the table for their kids and looking for love from any man who is willing to help. Kids are desperate to feel loved and protected. What people need is to know all Jesus is and all Jesus can do, and most of the time it is seen through our own lives. That is sometimes the only Jesus a broken person will see.
My ministry kicked off the ground with eleven amazing women who are dedicated to the mission of Jesus Christ and are out working the harvest, everyday. We held our first training conference in November 2019. We maxed out our space and had to turn away some women because of seating. Half of the women I had never met. Some heard for the very first time WHO they are as ambassadors of God's Kingdom and how to cultivate spiritual disciplines in their lives. We are scheduled to do our next training in May of this year.
And in the midst of all of that, as I prayed for God to help me provide for my kids financially, He reminded me of Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” I keep this verse up in my home to be reminded of God's truth. As I wondered what this lady would do to provide for her family, God opened a door for me to teach in my kid’s school. I was offered a full-time position as a third-grade teacher. This was something I didn’t go looking for and something I didn’t feel qualified to do, and still don’t, BUT, GOD!!! I am on mission, and my mission for Him doesn’t change! In just a few short months, I had money saved for the first time in twelve years of marriage. My husband has not divorced me and provides financially, and comes to visit when he can. Why? BECAUSE GOD!!!
I don’t know what my future will hold on this earth, but I know the ONE who holds it all. I don’t know if my marriage will be reconciled, but I know I need to love my husband regardless--not for me, but for God. A dear and wise friend told me years ago, Don’t believe the movies that Satan puts in your mind, they are lies. You get up every day and just do what God has asked of you today. He already has tomorrow planned for you so that you don’t miss out on today.
I pray that if you are reading this today and feel the burden of your life on your shoulders, you hand it to Jesus who is fully capable. I pray you find HOPE in that. If you think you aren’t strong enough, or too broken, allow Him to put you back together for His purpose. If you have chosen a life of disobedience, my prayer is that you turn it around and allow God to have His glory through your obedience. Remember that there is much work to be done in this world. The harvest is STILL plentiful, and the workers are STILL few. I pray you put on your full armor of God and pick up your sword and FIGHT! Fight for the sake of His Kingdom. Your mission does not change regardless of any situation you find yourself in.
We serve a Lord and Savior who gave us the footprint to do so. He suffered tremendously so that we may have those footprints. I pray you grow tired of living a life of mediocre praise and prayer and that a fire ignites in you today to know the impact God can make through you; through your obedience. I pray you are BOLD for Him and that no devil will stop you. I pray that you open your eyes and heart to where God has placed you today, you notice the hurting, and that you risk it all to see your spouse, or child, or cousin, or parent, or friend know Jesus through you.
God gave me a word at the beginning of this year--Audacious!!! May I continue to be audacious in all I do for God's Kingdom here on earth. May my fire be so bright and bold that you can’t help but see it everyday in me and through me. May I die to myself more each day. May I love like I have never been hurt, and may I get up and fight regardless of how tired I feel, knowing my strength comes from God alone.
May you always choose obedience over convenience, regardless of what is happening in your life today.
Always remember, great people don’t do great things. God does great things through surrendered people, because a life driven by obedience to Jesus Christ is a COMPLETE LIFE!