Award-winning author of 13 books
Founder/President, Proverbs 31 Ministries, a non-profit
organization that brings God’s peace, perspective and purpose to today’s busy woman
Featured on Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, O
Magazine, Women’s Day Magazine, and more
Married to Art, five children
Lysa TerKeurst: A Deeper Faith
MORE THAN A GOOD BIBLE STUDY GIRL
For many years, Lysa TerKeurst had knowledge of the Bible, but didn’t know how to apply it to her daily life. She would go to a Bible study, leave inspired, then go home and come undone over everyday things, like spilling bleach on a favorite shirt. Through her own personal journey she had life-transforming revelations about her faith.
Many of us want our lives to be fulfilling, especially our lives in Jesus. Lysa found that it is impossible to find fulfillment in Jesus when we try to make it happen on our own by “doing more good Bible study girl things.” This would include the activities, like reading the Bible, praying, going to church, doing other Bible studies, and being a nice person. Though these are all good, doing these activities alone will not fill our souls. They must be done with a deep heart’s desire and expectation for God to lead us into a more meaningful, life-changing connection with Him.
Lysa started to be a “good Bible study girl” after her mother decided that she, Lysa, and her sister would start attending church to help them through some difficult times. Lysa’s father walked out on them when she was 11. Also, when Lysa was eight, she was sexually abused by a grandfather-like person in her life.
She welcomed the idea of going to church. She liked the idea of having a God that would bless her if she followed the rules. She became, “Lysa, the good girl.”
Lysa’s life settled, and her mother remarried to a man that treated Lysa and her sister like they were his own. The family welcomed another sister a few years later. After that, on the day of Lysa’s senior prom, one more sister was born. She loved all of her sisters, but felt a special connection to her newest one, Hayley. Because Lysa was 18 and was old enough to be Hayley’s mother, Lysa felt like Hayley was her daughter instead of her sister. By the time, Lysa went away to college, she felt she had it all.
One night, she received a call from her mother that Hayley was very sick. She drove all night to get home. By the time she got to the hospital, Hayley was in the intensive care unit. Lysa’s parents were told that Hayley’s liver was failing and she needed a transplant or she would die. When Lysa heard this, she started making bargains with God to keep Hayley alive. She promised God she would be better, she would do more for Him, and sacrifice whatever He would ask of her if He would just save Hayley.
Lysa returned to school and continued to bargain with God for Hayley’s life. Her sister was making progress. This cycle continued for two weeks. Lysa would make bargains, and Hayley’s health kept improving. Then, Lysa called her mother to check up on Hayley. Her mother said Hayley died and went to be with the Lord. Lysa was so angry that she vowed she would never serve God again. She thought He had turned away from her, so “Lysa, the good girl” would no longer be her identity.
Lysa turned away from God for a time and found herself partying and finding temporary moments of happiness. Before long, Lysa found that she was sitting in an abortion clinic realizing she had made a mess of her life. During this time, a close Christian friend, without realizing what Lysa was going through, gave her a card with the scripture Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Though Lysa wanted to throw the card away, she kept it, and read it over and over again. Lysa was taking steps back to God and her true identity in Him.
A SLOW PROCESS
After Hayley’s death, Lysa wondered, “Where was God?” She had to wrestle with this. Through this process, she found that it’s okay to say “God, I don’t understand.” The process was slow, but she found healing and got through it by digging into the Bible and really exploring it word for word. She told herself, “This is a love letter for me,” and she tried to understand the depth of God’s love and having a relationship with Him.
Now, when Lysa finds herself in a difficult place the question isn’t “Why?”, but “What now?” With her sister’s death, Lysa found that it wasn’t a good thing, but God allowed it. Through her process she asked herself these questions instead: Could this be God’s way of providing something that can’t be seen? (this provided a way to witness to her step-father); Could God be providing something through this? (maybe ultimate protection for Hayley from something in the future); and could this be a part of the process of growing in Jesus?
In times like that, it’s best to just stand on what you know about God – Who He is and His Promises. Park your mind on what you do know. Know God. Wrestle with truth. What also helps you walk through these times is good Christian relationships. We need people that speak truth into our lives, give sound counsel, and understand the Bible. When we become more than a good Bible study girl, we live biblical principles and speak a thousand sermons in our everyday lives. It’s good to preach a good sermon, but it’s better to live it.
THE BROWNIE INCIDENT
We must live for God in small things. Lysa volunteered to make 100 individually wrapped homemade brownies for her daughter’s school bake sale. She decided to go all out and make the fancier turtle brownies, which have nuts instead of plain brownies. She meticulously made the brownies and was almost finished individually wrapping each one. By the time she was wrapping the last few, her daughter reminded her that her school was a peanut-free/nut-free school. Lysa called the bake sale coordinator and relayed what happened. Lysa felt like a failure, but learned valuable lessons through this. Satan delights in our feelings of inadequacy and he would like for us to stay there. He wants us to think that Jesus’ principles won’t work for us. These times when circumstances don’t seem to go our way we should instead ask ourselves, “How can I see Jesus even in this?” and separate the situation from our identity in Him. Despite what we see or feel, our identity in Jesus stays the same. Our shortcomings and mistakes are separate from who we are in Christ. We only need to rely on Him for a sense of well being.
“TWO OF THESE BOYS ARE YOURS”
Six years ago, Lysa and her family heard the Liberian Boys Choir sing in their church. The choir was touring in America to raise money for their orphanage. While they were here, their orphanage was attacked by rebels and burned down. Now the boys were not only orphans, but they were homeless. Lysa felt the Lord tell her that two of the boys were hers. With three biological girls of their own, Lysa and Art had never considered adoption.
When she told her husband about adopting the boys from the choir, he thought she had lost her mind. Even her four friends were shocked, but Lysa simply invited them to hear the boys sing. Then they all had a change of heart. Lysa’s friends fell in love with the boys and adopted them and others from the orphanage. A total of 31 kids were adopted by 14 families in their town.
“This is not just a story about adoption,” says Lysa. She says not everyone is called to adopt a child from a different culture. Lysa says she mentions that when she shares their story around the country. “It goes beyond that,” she says. Their story, she believes, is about faith. “It’s one thing to say you walk in faith. It’s another thing to have your children watch you walk it out,” she says.
Lysa says they have not lived without their share of challenges. “God has stretched us emotionally, physically, mentally and financially,” she says. The fundamental lesson is total dependence on God. How can we call ourselves people of faith, if we don’t allow a situation in our lives that calls us to live by faith?”
Since then, 45 kids have been adopted from the same orphanage. Lysa’s adoption story has also inspired others to adopt different children from other nations, and to become advocates for orphans. Most of the boys from the Liberian Boys Choir group that Lysa adopted from are now attending different colleges across the country.
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