Life happens. Maybe you say it a different way. Either way, what we expected life to be like and what it’s actually like are often at odds. Things disrupt our routines and relationships. We have unexpected crises and some that we create ourselves. Sickness and disease invade our lives. We experience pain and suffering from many different places. We make mistakes that cost us money, relationships and jobs. Life happens. Sometimes we make it happen and other times it happens to us. None of us are exempt from the frustrations and disappointments of life.

One of the things that I love about the church is that people to whom life has “happened” can experience life-change. Every single person who walks into the doors of a church has experienced some disappointment in their life. Each week at Open Door, the chairs are filled with stories of people who have or are currently experiencing life “happening”. Some are going through a difficult season while others have experienced life-change and have been able to overcome their pain and disappointment.

I have been both of those people at Open Door. When I walked in the door for the first time I was a person who life had happened to and I had been through a long season of pain and disappointment. What I found was a lot of other people who life had happened to as well but they had learned to depend on God’s grace and found that life-change could happen in spite of their situation. I found encouragement to experience this life-change myself.

Every Sunday people watch and listen as I deliver a sermon. New people often think that I have no idea what it is like to deal with the pain of life. What I hope they find over time is someone who has found grace and hope sitting in the same chairs that they sit in each week. Open Door is a place where people who are experiencing life can be welcomed and find hope in spite of their present or past problems.

One of the most encouraging things I experienced at Open Door was the people who gathered around our family.  They not only loved on us, but shared their own personal stories of pain and difficulty and how they overcame them. I recall specifically one lady putting her arms around Barbara and I one night and saying “all of us have been in the ditch at one time or another”. I cannot begin to tell you the hope that offered to us and the acceptance we felt because of her willingness to share. Over time I learned more about her family’s story and continually find hope in it.

Sitting in the confines of our church are hundreds of stories of healed marriages, restored relationships, addictions that have been overcome and defeats that have turned into victories. Your story may be one of those. What you may not realize is the value that your story has. The lady that encouraged Barbara and I that night probably had no idea I would still be talking about it over 10 years later. It was significant to us. When things feel bleak, the least little light can offer immense hope.

You have a story. We all have a story. We would love to hear your story so we can share it with others. You may be unsure about sharing your story publicly. We understand. What we do want you to know is that someone needs to hear your story. Your life-happens-but-life-change-also-happens story could be the very thing that is the difference-maker for someone. They may be talking about it 10 years from now. Tell us your story. If you can’t do that, tell someone. They need to hear it.

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