By Joyce McConnell
I grew up in a family that had no foundation in God’s Word. My great grandfather was a leader in the Mormon Church and his association with this false religion had far reaching effects upon my family to the third and fourth generations. (Deut.5:7-9) My family on both sides were either Mormons or Christian Scientists.
When I was a teenager I became more interested in Christian Science, which basically teaches that if God is good and omnipresent, then evil, sin and sickness do not exist. They are merely illusions of “mortal mind.” The story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man are considered myths.
Since I had had no training in the truth of God’s Word (the Bible), I had no standard with which to measure this false teaching. If God is a good God, I surmised, then it follows that what He created would be good and perfect. I especially liked the idea that sin does not exist because that left me free from accountability to God. I didn’t realize that you cannot understand God through logic or through a teaching that is contrary to His written Word.
I didn’t fully commit myself to this religion until I was married and living in Japan with my husband Jim, who was assigned there with the US Army. We were both young and self-centered, and we soon had marital problems that seemed irresolvable. I was in great distress, filled with horrendous fears and felt as though I were on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
One day I picked up the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which claims to have the keys to interpreting the Scriptures. I started to read the book and found that I couldn’t put it down. Soon I had a feeling that there was a presence with me. It seemed to be a good and loving presence. I wanted to read on and on. My feelings of anxiety and fear fell away and I thought I must be in the presence of God. I had never experienced anything like it. I knew it was a spiritual experience and so I assumed it was of God.
I read the book for several days, but when I neared the end, I suddenly couldn’t understand it anymore. It didn’t make sense to me and I wondered how I could have possibly believed its teachings. I discarded the book and returned to my daily routine. Not long afterwards, the distress and fears returned. I rushed back to the book and started reading it again, hoping to regain what I thought had been a healing, but nothing happened this time. “Oh no,” I thought, I’ve rejected God and He’s punishing me.” I thought my only recourse was to brainwash myself with the book’s teachings and try to regain the healing and the feeling of being at-one with God that I thought I once had.
I tried to live this religion for several years with little success. I struggled with fears and anxieties, finally getting some relief from professional counseling. I could see that there is sin in the world. It was evident from all the discord and violence in the world around me. Denying its existence didn’t make it go away. Denying that I was sick when I was ill didn’t help either. I concluded that sin and sickness are real and I had to find an explanation for them. I decided I must try to find God another way. I didn’t know that there is only one way to the Father and that is through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) I began my search.
One day I came upon a book called Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall, a renowned Christian writer. She explained in her book that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) When I discovered that the Lord Jesus Christ had paid the penalty for my sins when He died on the Cross and rose again from the dead, I came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I knew I was a sinner and that I needed Jesus’ forgiveness in my life.
I received Jesus into my heart as Lord and Savior on October 1, 1964 and began my walk with the Lord. I expected to have all the good feelings come back over me, but instead I had a peace and a knowing that I was forgiven and was born again into God’s family. What joy filled my heart!
I learned later that the peace I had with God came from accepting the truth of God’s Word into my life. The experience I had with Christian Science was a result of false teaching, and no matter what feelings are evoked, if they are not based upon truth, they are deceptive and invalid.
There were still some difficult lessons to learn, however. My husband Jim had not met Jesus yet and when our four boys reached their teens, we were again immersed in marital difficulties. Where was the victory in the Christian walk, I wondered? We had no victory, only distress and turmoil. I cried to the Lord for help and He led me on another journey – a search for a deeper walk with Him.
My search began in an unexpected way. The Lord wanted me to see that Christian Science is a false religion and that I needed to renounce it before I could move on with Him. Somehow, even though I had given my life to the Lord, I didn’t fully understand that Jesus is the only way to the Father. I was led to read books that identified Christian Science as a cult whose teachings have added to and subtracted from God’s written Word. I listened to teaching tapes on other cults that are contrary to God’s Word. I finally saw that Christian Science is a counterfeit religion contrary to God’s Word in every way. I renounced it in Jesus’ name and asked for His forgiveness and cleansing from my past association with it.
I still had one unanswered question. What about that spiritual experience where I felt I was in God’s presence? It had seemed to be a good feeling, even a loving feeling. It had become the focal point of my life. I prayed to God Psalm 51:6 – “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”
Shortly after my prayer, Jim, who had become a Christian, and I attended a Christian meeting where a man gave his testimony about all the false religions he had tried before finding Jesus. Christian Science was one of them, and afterwards I talked to him at length about my spiritual experience.
He told me point blank, “That was not God. That was Satan.”
“But, how could Satan seem to be loving and good?” I asked.
“Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light according to II Corinthians 11:14,” he answered.
I was stunned and instantly knew that I had found the truth at last. I was devastated for some time after this discovery. What could possibly be worse than mistaking Satan for God? I thought I would never stop crying over my terrible mistake.
I didn’t think I could ever share this traumatic experience with anyone, but the Lord has enabled me to share it over the years as a warning to others.
As is often the case, after moving ahead with the Lord, Satan came against me to test me. One day, as I was going about my daily routine, the fears that I had had many years before when I was in Christian Science suddenly came back upon me. There was no reason for them. They were just there. I tried to ignore them. I didn’t think I could handle such horrendous fears again. Somehow I got through the day.
When the children were in bed, I also went to bed and fell into a fitful sleep. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a terrible presence in the room. It was the spirit of fear. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it climbing up my body. It started at my feet and was slowly inching its way up my body. Never had I felt such chilling fear. I was literally frozen with fear. I needed help. My husband was out of town. What could I do? I knew I needed to pray, but my mind was frozen. I turned on the bedside lamp and jumped out of bed. I picked up my Bible and I’m sure the Lord led me to open it to the 91st Psalm. I shouted out the Psalm, personalizing it and making it my own. “She who dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord He is my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I will trust. Surely He will deliver me from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence”…. I shouted out the entire Psalm, and when I was finished the spirit of fear was gone. I have never had to deal with that kind of fear again.
The Lord taught me three very important lessons from that experience: (1) You can’t ignore Satan. He will not go away. You must confront him in God’s power. (2) I don’t need human help. Jesus and I make a majority. (3) God’s Word is quick and powerful. When Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations in the wilderness with the truth of God’s Word, Satan’s only recourse was to depart. (Luke 4:13) We are further admonished in James 4:7 to “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The devil cannot resist the power of God’s Word.
Not only is God’s Word powerful, it is complete and holy. We are admonished not to add to it or subtract from it according to Deut. 4:2; II Peter 1:19-21; and Rev. 22:18-19. We are to study it, live by it, honor it, teach it to our children and share it with others.
I can sing along with David, “I will exalt you, Oh Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Oh, Lord, my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. Oh Lord, you brought me up from the grave and spared me from going down to the pit.” (Psalm 30:1-3)
How I praise God that He rescued me out of Satan’s dark domain into His marvelous Kingdom of light! It is my prayer that I may shine the light of His truth wherever I go.