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What brought me to Christ - and later Chaplaincy?

Chaplain Joy L. Smith, M.A.
 Mental Health Counselor - Spiritual Mentor

In my early life, while struggling with serious illnesses, I had multiple hospitalizations. Many prayed for me to get well—and still, I was sick, struggling to stay alive. I felt like a failure and thought God was disappointed in me for not measuring up to some standard I wasn’t able to reach or comprehend.

Once while in a Catholic hospital when I was 18, I encountered the Sisters of the Holy Cross for the first time.  Although I was not a Roman Catholic, these nuns had a profound effect on me. They came, day after day—and what power there was in their presence. They didn’t talk so much as they listened. It was obvious they cared about what was happening to me.

How I was Healed

Through them, I got it. My eyes were opened to see God differently. I came to understand that God was not like an earthly parent who could rage, be distant, authoritative—chastising in anger. Rather, I realized God is a loving, accepting, merciful Father.

In time, I understood that illnesses, losses and trauma were not a result of God being disappointed, or angry. Rather, I could finally see God as a wonderful, loving Personage who brought Jesus into the world. Given time and considerable healing around the issue of God as Father, I gradually developed a whole different sense of God, whom Jesus called “Father.” I could see Jesus and God as having the same loving, accepting nature.

Because of this new view of God, my faith expanded. Given time, I learned that suffering truly has a "redemptive" side, although that truth did not come quickly or easily! How wonderful it is knowing that God is right here with me in the midst of my struggles—pulling for me, empowering me to endure life’s adversities.

I did gain my health, but only through a process that took a number of years. What that involved is covered in one of my books titled The Chaplain is In: Journey to Health and Happiness. There I tell more about how to let go all negatives, watch for thoughts that are not wholesome, correct beliefs that do not align with truth—and honor our emotions. For me, this is about healing my soul, as well as healing the physical tendency of my body to form blood clots which were threatening my life. In the above book I include factors explored within a new field in medical science (PNI*) that fully verify how the health of the mind and emotions affect both body and soul.

One of the things I had to do was learn to forgive. This meant letting go the pain of the past. I learned that forgiving is a process. It begins with setting my will to release the person or the situation that has caused me pain.

This took time and determination, but with persistence I gained relief from all that hurt me in the past. Forgiving those old wounds certainly affected the health of my body. Although the work was gradual, peace and joy were felt, making it like an adventure unfolding.

It was much earlier in life, however, when I encountered someone who was—and is—more important than the Roman Catholic nuns. That was Jesus. He came to my awareness at age eight, during a time when I had not heard of Him. Our family did not attend church and talk of God was not happening at home. Yet, for some reason Mom and Dad sent me to a Quaker girls’ summer camp. There Jesus Christ was introduced in such a loving, caring way that my heart was deeply touched. The building where we met was called “the Tabernacle.” It wasIt was made of actual logs and the floor was deep, soft sawdust. I can recall that rich smell today, even as I write!

At the end of that first service an altar call was made. Any person wanting to accept Jesus into their hearts and lives were invited to go forward to kneel at the altar rail, which served to validate that decision. Love and appreciation for this Jesus came easily because of the way the speaker so aptly portrayed Him. I made my choice.  Every night for the rest of the week, I walked down that “sawdust trail” to kneel at the altar. I wanted to make sure it took. Yet, I think those multiple trips to the altar were really about my wanting to experience more and more of that great love.

After that, outstanding changes took place in our family. My parents began attending church with my sister and me. Years later Mom and Dad became ministers at home and later traveled to expand Christ’s teachings in numerous countries. Two more siblings were born, and today each one of us is doing some sort of ministry with people who are in need.

The decision I made as an eight-year-old was the most significant event of my life. God's mercy and grace have become more and more evident throughout life as I continue to place the Gospel of Jesus above all else. For sure, I have not been perfect. Yet, my goal is to stay on the path of seeking God’s will over my own, day-by-day.

My life experiences, and my failures, have taught me that this is the best of all ways to live. Practices of praying, journaling and meditating on Scripture have resulted in much healing within my soul. This has reflected powerfully in my body.

Growth will not stop as imperfections keep coming to light. Yet, as a believer, I seek to stay in service, extending to others the kind of love I’ve experienced from God and from others. I live with a grateful heart, as there is no room for negativity. Every earthly experience is fodder for growth and change.

Where Does Chaplaincy Fit In?

From early in life, I Ionged to help people who struggle with matters of the heart, as well as those who endure emotional and physical illness. Becoming a chaplain seemed the best way to do that. Yet, it was not possible to gain the credentialing needed to serve as a chaplain until my family was raised. So, during my 50’s, I began Clinical Pastoral Educational (CPE). It did not take long to know this was my call—and that the call was clearly worth the wait. Chaplaincy training was followed by Board certification after which I gained a master's degree in theology.

Now, you have heard my story. While reading you may have thought of your own journey. Perhaps you felt “a knock on your heart’s door” inviting you to engage yourself with God.

How Does This Happen?

Scripture says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). If this resonates with you, it just takes saying “yes” to that call felt within. People who do so often feel unworthy due to mistakes of the past. Yet, all that is needed is to ask for these marks in the heart, called sins, to be made clean. From that point on the precious Presence of God awakens and enlivens your spirit. After a decision to ask Christ to abide with us, and to guide us, life does change. And certainly, we are never alone again. Scripture says we “carry precious treasure in earthen vessels.”  Gradually life is changed. And certainly, we are never alone again.

A simple prayer is added here in the event you find it helpful at this time:

“Dear God, I desire to give You the contents of my heart -- the good of it and the not so good of it.
I accept the call of Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as Your Son, my Savior.
I believe you can strengthen me to the point wherein You, Lord,
can use my gifts and my talents in the service of your kingdom.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done.
I am Yours … for I surrender my heart.” Amen

The first thing to do, now, is to find other Christians who understand your decision for Christ. They will help you grow in your Christian faith. Going to church will give you a family within this chosen walk with God. There are many churches to choose from. Visit until you feel welcomed and have a sense of, Yes! This is it, felt in your heart. Now, you will be at home. You will have opportunities to study the Bible while also gaining wonderful relationships with other believers.

What I’ve come to love most is hearing the stories of what takes place in the lives of individuals once they chose to make Jesus Christ Lord of their lives. You, too, can tell your story, as the Spirit prompts you, for you will indeed have a story to tell. 

Chaplain Joy is the author of two books:

Find out more on the Book Info page

Or, go directly to Amazon.com

Chaplain Joy

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