Friday Five: Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a gifted teacher, author, and speaker. Recently, she published her first book, Seriously God? I’m Doing Everything I Know To Do and It’s NOT Working!  She lives in Adairsville, GA with her husband, Chad and their three teen daughters. You can find out more about Jenny at her website or by following her on Twitter at @keepinstride

As a first time author, what led you to write “Seriously God? I’m Doing Everything I Know To Do And It’s Not Working”?

During the past couple of years, we lost everything we thought defined who we were. Our home was fore­closed, many of our so-called friends disappeared, and we struggled to maintain some kind of home life and make our three daughters felt secure. I was looking for a book written by an author who went through a similar experience. I could find all kinds of practical helps, websites to help us cook a meal for under $5, how to cut your cable bill in half, but nothing that went straight to the heart of the matter.

You say, at times, you felt abandoned by God. Did this book flow out of that seasons of doubt and despair?

Yes. My world continued to crumble. It didn’t match up with what I believed about God. We made mistakes, but I also knew God was supposed to be our provider, and it felt like He had been laid off too. It seemed like God had let us down. Where was He? Why did it seem like no matter what we did, everything disintegrated around us?

I finally came to the end of myself. I realized I didn’t have the strength I needed to face my changing reality. The only option left to was to open my Bible and cry out to God for help. I found great comfort in the book of Acts. I noticed the repeated use of the phrase, “in the name of Jesus”. I has always assumed this was a kind of tag for the end of our prayers, but these early Christians lived daily in the name of Jesus. It was a lifestyle.

So how did you begin to live life in the name of Jesus?

I realized pretty quickly that the early church knew Jesus at a much deeper level than I. Many had actually seen Him, talked with Him, walked beside Him. I remember sitting in my chair thinking, am I going to have to study all the Gospels, I don’t have time for that! That’s when I discovered the “I Am” statements of Jesus in the book of John. They changed my heart and my outlook on my circumstances. Seven times Jesus says “I Am…”

In my book I cover all seven  statements both in their original context and as they applied to my current situation. As I journeyed through these powerful words of Jesus and continued to study the believers in the book of Acts, it grew apparent that I had not been living fully the life God intended.

Could you share one of those “I Am” statements and what it means to your life?

The very first “I Am” statement Jesus made spoke directly to my situation – not in a comforting way, but in a piercing way. Sometimes Scripture cuts right to the heart of the matter. I had confused the gifts with the Giver. In John  6:35 we find Jesus telling the crowd that the only reason they followed Him was because their bellies were full! On the day before, Jesus had miraculously provided bread until they “ate their fill of the loaves” (Jn. 6:26b). My heart was pierced as I realized how much of my commit­ment to Jesus was based on Him letting me eat my fill of life.

This realization both opened my eyes and gave hope. The words Jesus spoke, “I am the bread of life,” began to take root. I realized I had become so dependent on the gifts God gave me that when they were gone, I felt abandoned. The reality was I had not been abandoned! I came face-to-face with a decision: would I follow even if I couldn’t eat my fill?

How can the Church best encourage and minister to those who are struggling in what has become our new reality of hard times?

Recently I was listening to a caller on Christian radio share her difficult situation to the host.In five days she would have to move out of her rental home because both her and her husband had lost their jobs. So many people told her “to have more faith.” I knew how she felt because we often heard the same platitudes. What we need to do is look people in the eye and see them as people, brothers and sisters in Christ and offer real help, not simply words. One of my most vivid memories is sitting at a table with some friends. For the first time in our lives, my husband and I feared we wouldn’t have enough money to pay our bills. I’m talking about the essential bills like groceries, electricity and water. We asked our friends to pray for us, and they offered not only prayer, but money. We decided to wait until the end of the month. God ended up providing some odd jobs, but their willingness to help changed my view of how Christians should respond.