Running on empty was tough

Michele Philip
My grandmother had real love, says Michele Philip, pictured with husband Anthony and children Ethan and Cordelia

Education will enable me to be master of my own destiny, Michele Philip once thought. It freed her from her family's influence but despite financial success and marriage, fulfilment seemed elusive.

Her childhood in Malaysia was not the happiest period of her life.

School, she says, allowed her to "escape a dreadful family life", so she chose law studies in the UK to "experience freedom from my family" and be accountable to no-one.

"The emptiness in my life soon settled in but I rationalised that away," she admits. "After all, I was there to study and not to get distracted."

In her fourth year of study, she married Anthony, but even when they gained promotions, comfortable jobs and children, there was something still missing in her life.

"Life was meaningless," she admits. "Marriage soon became the 'scapegoat', and we took our frustrations out on each other."

Counselling helped them hold onto their marriage, yet the sense of emptiness prevailed.

She decided to try a different tack and became a stay-at-home mum.

"We wanted to do things 'differently' and to build on our family life," Michelle explains.

As part of this family renewal, she decided to follow the example of her loving grandmother and took her family to a church.

"My religion was always meaningless to me," she admits feeling. "I knew of God but He was such a distant and ethereal figure that I never really saw the need for Him."

Despite this, she got involved as a Sunday school teacher and thought she had better buy a Bible so she could build on her knowledge of God.

"I bought a New Testament Bible and started to read it for the first time in my life," she recalls. "I could not put it down, and every spare moment was spent reading it."

Within several months Michele finished reading the New Testament. She realised from her reading that God is perfect and showed His love for mankind when Jesus, God the Son, sacrificed His life so that she could be forgiven.

Although she had known about God for a long time, she started to understand that knowing 'about' Jesus was not the same as knowing Him personally. She realised that she needed to ask for forgiveness for her rejection of Him in her selfish lifestyle.

"I distinctly remember my joy that day and sharing with some people that I had become a true believer in Jesus Christ," she says.

Michelle says she is still amazed at the way God was gently drawing her closer to Him through the Holy Spirit, and how she felt transformed and "made into a 'new person' by His Word alone".

"Soon after my conversion, things didn't automatically get better in my marriage," she still admits.

"If anything, it got a lot worse but my prayer partners in the mum's prayer group, prayed faithfully with me for two years for my husband's salvation."

Within a few years she was thrilled to see her entire family had each made a personal decision to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

"God has slowly rebuilt our marriage," she says with a smile. "He's given meaning to my life, and continues to give me a life, which is full of His blessings as I grow in my love of Him and others He has placed in my life, as well as in my obedience to Him."

"Even if things are not going my way, I am thankful to have Jesus in my life because He gives me peace like no other, and lets me know He is with me in the midst of my trials."

Today, Michele is actively involved in their church with Anthony serving as a lay pastor.

"In all matters of my life, I trust in God to work all things out in my life so that I will become more like Jesus Christ and in so doing, others may see the transforming work of Christ because only He is able to fix broken lives.

"The emptiness that was in my life for so long is gone. My life is complete with Christ in it," she concludes.

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