BY MARGIE LITTELL
What are you going to do in the time of trouble now that you have left the truth and the church!” she cried, her fingers drumming on my desk between us.
Clearly, I could see her fear, her anger, and perhaps a hint of envy. Deeper than those reactions, though, I saw her troubled and fearful soul. I felt her pain. I knew her insecurity.
As I looked at her, my thoughts flashed back, and I saw again how God unrolled my life and wrote the story of my leaving the Adventist church. To get me to heaven, God had to lead me through hell.
For several months, I had been aware of my husband’s serial infidelity. At first I had ignored his verbal and emotional abuse which was possibly driven by his guilt. Nevertheless, it was not yet the time for me to deal with it. I had other crises.
My beloved daddy was dying a lingering death from pancreatic cancer. At the same time, my sweet and loving nephew, Jonathan, was heroically fighting a particularly strong form of cancer at St. Jude’s hospital. Faced with these life-and-death struggles, my mom, frail with diabetes and far more sick than any of us realized, needed help. I had moved into my parents’ home to help take care of her.
One morning, while daddy was away during one of his frequent hospitalizations, I walked into my mother’s bedroom to help her prepare for the day. She was dead. I had to drive to the hospital and tell my dad. He died one month later.
My faith was depleted. Peace was impossible. God was there, but my eyes were too full of tears to see Him.
There was someone I could see, however: my brother David and his wife, Teresa. From inside my grief and despair I looked out at them and watched their faith growing and strengthening as they visited their critically ill son at St. Jude’s. David hugged me tightly at our parents’ funerals and leaned over to whisper, “Margie, God does not promise to take us out of the ‘valley of the shadow of death’; He promises to be there with us.”
A short book
One dark day, David said, “Margie, read Ephesians. It’s a short book!”
I took my Bible, and for the first time in my entire life, I read a whole book in one sitting, sentence by sentence. Previously, I had just hunted up verses to prove my own ideas or my church’s ideas. That day, however, I was stunned. The first two chapters of Ephesians completely contradicted what I had been taught in the Adventist church. What I had believed to be truth was not what God actually says! What I read that day literally knocked me to my knees, and I knelt at the foot of the cross of Jesus. I felt—I knew—His arms around me. For the first time, peace came.
Eagerly, I read more and more. At the same time, I was invited to a church service at my dad’s empty clinic. A wonderful young man, a soon to be ex-Adventist who had been reading his Bible, taught us verse by verse, book by book, God’s gospel story. For the first time, I learned what the new covenant actually was—it was far more than mere words mumbled at the Adventist communion services. I learned I was at the wrong mountain—Mt Sinai—when I should be at Mt Zion. (See Hebrews 12:18–29 for more information).
My young nephew, Jonathan, testified of his healing and of his love and adoration of his best Friend, Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, my best friend in Virginia shared her testimony with me about Jesus’ gospel— not the dismal, Adventist “different gospel which is no gospel at all” (see Galatians for more information), but the gospel of Jesus’ completed work of salvation through His life, death, and resurrection!
As I continued reading my Bible, now duct-taped together, I was constantly having to decide—what do I believe: the Bible or Ellen White? One day at “clinic church”, I leaned over and asked a former teacher in the nearby Adventist college about this dilemma. He leaned over and whispered, “Read the minutes from the 1919 Bible Conference regarding Ellen White. It’s on-line.” I read them, and I was appalled by how my own church had deceived me.
Everything I was learning was astonishing. Bible verses that I had read many times, now glowed with a golden light of joy. I watched God’s “tender mercies” in my life; He was vividly showing me His love, His concern, and His faithfulness to me.
I now knew I was safe in His hand:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:27).
I was no longer in His mouth about to be spit out:
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Rev. 3:16–17).
It was a much better neighborhood. I knew the Truth. Jesus was my best Friend:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).
Where I will be
I focused again on my Adventist friend in turmoil across the desk from me. I knew that she and her husband had “picked out their cave to hide from the Sunday-keepers” on “my” mountain top near my home.
I smiled and said, “Which time of trouble? I have been through many of them.”
“Oh, don’t be flippant,” she responded angrily. “You know what I mean.”
I did, indeed, know what she meant; my Adventist DNA is four generations deep. I am a stubborn old lady, and God had to work a long time to lead me out of the Adventist church.
I stood, walked around my desk, and took her hands. “My friend, you asked me where I will be during the ‘Time of Trouble’. I will be out there, on the sidewalk, yelling as loud as I can, “At last, dear God, at last!”
As I look back, I am astonished at God’s power, His comfort, His sense of humor, His patience, His glory, and His wisdom. He has been with me, just as David had said He was, and He led me through the deep waters of death and loss and deception and has placed me in green pastures. Now He feeds me with His truth and cares for me with His loyal love. He gives me His work to do, and He fills me with joy.
My heart is thankful—because really, it is all about Him!†
Margie Littell is a retired Clinical Audiologist dual certified in the state of Tennessee as a Speech Therapist who moderates several online former Adventist discussion groups. Her brother and sister-in-law, David and Teresa Littell, have written a book about their experience walking through their son Jonathan’s illness and his death several years later from brain cancer, possibly precipitated by his earlier radiation treatments. For more information about obtaining their book, TRUST IN HIS GLORY, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.