A Journey of Obedience
Written by Ali
Sheli became a Christian at a young age and “grew up in a Christian home with a very solid, loving family,” but it took the unthinkable for her relationship with God to become more personal.
Not only did she go through a divorce, she was also faced with the daunting prospect of losing over 100 pounds.
Her story is one of discovering the power of prayer and grace of God, trusting Him in the hard times and choosing to obey Him in all things.
Q: When did you begin to develop a stronger prayer life?
A: “Prayer had always been important, but about a year before I was separated from [my ex-husband] was when it became more personal. [A friend] reached out to me and she really challenged me to start praying for [my husband]. She also asked me to read The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. I don’t really enjoy reading, and it was the last thing I “felt” like doing at that moment in time, but it was powerful.
I think I had to be in a valley before prayer became really personal and real to me. Praying for [my ex-husband] didn’t change the outcome or what ultimately happened with our marriage, but it changed my heart.”
Q: How is your prayer life different now than when it first began?
A: “I finally understand the power and importance of prayer in so many ways; it impacts the physical journey, the spiritual journey and the emotional journey. [When you don’t understand the power of prayer], you don’t look for God to work. You’re comfortable and you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing (sort of).
I discovered on this journey that God really does bring just what you need right when you need it. It has been amazing to see how God would give me the verse or the song that I needed that spoke to what I was struggling with or what I was celebrating. Sometimes, it was a simple verse like “Be still, and know that I am God…” [Psalm 46:10], or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” [Philippians 4:13], but it was always timely.
There were many songs that spoke to me and that I prayed through during this time. ‘Blessings’ by Laura Story was probably what I would call my journey song.
“‘Cause what if Your blessings come through rain drops, what if Your healing comes through tears, what if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know You’re near? What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?” -‘Blessings’ by Laura Story
I saw God’s faithfulness sustain me through a storm I never dreamed I’d face. He showed me the blessings of His faithfulness in ways I may never have seen apart from the rain. I truly learned to praise Him through the storm.
There have been so many circumstances [that God has orchestrated] that were a direct result of my prayers; I’m not just throwing words out anymore. I know that God is hearing me, which is still kind of mind-blowing to me sometimes.
I don’t let my feet hit the floor in the morning before I have my quiet time and pray, which was not really a thing in my life before. It’s a huge part of my day. I started journaling [what I was experiencing] and praying through [it].
Another special part of this journey for me has been my time spent at the Monument [a local hiking trail]. It’s become a symbol to me personally of obedience, physical and spiritual discipline. I listen to praise and worship music while I’m out there and I pray some of the lyrics of the songs and some of the Scriptures that I’ve read. It’s super effective.
In that hardest time of my life, I had to choose a direction: do I want to trust God or do I want to stay bitter and miserable? I determined that prayer and trusting God were acts of obedience.”
Q: Do you have a specific method or way of praying?
A: “I’m fairly conversational [in my prayers]. I certainly maintain reverence and I try to remind myself of Who I’m [praying] to. I challenge myself to take that seriously. I like to connect Scripture in my prayers, partly through song.
The song ‘Just Say Jesus’ by 7eventh Time Down says “when you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus”- I do that sometimes if I don’t know what to say [while praying]. I just call out His Name when I’m struggling with fear or anxiety. The key is to just call out and be available.
I keep a list of people I say I will pray for and I use that in the morning because I don’t want to forget and say I’ll [pray for someone] and not mean it. Another part of my prayer is listening [to God].”
Q: What do you typically pray about?
A: “Every single day I ask God to let me shine. I want to be noticed for Him, not for my glory, but for His. I want people to see something different [in me] so I’ll have the chance to share [my testimony]. I also have to make a point to tell God thank you.”
Q: How do you pray for your children?
A: “[I pray] very purposefully and very specifically for each child. Sometimes I don’t know what to pray, so I tell God that and recognize that He knows their circumstances. I tell God I put them at His feet.”
Q: How do you include Bible reading in your daily routine?
A: “I don’t like to read big segments of Scripture. When I’m doing devotionals, I try to focus on the Scripture and pray through that. The Bible verse I claimed the most through all of this was Jeremiah 29:11 ‘”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future“‘ (NIV). Sometimes I don’t feel that that verse is true, but I choose to believe that it is.”
Q: How did your walk with God influence your struggle with weight?
A: “I asked God to help me make good choices about what I ate and what physical activities I did. I knew I couldn’t do it [alone]. A lot of days I didn’t want to [obey] and I had to pray, “God, let me make the right choices today.”
I couldn’t even run ten feet when I started, and I’m not kidding. [When I began losing weight], I had to watch pride because people would tell me “good job” for what I was doing. I had to pray and ask God to help me give Him the glory. Not that I didn’t appreciate the encouragement, but I needed to say “God got me here.” I only lost all that weight in God’s strength.
A lot of this has felt like it would be impossible without Him. I was pretty athletic growing up, but I didn’t see myself as a representative of Christ in that way. [Now physical fitness has] become an opportunity to be obedient to God.”
Q: What is your advice to other believers?
A: “Choose to be disciplined in prayer even if it hasn’t become personal to you yet. Pray before your marriage goes bad, before your parents get sick, etc. [That way] you’ll be better prepared to manage those times.”
Q: Do you have any advice for married couples?
A: “For young married couples, it’s so critical to pray together and to pray privately for each other. That’s one of my biggest regrets. I didn’t know the power of doing that, and it’s real. I’m also not sure I told [my ex-husband] I was praying for him. You can’t show more care than to pray for someone and let them know what you’re doing. I would encourage people to pray for their spouse no matter the circumstances. It might not change their behavior, but it [does change] your heart.”
Q: What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned through your divorce and weight loss journey?
A: “Obedience is really big for me. People ask why I’m out at the Monument so much, and it’s not because I’m a fitness freak. Every step onto that path is, for me, a symbolic act of obedience to God. The times I don’t feel like going, I sit there and I pray and then I go.
I had the chance the other day to forgive [someone who had really hurt me]. I told [them], “I want you to know I forgive you.” It was a really tough circumstance but we had a nice conversation and [they were] very grateful for my forgiveness. I thought, if I had to go through all this just to show [them] Jesus, then okay.
Only God could bring me to where I am. The thought that I would ever be standing there [forgiving that person] never occurred to me. God goes before me [and He sees] the big picture. There is no way [our encounter] wasn’t orchestrated.
I spend time every day dealing with forgiveness and still, to this day, I struggle. I think you can be disappointed in someone but still forgive them. God has given me an understanding of the need for forgiveness and the power that is involved in it.
I don’t know if these things happened so I could minister to divorced women, but I think God has used my experience [to help me] encourage another woman going through divorce as best I can.”
Q: Any last thoughts?
A: “I would never recommend the path I’ve been on for anybody, but I wouldn’t change it either because it got me where I am with God. God showed up. I have absolutely no doubt that God will lead a believer through anything and everything if they will ask and let Him lead. Only God’s grace can take a person through what I have experienced [ “…My grace is sufficient for you…” 2 Corinthians 12:9].