“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (ESV)
Ukraine, my birthplace. This country has seen the day I lost everything, and miraculously, it has seen the day hope entered my life again.
How could God teach me surrender in such circumstances? Who else but God could use a shoebox to show that surrender is exactly where freedom is found?
My father died when I was only 1 year old. Unable to financially support us, my mother decided to move to a small village in the heart of Ukraine with my grandparents. The grief of losing my dad was too much for her, and she soon coped by turning to alcohol.
When my half-sister, Tanya, was born, my mother’s presence in our lives grew scarce, so I had to grow up faster than other children my age. I found myself responsible for doing all the chores, helping with the livestock and raising my little sister.
Tanya was my whole world. Deep in my heart, I knew she deserved a better life than the one we were living. So at 7 years old, I grabbed her hand and we ran away.
We were quickly placed in an orphanage. For a while, we at least had each other. But Tanya’s biological father eventually found us. He decided to take my little sister with him — but I wasn’t his daughter. I was left behind. As her father took Tanya by the hand, her eyes flooded with hope and happiness. I realized the best I could do for her was to let her go. But in that abandonment, my world came crashing down.
That day, the day I lost everything, I was launched into dark devastation. It was hard to believe I could be loved after experiencing so much heartbreak and rejection. For two years, I lived hopeless at rock bottom — and that is where Jesus met me.
I still remember the day when I smiled again. All the orphans gathered in a big room, and here we were told how God loves us, and we were each given a shoebox gift with unique and colorful items inside. No strings attached. Hope entered my life through this unexpected, unconditional love shown to me. God wasn’t leaving me at rock bottom; He met me right where I was, inviting me to become part of His family.
That was the moment when God began transforming me into the person He designed me to be. All I needed to do was trust Him by surrendering everything I was to Him. In that surrender, He nurtured my broken heart to renew it for His glory, replacing my bitterness with His tenderness.
Often in this world, we find ourselves at rock bottom, lacking all hope for goodness and joy. There are people all over the world who find themselves with nothing left to give. But God does not want to leave us there. He can use the simplest things — a prayer, a friend, a shoebox gift — to remind us that He meets us exactly where we are, ready to show us true joy in our surrender to Him.
Today, that shoebox I received still reminds me of God’s calling on my life. He still reminds me that before His power can work through us, we must give up our reliance on the world and human abilities, stepping completely into His presence. Only when we deny ourselves and leave our worldly burdens at Jesus’ feet are we able to live the life Christ has called us to live.
Wherever we are on life’s journey, we can surrender at any time to our gentle Savior. Jesus came that we might “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus transformed my rock bottom into an abundant life. He did miracles in bringing a family to adopt me, in directing my story toward His glory and in using a simple shoebox gift to bring hope into my life. Through all of this, I have realized that by surrendering my life for His sake, I have truly found life!
Often God uses us as instruments for His hope. May we be surrendered to Him and remind each other that even if we find ourselves at rock bottom, our God brings rivers from deserts, life from death, and turns shoebox gifts into gospel opportunities.
God, You are merciful to meet us where we are and invite us to surrender every aspect of our lives to You. We thank You for the promise of Your transforming love! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Receiving an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift was a defining moment in Elizabeth Groff’s life as she began to see that God loved her and that surrendering her life to Him would lead to restoration. Since receiving her shoebox gift, Elizabeth went on to lead college classmates to pack shoeboxes, and she packs boxes with her family today.
Consider packing a shoebox through Operation Christmas Child and sharing God’s love with children around the world. Help Proverbs 31 Ministries reach our goal of sending the gospel to 400 children through a simple shoebox gift — pack a shoebox online here!
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
2 Corinthians 12:9a, “… My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (NIV)
What can you fully surrender to Jesus today?
How can you be an instrument of God’s hope this week? Share your ideas with us in the comments!
© 2022 by Elizabeth Groff. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Operation Christmas Child for their support of She Speaks Conference and Encouragement for Today devotions.
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