A Bittersweet Lesson of Self-Denial


God used one bittersweet summer to show Michelle Winters just how great He really is; and how turning from one’s own will in surrender to His is best.

Michelle loved her grandpa. In fact, he was her hero. Michelle was raised in a Christian home and looked up to him throughout her childhood and teen years. But while she was on a Salvation Army mission trip to Hungary, she received word that he was dying. Heartbroken, a few days later she was told that her grandpa had gone to Heaven.

Michelle was devastated. She was also angry and hurt. But instead of focusing on what she had lost, God impressed upon her what she had gained.

“The officer at the corps where we were serving [Gyongyos, Hungary] came into my room and read a verse from John. Even though it was in Hungarian, she pointed it out in her Bible,” Michelle explains. “It was John 14:27. Little did she know that this was the very same verse I had used in my testimony at another location only a week before!”

Separated from her family by an ocean, Michelle felt alone, scared, and shattered.

“I decided to trust,” she continues. “I chose to trust the peace He promised. I chose to have faith that He would fulfill His promises of peace and rest.”

“Out of my brokenness came one of the most important decisions of my life,” she says. “I had always been so focused on being a ‘good Christian’ and mimicking the faith of my grandparents and parents, that I had forgotten to have my own faith!”

God used that summer to show Michelle just how personal and loving He really is. It wasn’t easy, she admits, but God used the brokenness she felt to show her what real faith is.

“Four summers later, I was blessed with the opportunity to return to Hungary, leading a mission team from my [Central] territory,” Michelle says.

“The Salvation Army in Hungary is reaching out to those that others won’t help, especially the gypsies. These new corps in the gypsy villages are so alive! We were also able to serve in the same locations I had been to on my first trip. It was in those locations that God reminded me of His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.”

Michelle realizes that God used her, despite her heartbreak that first summer, as part of His great plan to bring to life a new corps, a new feeding program, a kindergarten, and spiritual growth among the people there. The experience also helped make her a better soldier of her corps, Rockford Temple, Illinois.

“I also realized how much I had grown in my faith over those four years,” she adds. “Don’t get me wrong, I still had lessons God needed to teach me while I was there the second time. However, this time I was listening for His voice from the very start.”

The moment Michelle denied her own will in favor of God’s, a remarkable change began in her life.

“Every morning, I have the choice to follow Him or make my own path. Some days it’s a struggle to relinquish control, especially when I think I can come up with better solutions. But God is the author of my story—and that is truly amazing!”

Michelle says that she is humbled each day by the little things God shows her or drops in her path—things that only she and He would know, and they make her smile.

“Through my daily devotions, weekly Bible studies, and Sunday School lessons, I am discovering more of the person He’s created me to be—more of the person He’s designed!”

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor