My life story divides into three families, and I’d like to testify to God’s grace in my life by telling you about my three families in sequential order. I’m sixty now, and those families divide my life into thirds.
 I was born into a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. My parents married when Mom was 15 and Dad was 18. By the time Mom was 22 they had five boys, of which I’m the fourth. A couple who didn’t have a biblical template for marriage and family—all of a sudden had five boys to rear! Dad died when I was 19, and for two decades I lived in a traumatic, dysfunctional, dark, violent culture. Mom took us to church, but honestly, for my brothers and me it was just another avenue for acquiring marijuana. At age 15, I was arrested and spent five days in solitary confinement. It was a turning point, and one of the most merciful things that ever happened to me. My older brothers had modeled a path that led no where good: my oldest brother already was in prison and the second oldest soon joined him. Jail afforded me the opportunity not only to recognize the path my brothers were on, but also to realize that I was following them. Although I would not come to know God as Savior for another ten years, at that time I decided to clean up my life. My oldest two brothers later would be murdered. Their life choices, apparently innocuous at the time, led to these sad outcomes. (Brother number three joined the military at age 17, and thankfully that put him on a different path.)
 At age 19, I’d left home and gotten married—and my second family began. My wife and I were non-believers, yet somewhat moral. By age 25 we had a couple of children. I was working as a machinist at the time, and as I talked with my co-workers, I realized I was not a true Christian. This put me on a search for truth, and God in his mercy saved me and began putting me on a new path. I began reading the Bible, it made sense to me, and, like a mirror, it showed me myself. Soon we became involved in a little Baptist church in town. Within a year my wife and I moved to South Carolina so I could attend Bible College as preparation for going into ministry. Unfortunately, within a few years my wife divorced me for another man. As I sought answers for my situation, it became clear that they had no category for someone like me. (The dean of the college said, “If you’d broken your arm or something, we’d know what to do.”) So I spent the next ten years of my life trying to figure out what was wrong with me and how to live in this new situation. This was a very dark and confusing time. I was angry because I thought that if I served God he would make my life smooth. But I learned the truth of Philippians 1:29, that “it has been granted to us not only to believe in Christ, but to suffer for his sake.” Every Christian is given two gifts: salvation and suffering. But at the time I did not know that. God used my second family to help me develop a sound theology of suffering, of what it means to live in a fallen world. (My book, Suffering Well: How to Steward God’s Most-Feared Blessing, weaves together my story and Job’s story, as it explores this gift of suffering.)
 At age 40 I began my third—and I hope final! and I hope final!—stage of life. I married Lucia, and then God led me to earn a Masters in Biblical Counseling, into the pastorate, and now, since 2008, into this world-wide ministry that focuses on the dynamics of sanctification. I use the “gifts” of the dysfunctional family I was born into, and the confusion and pain of my second family, to help believers understand how God helps us grow and change. (My book, Change Me: The Ultimate Life-Change Handbook, plus the thousands of free articles, podcasts and videos found at RickThomas.net, explain the process of change, from beginning to end.)
Throughout my life I’ve suffered both poorly and well, and I use the wisdom I’ve gained through my three families to equip others for growth and change, and to pursue God’s path in this fallen world.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
If you would like to trust Christ as Savior, contact us here (connect.tcc.org). After providing your contact information, scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second checkbox. You can also email us at: BiblicalHopeAndHelp@gmail.com. We look forward to helping!
To learn more about growing in your faith contact us here. After providing your contact information, scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the Growing My Faith box (or other opportunities, too). You can also email us at: BiblicalHopeAndHelp@gmail.com. We look forward to helping!
- Need help in your struggle with suffering? Learn more about TCC Counseling here. For free hope and help, write to: BiblicalHopeAndHelp@gmail.com. We look forward to helping!
Sign up now for the PointMan Men’s Retreat, November 20-22.
- Join a men’s discussion group of Rick Thomas’ book, Change Me.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)