Jul 26, 2022 1552 Daniella Stephans, UK

Come Fall in Love

If you open your heart today, you can change the world! Daniella Stephans describes her incredible journey of finding love that never ends

I was a cradle Catholic, growing up in the heart of a Catholic family with 7 children. We went to Mass regularly and I felt drawn to learn more about my faith, to imitate the saints and felt attracted to the beautiful images which spoke to me about the presence of the Lord. He planted the seed of love into my life from a young age. When I was given the choice in my teens, I continued to go to Mass, even when some of my siblings didn’t, out of simple obedience. I always wanted to do the right thing and never wanted to get in trouble. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents and I knew it was a sin to deliberately miss Mass on Sundays.

However, I never really understood what was going on. I was just ticking off boxes through the different parts of the Mass. Although I felt that God was close to me, I didn’t know Him personally and still felt a gaping, throbbing hole in my heart. When I was really busy during the week, I didn’t have time to worry about it, but on weekends, I felt consumed by this deep loneliness.

Falling in Love

I was at the age, where I felt attracted by all that the material world had to offer, so I tried to solve my problem by drinking and going out to parties with friends, but that gaping hole remained unfilled. I felt rejected, lonely and disappointed. Although I wanted to be free to do my own thing, I was battling with my conscience which was telling me that so much of what I wanted to do was wrong. God hadn’t made me for that. I read in the Bible about Jacob wrestling with an angel and I could really relate to that.

As I was praying about all this at Mass one Sunday, I realized that I was in self-denial. God had a better plan for the life that He wanted me to live. Gazing up at a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I could sense that He was knocking on the door to my heart, asking to come in, but I was too scared to accept this amazing gift because I feared that Jesus would come in and take away my freedom. Until that moment, it was fear of getting in trouble that had kept me from worse sins. Then, somehow, by the grace of God, I found myself saying, “Right, Lord, I’ll give you a chance.”

In that moment, I looked up and for the first time noticed a picture of Jesus being baptised. He looked so strong humble and gentle. Instantly my heart changed. The fear melted away, the gaping hole was filled with incredible warmth and I fell in love with Jesus. This moment changed everything. I walked out of church feeling alive. I felt like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed instantly, freed of all my pain.

I had been scared that if I let him into my heart, He would take away my freedom, but I was wrong. The cleft in the rock in which God placed Moses is analogous to the hole pierced in the side of Christ. I felt that Christ had pulled me into His Sacred Heart where I could be kept close and protected and He could talk to me as a friend speaks to a friend, just like Moses when he spoke with the Lord.

The Dark Hole

The more I sought out personal encounters with the Lord at daily Mass and Adoration, the closer I felt to Him. So, I studied Theology and as I came to know God more intimately, He revealed Himself to me even more, even in times of tragedy, like my brother’s death. At the time, I was struggling with finding my identity after finishing my studies and feeling fearful of the future. I couldn’t feel His presence anymore and wondered if God had abandoned me. I knew all the words Jesus had said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life… I am the Resurrection and the life.” but now my belief was being tested. Was it all true? In the silence as I sat in my brother’s room, gazing at his empty bed, I remembered how Jesus had told Martha, “Your brother will rise again,” and felt that He was saying those words to me.

When I went to World Youth Day, I felt a bit lost in the huge crowd. As I looked out around at all these people, I asked Jesus, “Lord, how do you love all these people and love me as well?” God showed me how He saw each one as an individual with whom He has a personal relationship. God gazes on each one of us with a unique and individual love. He loves you like no-one else, because there is no-one else in the world like you. God loves you uniquely, personally and individually. There is no-one from Adam to the end of time who has ever been exactly like you. So, when you feel His love personally, He sees you as the unique individual you are, in a way that no-one else can. He gave Himself up for each one of us. When He was on the Cross, He was thinking about each one of us personally by name.

Banishing My Fears

Jesus showed me that my image of the Father had been flawed. I had felt that God was condemning me, that I was in trouble. I feared His justice, but I was wrong. Jesus came into the world to reveal the Father’s love for us in His plan for our salvation—to heal the rift between God and Man by living among us. He even told us that if we had seen Him, we had seen the Father. He showed me that gaping hole in my heart was meant to be filled by God, and when I let Him in, He set me free indeed. We are made by God and for God, so when I invited Him in, He filled me with His warm and loving presence, banishing the depression and restlessness which had been troubling me.

When we try to fill that God-shaped hole with other things, they all fall short, because He is infinite and irreplaceable. It reminded me of how we are warned that “putting the wrong fuel in a vehicle can cause havoc to your journey and potentially cause extensive damage to your car engine.” Your heart is your engine and it needs the right fuel to prevent the damage that sin causes.

Daily Mass, regular Confession, prayer, Adoration, Bible reading and faith study, and a deeper relationship with Our Lady have been the fuel that has restored my heart and given me the grace to live my life in personal encounter with God. He called me to go deeper. Although it’s sometimes painful to take up my cross and follow Him daily, He has led me through trial and temptation and expanded my capacity to receive and share His love.

Amidst Your Struggles

Every day, the Enemy, Satan is trying to discourage us and turn us from God’s love. He doesn’t want us to know and experience what God has to offer. He stiffens our pride so that we are unwilling to bend to God’s will. When we feel broken by the pain that sin causes us, we delude ourselves into thinking that God doesn’t love us. Saint Therese said that Satan’s strategy is to dismantle and demolish our belief that God can love us when He is perfect and we are so imperfect.

Does God really love me when I’m struggling? One night, Jesus left His disciples struggling all night against the wind while He prayed on a mountain, but in the morning they saw Him walking toward them across the water. When you are going through difficult times, the Lord is there in the midst of your struggle. He also says to you, “Do not be afraid.” And when we feel ourselves sinking, like Peter did when his faith failed him as he walked across the water towards Jesus, we can call out, “Lord save me.” When everything seems to be going against you, fix your eyes on Him and He will not fail you.

There is always a new dawn. Every day is a day to start again. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Night can be symbolic of trial and temptation. Morning is symbolic of Christ who is the Light of the World. Remember on Easter Sunday, Christ left the tomb in a burst of light. He has come to share His light with us.

Jesus’ name means God saves. He came to save us. He came to share our trials, enter into the depths with us and draw us out. Trust is like a muscle which grows under trying circumstances and pressure. Surrendering my desires to Him and trusting that He will fulfill them is hard. To be able to sincerely say, “I want God’s will above my own,” isn’t easy because we like to do what we want to do. That’s what Our Lady did when she said, “Let it be done to me according to Thy word,” (Luke 1:38). In her gentle way, she stands beside us, helping us to align our deepest desires with all that is good.

So, by the grace of God, I go forward with confidence, knowing that I can speak to the Lord as a friend and family member about all my needs. I have come to know God as a loving Father who calls us to come to Him with childlike trust in His loving plan, despite all our flaws, and mistakes, no matter how many times we have failed.

“Let us approach the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) and “Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord, your God is with you” (Joshua 1:9)

ARTICLE is based on the testimony shared by Daniella Stephans for the Shalom World program “Jesus My Savior”.


Daniella Stephans

Daniella Stephans is a Catholic speaker who lives in Manchester, UK.

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