by You-Young Kim

If you find yourself offended by the Gospel, you are not alone. There was a time when I was offended, so much that I couldn’t return to church for about six months. I was anguished because the Gospel confronted and confounded all my efforts. “But I try so hard to be good!” I found my heart crying out. It was infuriating and frustrating to know all my good works and efforts didn’t matter in my salvation— in determining and solidifying my worth. But God’s intent behind the Gospel isn’t to crush us. It is to save us.

You see, the wrong world views trap us, but Christ, the real foundation upon which to build our lives, frees us.

I didn’t have the ears to hear the Gospel until I was 21. God would use the very hard things in my life to win my heart. He used heartbreak and betrayal to show what my idolatry did to His heart. Mental illness throughout my college years left me with no ability to trust myself. Broken relationships left me with no ability to trust other people. I was a shell of a person, filled with rage, but even that would prove to be enslavement because I could only run on anger for so long.

“You survived,” people would say, to which I would reply, “Surviving means you remain the same or come out better when suffering runs its course. That’s not me.” Their ill-discerned consolation felt like placation— it felt like they were trying to normalize my crippled state, and that brewed resentment and further alienation. Their acceptance often felt false, because there was always a part of me I was hiding, a darkness that I recognized even when I was three years old, when I found myself thinking about dark things.

I remember fearing for myself, troubled that I had such thoughts, not knowing what would become of me. I remember instructing myself not to reveal this to anyone for they would surely reject me. (About two decades later I learned that such dark thoughts related to different events of my life that I couldn’t remember). This lie, lodged deep in my heart, would be the greatest infirmity that Jesus would heal.

Another factor that complicated matters was that after I turned 18, I was in the United States illegally. I was petrified and paralyzed. I didn’t want to be here illegally, not for one second, but I was too scared of people to return to South Korea and depend on my family. I didn’t think I could survive. My constant failure killed me for nine years as I tried to figure out how I was going to fix this situation; I woke up every morning knowing I was in the wrong by just existing. It went against all that I had been raised to be: self-sufficient and law-abiding. Being able to fix my life felt like the highest moral virtue. It felt absolutely right to want to be self-reliant in all things. Thus, my failure to be what I wanted to be killed me daily and I hated myself deeply.

About five years after graduating from college, I was given the gift of desperation. In my tiny room, I was on my knees in reverence before God, knowing by faith that I was approaching the actual throne of God, pushing past the fear that He might slay me because of His holiness. There was no hiding, no lying, no pretense, no half- truths when in His presence. And there He was, replying to me, telling me what my problem was that had kept me from this very moment.

For years, I had gone forward desperately at every altar call, extending my arms and crying, “Yes, Jesus, I need you to save me! Please enter my heart.” But nothing seemed to change, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know there was something to give up, because my life was such a wasteland. I needed to give up my rights to hold onto bitterness, self-righteousness, and self-condemnation. I needed to give up my shabby throne in a kingdom where I got to live as if God didn’t exist. I also needed to confess my sins with my mouth. There were even things in my life that I was taking responsibility for that I shouldn’t have.

And now, in my desperation, God was telling me that the shame of those things didn’t belong to me. I was blown away by the truth He was speaking. He then said, “Your idol is your self-image.” I was baffled. I was happy, but still baffled.

“I have an idol?” I was genuinely surprised to find that I did! I idolized my self-image in the past, before all the “bad” had happened. For years, I had thought about the past incessantly. If only this hadn’t happened, or that had happened, I’d still be functional. I’d be the self I chose to remember; a self that wouldn’t have fallen, wouldn’t be broken, would be capable, self-reliant, not needing anyone. Needing, I thought, was the core of my problem. That had been the primary reason I had sought God in a half-hearted, double-minded way. “Please fix me so that I can fix myself,” I pled many times. All my efforts were to re-realize this former independent self, which was a lie because I was never self-reliant. Nobody is.

So that night, when I had hit the bottom of the bottom, willing to end my life with no regard for anyone, Jesus found me. “If there was a way out, I’d take it,” I had said with all determination in my heart. I was thinking of a bottle of pills, but God gave me Jesus. I knew with every part of my being that I was loved, I was forgiven, that God was absolutely absolute, and I was filled with vitality and joy for the first time in my 27 years of life.

After that day, I saw everything differently. My heart and eyes were continually towards heaven, for Jesus was no longer a concept, but a living foundation! Jesus became Lord as He put to death the two lies that had dogged me: that if anyone saw how I really was inside, they’d reject me, and that even if they wanted to, no one could overcome my darkness. Though I had been able to share the Gospel to others, I still subconsciously operated within these doubts. But now God himself crushed them, along with the idol that had been crushing me all my life. All the bitter things in life became sweet once I knew I was His and He was mine.

The Gospel tells us that He both desires and is absolutely capable of helping our infirmities, as demonstrated by his crucifixion. So dear reader, let’s keep drawing near to Jesus incessantly in faith, full of confidence in this mighty truth. And if you are in a place like I was, straddling the line, step over with every part of yourself! He is worthy and alive!

Thank you for coming here and reading

Below is the extended account of how God broke through in my life.

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I was born! in South Korea.

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I was an intense, angst-filled child. When I was about 3 years old, I was daydreaming and had a rather dark thought. I was scared for myself , troubled that I had such thoughts, not knowing what would become of me. I remember instructing myself not to reveal this to anyone for they would surely reject me. This lie, lodged deep in my heart, would be the greatest infirmity that Jesus would heal. I believe this was a large cause of why I never felt the love of another person until I found Jesus at 27. If you’re hiding from everyone, you’re not really letting anyone love you.

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My Dad, a journalist, gets a new position as a correspondent in Washington D.C. We come to the States.

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God captured the hearts of my parents and sisters when I was about 9 years old. I believe He had a different time for me.

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People often warned my parents that the youngest (me) loses the language (Korean). They were right. When my parents were attending a church, the pastor often preached for 2-3 hours, all in Korean. I didn’t understand a word. I don’t think my Dad realized how poor my Korean was. About every other week or so, I would attend the youth group at the church next door, but given the fact my parents and sisters were Christians, I think it was easy to assume I had heard the Gospel at some point. 

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When I started taking an interest in spirituality. My family was attending a Pentecostal church at this time. Again, I heard Jesus dying for me and felt a connection to God at times but I didn’t understand the significance of Jesus dying for me and what it meant.

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My severe psoriasis was healed for the first time by a Pentecostal preacher from Korea in Tennessee when I was 14. He simply prayed, “In Jesus name, be healed,” in the parking lot of an Olive Garden. I didn’t know what to expect but we returned to the hotel room where I ran my ankles underneath water and it literally peeled off and left new skin underneath. I truly believe the faith of my mother opened the channels for God to heal me. But this still didn’t penetrate my heart. 

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I don’t really know how to describe this time other than it was the start of very traumatizing events. What was going on unbeknownst to me at the time was that my Dad’s Foreign Press Visa expired and my family was living illegally in the country. I didn’t know what a visa was from a green card and didn’t understand why everyone was depressed and miserable. 

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I did well academically in high school and received positive attention from my peers for what seemed like the first time in my life during a very vulnerable and difficult time. I didn’t know how to handle the attention and this is when success became an idol to me. I wanted to escape the troubles of myself and my family by wanting to never depend upon anyone else ever again. My small dreams were to do well in school, on my SATs, and get a decent job and not have to deal with people again. But I would learn that the harder I try, the worse I’d do. This made me a very fearful person. When I did well, I felt okay. When I didn’t do well, I felt worthless. Mistakes became a reflection of my worth, not a stepping stone to grow as a person. Every step and every thing I did became paralyzing because I thought, “If I am smart, which I need to be to be okay, then everything that I do should validate that because I am in control.” I didn’t know how to bounce back from events that seemed to invalidate something I desperately needed to be true to feel a semblance of worth.  

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I asked every day on my walk home from school, “If God is good, why is there suffering?” One day, about 6+ months later, a different thought occurred in my head. “How do I know what good is? How do I define mercy?” And I couldn’t answer that. That’s the furthest it got though.

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Because I credited everything that went well with me to my own self, I became haughty and looked condescendingly at those around me, including my own family. “If only they did this, or what’s wrong with them?” I’d ask myself. Then I became majorly depressed as well. I found out that being on a visa would complicate things for me. It limited the choices I’d have in colleges. My dreams of isolating myself and establishing myself as something in this world were dashed in my mind.

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In the summer before college, to which I received a private scholarship by the grace of God, my friend took me to a church to see a prophet, someone who hears from and speaks for God. I didn’t dare go up to him but he motioned my friend and I to go up to where he was. He told me a few things. One was that I’d be exiled from my parents. 6 months later, they’d leave for Korea with my oldest sister, after coming to financial and emotional ruin. God would be faithful to them and restore them over the following decade, including healing our wounds. I was devastated by their devastation, even though I was really angry with them during this time. Something that was hard to admit to myself (the anger).

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I was turned off from Christianity from what I saw in the world and in my family. I got involved in political discourse and I found that politics were a great arena to unleash all the anger and hurt I had inside. I also experienced a deep betrayal but I also betrayed that person’s trust as well. It devastated me in a way that broke my mind. I went through spates of mental illness during this time. And all the false confidence I had in my own mind shattered. I experienced delusions, fits of rage that would last weeks, and I remember it just felt like my soul was burning. I remember distinctly thinking to myself, “If there is a hell and hell is worse than this, I am in trouble.”

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God instilled in me a hunger for absolute truth. It started to bother me that we would place so much faith in systems of government and man’s ideas, while casting aspersions in a belief in God. But to me, the god in my head wasn’t God. It was a figment of my own imagination. I thought God was a distant God who let us live how we wanted to live and didn’t get involved. It was hard to deny that there was a God after everything my family and I had experienced of him, but I was making him someone he wasn’t/isn’t.

So during this time I was very pro-choice, but while writing my senior thesis on abortion politics, I thought to myself, “But what if God does care?”  And then again I said, “If there is a hell, I’d be encouraging people to go there.”

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It weighed on my conscience that I may be encouraging my friends to go to hell, so I started to explore these matters. I took a class, “Homosexuality & World Religions” and in that class I read Jesus’ words in a way that was fresh to me. Before this, every time I tried to read the Bible as a kid, my eyes would practically go cross-eyed. I saw something about Jesus that made me understand that I didn’t know who I was rejecting. The contradictions of trying to solve the world’s problems when my life was a disaster wasn’t lost on me either, and I wailed on my bed on my back saying to God I needed him.

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I heard that a church met weekly in my school’s auditorium. Being a person of least resistance, I went there. It was Redeemer Presbyterian with Tim Keller. My motivations of going were to be told what to do so that bad things would stop happening to me. I also was upfront with God and told him,”I know I need you but I don’t get this Jesus thing. Why does he have to come along? Doesn’t he just complicate things— isn’t this too exclusive?” But I still went and I loved it; every week I went it was being bathed with the Truth. My neuroses died down quite a bit. 

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Tim Keller was very gifted in showing the person of Jesus. I understood that Jesus didn’t just let something bad happen to him. At first, I couldn’t appreciate the beauty and the power of the Cross before because of my worldview that bad things happened to me because I let them happen and I or somebody else was to blame. I also learned that God didn’t design death at the tomb of Lazarus. When I saw that Jesus was able to be both full of grace and truth in his interactions with people, I said, “You’re everything I’ve been looking for. You’re what I want to be to people but can’t.” A lot of my friendships and relationships came to ruin because I either hammered people with the hard truth or never spoke up out of fear of hurting them. And I said for the first time at the age of 21 that Jesus was beautiful.

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A hard sermon came. It was the “You are evil” sermon, meaning without Christ, I am against God. It was true but it hit me in a way that I didn’t expect but desperately needed. You see, I was looking to Jesus was a teacher, a really good teacher, but not as my savior. This derailed me for about six months and I didn’t go to Redeemer at all during this time. I was so offended. But it was absolutely helpful because it nailed my self-righteousness to the Cross– but not for the last time.  I was devastated because my heart cried out,”BUT I TRY SO HARD TO BE GOOD.” I needed to understand that my “good” works were not enough to atone for my sins. Only the blood of Jesus could and can. So it brought me to the realization that I needed Jesus to save me! So I cried out for him to save me.

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After this realization of a need for a savior, I went to every altar call I could! At Times Square, at a conference in Long Island City, etc. My roommate, a Christian at the time, raised her eyebrow, like, “Didn’t you do this, uh a week ago?” 

I’d go up, raise my hands, acknowledge that I was a sinner and ask Jesus to come into my heart.

I think there were some hindrances…

My attitude, unbeknownst to me at the time, was still one of, please fix me God so I can fix myself. It evolved a bit from “Just give me a list of things to do and not do so bad things will stop happening,” but it wasn’t looking to God for God alone. 

Two, I think now that there may have been wanting a single moment to change everything. And looking to man to be a mediator between me and God. Remember how I said when I was little I determined to hide myself from everyone? I think that that was still in full operation underneath.  I can say that because I thought I was talking to God and fellowshipping with him but what I really was doing was rearranging the knowledge of God that I had in my brain. John 5:39-40 says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

But I didn’t even search the Scriptures. I was very skeptical and doubtful that it was God’s unadulterated Word. So I never bothered to open it.

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DACA, which to me is the mercy of this country, allows me to stay in the United States, work and attend school. When I first heard of it in 2012, I cried crossing the street to Union Square in NYC because someone with authority was saying that it was okay for me to be here. But I also fell into the worst depression of my life. I was working for $10 an hour at the time, and knew I didn’t need much money to be happy. Nor did I care about prestige; working with my hands was great for me. I started daydreaming about picking cherries in New Zealand for a living. I wanted to start over, fresh, not have any legal/illegal baggage behind me or feeling trapped by other people’s decisions.


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What caused the severe depression was that I was experiencing circumstantial peace. My idol of worldly success wasn’t active because I said it was okay to not keep up with my skills because being here illegally was my excuse! My crutch. If I had any hope that DACA would happen, I might have worked towards something. So a lot of anxiety and anger that I had pushed away with a lot of Hulu/Netflix came roaring back. I didn’t know who to blame. Was it my parents for doing x, y, z or not doing x, y, z, was it me for doing a, b, c, and not doing a, b, c? I couldn’t tell and it was tearing me apart. This lasted months.

Finally, one night in the winter time, and I had submitted my application but had very little faith I would be approved, I was so tired. I was so tired of being tired, and trying to find the answers in my own mind. I was very suicidal that night and I said to God, “You know… if there was a way out, a bottle of pills here, I would swallow the whole thing.” I didn’t care about who I’d hurt; I just wanted out.

I never felt that way before. But as soon as I hit that bottom, I was stirred up. I said to myself, “Wait a minute. What is this? I say that I believe in a God of love and life, but my life is none of those things.” I started to have epiphany after epiphany which I credit to God. “How can I expect people to believe in God if my life says I don’t believe?!” My eyes were opened to reality: it was Jesus or death. Not a little bit of Jesus on top of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live life, not Jesus in the sidelines. Jesus never really was my foundation.  

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I was determined to find Jesus. I got on my knees in my private life for the first time. I knew I had to come to God on his terms, not my own. “I’m not leaving this room until I find you!” It wasn’t worth it to me anymore to try and live life without Him. As I approached him, I knew I was approaching God on his throne. It’s a weird thing to write out but I didn’t even hear about God and his throne but I knew that that’s who and what I was approaching. I also felt fear, that I may not come out of this encounter alive. I suddenly became aware of all the doubts I had in my heart. My doubt was that Jesus couldn’t (because he might not be God after all) or wouldn’t (because I am too unlovable) go to the depths of my heart and save me. I realized that even though my life was a wasteland, I was still holding onto things. I thought my doubts made me more relational and a better witness, but God showed me I was holding onto my doubts because I still wanted to be accepted by the academic world. When I saw that, I couldn’t get rid of that desire faster and jumped two feet in into his grace and forgiveness.

I spent what might have been hours, confessing sin and unloading things I was holding onto. I was no longer judge of these things; I was letting him be the rightful judge. He blew me away by speaking to me. He told me the things I was responsible for and the things I wasn’t responsible for. He told me that because I feared being responsible for everything, it made me shirk responsibility in other areas of my life and kept myself from coming to him directly. By the end of this conversation, I was blown away. I knew I was forgiven, loved, and felt compassion from God and compassion for myself which I had never experienced. He also told me I had an idol: my self-image. Instead of looking to God, I was looking at a distorted view of myself: I wanted to be self-reliant, someone who didn’t need anyone, including God. God delivered me from the condemnation that that idol brought into my life. I was filled with his love, forgiveness, joy, and peace! And the best part about it was that none of my circumstances had changed. I wasn’t skinnier, prettier, smarter, still here without papers, but everything had changed.




“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

john 3:16