I first became acquainted with Maretha Retief, a native of South Africa, a few months ago when she contacted me to share her incredible story. Born with a disability yet having overcome many obstacles in her life, Maretha has become intimately acquainted with what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth when he said, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” A lesson I am still in the process of learning. Maretha’s testimony is one we all can learn from. It speaks to perseverance, overcoming hardship, and living a life fully submitted to the will of God. So, without further introduction, here is Maretha’s story.
I was born with only a pinkie and a thumb on my left hand. A disability that did not escape the eyes of God. He came and took something that was meant to harm me and turned it around for my good and His glory.
My parents helped me to live a grateful life and not to focus on what I lacked. I started playing tennis at the age of 4, exceeding all expectations, and at the age of 17, I was fortunate to be accepted into the main draw at Junior Wimbledon. Even though I had big dreams for myself, it was there that I realized God had other plans for my life—plans that are more prosperous to me in ways I could ever imagine.
I always tried to make Him part of my plans, but the time came to stop and allow Him to make me part of His plans.
Even though I knew tennis was not going to be my destiny, I still thought God’s plan for my life involved sport, and I turned my interest towards road running. I started to train for marathons (forty-two kilometer distances). Soon thereafter, I decided to do the Comrades Ultra Marathon (an eighty-nine odd kilometer race for which you get twelve hours to complete). I loved the challenge and asked God’s permission to participate. He gave it to me, but I felt He told me I could only to do it once. Still, I chose to run the Comrades a second time despite the fact that I would clearly be doing so in direct disobedience of God’s will.
Six days before my second Comrades, I was asked: “Maretha, will you pull out during the race to save a soul for God, if He brings it across your path, even if you see the finish line in front of you?” I said, “Yes.”
At the age of 26, only two kilometer before the finish line, God interceded to render me into His will for my life. Two hours of spiritual warfare followed where the devil tried to convince me that I was dead and belonged to him because of my disobedience—a lie and I had a choice not to believe it. God never accused me of my disobedience but rather reminded me that He loves me, that I am His precious child, and that He was right there with me, even during the darkest hour of my life. The devil kept trying to accuse me of my disobedience, but God faithfully stood by me and gave me another chance to accept His will for my life. I was already His child, and if I died prematurely, I would have gone to Heaven, but He still had so much more blessings for my life that He wanted to fulfill. He has the last say, and He was not done with me!
Physically, I was suffering from renal failure, internal bleeding, being in and out of a coma and heart failure. We later realized I was born with a congenital heart disease. I never knew about my condition, but God did and wanted to protect me from any serious damage until His divine health can manifest in my life.
After being on the verge of death, God turned my life-threatening moment into a moment for His glory! A situation that the devil wanted to use to harm me, God turned around for my good! He knew beforehand about the dangerous position I was putting myself in, and when asked if I would pull out of the race to save a soul, He was asking for permission to intercede, and I gave it to Him. Unknowingly, I gave Him permission to humble me that He might be glorified through the resulting testimony.
I received a second chance at life by God’s grace, which was made perfect in my weakness. He overwhelmed me with His love in the midst of my mistake as there was no judgment from God because He already judged Jesus on the cross. His grace prompted me to live no longer on my terms, but to serve His purpose for me. God used this moment to put me in the shoes He prepared for the walk He planned for me.
I have made many mistakes in life, but none could keep God’s grace from me. He always reminded me of His love rather than my mistakes. His unconditional love redeemed me from my own will and helped me to surrender my life to Him. This was not something I could do by myself but only with His help.
I started a life according to God’s unforced rhythm of grace and soon thereafter He blessed me with my husband! I believe Daniel was handpicked by God to walk side by side with me, every step of the way!
Maretha Retief is a freelance writer living in Pretoria, South Africa. Being born with a disability, she writes with a purpose to reveal the love of Jesus to the world in spite of our shortcomings. She is happily married to her loving husband, Daniël and together they aim to walk inside God’s grace.
Website link: www.seasonswithchrist.com
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