The meaning behind the word “love” lies lost beneath layers of song lyrics, slogans, clothing lines, TV shows, bookshelves and food.
Joshua Goodman’s understanding of love went from hollow to transformational.
“When I thought that I loved to sin, I had no idea what the word ‘love’ really was,” said Goodman, 23. “When I thought I loved to do something or I loved my girlfriend, I had no idea that love is the cross of Christ that says God is love.”
Before discovering God’s love, Goodman just tried to escape the emptiness he felt.
“I was overcome by all the comforts of the world,” Goodman said. “It started with smoking cigarettes, then drinking, smoking weed and taking painkillers. I was turning my mind off so much that I didn’t even have to tend to what was in my heart. I didn’t have to face the problems and bitter roots.”
Goodman grew up going to church, but he never understood grace and God’s love for him.
“After I turned 5, we started going to church,” Goodman added. “We went to church every Sunday. I thought if I went, I was good with God. I went to Sunday School up until 12, and everyone around me was getting baptized. I got baptized because everyone else was. I didn’t really understand. I was just doing what everyone else was doing and that followed me all the way through high school.”
Moving to Mississippi
As a teenager, Goodman’s life began spiraling out of control.
“I got kicked out of my house twice,” Goodman said. “One time was at 17 and then the next about a year later when I got into a fistfight with my dad.”
After graduating from high school in 2014, Goodman made more damaging decisions with long-term repercussions.
“I worked at UPS for a little bit and got fired for trying to steal from them,” Goodman added. “I got a DUI when I turned 18 and got put in jail for a night. Then, I had a job at Ford and got fired for failing a drug test.”
Goodman took more and more painkillers and thought changing his environment might help him.
“Out of the blue, my cousin calls and says, ‘I’m moving to Mississippi. Do you want to move with me and get your act together?’ I was like, ‘Yea,’” Goodman said. “I ran from the environment. I got a warehouse job, paid off my fines and got my license reinstated. I went to church here and there. But, I had a falling out with my cousin. My girlfriend took me back to Louisville.”
Goodman was consumed with bitterness, and he got so angry he threw away his Bible.
His girlfriend eventually kicked him out. Homeless and unemployed because of the drug offenses on his record, Goodman texted his mom and asked for a place to stay.
“I was kind of at that point where I didn’t have anyone else,” Goodman said. “It had been probably three years without talking to my family.”
Goodman’s family opened their home to him in September 2018, and his dad encouraged him to ask a former employer, Southeast member Brett Williford, for a job.
Williford took a chance and hired him as a roofer.
Goodman wasn’t going to church, but he was so overwhelmed with shame he occasionally sought God.
“Every now and then, I used the Bible app on my phone,” Goodman added. “I got a seven-day devotional, ‘Battlefield of the Mind’ and every single one spoke to me. I just started pouring my heart out to Him. It had been a long time. That started my journey.”
God’s grace showed up in an undeniable way.
“My dad saw I was starting to get plugged into things, and he gave me a book to read,” he said. “In the middle of it, and I don’t even remember what I was reading, but the floodgates broke, and I started weeping. I never cried like this. It was a spiritual awakening. I was reclining on the couch. Something compelled me to get on my hands and knees. I told God I didn’t want to hate and be ashamed anymore. I wanted to live for Him. From that moment on, I was willing to say ‘yes’ to God.”
Goodman was baptized as a personal declaration of his faith at Southeast Christian Church in April.
Goodman got plugged into a 3/3rds Bible Study at Southeast, and he also leads his own group on Wednesdays.
He serves at a halfway house each Saturday evening with Tony Cash’s ministry.
Goodman’s desire for Godliness quickly drove him to the frontlines, which was unfamiliar to his family.
“When I first got saved, I was doing radical things like selling my game systems and Pokémon cards,” he said. “I had just got a Nintendo Switch. I was spending seven hours a day on it after work. I sold it. I was working out to become a bodybuilder and getting ready to do some steroids and growth hormones. I threw it all in the garbage—all the pre-workout powder, supplements, creatine and still-sealed steroids I had just ordered.”
Three months ago, Goodman moved to Louisville’s Portland neighborhood to position himself to share Christ with neighbors.
“Even the insurance agent I was talking to said, ‘You moving down to Portland?’” Goodman said. “I told him straight up, ‘Yea, I’m going to preach the Gospel.’ He was like, ‘Oh, really? OK, that’s a rough area.’”
Goodman said he’s called to step out of His comfort zone to bring people God’s comfort.
“I’m loving on people who have never been shown the love of Christ,” he added. “Addiction, prostitution and violence are flooding the streets. But Jesus has given us a light that can never be overcome by any darkness. Darkness cannot live where we shine His light.”