Sheila Booth-Alberstadt ignored God for the first 40 years of her life until she encountered Christ for the first time. However, she was rapidly sucked into the “Prosperity Gospel” movement for 5 years and believed she could do all things Christ had done… and more.
Yet she was constantly plagued by doubts like:
- Why couldn’t she heal her own children when they were sick?
- Why couldn’t she heal her own body?
- Why wasn’t she financially prosperous even though she had enough “faith”?
But it all came crashing down when she headed into the woods seeking answers from God… and He delivered her from the Prosperity Gospel.
The following is a summary of the podcast interview above. Many more details are included in the original podcast episode and we encourage you to listen.
Sheila Booth-Alberstadt was first exposed to God at a revival service she attended as a young child. Although she had no understanding of what she was doing, she prayed for forgiveness of her sins at the meeting. After she went home, she prayed the prayer over and over again.
Then one day, she began to pray for something different. Something she wanted more than anything else.
An Answered Prayer
Sheila wanted a baby sister, and she spent much time praying that God would send her one, either for her birthday or for Christmas. When a baby sister was born the day after her birthday, Sheila became convinced that there had to be a God.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before her newfound belief in God would come to an abrupt end.
Just a Fairy Tale
When Sheila discovered that there was no Santa Claus, she assumed that Jesus must also be some sort of fairy tale. And as a teenager, Sheila’s family was so adamantly opposed to the idea of a God that they would ridicule her whenever she asked questions about Him.
Living in this environment, Sheila abandoned all belief in God. It would be decades before Sheila would give God another serious thought.
A Hole in Her Soul
Sheila grew up in a family that was less than loving. Both of her parents were abusive – physically, mentally, and emotionally. So much violence filled Sheila’s home growing up that it was not unusual for police and ambulances to show up at the house 2-3 times a week.
Growing up in such a difficult environment caused Sheila to feel an emptiness in her heart. So when she set out on her own, Sheila began looking for something to fill the hole deep in her soul.
She tried food and became bulimic, she tried drugs, and she tried relationships. But none of them provided what she was looking for.
Eventually, Sheila was married, and she and her husband started a family. Sheila and her husband had a happy life at first, and Sheila thought that perhaps she had finally discovered what she had been looking for… until her marriage fell apart and ended in divorce.
Sheila married again and her family rapidly swelled to 6 children. Once again, her marriage began struggling, and once again Sheila began preparing for divorce.
But right as she was making preparations to leave her husband Sheila got a call which completely changed the course of her life and her marriage.
A Call for Help
The little sister Sheila had prayed for years prior called with a request to spend time at Sheila’s house detoxing from drugs and alcohol.
Reluctantly, Sheila agreed. Sheila knew nothing about detoxing, so she asked her neighbor, who was a nurse, for help. The neighbor’s response was completely unexpected.
Rather than offering medical advice, Sheila’s neighbor told Sheila that she should take her sister to a revival service that was taking place.
Sheila remembered the revival that she had attended as a young girl all those years ago… and her prayers to God to send her a baby sister.
Although Sheila was skeptical about God’s existence decades later, and felt uncomfortable attending the meeting, she thought perhaps she could pray for her sister once again, this time for her healing.
Sheila’s sister resisted the idea of attending a religious service, but Sheila assured her that they would only stay long enough to pray.
Little did either of them know that things in Sheila’s life were about to come full circle, as God was going to use the very sister she had prayed for to bring Sheila back to Himself.
Sheila and her sister stepped into the service, and nothing seemed too out of the ordinary at first. But then the pastor started to walk toward them, and then people began to pray for Sheila’s sister.
It was at this moment that Sheila felt conviction of her sin unlike anything she had ever felt before. For the first time since her childhood, Sheila cried out to the Lord. God began a work in Sheila’s heart, and, at that moment, she embarked on a long spiritual journey toward the truth.
Sheila and her sister saw changes immediately. When Sheila got home and slipped into bed next to her husband, the one she had been making plans to divorce, she realized she no longer had a desire to divorce Him.
Sheila’s sister was immediately freed from her addictions overnight and never experienced a single withdrawal symptom.
It was like the Scripture says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Seeing God’s work thrilled Sheila’s heart, and she was thirsty to learn as much as she could.
A Critical Mistake
At first, Sheila tried to read the Bible, but she found it difficult to understand. What she found much more appealing was consuming preaching in churches and on YouTube.
Sheila was so desperate that she would drive around every evening, looking for any church that was having a service. She wanted to hear preachers that gave powerful deliveries and said things that she liked.
Eventually, Sheila became enamored by one ideology in particular: the Prosperity Gospel.
The Prosperity Gospel
Sheila found a welcoming community of people who believed that they were exactly like Jesus and that they could do all that He did… and more.
They believed that because they were like Jesus, they possessed the power to avoid all sickness and were entitled to earthly possessions.
All of this appealed to Sheila, and she began to wholeheartedly embrace these dangerously, unbiblical ideas. She desperately wanted to be like the people at her church and have the kind of faith that they had.
So she would speak to her mailbox, commanding it to be filled with checks. She would instruct her illnesses, and those of her children, to leave. And she would pray healing over people she saw in public who were in wheelchairs or had other physical conditions.
For 5 years, in a place that promised to be devoid of pain and suffering, Sheila was certain she had found God and found true fulfillment.
Over time, however, doubts began to creep into Sheila’s mind.
Why did she still have hypothyroidism, and why wasn’t her dead eye getting any better?
Why couldn’t she heal her own children when they were sick?
Why wasn’t she financially prosperous?
All of these questions and more began to surface. She was sure it wasn’t for lack of faith on her part.
Searching for Truth
Everything came to a head one day when Sheila felt God calling her to read His actual Word, the Bible. When Sheila’s close friend told Sheila that she had felt the same impression, Sheila became even more convinced that this was something she needed to do.
She and her friend went out into a cabin in the woods and, after a prayer that God would remove any false teaching from them, they spent 4 days simply reading through the Word of God.
From six o’clock in the morning until midnight, Sheila and her friend would read the Gospels, stopping only to pray for the wisdom to understand passages that were difficult.
A Radical Discovery
What Sheila and her friend discovered was a very different God than the one that they thought they knew. They found that Jesus had “nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:57 ESV), and they discovered that all of their own possessions would one day be destroyed.
They realized that their relationships with God were not ultimately about having easy lives, but, rather, about glorifying Him.
The True Gospel
Sheila’s outlook on God and character has made a complete 180 degree turn. Instead of believing that God was basically a genie in a bottle that could be commanded to perform her beckoning, Sheila was come to realize that we are His humble servants, created to do His will on earth.
Instead of God existing to be our servant, we exist to perform God’s will and bring Him glory.
Today, Sheila is excited to share with others how God not only saved her from her destructive lifestyle when she didn’t believe God even existed, but also how God saved her from the Prosperity Gospel.
To hear Sheila’s full story we encourage you to listen to our podcast episode at the top of this article or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.
SBA Books (Sheila’s book publishing company)
Maggie McNair Books
- Maggie McNair Has Spiders in Her Hair
- Maggie McNair Wears Stinky Underwear
- Maggie McNair Has Sugar Bugs in There
Resources for those with questions about the Prosperity Gospel
- American Gospel: Christ Alone (documentary)
- More to come…