I was taken to church as a child with my whole family and was christened as a baby, but it wasn’t until the age of twelve, when I went to hear evangelist Billy Graham speak that I realised this wasn’t enough. It was time to stand up and be counted. I responded to an invitation to commit my life to Jesus and at that moment, everything became real. The Bible became not just a collection of stories in a book about someone who walked the earth a long time ago, but something that was relevant for every one of us today in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. The really special thing was that when I looked around, I saw that all the members of my family had made a commitment as well! God had spoken to each of us individually, even though we weren’t sitting together at the event.
Jesus also suffered during his time on earth
I suffer from a medical condition that means I have to rely on a wheelchair to get around and am in constant chronic pain. It has been incredibly challenging over the years to lose my mobility and independence, having to rely on carers to help me with even the basics of daily life. I have had a series of operations, some of which haven’t turned out as planned, and as a result I have spent a lot of time bedbound, which can mean I don’t have as many interactions with other people during the day as I would like. This sometimes takes its toll on relationships.
But it helps to remember that Jesus also suffered during his time on earth. He has felt the pain I’ve felt; he has been let down by people he thought he could depend on. There is nothing that I’ve gone through that Jesus hasn’t also gone through. And I know that, even if I don’t get healed in this life, I will be in heaven. In the span of eternity, our time on earth is like the blink of an eye, and that knowledge helps me to endure the challenges of life. I also know that when I pray God hears me and gives me the strength to get through. For example, one time I was very ill and lots of people were praying for me. My mum told me to listen to a talk she had heard on a Bible passage in the book of Isaiah: “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches hidden in secret places, so you may know that I am the Lord…who calls you by name.” The same week, a friend woke up in the middle of the night feeling that she should pray for me. She opened a book of Bible readings to inspire her, and it was the very same verse! God gave me the same verse yet again through other people and I knew that he wanted me to know that when we go through the darkest times, that’s when God reveals even greater riches of his love. Although my situation was dire, I’ve never felt so peaceful.
I have always had self-esteem issues, which affected the way I interacted with people for a long time. I felt totally unworthy of other people’s time, as if I was somehow at the bottom of a pile of perfect people who were better looking, more popular, more confident, more talented than I was. I felt I had little to offer the world around me, and anything I did offer wasn’t good enough, especially when I made a mistake. Making mistakes sometimes sent me into a deep depression for days, or even weeks. I turned to alcohol to blot out how I was really feeling, and even made a couple of half-hearted suicide attempts, because I was trying to get help and didn’t know where to turn. My so-called weakness was all I could focus on, rather than concentrating on my strengths and knowing that God loved me regardless!
I was attracted to Jesus by his acceptance and compassion
I made a commitment to God in my early teens, but it wasn’t really until my mid/late thirties that I started to believe the true value of who I was. This has been a long process and I still have my off days (who doesn’t?!) but, despite the magnitude of some of my problems, or how I felt about myself, I know that I don’t have to be ‘good enough’ – that God accepts me, warts and all. It isn’t primarily about keeping to a set of rules; it’s first and foremost about faith in a relationship with God as my dad, who is perfect.
I was attracted to Jesus by his acceptance and compassion, despite the difficult circumstances of my life and my all-too-human ways of dealing with them! I have faced major challenges, including infertility, miscarriage, domestic abuse, bullying and financial difficulties. But through all of these, Jesus has always been with me (even when I’ve stubbornly gone my own way), guiding, strengthening and protecting me. He is the only constant in my life, and I really don’t know where I would be without Him.
I became a Christian when I was six, so I don’t have a dramatic story to tell, but I do know that it has massively changed my life for the better. Knowing that Jesus loves me without conditions is so important. I have seen people close to me go through physical and mental struggles that I haven’t been able to do much about. There is no quick fix for these things.
Following Jesus isn’t like any other religion in the world.
My wife suffers from depression and anxiety. When we were first married, I felt frustrated because I didn’t know how to help her. But because I know that Jesus loves us both, I can give her situation to Jesus because I trust that He knows what He’s doing. He helps me to support her – often, after praying about her difficulties, I find that God gives me just the right words to say to encourage her.
Some people think you have to act in a good way for Jesus to love them. But you don’t earn your way into Heaven – you can’t! Jesus just wants us to follow and trust him. No matter what you’ve done, God is waiting with open arms for you to turn to him and ask for forgiveness. Following Jesus isn’t like any other religion in the world. It’s all about his resurrection. He died and came back to life again – who else can say that? And we don’t have to do good works to be saved – it’s a free gift from God. That’s what we call grace. I don’t have doubts about my faith because I have learned to believe what the Bible tells me about life. One thing I amazed about is why God chose me. I never did anything to earn his love, but he loved me anyway.
Prayer works. I’ve seen this for myself in the way God has provided me with jobs. When I finished University in Lancaster, I wanted to stay in this area but I needed a job and somewhere to live! So I prayed, asking God to give me both if he wanted me to stay here. Someone from church invited me to live with them, but how would I afford it without work?
God provided right at the last minute
Time went on, and it was getting very close to the end of the summer term. Most teaching jobs have gone by then, so I started to worry. So I got praying again, and decided to have faith that God would give me a job.
I went to that person from church and said yes, I would live with them. A week later, right at the end of term, I got a job in Kendal! Since then, God has provided work every time I needed it. When I didn’t have a permanent job, I still managed to earn a full-time wage as a supply teacher. And again, when a temporary job ended, God provided right at the last minute. I went to teach in a different area than I’d been looking for, and in a different year group. It just shows that God’s plans are not always the same as ours! He is faithful in His time and His way. Following Jesus isn’t like any other religion in the world. It’s all about his resurrection. He died and came back to life again – who else can say that? And we don’t have to do good works to be saved – it’s a free gift from God. That’s what we call grace. I don’t have doubts about my faith because I have learned to believe what the Bible tells me about life. One thing I amazed about is why God chose me. I never did anything to earn his love, but he loved me anyway.
When a church minister asked me if I was a Christian, I told him I was born here in England and went to a church school, because I thought that’s what a Christian was. All I really knew about it was that we got holidays at Christmas and Easter! But he told me something different – he said that to be a Christian meant to be Christ-like. He also told me that the Bible says we are all sinners.
But I felt that Jesus was saying, ‘I forgave you,’ and that hit me hard.
I thought sinners were people like bank robbers and murderers. I’d never done anything like that. But I did struggle with drink, the people around me kept telling me to stop but I couldn’t. I knew it was hurting the people I loved and ruining my life, but I just kept going. I knew I was a sinner and wanted to change.
This man’s life just shone with the presence of Jesus. He wasn’t trying hard to be good or happy, but he was just so much more content with his life than I was. I knew I wanted that, so I asked Jesus into my life. From the day onwards I never drank alcohol again, that was 43 years ago, I never could have stopped before but something happened when I put my faith in Jesus. It wasn’t all plain sailing after that, mind you. There were some people I found it difficult to forgive. But I felt that Jesus was saying, ‘I forgave you,’ and that hit me hard. I knew I needed to forgive others. Following Jesus isn’t like any other religion in the world. It’s all about his resurrection. He died and came back to life again – who else can say that? And we don’t have to do good works to be saved – it’s a free gift from God. That’s what we call grace. I don’t have doubts about my faith because I have learned to believe what the Bible tells me about life. One thing I amazed about is why God chose me. I never did anything to earn his love, but he loved me anyway.