Like many people who grow up going to church, I completely dropped out when I was 14. I was glad to have Sundays free to do whatever I wanted.
Around this time I started my GCSE courses at school and I remember thinking a lot at that time about the question of suffering; specifically, how can a loving God allow suffering? However, it didn’t stop there, I concluded that I hoped there wasn’t a God, and I got very angry and passionate about this. How could a God do this to the world?, I kept asking. This angry scepticism was my ideology throughout my final 4 years of school. Along with my beliefs, my lifestyle changed too. I was no longer the good little Christian boy, and thought the best things in life were drinking and having a good time with my mates.
This didn’t stop at school, in fact it got more and more extreme at university. I found myself over 300 miles from home, where no one knew me, and where I had the opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be. So, I started University at Dundee, studying Philosophy and Politics. Thinking about the existence of life whilst going out and drinking most nights turned out to be a dangerous combination.
‘Freshers week’ was a blur, waking up at 3 and drinking at 10, a week of getting to know as many people as possible and living the life that I wanted to. So why did I hate it? By the end of that year I hated what I had become, something didn’t seem right.
I survived first semester, and had convinced myself that I was happy but that was not the case. I remember one specific night especially vividly. Now imagine this, Dundee at 4am in the morning on a Thursday, you’re walking back to your flat on a cold day by yourself, trying to remember the names of the people that you met that night, still trying to be someone you know you’re not, feeling completely alone. In other words, I was utterly depressed. I remember crying on the side of the road, not wanting to go to bed, to wake up and repeat the same day over again.
Walking 25 minutes home for a cheap lunch or spending £3 on a meal deal was about the biggest decision I’d had to make at in first year at University! One Thursday I was having that same debate in my head during a break between lectures. It was refreshers week at the Student Union, so every society were handing out leaflets about their events. Someone handed me one from the Christian Union, offering a free lunch to listen to some guy speak about God for 20 minutes. ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ I thought as I headed to the room. The topic was on how a loving God can allow suffering, the very question that I wrestled with years ago. It was a question that I thought was completely unanswerable. Now I can’t relate to you exactly what the man (Solas’ very own Andy Bannister!) said but I remember clearly being hooked almost from the beginning, as he talked about God as a loving Father, not forcing his children to love him but wanting them to. He also quoted a famous nihilist philosopher supporting God. This completely threw me, it changed everything I thought was true.
I didn’t become a Christian immediately after that, but it was the start of a journey to knowing God. I met up with a guy from the Christian Union every week from then until I left Dundee for the summer. Together we talked about Christ, read The Gospel of John together (Uncover John) and became good friends. I remember one of the first times we met up I asked him something that I couldn’t understand. I asked him why God would want to love and save me, a sinner; someone who actively hated Him! He told me about Paul, a man in the Bible who persecuted Christians chosen by Christ, but then became a Christian himself! We looked at some of his words in Romans 7 v24-25, ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!’.
Its not been an easy journey to come to know Jesus, but its completely changed my life since that talk. The most important thing in the world has become the most important thing in my life. God has changed everything I do through his love. I’m not saying living as a Christian is easy, you will be challenged by people, by groups in society, by suffering, by conflict, through problems in work and with family. But we know that through it all, our God the saviour of the unworthy, who gave his life for the wretched, is with us always.