I grew up in a Christian household. My parents were saved when I was eight or nine, and they taught me about God. I’m not sure why, but I desired to follow the Lord, even though I didn’t really love Him. Maybe it was just something that rubbed off on me from my parents, since they are so zealous and eager to please Him.
Reality and Darkness
However, darker things were happening beneath my cheerful, carefree appearance. Spiritual reality was sinking in, and it became a dark threat that haunted me whenever I had time to think. I tried to distract my mind, knowing that without God, I was doomed.
My parents had taught me not to take life for granted. I knew the Lord was ultimately in control of my life, and he could do whatever he wanted. Just to be safe, I asked Him to save me—every night—but there was no repentance or belief behind my words.
I was a very imaginative kid. For me, heaven and hell were very real. God was real. I could see evidence all around me. I knew things were a lot more complex than they appeared to be, and there was no doubt in my mind that I was headed for a bad end. This ultimately played out as night terrors. I woke up at night, feeling like I would die if I didn’t get out of my bedroom and find someone to keep me safe. From what, I wasn’t sure. I would run to my dad, and he would hug me until I was ready to go back to bed. Once, I asked him how I could be saved. He told me I just needed to trust Jesus. I wasn’t ready to do that.
As I got older, the night terrors lessened. When they did come, I waited them out alone in my bed. Deep down, I knew what was causing this constant, lingering fear, but I wasn’t ready to relinquish control. I was literally unable to.
We were at a prayer meeting when I suddenly realized how sinful I actually was. That crack of emptiness I struggled so hard to ignore turned into a full-blown pit. I realized how lost I was, how I had no ability to control my situation. I couldn’t save myself, and that left me hopeless. That night, I prayed for Jesus to forgive me. Still, there was no belief behind my words. I went to bed empty and depressed.
The next morning, my mom was talking to my brothers about salvation. I pretended to read a book nearby, but I was actually listening. Two of my brothers made professions of faith later that day. When my mom asked if anything had happened to me as well, I said no. I didn’t want to hop on the bandwagon; I wanted it to be genuine. If I was going to do this, I needed to be all in.
I don’t remember exactly what happened afterwards, but I do remember my dad trying to encourage me by singing me this part of a song:
“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because my sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”
God used those words to show me I could do nothing to save myself. Jesus was my only hope, and he was offering himself as a gift. I think that’s when I first truly believed. For the first time in my life, I was free. Someone else was in control—someone who truly cared about me and wanted what was best for my soul.
Satan’s Fight for My Life
But the battle didn’t end there. No, in fact, that’s when things really ramped up. Satan tried with all his might to win me back. He planted thoughts in my head, telling me I was imagining it. Nothing had actually happened. Jesus could never forgive me. Those “other people over there” could be Christians, but there was no way I could be like them. I suffered many long nights dealing with these thoughts. There was lots of crying and anxiety, but with God’s help, I eventually prevailed against the lies.
It has been five or six years, and I have grown a lot during that time. One of the biggest things I have learned is to not rely on my feelings. I don’t need to feel God’s closeness to know he’s there. I don’t need to “feel” saved. I know the truth, I know whom I follow, and I won’t ever give Him up. There are still seasons where I struggle with unbelief, but I know these trials will only make me stronger.