Enjoying God, Making Friends & Changing Lives

Jack’s Story

“I was born and bred in Newcastle – brought up in Gosforth and went to school at Dame Allen’s.  I’ve got two sisters and always felt loved by my mum and dad. I went off to Uni at Aberystwyth to study Biology.

Uni years were tricky.  Aberystwyth is quite a small place. In term-time there are eight thousand locals and twelve thousand students so it’s a bit unusual. In my second year at Uni one of my friends committed suicide and that had a big impact on me.  Before that I’d just kind of assumed that everything in my life would always go fine but after my friend died I started to feel a lot of anxiety about where my was life going.

That anxiety got much worse in my Third Year when I was struggling with my course.  I realised I was never going to get a first and be a high-flier.  If I was going to get anywhere in life I was actually going to have to work really, really hard.

At the end of my Third Year I failed one of my exams and soon after that I also failed the resit.  If you failed the resit there was no way to change that.  There was no way back.  I was about to get chucked out.

For the first time in my life I really properly prayed.  Even though I didn’t believe in God I asked Him to help me get through what was a nightmare situation.  It was a shot in the dark! Two weeks later I got a call from the Uni to say that they had made a mistake. I hadn’t failed my resist. There had been a major admin error.

I felt as though maybe God had heard my prayer and soon after that I started reading the Bible.  I spent a year reading the Bible and trying to work out what I actually believed.  I’d read a lot of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris in the past and had gone along with the principle “They’re a lot smarter that me so they must know…”  Now I started to read the Bible for myself. I basically just read the bits of the Bible that I enjoyed.  I really liked reading the Exodus story.

At the same time I got to a point where the depression and anxiety were really bad.  I was trying to look like a happy and outgoing person even though I wasn’t.  I reached the point where I just couldn’t keep that up anymore and broke down in front of my family.  It was at that point that I came to City Church.

I’d been before to Chris and Emily McKellar’s wedding while I was studying for my resit and had really enjoyed it. I’d had in the back of my mind “Maybe I should go back to that City Church place…” and so I came one Sunday when you were just starting a series on “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”.  Somebody was preaching about Job.  I wanted to come back and hear more and so I kept coming each week to hear more and hear more.

Everybody was introducing themselves and being so friendly and that was just not something that I was used to.  I was really struggling in myself so each week I would just dash off at the end. I found it a bit odd seeing people so animated in worship – but at the same time I could see that God seemed to really be working in other people’s lives even if I wasn’t experiencing it myself.

I started to realise that I was wanting material success in my life but was neglecting all the stuff that really mattered – like what kind of person am I?

I went to some of the student lunches after church and got to know a few people.  Matt George invited me to go along to the student group on Tuesday nights.  I just really enjoyed the whole thing; the sense of community and the way that everybody looks out for one another and it does seem to feel like a family. I started developing some real friendships. I was really enjoying it but also asking big questions at the same time.

The turning point came with what Luca said to me one Tuesday night.  I’d had an image in my head of waves ebbing and flowing on a beach.  Luca came up to me and said that he felt God was telling me to fall back in to the ebb and flow of Him and just go with it.  I started to realise that maybe my thoughts weren’t all my own and that God really was speaking to me.

About that time I had been reading and re-reading Psalm 42.  That night I went back to it and prayed it out as a prayer to God.  I was trying to say to God “Yes!  I want to step into this and stop the endless analysis…”

From then on I tried to become a part of the church family and really jumped in.  Since then I have been trying to learn how to trust God in the middle of all of the ebbing and flowing of normal life.

I can only say that my life has just got better and better.  Actually, to be honest, my circumstances haven’t changed at all but I mean I am just so much happier.  My whole outlook on life has changed.  I have a lot more purpose.  It’s difficult to explain but my attitude to the whole world is different.

I’ve had a few down days with depression and anxiety but then it went away again so quickly – not like before.  I find that bad days are remedied by little things.  Like at work a few months ago one of my friends started asking questions about church and that totally took my mind off myself and took me back to God.

It’s really hard to put into words what Jesus means to me now.  Just the completely selfless sacrifice of taking everyone’s sin and imperfections onto himself just totally overwhelms me.

He didn’t have to do it.  But he did it for us.”

By carly