Here at Eternity, we are all very aware of what a privilege it is to be able to bring you some harrowing yet deeply encouraging stories of how individuals have found faith in Jesus.
Here are some of our most loved testimonies of 2016. We hope you are encouraged, as we are.
As a young teenager, Michael Bird was so anti-religion he would write poetry mocking belief in God. He left at the first opportunity, joining the army as a paratrooper, where social life revolved around getting drunk and chasing girls.
But he grew increasingly troubled that the atheistic worldview was meaningless.
For him, the attraction of Christianity was not so much a way to be forgiven for his sins but an answer to the meaning of life.
Shane Clifton, the Vice Principal of Alphacrucis, Australia’s large Pentecostal College, knows what it means to suffer. Six years ago he had an accident that left him a quadriplegic.
“I knew straightaway that I’d broken my neck,” writes Shane.
“This view of faith is not only idiotic, it’s an evil, since it leaves people with disabilities feeling guilty for lack of faith, and worse, unloved by God.” – Shane Clifton
“I broke my neck because I’m human and our necks break when twisted badly, and I landed my pushbike upside down. To look for a deeper cause of my quadriplegia is silly, since it is to lose sight of who and what I am; a forty-year-old male who wishes he’d stayed off his bike, but who is incapable of going back in time.
“One of the problems of modern society, with all of its medical wonders, is the implicit assumption that we’ll live forever in perfect health.
“The Christian equivalent is the Pentecostal faith preacher who assumes that God always rewards faith with perfect health (whatever that is). This view of faith is not only idiotic, it’s an evil, since it leaves people with disabilities feeling guilty for lack of faith, and worse, unloved by God.
Could you forgive your father if he held you captive in a remote mountain cabin and raped you, almost daily, for 11 years?
Elishaba Doerksen can, but only with God’s help.
“I just love God’s grace because whatever level I’m at is good enough.” – Elishaba Doerksen
“I pictured myself naked before God, inside out. Everything I had was nothing but dirty rags and I could just hand it to God and say, ‘can you handle me? Can you handle this box of dirty rags?’
“Of course he can,” reflects Elishaba. “And he loved me just the same. And it was like I finally looked up and saw myself through the eyes of Jesus.
“Forgiveness for me has been a journey. It has taken time, step by step, and I just love God’s grace because whatever level I’m at is good enough until I’m ready for the next level.
“And I really don’t feel any shame for the level I was at a few years ago, I just thank God that I was able to reach that point, and now I’m at this point and I know there’s so much more.
“I can’t wait for what’s more, in [the journey of] forgiveness.”
Read Elishaba’s harrowing tale now.
Joan* was born a biological male, but in her late 20s she realised – after months of panic attacks and debilitating anxiety – that she was transgender. Over the following couple of years, she socially transitioned from male to female.
“I am transgender.” – Joan
“Following months of panic attacks and anxiety, Joan went to see her GP, with the words ‘I am transgender’ written on a piece of paper.
Following the advice of her doctor, Joan went to see a psychologist later that week, and then, following the advice of her psychologist, she told her minister the next day.
Two days later she told her wife.”
Sexually abused first by her father, and then by a priest, Jane Dowling* has every reason to not believe in God. But she does.
Aged just 19 when the abuse stopped, she felt as though she was in a very dark tunnel with no way out other than to end her life.
“I opened up at Isaiah 43:1, which happened to be that beautiful passage where it says ‘Don’t be afraid for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine.’” – Jane Dowling
“I just didn’t see one bit of light or one bit of hope and I felt so alone and isolated with no one really knowing what was going on. I was just living with sheer terror and desperation and feeling overwhelmed; my body was saying it can’t take any more.”
Jane always kept a Bible by her bedside but she never read it until one day, unable to get out of bed, she picked it up and opened it at a random page.
“For some divine inspiration, on this particular day when I was feeling suicidal, I opened up at Isaiah 43:1, which happened to be that beautiful passage where it says ‘Don’t be afraid for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine,’” Jane says.
Jeff Godwell was a successful gambler who had abandoned any interest in religion while still at school, believing that only weak people who were unable to cope with society went to church. But a shocking statement by his brother-in-law led him to repentance and faith, which he has maintained even through a cancer diagnosis.
“I’m able to witness to doctors and I keep telling them ‘this drug is missing a secret ingredient – the missing ingredient is faith.’”
As a wayward teen, Rob Varicak was a white supremacist who modelled himself on his German grandfather, who had been in the SS, the black uniformed elite corps of Hitler’s Nazi Party.
In his 20s, Rob’s brother converted to Christianity, and one day he entered his brother’s bedroom to look for something and noticed a Bible. He picked it up and began flicking through, then started reading from the beginning of the Old Testament.
When he reached the New Testament his eyes were opened when he read verses about being a child of God and being called and chosen by God.
“All of a sudden it was like my own thought in my head – I know now it was God’s quiet voice – ‘You need to get off the drugs, don’t tell your mates where you’re going and just go.’”
This successful businessman started asking himself: “why am I a Christian, what is my role? Is my success just for my own benefit? Or is my success for others beyond me and my family?”
You’ll be amazed at his answer.
One of our more controversial stories of 2016, and we encourage you to read the whole article.
Wesley’s take on a “life of love” is not what it sounds like.
“People who are gay or lesbian can actually find that they are called to a positive way of loving and not just a form of self-denial,” Hill told Eternity.
“I think that gay and lesbian people probably especially hunger for friendship because the ones who are pursuing lives of chastity don’t have marriage and parenting open to them. But there are married people who’ll feel like they need friendship just as much as I do. And what I’m trying to do in promoting friendship and recovering friendship is relevant to a lot of people in a lot of life situations.
“I think that friendship in the church – if we recover it and try to practice it – is something that can benefit all Christians, not just a subset of same-sex attracted Christians.”
In 2016 Greg Lake, who worked for the Australian Immigration Department until 2013 as a director of various Immigration Detention Centres, including Christmas Island and Nauru, announced on Facebook that for as long as he could remember he’s been more attracted to men than women.
“I don’t pray for change very often now, but as a high school kid I definitely did, and I didn’t feel it would happen,” says Greg.
“What I pray for is that in whatever situation I’m in, be it with this attraction or anything else in my life, that I’ll be driven to the foot of the cross, thankful for what’s been achieved, regardless of what my sin looks like.”
“The sexual frustration that is sourced from our brokenness as humans is evident in all of our experiences, whether we’re gay, straight, single or married. It’s just the reality.
“And if that’s the case, well I’m not so sure that having [my sexual orientation] change would make my life any better, easier, or more or less godly.
“Actually, what I pray for is that in whatever situation I’m in, be it with this attraction or anything else in my life, that I’ll be driven to the foot of the cross, thankful for what’s been achieved, regardless of what my sin looks like.”
Some prayer points to help
Thank God that no one is beyond his reach, and praise him for his grace to each and every one of us.