“You Are Not Alone: Stories from young men” is a series of personal stories we are collecting by young men to encourage peers and parents alike to pursue Jesus. Paul sought to encouraged us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 we are not alone in our temptation, and we want to continue that tradition by giving a voice to young men who want their peers to know that they too are not alone. View all the stories in the series
From Fear To Faith
Connor, age 17, tells how his fear of God’s judgement was transformed into love for God’s kindness.
My story begins like many Christian young men, in a loving christian family, attending church every Sunday. Though the theology in my church started out solidly biblical, at some point the pastor started focusing not on the love of God in Christ for sinners but rather exclusively on God’s imminent return in fiery judgement against sinners. He even had a date predicted for when this judgement would take place.
So as a small child all I heard at church was a story about God coming down and killing off every sinner and heathen. As a kid this was incredibly destructive to my view of God and my relationship with Christ. I saw Jesus as an accessory to God in his judgement, rather than my savior from that judgement. I feared hell, and I feared God, but not in a proper way. This fear took hold of me and it prevented me from ever really grasping what it was that Christ came to die for. At the same time, however, I’m thankful that my parents were faithful and loving and consistently communicated to me the good news that Jesus came to save sinners. The seeds were planted, but I continued to live in constant fear.
From the outside everyone would have thought my life was perfect, but as I grew this fear began to take hold in different areas: fear of failure, anxiety, and stress. I did really well in sports but I would have massive stomach aches before games. My grades excelled, but only because I feared failure and feared having anything less than an A. At the same time I began to experience sin and struggles in other areas of my life. I became incredibly impatient with other people especially my siblings. I struggled with pride, and like many young men I became prey to the lusts and passions of my flesh as I encountered porn and masturbation.
After a couple of years of becoming progressively more enslaved to my anger and lusts I began to realize that something needed to be done, but because of my fear I wasn’t willing to bring it to the attention of anyone else. Eventually, however, my father (thankfully) installed software on my computer that allowed him to view my browser history. I had no idea he had done this. A short time later my father came and stood in my doorway, closed the door, and pulled out a VERY long list of sites that I’d visited over a very short period of time.
Getting caught in this dark sin was a deeply humbling experience, and my father was amazingly compassionate through it all, but I needed a heart change and my dad couldn’t provide that. I still had a controlling desire for my sin. I restricted my use of porn and masturbation out of respect for my dad and my mentor, but not out of love for God. Be careful not to mistake external changes in behavior for what God really desires: obedience out of love. This “lip and eye service” continued for about a year.
I don’t exactly know what happened but God got my attention one night at about 11pm. I suddenly realized, for no good reason I can identify, the perversity of what I was doing, how messed up I’d become, and my great need for salvation. I think it was the end of a slow but persistent work of the Holy Spirit, but when it hit, it hit hard! And when that moment finally arrived I went to Youtube and looked up a sermon by Francis Chan on serving God with a pure heart. I honestly don’t remember the details, but halfway through the video I turned it off, went downstairs, sat down at the kitchen table and poured my heart out to God. All my fear, struggle, everything that was wrong with me over so many years came out in a flood of emotion. In that moment I prayed that God would take away my fear, that He would help me to serve Him not other people, that He would change my heart and would take away the anxiety and worry. This was, without a doubt, the most sincere and honest prayer I had ever prayed.
This moment of intense prayer thankfully continued on, and after a few sessions of clear and honest outcry over the next few weeks I began to see slow but noticeable changes in my life. I wanted to serve God, not the people around me and two things became absolutely obvious to me:
- I am a sinner in need of savior
- My security is in Christ and nothing can take that away from me
You may find it surprising that I found it easier to be open about my ugly and embarrassing bondage to porn and masturbation than it was to be open about my deep struggle with fear. But as God has replaced my heart of fear toward him with a heart of love, I reflect on both of these truths often and they have become an important part of who I am.
There are two passages of scripture that I now cling to and to which I encourage you to point your sons, many of whom will struggle silently like I did unless they are given the hope that only Jesus can bring. I encourage you to share these with them and to help them hide these words in their hearts.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
- Psalm 46
God has strengthened me to stand, and I am no longer dominated by fear or lust, but I do at times still fall into old patterns. And so I continue to cling to these passages because my story is unfinished. By God’s Word I know I will stand in the day of evil, be lifted up when I fall, and be given a renewed confidence in the face of fear.