A psychiatrist sat across from me; a file several inches thick rested on the table between us. One infraction after another had led to this moment. I was in the military and to put it mildly, I wasn’t a model soldier. The military had been my attempt to “get straightened out.” I thought a little authority and structure would be good for me, but it hadn’t helped. I didn’t do well with authority, and that file on the table proved it.

My behavior was so violent and my personality so “off” that several military psychiatrists had been called in to assess me. They concluded something was very wrong with me. It was no shock to me; I’d been hearing those words since I was five years old. It was a favorite question of my parents and teachers—What is wrong with you?!

The lead military psychiatrist sitting across from me seemed to have an answer. “You’re a sociopath, Bob.”

A what?!

He pulled out a book and read the definition to me. A sociopath has a complete disregard for the rights of others and are incapable of love. They don’t have any normal feelings of remorse, shame, or guilt. They are cruel to both people and animals and have no empathy for others. Most that are diagnosed as a sociopath are capable of deadly violence. A sociopath is callous and has a reckless disregard even for their own safety. Most are pathological liars and are quick to rationalize the pain that they inflict on others in such a manner as to imply that the other party ‘deserved’ what they got.”

He continued with a strange look on his face, and said, “A Sociopath doesn’t have a conscience, Bob. Several serial killers are diagnosed as a sociopath, and if I had to guess, I’d say you are well on your way to becoming a sociopath.”

“What can be done about it?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he replied.

It was officially determined that I was not suitable to continue to serve in the military, and I was given an administrative discharge. I left with a hopeless diagnosis and continued down a tumultuous path.

All my life I’d been told I was a stupid idiot who would never amount to anything. I believed every word of it. And now it had been confirmed. There was no hope for me.

All I’d ever wanted as a child was to be loved and accepted by my parents or by a friend. It was obvious my father hated the very sight of me. His daily beatings confirmed it. And as far as having a friend goes? Well, transferring to nineteen different schools because of our family’s military background made that impossible. No one had ever loved or befriended me.

The tipping point came the day the school principal gave me a paddling for something I’d done wrong. When I got home, my dad continued the beatings with his fists and a strap. I distinctly remember making up my mind between blows that no one, and I mean, no one, would ever see me cry.

I looked at my dad and snarled, “Give me your best shot.” In that moment, I became stone cold and full of hate, rage, and bitterness.

When you live with such powerful emotions, something has to give. You either need an outlet to release the pent-up anger and rage, or you need something to cover it up. I chose both. Just as my father had done, I began to use my fists to control people and manipulate situations. That graduated quickly to a baseball bat and then guns. I inflicted great pain on many. I turned to drugs to cover up my pain. Methamphetamine and heroin were my drugs of choice. I shot up anywhere I could find a vein…even the veins in my big toe.

As soon as the effects of the drugs wore off and the pain of my miserable life began again to overtake me, I would shoot up again. It was a constant, deadly cycle. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I’m alive. If it hadn’t been for God’s intervention, I would be dead for sure.

One such intervention came when I was twenty-four. God sent an angel in the form of a nurse named Lydia. I’d been in a terrible car wreck and broken nearly every bone in my body. Several blood transfusions and major orthopedic surgeries were required to put my leg and other broken bones back together. Lydia was in charge of caring for me.

An insomniac, I asked her to bring me books to read to pass the night away. Lydia brought the bestseller book list for me to choose from. I was shocked to learn that the number one selling book was the Bible. I asked her for a Bible. She gave me her own.

I started in the Old Testament, but it was boring. I moved over to the New Testament and began to read about a man named Jesus.

I’d heard about Jesus but, to be brutally honest, I didn’t want anything to do with Him. I blamed God for everything wrong in my life. But I couldn’t help but notice that Jesus was a man of love. I longed for love. He was a man who hung out with what the world would call the unlovable. People like me. He hung out with prostitutes, drunks, and ungodly sorts…and He loved them.

I was attracted to this love, primarily because I’d never been loved by anyone. My relationship with my own father made it difficult for me to view God as a father—I couldn’t imagine what that would be like. But Jesus was different. Over and over again, I saw it. Jesus loved. And, according to John 3:16, He loved me too.

I kept reading, and I came to Philippians 4:13 NKJV. It said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”