I am not a victim, nor do I blame anyone for the choices I have made. 

I was an adolescent in pain, empty inside, and struggling to find my place in this world. My heart was screaming out for someone to just love me, to affirm that I had value.

Into my starving existence, the devil brought a twisted, perverted, and drug-addicted uncle who eagerly introduced me to a devastating lifestyle of drugs and dangerous sexual activity. He sexually molested me beginning in my preteen years and for several years after. That uncle has since died due to his self-destructive lifestyle.

Satan actively sought to destroy my life, using not only my uncle but others who were willing to supply me with alcohol and drugs in exchange for sexual interaction.

The strange truth is that, as a teen, I felt drawn toward my abusive uncle. Looking back, the attraction seems almost demonic. He took interest in me. He had time for me. The result was not a good one. 

I told no one because of the shame it brought me. The secret pain I hid followed me long after the abuse ended. The drugs and alcohol that were also part of my life added to my shame. Indeed, guilt and shame would have hounded me to my grave, had God not intervened.

The pain and anger inside grew like a raging wildfire. I was in trouble at school, in trouble with the police, and at odds with my parents. At 16, I was huffing industrial chemicals, stealing and abusing Valium, and smoking, growing, and selling marijuana. By 17, I had already been arrested for driving under the influence and other crimes. Then I totaled my brother’s car. Fifteen accumulated traffic violations sealed my fate as a judge revoked my driving privileges—but I didn’t care. 

The overwhelming darkness in my life threatened to consume my very existence.

At a friend’s home one evening, I stole half a bottle of his mother’s Valium. That night, I ingested 15 of those pills, not really caring if I ever woke up again. The next thing I knew, it was 20 hours later, and I was facing my frustrated, devastated mother and my thoroughly enraged father who was threatening to send me away to a reform school.

I couldn’t remember how I’d made it home or what I had done. I later learned that my “friends” had loaded me into the trunk of a car and dumped me in my front yard. I could have died that night, but my friends and I were oblivious to the dangers we were continually inviting. My life was out of control.

I wish I could tell you that this event convinced me to get help, but it didn’t. There were many times over those years of drug and alcohol abuse that I promised myself I was going to change; that I’d turn over a new leaf and become a better person. Yet so many mornings I awoke with a hangover, filled with regret and shame, longing for my life to be different. For a day or two, I’d try to be a better person, but before long, I would find myself right back at it, pursuing my old habits.

I so desperately wanted everyone to just leave me alone. I didn’t want to be told what to do or not do. I wanted my parents to get off my back, and I wanted the police to give me a break.

At 19, I saw a way out from under my dad’s authority. I married a childhood sweetheart. Her father signed for us to get married—she was only 15. I left my parents’ home and moved in with my in-laws. I thought this relationship would provide the peace and love I was searching for, but it didn’t. Life continued as usual—one hangover after another.

I was 22 when I hit rock bottom. My wife took our child and left. Our marriage was over, and my life was in shambles. The hopelessness in my heart plunged me into a very dark place, and I began using drugs in a way I had promised myself I never would—shooting up cocaine intravenously. I was hurt and more confused and lonely than ever before.

Into this painful existence, God sent a special woman, Melissa. We were married in 1986, but within two years, our marriage was in trouble. My substance abuse had not abated, and we were struggling to keep it all together. And then God began to unfold His plan right before our eyes.

Melissa and I knew we needed a power beyond ourselves to heal our hearts and to save our marriage. My mother had been urging us to visit her church, so we showed up for a midweek prayer meeting. It was there that God’s Spirit broke through the hardness of our hearts. Melissa and I knelt together at the altar in brokenness and surrendered our lives to Jesus. There we received forgiveness we had not thought possible. My soul filled with an overwhelming presence of love and peace and hope. The immense burden I had carried for so long was gone. 

I rose to my feet, knowing I had been made new. I had new power to change, new power to love, and new power to forgive. I had God’s power now, and I could do what I had failed so many times on my own to accomplish. Since that night in 1988, I have not turned back. 

What made the difference between that night and all the other times that I had attempted to change? God. What can make the difference for you? God.

That night, I was no longer looking to my own strength and self-discipline to implement change. I had finally realized that my strength was not enough. I was ready to rely upon the God who was at work within me. My eyes were open to the eternal impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul, a murderer himself, encountered this amazing power of the gospel, and like mine, his life was forever changed. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (NIV). Power, available to everyone who believes! And all you have to do to receive it is call upon the name of Jesus (Romans 10:13). When you invite His power into your life, all of heaven’s armies come to your aid.

Jesus did not die just so your sins could be forgiven, but so that you can be victorious on this side of heaven too. He died to set you free—you don’t have to be enslaved to anything, not for one moment more.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a soul-saving, life-changing, eternally transforming power that is ready to go to work for you. Receive it now and let the power of the gospel transform and heal every part of your life. God has no favorites. What He did for me, He will do for you.   †