I have been a Christian for the last four years and have been baptised for two years. I am currently serving in the Australian Defence Force and this is my 10th year of service. I always wanted to join the Australian Defence Force. I got an offer to join the Royal Australian Air Force as an airfield defence guard. I got stuck into beers and alcohol which was numbing the stress that I went through. I’d been in the military for a few years but in 2012 when my son was about three months old, my partner and I separated. At this point the substance abuse got even worse. I found out that I was posted to Afghanistan and I obviously said yes because that’s the reason for being in the defence force. Luckily our relationship mended and we ended up getting back together just before I deployed. I served seven months in Afghanistan. After returning I had a lot questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there really a God? I saw Islam over there at its worst. What’s the point of life? Are we born just to die? I came back seeing the negative side of the world and got straight back into alcohol again. I saw my relationship starting to decline again with my family so I decided to quit drinking.
Before I went to Afghanistan, I went to my Dad’s house and he gave me the Holy Bible. He asked for me to take it over to Afghanistan. I didn’t think anything of it and when I got home I just threw it into the corner of my room. I ended up taking the Bible with me because I had heard stories about soldiers taking bullets and the Bible stopping the bullets. I tried reading it once, got nothing out of it. But I still carried it with me everywhere.
In 2013 when I came back, I quit drinking. I knew my family was going to fall apart again and I didn’t want that. My girlfriend at the time, Lana (who is my wife now), went through a change. I remember her coming out of her room one day and saying she had tried reading the Bible. She then went to bed and had a dream. After she woke up, she could understand the parables in the Bible. She told me that she was really interested in reading the Bible, so I asked my Dad, who at that time was a recently converted Christian, for advice. He pointed towards starting with the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So she began studying the Bible. I didn’t really take too much notice of it but those events were definitely in the back of my mind.
Not too long after that, I got posted down to Williamtown, New South Wales. Because I had quit drinking alcohol, I took up surfing. I had this large hole in my life that alcohol filled so I decided to buy a surfboard. I started filling my life with other things but it all just wasn’t enough. I remember going to my Dad’s place for Christmas lunch and one of his friends Blake Penland came. I remember standing there for an hour straight listening to him talk to Lana. The one thing that struck me about that conversation was how happy Blake was. I just couldn’t get around the fact that he was so happy. Prior to leaving, Blake invited us to go to church. Blake’s invitation stuck with us. The first time we tried to go to church we all got sick. We then decided to go again, but the Friday night prior to going to Wallsend Church, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to go. That night I went to sleep and I had this dream where I was at ‘point A’ and my family was at ‘point B’, and I was running to try and save them while the whole world was falling apart on either side of me. I would run and just as I got within arm’s reach to save them, the dream would restart. I would be back at the start again and I would just keep running. The dream repeated over and over again. I’d never been so fearful in my life because the one thing that I’m very protective of is my family. I just laid there on the bed and looked up at the ceiling. I said “God if you’re real then I need help right now. Right now, I need help”. This peace came over me and I just fell straight back to sleep. I remember waking up early in the morning and the first thing that came to my mind was a book and a Bible verse. I thought, “This is crazy” and so I just blew it off and went back to sleep. I then woke up again and everyone was getting ready to go to church and I remember thinking, “What was that Bible verse that came into my mind?”. So we went to Wallsend Church and we were in the carpark when Lana said to me “Why were you looking through the Bible this morning? You’ve never done that.”
And then it just hit me and I remembered. Ecclesiastes 3:6-11. Keep in mind that at that time I had all these thoughts like, “Why am I here? Am I born just to die? Why do good things happen to bad people? Why is the world so messed up?” So this verse really hit me.
Ecclesiastes 3:6-11 says:
"A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war an da time for peace. What do people really get from all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
I just remember a tear rolling down my face. I hopped out of the car and started walking towards the church. My family followed and we walked in and sat down and I read those Bible verses over and over again. We went home after the service and I began to go over everything. How could this possibly happen? How could all the questions that I had be answered through a dream? How could this be possible? I started doubting everything and trying to find a way to make it seem like it was all a coincidence. I sat on the couch, contemplating how this had all happened. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I was just flicking through the Bible and went to the start of the Bible. My Dad had written something there all those years back before Afghanistan. It said:
"Dear Jesse, this book is full of stories of other people’s lives that have long since gone but are still relevant today. If you are wise you can learn from other people’s mistakes and find the true meaning of life. What is life really all about? Are we born just to die? Why do bad things happen? Why is the world so messed up? How will it all end? I hope and pray one day you can find relevant information in this book and your eyes will be opened to what is gone in the past and what will happen in the future. It is all in this book. When you are ready, just ask God to lead and it will happen.”
From there I called my Dad up and I was like, “Hey, this just happened.” He said, “Yeah, that happens man.” It’s been a journey since, but the one thing that I had was peace. Even when I was at rock bottom, one thing stayed true, I had peace through everything. I feel like I am a better person now, although I am still struggling with things and still working through them. The person that I was back then; there’s meaning through that. The experiences that I’ve gone through (and there are a fair few of them), they can be used to help other people. I think everything has a purpose. To truly take somebody for who they are, no matter how broken they are, that’s something different. That’s the true Character of God. No matter what you’ve done, He can fix you and He can make you new.