Pause for Thought by Ray Dadswell: From despair to hope

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Students at the University of Sussex have been a great source of encouragement to me over the years, especially many in the Christian Union who have shared their testimony of the Lord’s dealings in their lives. I have learned so much.

Here, Jonathan Golding tells of his developing understanding of the grace of God ...

I USED TO attend church with my mum, elder brother and younger sister, particularly enjoying the singing at the start, but never really connecting with the Sunday School. As I got older, other things became more important to me, especially cricket in the summer months - our matches were always on Sunday mornings.

Eventually I guess I just drifted away, and I probably stopped going altogether when I was about ten years old.

When I moved to secondary school, I had a friend who knew about my Christian past and invited me to a youth alpha at his church, but after the course, I continued as normal.

I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do at university until late on. I knew I was interested in the human body and was good at biology, so I did some work experience in a hospital and a care home.

I was also keen on the idea of studying medicine because there was an obvious pathway into a job afterwards.

I applied to four universities and only got one offer so the decision was made for me really.

Looking back, this was probably God’s providence.

My journey to becoming a Christian really started during my A-level exams.

I had put a lot of effort into getting to medical school and saw that as a great achievement which would make me happy.

I had already got an offer from Brighton and Sussex Medical School and knew I needed AAB from the A-levels.

I sat the exams, and for some reason I thought they went terribly.

I remember that in one of the physics papers there were entire questions I left blank.

I felt there was no way I would get the grades I needed, and this made me very sad.

That summer holiday was a very hard time for me. I didn’t come out of my room much and didn’t want to socialise with my friends.

Actually, though, I got fantastic results! Three As, in fact. I went to university, but was still sad and withdrawn.

As a consequence, I struggled to make friends , and I found that living in a strange city, Brighton, and doing a course that was so demanding was one of the toughest things I had ever done.

During the Christmas holiday I said to my parents “I don’t want to go back”. That was when my mother took me to see one of her friends at church, he prayed for me and I accepted Jesus and gave my life to God.

I felt a tremendous sense of peace at this time and a feeling that God was real.

I realised that there was more to life than success and what other people thought of me. God loved me unconditionally.

My first week back at university, in January 2010, I went to the Christian Union. I asked the visiting speaker if I could go to his church on the Sunday.

I found everyone there very friendly and settled in straightaway. I was baptised on Valentine’s Day of that year.

It took a while to get over my depression and I don’t think I was fully back to normal until the start of my second year. The two years since then have been some of the best of my life.

Knowing that there is a God out there who loves us so much that he is prepared to send his only Son to die for us is just amazing. I am so grateful for all the support that the CU and the church have given me.

I find it easier to follow the Lord on campus than at home. I am surrounded by fantastic people who just love God, all of whom are inspirational – too many to mention.

Having such a network allows me to share my faith with people on the same course so much more easily. I suppose the biggest challenge for me is to make sure that I continue to meet those who don’t know Jesus so that I can tell them about him. I joined a local cricket club this year, which gives a great opportunity for me to share the love of Jesus.

My favourite Bible story is Peter’s denial of Jesus in Luke 22, 54-62. It is the story my mum’s friend told to me when I went round to his house in a state the night I gave my life to Jesus.

Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus. If there was anyone who deserved to die, it was him. But Jesus took his place and God spared Peter.

The most amazing thing is that, despite his failings, Peter went on to become one of the core group of people who set up the early church, the ‘rock’ that the church was built on.

It just shows that though we feel we may fail and are not worthy of the love of God, he does love us and can use us to do great things, all because of what Jesus has done on the cross.

In fact, God often takes some of the worst people and transforms them radically into his amazing servants.

I strongly believe there is no-one this earth who is beyond God’s grace and love.