What enables the TV survival skills expert to survive?
If anyone deserves the tag ‘action man’, it’s Bear Grylls.
The former SAS soldier who risks life and limb to show TV viewers how to survive in the wild has also climbed Everest, broken his back in a parachute accident, led the first team to circumnavigate the UK on jet skis, made the first unassisted crossing of the Arctic Ocean in an inflatable, and created a world record for the highest open-air dinner under a hot-air balloon at 7,600m!
It might come as a surprise then, that this seemingly amazing man believes that his faith is his “backbone”.
“My Christian faith has helped me through so many difficult and lonely times,” Bear says. “Some say that Christianity is a crutch. I say it may be so, but it is also my backbone. I have learnt that it takes a proud man to say he needs nothing.”
What has made Bear endearing to his fans is not just his courage but his humility and willingness to admit his need of God’s love. For such a ‘man’s man’ to open up like that, without embarrassment, takes both guts and honesty.
In his recent autobiography, Mud, Sweat And Tears, Bear revealed how he first encountered God. He says his faith “has provided me with a real anchor to my life and has been the secret strength to so many great adventures since.
“But it came to me very simply one day at school, aged only 16.
“As a young kid, I had always found that a faith in God was so natural. It was a simple comfort to me: unquestioning and personal. But once I went to school and was forced to sit through somewhere in the region of 900 dry, Latin-liturgical chapel services, listening to stereotypical churchy people droning on, I just thought that I had got the whole faith deal wrong.
“Maybe God wasn’t intimate and personal but was much more like chapel was ... tedious, judgemental, boring and irrelevant.
“The irony was that if the chapel was all of those things, a real faith is the opposite. But somehow, and without much thought, I had thrown the beautiful out with the boring.
“The precious, natural, instinctive faith I had known when I was younger was tossed out with this newly-found delusion that because I was growing up, it was time to ‘believe’ like a grown-up.
“It took a low point at school, when my godfather, Stephen, died, to shake me into searching a bit harder to re-find this faith I had once known ... Stephen was like a second father to me ... He died very suddenly, of a heart attack ... I was devastated.
“I remember sitting up a tree one night at school on my own, and praying the simplest, most heartfelt prayer of my life: ‘Please God, comfort me.’
“Blow me down ... he did.
“My journey ever since has been trying to make sure I don’t overcomplicate that simple faith I had found. And the more of the Christian faith I discover, the more I realise that, at heart, it is simple. (What a relief it has been in later life to find that there are some great church communities out there, with honest, loving friendships that help me with all of this stuff).
“To me, my Christian faith is all about being held, comforted, forgiven, strengthened and loved ... The irony is that I have never met anyone who doesn’t want to be loved or held or forgiven. Yet I meet a lot of folk who hate religion. And I so sympathise. But so did Jesus. In fact... he went much further. It seems more like Jesus came to destroy religion and to bring life.
“This really is the heart of what I found as a young teenager: Christ comes to make us free, to bring us life in all its fullness. He is there to forgive us where we have messed up (and who hasn’t), and to be the backbone in our being.
“Faith in Christ has been the great empowering presence in my life, helping me to walk strong when so often I feel weak ... I had stumbled on something remarkable that night up that tree. I had found a calling for my life.”