Born in the fifties, Greg Laurie was forced to grow up all too quickly and soon tired of the "alcoholic haze" he says hovered over his childhood home as he deeply questioned the meaning of life.
"I saw alcohol as symptomatic of the times and at an early age determined that there must be more to life than what I had seen so far," Greg explains.
"I was born out of wedlock and had a series of different men my mother married in her quest to find meaning in her life," he explains.
His family moved around a lot and Greg got used to the term 'new kid', which forced him to become a perpetual loner who often retreated to his private world of cartooning.
"As did so many others of my generation, I bought into the idea that drugs might contain some of the answers I was looking for, so I could truly find myself," Greg adds.
"It wasn't long before I saw the futility of this lifestyle as I watched my creativity, motivation, and skills diminish. I was told drugs would make me more aware, and in many ways that was true. I became more aware of how empty and lonely I was deep down inside myself. After a particularly frightening drug-induced experience, I knew that I had to stop doing drugs forever."
"At a very early age, I found myself asking the big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? And the one that really kept me up nights was; what will happen after I die?" Greg says.
"The popular belief of our culture seemed to be that once a person died, there was nothing. A product of the culture, that about sums up what I believed and the thought of forever nothingness terrified me. How could a person like me – a person with thoughts, dreams, feelings, inspirations – simply cease to be?"
"Although I felt certain that Jesus was out there somewhere, I certainly did not think He was interested in me or my problems," Greg explains.
“I was told drugs would make me more aware ...
... I became more aware of how empty and lonely I was”It was not until a certain girl caught his attention that his thoughts about God were challenged.
"I just saw something different about this girl and was determined to find out what it was," he says.
One day Greg's chance to meet her came when he joined a conversation she was having with one of his friends but he quickly crossed her off his list of potential girlfriends after noticing a Bible under her arm.
"I had seen her kind before, these crazy Christians who would carry their Bibles on campus and constantly talk about God as though He were a next-door neighbor," he says.
"It all seemed quite insane to me. Don't get me wrong. I believed in the existence of God. In fact, when a crisis hit, He was the first One I called on. But frantic prayers in times of crisis were pretty much the extent of any communications I had with the Almighty."
Despite wanting to put some distance between him and this mystery girl, a few days later Greg spotted her on the lawn with about 30 other "Jesus Freaks" and curiosity got the better of him.
"I determined to study the group from a distance without getting too close," he says.
When the young pastor got up to speak Greg leaned in to hear him say, "Jesus said, 'You are either for Me or against Me.' What side are you on?" and the statement really struck him.
"Never before had I heard that faith in Christ was an either or deal," he explains. "But for the first time, I had heard that it was actually possible to know Him in a personal way. I looked over at these Christians, all sitting cross-legged in a circle, and thought, undoubtedly, they are for Him. Knowing I was not one of them, it dawned on me that this must mean I was against Him."
Once the pastor had finished speaking he asked if anyone who wanted to know Jesus in a personal way walk forward so he could lead them in a prayer.
"I dropped my head and thought, if it truly is possible to know Jesus in a personal way, I would love that. Immediately, the doubts came: What if this isn't real? What if Jesus says no to me? I just can't do it!" he recalls.
Before he knew it Greg found himself standing with a handful of others, praying to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of his life. Suddenly it seemed to him as if an enormous weight had been lifted off his shoulders. That was 1970.
The Bible quickly "came alive" to him and he sought out answers to his many questions and developed a passion for using his artistic ability to share what he learned with others.
"Every person is lonely in a way that relationships can't fill, children can't fill, and friends can't fill. I believe that it's loneliness for God. There is a sense of guilt in every person. Not only are we all empty, lonely, and guilty every one of us is also afraid of death.
"I remember so vividly the path I was on and the dramatic way my life's course changed. I want to tell my generation that the questions so many people are asking today are the same ones I had once asked."
Today Greg is a pastor of a Californian church and is an award-winning author and blog writer on the many questions that he once asked himself.
Read more from Greg on his website greglaurie.com