There was only one thing to do when Paul’s fearless pursuits did not satisfy…
Paul Yow was forced to look to his childhood for answers on how to radically alter his lifestyle when alcohol, girls and computer games, left him feeling guilty, depressed and suicidal.
"I didn't know anyone who was more miserable than me and I knew I needed something to change," Paul says.
"I used to get drunk often, sometimes so drunk my memory would go blank. I also felt jealous of others and I treated women poorly – I really just wanted them for what they could give me."
Paul felt haunted by the guilt of his lifestyle especially since he had learnt in Sunday school and at a religious primary school, that he was not living in a way that pleased God according to the Bible.
"I always believed in God and in Jesus but I did not surrender to His will and His teachings, I still wanted to live life my way," Paul shares.
"Sometimes I felt terrible for what I was doing and would often think about God. I didn't like being around people and believed there were evil spirits around me because of how depressed and anxious I was. I always felt like the most uncomfortable person in the room."
When days spent sleeping and playing computer games did not help, Paul plotted to end his own life.
"My plan was to commit suicide after I had run out of money but I didn't end up going through with it," he confesses.
Eventually he decided to accept an invitation to attend church with his brother, who had recently become a Christian.
“I always felt like the most uncomfortable person in the room”"I thought that maybe I would give my search for God one last go and some people from church prayed with me after the service," Paul recalls.
Thoughts and feelings of anxiety and depression continued to fill him, however, until the day he remembers praying a simple prayer to God.
"I remember praying, 'God I hardly have any strength left and I have hardly anything to offer You but whatever I have I give it to You'. In that moment, when I gave my life over to Jesus, something changed," he says.
"Suddenly I felt happy and at peace and all this darkness that was on me was no longer there! I believe that it was God helping me to pray because it was not something that I could have done on my own at that time."
From there Paul remembers that things got easier and says he felt "God's loving presence" and a joy he had never experienced before.
"I started to enjoy being around other people and began praying and going to church. I even felt motivated to go back to work and finish my apprenticeship ."
Yet, four years later, doubts and fear started to creep back into Paul's life and old habits resurfaced.
He says that for the next three years, "I just felt like I had no relationship with God because I did not 'feel' God's presence like I used to. I began to fear that I would die without Jesus and go to hell."
Yet despite this, he remembers feeling a glimmer of hope when a movie scene or the lyrics of a song reminded him about God's grace and forgiveness.
"Then I began to feel God's presence and joy again when I sang to Him and this just kept building as God began to restore me to Himself," Paul says.
Ultimately Paul realised that, despite his doubts, God will never abandon those who have trusted in Jesus.
He read in Romans chapter 8 verse 38 and 39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Having returned to church and reconnecting with his Christian friends, Paul says God has shown him that true joy, love, hope and peace come from continually looking to Jesus in faith.
"I don't think the true Christian life is supposed to be easy, there are some painful lessons to be learnt – we need to be disciplined and we need to 'die' to selfish desires – but the reward is worth it.
"It really is true that God loves everybody and forgives our sins, but we have to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and truly believe it to experience the fullness of His blessings in our lives." •