Ill-fated experimentation shed light on the truth, says Ben
Doubts about the existence of a spiritual dimension persisted in Ben Hartnett's mind until they were banished by his shadowy experience of Eastern mysticism.
"I gave eastern meditation a try, not realising what I was getting myself into," Ben explains.
"After a while I had a few experiences that confirmed for me that the spirit world was indeed real."
What he did not expect, Ben says, was the "negative side effects".
"I was becoming more introverted, and occasionally experienced anxiety and irrational fear for no particular reason. In hindsight I believe I was lucky that I never experienced anything worse than this.
"I have since heard of people going through all sorts of mental and spiritual issues as a result of dabbling in Eastern meditation practices, which involves clearing your mind of thoughts.
"I would warn anyone interested in this stuff to stay away."
Ben's experiments with meditation came after high school friends questioned his religious beliefs.
"I was raised in a loving Christian family and always believed in God as a child, but in my later teen years friends challenged me with some difficult questions, which planted seeds of doubt in my mind," Ben says.
At university he began a double major in mathematics and computer science, as well as a deep search for metaphysical truth.
"I would spend hours of my free time studying the sciences, philosophy and religion," Ben remembers.
"After a period of time I realised that I didn't have any personal or experiential evidence for the existence of God so I decided that I was an agnostic."
This led to his exploration of Eastern spiritual philosophies and experiments with meditation.
"These ideas appealed to me because they claimed to connect with the spirit world personally through meditation."
The negative outcomes confirmed to Ben that the spiritual world was real and scary and, as a long-term relationship began unravelling, his perspective on his parent's faith in God changed.
"This long term relationship was getting more difficult over time," Ben recalls.
"I believe God used this period of my life to humble me to the point where I knew I was (spiritually) lost and I needed something more to truly satisfy me."
"I also realised that there was and is so much suffering in the world. In my heart I knew this suffering cannot be normal, so it really is the result of the sin-cursed world we now live in.
"I realised that the Bible is true because it explains the world we live in so well."
His interest in the Bible reinvigorated, he holidayed with his parents in Adelaide, where he recalls his mother showed him some "really inspiring" online videos.
“I was lucky that I never experienced anything worse”"I was really moved by these people's stories of how knowing Jesus personally had changed them.
"I realised that I absolutely needed God in my life, and nothing in the world would make me truly happy or satisfied except Him. Only God can provide the faith, hope and love that we all need in this world and in the life to come."
Back in Adelaide Ben continued watching dramatic YouTube videos of people seeing their need of Jesus Christ.
"I became convinced once again that the Bible is the true Word of God and that I truly was someone who had broken God's eternal laws, and I desperately needed a Saviour who had paid the price for my sin by dying on the cross.
"One night I just broke down in tears and decided to give my life to Jesus Christ, asked Him to forgive me, and immediately felt a great peace come over me, which I now know the Bible calls the peace of God that surpasses all understanding."
He immediately told his girlfriend about his new faith in Jesus.
"She thought I was going a bit crazy, which just pushed us further apart. Soon after that we broke up for good," he says.
"It was sad and difficult for both of us but I believe it was for the best because God had something better in store."
Ben has now settled into a church his uncle recommended to him.
"This church feels like an extended family to me, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what God has in store for the future." •