As a teenager Michelle’s journals were filled with one significant question: “What’s the point in life?”
Michelle Shaw's world was crushed at the age of 12 when the most important person in her life, her mom, was committed to a psychiatric hospital for six months.
"I'd relied on her so much, I was completely rocked and I felt like she had betrayed me," Michelle says.
Her family blamed the religious cult her mom had become involved in as the cause of her illness.
"My sister and I didn't want to have anything to do with church, religion or anything similar after that," she adds.
Then, when she was 15, Michelle's dad died.
Becoming depressed, she questioned the meaning and purpose of life in her journals.
During her matric year, Michelle observed a momentous changed in her sister after she stayed with a Christian friend in Cape Town and returned with a newfound faith in Jesus.
"I was horrified because my ally had gone away," Michelle shares.
"But I started attending church with her anyway because I liked the singing."
Later that year Michelle was invited to join a Christian youth camp and unexpectedly found herself sitting in a little church late one night.
"I suddenly realised that God was my strength and He was my rock and He would not let me down," she explains.
"I knew I could depend on Him and He was not going to go away and He was not going to change. That was when I committed my life to Him."
Looking back on her journaling of that moment, her pages read: "I don't need to keep fighting, I don't need to keep running. I know that you, God, are my Father and I can depend on You, even if I don't understand, and You will always love me and be there for me."
Michelle was puzzled that she did not see any drastic changes in her life or grow very much initially after praying to commit her life to Jesus.
"My best friend said that when my sister had become a Christian she knew immediately the moment she walked in the door that something was different but for me it was a more gradual change," Michelle explains.
While attending university on the other side of the country the following year, Michelle remembers she had to "sink or swim".
"I really had to rely on God and find out who He was and what He meant to me and what I meant to Him during that time," she says.
Her faith in God grew stronger over the following years through different circumstances but she says a defining moment happened just before she got married.
"I was staying in a garden cottage and it was late one Friday night and I was getting into the bath," she recalls.
"I just had a towel wrapped around me when I heard someone knocking on the door and I saw this guy standing behind the window."
Suddenly two men bashed down the door, came in and tried to pull Michelle's towel off.
They attempted to pull her out the door and over the wall to the deserted piece of land next door and hit her on the head with a tyre iron to stop her screaming.
"I didn't feel particularly filled with faith at that time but for some reason I just screamed out 'In the name of Jesus get out!'," she says.
The men struggled for a few more seconds and then turned around and left her.
"Later the police said they were confused because there was no reason why the men had to leave me as no one had heard me screaming and they had clearly been watching the house and knew I was home alone."
After that Michelle was petrified to stay alone in a house and did not think she would be able to do so again.
"One of the cousellors I had spoken with said that, as a Christian, I assumed the world worked a certain way and now something had happened to shattered that," she says.
God did not take the fear away instantly but Michelle explains that slowly she learned to rely on God in every situation and the fear left.
"As a journalist I am always very sceptical and I used to keep asking 'why me, why was I saved when other amazing people aren't?' and sometimes you also think 'am I just imagining things?'," she says.
"But, looking back on my past experiences now, I can say that beyond a shadow of a doubt, God is real and He answers prayers." •