By the time he was 25 years old, Nathaniel Burr's life was a mess. His world was full of drugs, crime and despair.
"My drug addiction completely controlled my life and had ruined my mental and physical health. My only ambition was to get my hands on my next hit.
"I had two failed apprenticeships behind me and almost no relationship with my family. People always seemed to let me down and I hated myself," he says of that time.
Nathaniel had attended Sunday School as a child and heard about God but that just seemed to him a distant memory in a life that was full of pain and disappointment.
Not all his family had given up on him, however. Nathaniel was trying to get his life back on track and had booked into a residential rehabilitation program to deal with his drug problem. When the program director Malcolm Smith visited Nathaniel's town to speak, his aunt encouraged him to go along and hear the talk.
"I turned up late and stood up the back feeling uncomfortable. I was surrounded by ordinary hard-working people and I felt very out of place. But when Pastor Malcolm spoke about drugs and dealers and talked about his experiences I was overcome with grief.
"I felt terrible grief for my life and for all the people I had hurt wittingly or unwittingly along the way. I felt deeply sorry to God for the way that I had lived."
Nathaniel couldn't stop crying. As the meeting drew to a close, the speaker invited people to find hope for a new life through a relationship with God.
hurt"I broke down and cried like my heart had broken," Nathaniel remembers.
It was a turning point in his life because he started to follow Jesus. He no longer wanted to head in the wrong direction but wanted a changed heart.
"I knew in my heart that life was going to be different from that moment forward and it has been.
"Before there was fear, apathy and despair. Now I have life. I have a reason to live. I look forward to getting out of bed each morning."
Nathaniel celebrates the fact that he is growing as a person with a new attitude. He still has everyday challenges but he has a new approach to coping. He sees trouble as an obstacle to overcome and a chance to grow and develop with it.
In the past, when things got tough, he would look to drugs to dull the pain but now he looks to his daily relationship with God.
"God is the constant in my life. I know that I can always turn to God no matter what comes my way."
Nathaniel says his new life is summed up by the Bible in 1 Corinthians 15 verse 10: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect."
With God strengthening him each day in his new life, Nathaniel has gained a job as a youth worker and is completing a Health Science degree at university. These are achievements he never imagined would have been possible before.
He has also married a beautiful wife and together they encourage one another to keep walking with God every day.•