Sam Keath carried more baggage than the famous passenger liner, the Titanic. He was burdened with loneliness, anger, other people's expectations, and a crippling addiction to gambling. He fled from town to town to escape but found he couldn't get free of his habits and addictions on his own.
Like the Titanic, which collided with a giant iceberg and sank, Sam too was drowning in the murky waters of hopelessness until rescued by an unexpected life boat.
At high school, Sam was bullied, teased and slandered, causing him to retreat into himself and become isolated.
"I spent my younger years wanting to be somebody else and as I got older, things just got worse.
"I used violence to gain recognition from other students because I wanted to be known as tough. But I wasn't. I was bitter and angry and couldn't understand why people didn't like me."
When Sam looks back, he recalls a ray of hope. He knew about God and Jesus Christ. His mum read the Bible to the family and he attended Sunday school. However, it would be many years before he learned that Christianity was not a religion but a relationship with God and His son Jesus Christ.
"I don't know why so many things happened the way they did. I wanted things to be different."
But they weren't. He dropped out of school and found work in a supermarket, escaping his lonely existence through the movies and getting rip roaring drunk.
At 26 years of age, he couldn't wait to flee his hometown Kerang in Victoria for a new job hundreds of kilometres away. He longed to start again where nobody knew his history.
"I didn't comprehend in my mind that all the baggage I had been carting around for so long would eventually play out in my actions and attitudes in my new town," he says.
While Sam held onto his problems, he was good at losing other things. He lost his job, had his house repossessed, crashed his car while driving drunk, gambled away a decent payout when he left work and found himself homeless.
Strangely enough, it was when he was broken financially and emotionally that Sam says his life took a turn for the better.
"I moved back to live with my mum in Kerang —the place I had been so keen to get away from for so long. I see now that God had a plan for my life and I needed to get back to reality."
September 22, 2016 is the date that Sam's real life began. For him, it shines as brightly as a searchlight on a dark ocean.
Leading up to this time he had read a couple of Christian books, as he was thinking about the meaning of life and about faith. Through this he encountered God and came to know Jesus as his Saviour.
"I knew I was a changed man when I told my mum that I had become a Christian and God had made me clean.
"All the things that I once did, like gambling, I have no desire for anymore. The things I struggled with for so long — like lying, drinking, swearing and hatred — are gone."
Sam's joy is infectious as he emphasizes the message he wants people to know — and he is evidence that it is powerful.
"I would be dead or in jail if it wasn't for the mercy [undeserved kindness] of God.
"There are so many things in this world that can suck the life out of you if you let them get out of control. But remember that no matter what circumstances you may face, no matter how old you are, there is hope. God loves you unconditionally. He wants to forgive you and to spend eternity with you. If you hand your life over to Him, He will never leave you or forsake you, like it says in the Bible." (Hebrews 13 verse 5)
Christianity, Sam says, is not about trying harder but about being obedient to God. It is a relationship that is freely available to all people who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You only need to ask.•