Like so many, I grew up in the suburbs and came from a broken home. Although my mother did a great job raising us as a single mum, there was a real stigma attached to having divorced parents when you went to a Catholic school. I felt like an outcast for much of my childhood and sought acting classes to build my confidence. I performed in local theatre and worked on popular television shows doing small parts. Life was hard - very hard.
I missed having my father around to help lead me through my teen years. The pain of this, on top of being bullied at school, was all too much for me. I felt the world would be better off without me and I thought about ways that I could end it all. Perhaps I could end the suffering and pain of life by dying. As I lived my life not planning to make it to my twenties, I felt like I lived behind a glass wall, as if I was an outsider looking in. Like everyone was happy and living their life and planning for the future and I was merely existing until I had enough courage to end it. I was so sure that I was going to commit suicide that I didn't even bother thinking about a career like other kids were.
At the age of 18, over a series of months I met a number of people who told me that we all have a void in our heart that needs to be filled. The sum total of the repeated message I kept getting was that the void in my life was because I needed to have a relationship with the One true God and that everyone has this void, but we try to fill it with other things. Well, I freaked out and thought there’s no way that’s it. Even though it was strange that I kept hearing the same message from so many in the space of only months. I knew that I was unhappy, but there was no way I was going to believe that. As time went on, I kept searching, finding, and then searching some more. After going around in circles, I started to entertain the idea that: what if it is Jesus that I am missing? What if God designed me to have a relationship with Him and I am created in such a way that the only thing that will satisfy me is to seek Him?
I was broken-hearted at the time. Acting gigs had dried up and I'd lost my direction in life. I was still depressed and I hid that loneliness with a mask so that everyone else would believe that I was fine. I felt that somehow, I had drawn the short straw in life and that there was no hope for me.
I got curious and ended up going to church. I will always remember their passion about God, like He was real to them. The speaker said that God is Holy and perfect. That He created all – even me, who was made in His image. That He made me to love, know and obey Him. WOW!
Could that be it?
He said, ‘We have all sinned and turned away from God. Even if we think a bad thought about someone else it is a sin, which is punishable by eternal death'. That terrified me. How could this be? I was a good guy, so I thought. When I pleaded my case, he told me that I wasn’t a good guy in God’s eyes because He is so Holy. By our standards I was a good guy because I hadn’t murdered anyone or anything like that.
He told me that Jesus is the Son of God. He came as a man, lived a blameless, perfectly sinless life, then died on the cross for sinners like me and rose again three days later. He took my punishment, which meant that if I only believe and trust in Him, turning from my sinful ways, that I will have eternal life.
I took some time to digest all this. I began to think about how our life is spent searching for things that were of no great eternal importance because we are only alive for a short time in the whole scheme of things. Everything we gain here, will all vanish away very soon. I was also concerned about where I would end up if I died that night.
So alone in my bedroom, I asked the Lord for forgiveness. Immediately I felt different. Relieved and in peace. I knew that God had forgiven me and that I now had a relationship with Him.
By the grace of God I was born-again into a new life, eternal life. I didn’t have to try to love God, I couldn’t help but love Him. He healed my heart and now the only search that I am on is to search out how I can help others to realise the truth of Jesus Christ. I don't know where I would be without Him - most definitely lost!
I think Steve says it well when he simply stated, 'Jesus is my everything!'. I couldn't have said it better myself.
I grew up in a Christian home so I’d heard a lot about God from a young age. I was very familiar with church, prayers, sermons and Bible study groups. I had lots of neighbourhood friends and cousins who I got along with really well so my day-to-day childhood life was filled with fun and games.
One particular night when I was around 10 years of age, as I was laying in bed about to go to sleep, I had a fear of the Lord suddenly come over me, a fear of being uncertain of where I would go when I die and an urgency to ensure I was right with God. So I prayed to the Lord that very night and in my own childlike way with the simple understanding I had at the time, I asked Jesus to come into my life. It wasn't until many years later that my faith would really be tested.
As I grew older, by the time I was a teenager I found myself searching for friendships like the ones I used to have … especially that one person who I could trust completely—who would always be there for me, as I would for them. However, throughout my high school years I began to learn the cruelty of human beings with; name-calling, teasing and being made to feel like you’re worthless and nobody cares about you. Reality kicked in and my search for a true friend became seemingly impossible. Not only was I friendless, I also felt unlovable.
My dream ever since I can remember, was to one day find the perfect man, get married and have kids. Then my life would finally be complete, I thought. And after having high school behind me, this dream was stronger than ever. My search for the perfect man began.
One of my only friends at the time was still in touch with a guy from our high school and we all began hanging out. After a while, it became apparent that I was falling for him—and him for me. I knew this was different than with anyone else I’d ever liked before and finally my search was over. We were married at a young age and I felt content … at least for a time.
Not long after we married, we both decided we’d like to try to have a baby and over the course of the next several years, we had not only one, but four beautiful children. At this stage I felt like my life was complete. I had everything I’d ever wanted. Sure, there were hard times with financial struggles etc., but I thought at least now my search was over.
It wasn’t until many years later when a huge problem arose in my life that things began to fall apart. This wasn’t something I could fix—or anyone could fix for that matter. I started to feel helpless, like there was no way out of the mess I was in and it felt like I was drowning with no help in sight.
As I searched for answers, I began to pray to God. I poured my heart out to Him all day every day for months. I searched for a way to find an escape from my troubles and asked God to step in and help me. I started to read the Bible more often than I ever had before, and as I did this, I began to see my own sin. A realisation that I had sinned against the Lord made itself known to me and I repented to God and asked for His forgiveness. I felt such relief after I did this and although my problems were still there, I could now trust in God through the struggle, knowing that He is with me and will carry me through.
Right in the middle of all the chaos and after many tears and much angst, I sat outside and stared at the sky and began to pray. I shared my thoughts and concerns with God and asked Him to answer my prayers and as I was praying and looking up to the heavens, I sensed what I can only describe as an invisible cloud slowly coming towards me. I froze in that moment and the cloud came all the way down and rested right over the top of me - just for a few moments - but in those moments, I felt the most amazing peace like I had never felt before. It was like literally being in His Divine presence and nothing else mattered. It was the most beautiful experience I've ever had in my life. In that moment, I felt the Lord comforting me and saying that He has heard my prayers. In reverential awe, I began to praise and thank Him and a few moments later, I felt the cloud move back out away from me and towards the sky. The Bible talks about the Lord coming in a cloud and I know that He did this for me, right at a time when I needed it most (Exodus 13:21, Leviticus 16:2, 1 Kings 8:10-12). God knows exactly what we need when we need it. For me, to know that the almighty God of all the universe hears my prayers and cares for me, a sinner who doesn't deserve to even be heard let alone saved, was absolutely incredible and so amazingly graceful of my Lord. He showed me mercy, forgiveness, love and compassion.
After a space of time, one particular day there was a major breakthrough in my life and the heavy burden that was on my shoulders suddenly lifted! The problem was completely resolved and I knew that God had brought me through to the other side. Not just some but ALL my prayers were answered! I was actually amazed at how detailed the Lord was in answering even the smallest of my prayers. I realised that the things I had been praying for were things that were in line with His Word and this is why He answered every single one. Wow! Without His help, I knew I wouldn’t have been able to get through it—I am eternally grateful to Him for His faithfulness to me.
I realised that what I’d been searching for all my life was exterior things that could never make me happy. These things wouldn’t ever bring me full contentment. They were all temporary fixes. The real answer to my search was having a true and intimate relationship with the only One and living God, Jesus Christ—my Saviour who died for my sins so I could have eternal life with Him.
Jesus is the only One who brings me lasting joy, peace and fulfilment. My search is finally over!
I was born as the first one in my family. I’m the oldest. I’ve got two brothers and one sister. I grew up in a happy family. Before I could walk, I used to speed on my tractor. I also loved taping songs from the Young Talent Time show.
I’ve had a lot of hard times and I get frustrated because I can’t do the things I want to do. I found out I also have eye problems so I find things hard because I’m vision impaired.
When I was nine, me and my brother and cousins were playing at the beach when I got lost. I was scared but God spoke to me and He said, ‘Don’t worry, you’re my child.’
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
The police found me and I ended up back with my parents. When I got back, I gave Mum a hug and I thanked God I got back where I started from.
When I went to school, I got picked on a lot and got upset. The teacher had to tell me that I had to go to special school. It was much better there.
I got born again when I was twelve. I asked Jesus in my heart cause I had an experience and I had to tell somebody. I knew I wasn’t allowed to do anything wrong because God’s watching over me and I want to make Jesus happy.
When I get frustrated now, I have to go in my room, pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive my sin. I feel good in my heart after I do that. He tells me not to give up – to keep going.
God is the same and He never changes. He never lies. I can rely and trust in God.
As a young woman I enjoyed life. I enjoyed dressing up for local dances and country balls. I had fun socialising with my friends. In summer on the weekends, we would enjoy swimming at the local swimming pool and have picnics. Afterwards, we would get ready to go to the dances together.
I met my future husband as a young woman. We were married and had three children. My life revolved around being a good wife and loving mother to our three children. We had many fun times as a family though life was sometimes a struggle; personally and financially.
When I first became a grandmother, there was such a happiness and joy in my life. From six months of age, I regularly took care of my grandson. There was such excitement seeing his first tooth appear, helping to teach him to walk and seeing him grow up into a healthy little boy.
Tragedy struck our family when his life on earth ended at the age of three. I loved this little boy so much. We were devastated. My heart was broken. I didn’t care for my life anymore. My life had hit rock bottom and now I couldn’t hold my precious grandson or hear his laughter anymore. I wanted peace in my life from the inner turmoil of grief and loss.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring your focus back to God.
I had attended Sunday School as a young child and had learnt there of the life of Jesus and His sufferings and death on the cross that He went through for us. I had always felt, even through the grief and loss of my grandson, that his spirit and soul was in paradise with Jesus – he was in Jesus’ keeping. Jesus said in Luke 18:16, ‘Let the children come to me ….’ I knew and had comfort in the knowledge that Jesus accepts the little children and that He had accepted my grandson too.
I was searching for what I thought about Jesus was true. I had started attending a church on a regular basis with my daughter and son-in-law and reading the Bible where I did find the truth in God’s Word.
It was through attending church, hearing and reading God’s Word of His grace, love and mercy for me and the whole world that I surrendered my life to my precious Jesus, my Lord, Saviour, Redeemer, my Rock of Salvation! He became my all. I am nothing without Him in my life. He will never leave me nor forsake me!
I am much older and disabled now but Jesus is always with me. He is my strength. I cling to Him and depend on Him to keep going, even on the difficult days. My Lord Jesus has been so good to me.
In the past few years I have suffered near-fatal pneumonia, a significant stroke and a cardiac arrest and although I still carry symptoms of these conditions, my Lord has brought me through all of them. I believe the Lord has healed me. I praise the power and authority of God! He is worthy of all worship deserves all the glory. No one or nothing can compare to the glory of the almighty living God! I live to give God all the glory.
I am far from perfect but I believe that the shed blood of Christ has cleansed me from all unrighteousness. When I trip up, Jesus catches me. The Holy Spirit convicts me of my unworthiness and I know I can come before the Lord, bow down before Him in my heart and receive His forgiveness. I am set free from the clutches of the evil one.
As much as I love my family, Jesus now comes first. He is number one in my life!
Violet Young, 1916 - 2012
Originally recounted to Betty Macfarlane in 2010 and adapted for contextual purposes. Presented in funeral eulogy in 2012.
I was born a twin with my sister being named Rose, and my name Violet. I was one of eleven children and grew up with both parents in a happy family home.
I was 22 years old when I got married. Sadly, we were only married for 10 years because my husband suddenly became ill and died within 6 months from the time he first got sick. This devastating blow left me to raise our six children on my own. I had four girls and two boys; ranging from the ages of nine down to my youngest little one being only six months old. My two boys were on either end, age-wise, with one being the oldest and the other being the youngest.
At this difficult time of my life, I was asking myself, ‘What will I do? How am I going to cope?’ I had no idea how I was going to be able to survive and have enough money to feed all my little children. Although I was one of a large family of eleven children, none of my siblings could help me much. I actually felt like they were deliberately staying away as much as they could so they didn’t feel obliged to have to help me.
There was once a time when family members threatened to take my children away because I was struggling to look after them all. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to lose my children.
I had no one to turn to and there was no help in sight...
A short time later, a new neighbour moved in only a few doors from me. This neighbour was a lady named Dot who had moved from England to Australia with her husband and seven children. Dot came to my house, introduced herself to me and said the strangest thing. She told me that God had spoken to her and that He said she was to go to a woman in Australia who is a widow with six children, and that He wanted her to tell this widow of God’s love for her and to share the gospel with her.
I did not want to hear what Dot had to say and although I found her introduction to be very unusual, it wasn’t enough to convince me that I should listen to what she was saying. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to hear Dot. Her husband, Bill, was not a believer and he was a very angry man, not an easy person to get along with so he too was a hindrance for her.
Dot had first met up with my mother-in-law, Mabel, who tried to dissuade her from bothering to come and speak with me because she thought I mustn’t be the one she was looking for as she, being a believer herself, had already talked with me about God and she knew I wasn’t interested. However Dot wasn’t deterred by that. In fact, it made her all the more determined and confident that I was the one she needed to share with.
Over time, Dot would come over to my house (at least once a week) and preach about God and the Bible to me in bits and pieces. She always told me that Jesus loved me, that He died, was buried and rose again so that I could have everlasting life (John 3:16). Dot continued to do this for an entire year.
Finally I got to the point where I did not want to hear it anymore so I decided that tomorrow, I was going to let Dot know that I didn’t want her to come back to my house again. I was fed up with it.
I was in such a bad place at this time, trying to find a meal for my children each day was extremely difficult and there were many times when something amazing would happen by the end of the day where someone would give us just enough to go around for that day. I was so tired and finding life so hard, that this night I said to myself, ‘I’m either going to go mad, or bad.’ Meaning, I was going to lose my mind or lose control.
While I was staring at the fireplace and pondering all these thoughts, all the things Dot had told me over the past year began to run through my mind. I then heard a soft small voice say to me, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). Suddenly, it was as though a light just turned on – I understood what Dot had been saying to me. At that very moment, Jesus became real to me. I knew that no matter what happened from here, everything would be ok because I have Jesus with me. A peace came over me like I had never felt before and I was no longer anxious about anything.
The very next day, as I was on my way to Dot’s house to tell her the good news, Dot was on her way to my house to tell me that she had done all she could. You can imagine what wonderful news it was for Dot after all this time. God had done a miracle in my life.
Dot and I remained life-long friends and we would go out together and share the good news with many women. I decided to never remarry as I didn’t trust any other man to treat my children as his own ... so making this sacrifice was well worth it to me.
There were still many battles I had to face as I raised my six children and life wasn’t easy, but knowing that God’s presence would never leave me and that He was my friend who would stick closer than any other was my comfort (Proverbs 18:24). God gave me inner strength and joy that carried me right through my 90 plus years on this earth. My beloved Saviour and Lord faithfully brought me through to the end.