“Get out!” my father shouted. This time he meant permanently.
My eviction from home at age 19 was inevitable. My hard rock music and pot had caused constant conflict with my parents, and I had no job, no plans for college, no direction in life.
I had tried college right after high school but dropped out, unmotivated. Now I went to work in a local shoe factory. It was enough to sustain me in an apartment with some friends and to continue my lifestyle of getting high and seeking thrills.
Eventually, a feeling of emptiness began to gnaw at me. I longed for something deeper in life. I experimented with Eastern mysticism, trying to find something meaningful, but the emptiness gradually turned to despair.
I found myself thinking back to happier days, growing up in Panama, where my dad was stationed with the Army. I took off, hitchhiking from Virginia.
Some of the people I met amazed me with their kindness. In Mexico, José not only gave me a ride, but took me home to his family for a meal and lodging. Others showed the darker side of humanity. In Colon, Panama, a young man struck up a conversation and then tried to rob me.
The contrast between good and evil made me more aware of my own inner struggle. I wanted to do good, but felt completely powerless. I saw many disillusioned youth who, like me, were on the move, searching for life’s meaning or just running away from themselves.
The trip did settle me enough so that I decided to return to college and do something productive with my life. But I still couldn’t give up drugs – not even when my younger brother died of an overdose.
I enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University and moved into an apartment with an old high school friend and two of his classmates. David had sold me my first bag of marijuana many years ago, but had since become a Christian.
Not only had David given up drugs and alcohol, I could tell he had an inner peace that I didn’t. We frequently discussed spiritual issues.
One day at lunch David asked, “John, where do you stand spiritually? Are you still sitting on the fence, or do you have any feelings one way or another toward Christianity?”
In our discussions, David always insisted that man is separated from God by sin, but that God has provided a means for a restored relationship through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24).
Something stirred in my heart. “Dave,” I blurted, “I think I’m ready to become a Christian.”
“Let’s pray,” David said.
I uttered only a few short words: “Father, forgive me, for I am a sinner. I trust in Your Son, Jesus Christ, as my Savior.”
Because I was now depending on Christ instead of my self-effort, I had full assurance of forgiveness. I knew that He had paid the penalty for the sin of the world – and for my sin. All I had to do was trust in His finished work and by faith accept His offer of forgiveness.
I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I hadn’t even realized I was carrying a burden! It was much like backpacking in the mountains. As I walked all day with 60 pounds on my back, my body grew accustomed to the load and I forgot it was there. Only when I removed the pack did I realize how heavy it was.
This new relationship with Christ did not make all my troubles vanish magically, but it did give me a new perspective. Now I wanted to please Him, not myself. And I had the comfort of knowing He was always with me, no matter how hard times became. “In this world you will have trouble,” He said. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
After graduating from college, I couldn’t find a job in my field. For a whole year I struggled with discouragement. I wondered, What kind of God would leave me in this predicament?
As I look back at that year, I realize God used it to teach me patience. It also forced me to pray fervently and regularly, a habit I have kept ever since.
Eventually, I did settle into a career in public relations. I also married my high school sweetheart, and we now have a beautiful baby girl, Cristina.
God has removed that sense of meaninglessness that drove me to drugs and mind-numbing music. In exchange, He has given me peace and joy – even in the difficulties of life.
Juan Peniche, MOODY Monthly
To learn more about receiving Christ as your Savior, carefully read these four steps.