I thought of ways to kill myself because life had gotten so hard when I was at Kansas State University (K-State). But the Lord had other plans...
Like many people, I had a childhood drug problem - My mother drug me out of bed, she drug me to the car, and she drug me to church. Now, I have to admit, I liked going to church when I was a kid. I was even told that one Sunday I pranced down the aisle of St. Peter’s AME Church (Kansas City, KS) mimicking the pastor as I gave a little ‘sermon’. As the people chuckled, someone said, “That little boy is gonna be a preacher!”
As I grew older, I shifted away from the church and made every excuse not to attend. Let me fast forward this a bit - During my junior year in high school, while in PE class, I was challenged to race one of the fastest kids in the school. I unexpectedly beat him. My friend, Harry Colon, rushed over in a fervor of excitement and strongly insisted that I run track. I tried to tell him that I wasn’t interested, but Harry had a lighthearted yet serious way of persuading people, so I hesitantly agreed.
I had no idea how I would do in track but by the end of my first season, I had received many offers from Division 1 schools. I eventually accepted a scholarship to K-State and made the journey to Manhattan Kansas.
Things were going very well in college, and then it happened. During my freshman year, I tore my left hamstring while at a track meet at UCLA.
As I lay on the track in agonizing pain, God spoke to my heart - He said, "There's more to life than running around a track".
You see, I could recognize God's voice but I didn't want to hear him, at least not then! I mean, why would a "loving God" allow me to tear my hamstring and then leave me to deal with the embarrassment and disappointment? The last thing that I wanted to hear was the voice of God.
That injury ended my season yet I was determined to come back stronger and faster the next year! And I did! Then it happened, again. During my second year at K-State, I tore my right hamstring while competing at KU Relays. Many of my friends and family were in attendance and once again, I'm face-down on the track angrily wailing at God for allowing this to happen. My mother leaped out of her seat and rushed to the track. She began to pray over me - "Oh Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus! Help him, Lord Jesus!" Now, I didn’t say this out loud, but in my mind, I was screaming - “Shut up with that Jesus crap! If God is so loving then why am I injured for the second year in a row! He could have stopped this from happening!” I was angry at God and I didn’t want anything to do with him or anyone who was talking about Jesus! Once again, I vowed to become stronger and faster the next season. And I did. But then it happened, again.
During my third year at K-State, while training for the indoor season, I felt a strange clicking sensation in my right knee. A doctor examined my leg and found that a popliteal cyst had developed on the backside of that knee. A minimally invasive medical procedure didn’t solve the problem - I needed surgery.
I'm in the hospital. It's minutes before the surgery. I'm scared. I'm angry. I'm worried. Who do you think was by my side? Yep, my mother. What do you think she was doing? Yep, praying - Asking Jesus to help her son.
During the surgery, in addition to cutting out the cyst, the physician discovered that the cartilage in my knee was torn and needed to be repaired. Once again, my season was over.
Three injuries in three years.
I sunk into a dark place and I constantly thought of ways to end my life.
I didn’t want to be around people but I forced myself to get out. Most of the folks that I hung around didn’t know I was depressed. I had numerous relationships but not many close friends. I guess I didn’t want people to discover the pain behind my fake smile. My mother continued to pray for me. She also mailed me words of encouragement such as Our Daily Bread devotionals and other Christian materials. I even went to church a few times and attended some events that were sponsored by various Christian organizations. And then, my mother mailed me a golden pamphlet titled, “How to give your life to Jesus”. This wasn’t the first time that I had seen one of these salvation booklets, but it was the first time that the words captured my heart.
As I read it, I dropped to my knees and said, “Lord, take me as I am”. I submitted my life to Jesus and things have never been the same. Now, I didn’t all of a sudden stop cursing, and I didn’t suddenly stop listening to derogatory music, and I didn’t stop fraternizing with girls, but something in me was different. I had a hope, an unspeakable joy, a strange sense of peace and strength that resided in me - the Holy Spirit.
Although I would still get angry, frustrated, and even a bit depressed every once in a while, I knew that everything was gonna be okay. It was the Holy Spirit comforting me through my pain and holding me as I was being forged through the crucible of life. This process of progressive sanctification was, and continues to be necessary for me to become more Christ-like.
One of the Bible verses that I clung to as God brought me through that dark season was Psalm 116:1-6…
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
I am grateful for all that has transpired in my life because those experiences allow me to help others through their difficulties. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
If you've lost hope, please remember that Jesus can take you from a place of darkness to a place of life-giving light and purpose. And it doesn't matter what you've done. His amazing grace extends to all who cry out to him.
To God be the glory. Grace and peace, my friends.
Chuck Allen is the Founder and Director of I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER and has served in urban ministry for 22 years. I Am My Brother's Keeper provides coaching and counseling to help urban ministry leaders and their spouses maintain proper mental health. They also provide resources for weekend retreats and family vacations so they can rest, recover, and be refreshed when they return to their respective ministries. To learn more about Chuck and his ministry visit https://www.iammybk.org/.