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How I Came to Drop My Anchor

Having confronted his skepticism, Justin’s faith is stronger than ever, thanks to someone who took an interest in him. by Justin Goethe

The knot in my stomach felt like I had swallowed a marble. My breath caught in my throat, and my heart raced as my eyes jerked open to see the red glow of the digital clock on my nightstand. I sat up in bed and tried to push out the sinking feeling of dread from the pit of my stomach.

It was 10:30 p.m. I got up and made my way down the stairs to my parents’ bedroom. I quietly approached my mother’s side of the bed and said, “Mama, wake up.” She instinctively jumped up. “Huh, what!? Justin…what’s the matter?”

“Mama, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of dying.” My voice sounded much calmer than my insides felt.

“Justin, you don’t have anything to be afraid of. That’s not going to happen for many, many moons from now. Now, go back to bed. Everything is going to be fine.”

My mother always knew the right thing to say. She didn’t lie to me and tell me I was never going to die, nor did she coddle me and tell me to get in the bed with her and my father. She comforted me, helped me to put my fear in proper perspective and sent me to my room to work through this on my own.

I had been raised in the church. She and my father saw to it that I regularly attended Sunday school. I knew all about Jesus and how He had died for my sins so that I might have everlasting life in Heaven.

But, at 10:30 p.m. on a random Tuesday night, none of this entered my mind.

Nightmares About My Demise

Thus, I began to have a string of nightmares. They always started the same way. At night, just as I was about to drift off to sleep, the thought would occur to me: one day—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day—I’d be dead. One day, it would be me that was splayed out in that casket for family and friends to look upon one final time. It would be me in that box as they lowered it into the ground, buried for all eternity. Yes, I would die one day, and there was nothing that I could do about it.

It’s hard to describe how I felt in these moments. It was as if the weight of an eternal emptiness was pressing down on me—crushing me. There were no streets of gold or pearly gates awaiting me—only darkness.

I would try to remind myself that this wasn’t true. There was a God in Heaven, and He did love me. He had sent His only Son to earth to suffer and die to save me.

However, these words always rang hollow. I always came back to the same questions.

How did I know that the Bible was telling the truth? The world was full of religions. Why was mine the right one? And, if it wasn’t, what awaited me on the other side of eternity?

I thought about it. I prayed about it. But with no real answers to justify my faith to myself, I mostly ignored it.

Then one day, the thought occurred to me, “You know, if I’m going to believe in something, I should at least find out what that something is.”

So, I picked up the Bible.

A Haunted Agnostic

In the beginning, I read it like a detective questioning a potential suspect, always looking for the lie in the text. I still prayed from time to time, but I was far from having a firm foundation of faith. I was closer to an agnostic than a true believer.

Joe Brinson was a production supervisor at the company where I worked. Prior to that, Joe had graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech, served as the chief operating officer for a major textile manufacturer and had been a truck driver as well as an AP Statistics teacher at a local high school. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Joe was the smartest person I had ever met.

One day, I asked Joe if he had ever read the Bible. His eyes narrowed as he looked at me and said very matter-of-factly, “Yeah, about six or seven times.” From that day seven years ago forward, he became my sounding board for my biblical questions.

The Logic of Faith

He was the one that explained to me that a central theme in the Old Testament was that of God “calling forth a people” with which to carry out His divine plan. He was the person that pointed out the significance of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. Why would an educated Jew and a member of the Sanhedrin change his life’s direction and join the group that he had been persecuting to the point of death? It had to be because he had experienced the risen Lord!

The more Joe and I talked, the more I wanted to continue reading. Joe helped me make sense of the Bible and thereby helped me make sense of my faith. He helped me to understand the logical argument for God’s existence. How could there be absolute right and wrong in the world if there was no higher power to delineate between the two?

Last Step

When my wife and I began to regularly attend a Sunday school class taught by Dr. Sam Wood, it was clear that he too was a brilliant man with a deep faith. According to Dr. Wood, “At some point, you must drop an anchor in your life. You have to say, ‘This is what I believe, and come what may, I will not be shaken or moved.’”

This was the last major step in my faith journey. Joe had helped me find answers to most of my questions. I would now choose to have faith that God would provide the rest.

God loves us, and because He loves us, He has given us the Bible to help guide us.

He intends for His Word to serve as our anchor, to help us weather life’s storms.

Don’t wait to start developing that firm foundation of faith. Read the Bible. Find someone with a strong faith to whom you can ask questions. This is the true “Body of Christ”— believers helping to build the faith of others so that we may all be strengthened and confirmed in the way that leads to life eternal.

This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of The War Cry.

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