Bath Uni Christian Union invites you to Perspective? A week of exploring your perspective of the world and finding out what our Christian perspective is on the world. We have a series of lunch bars and evening events asking the big questions in life. We would love to see you there.
Savannah Prince - Hope
When I was 14 I experienced loss for the first time. My grandparents died fairly peacefully though strokes and dementia polarised their finals year. Part of me can see some beauty in dementia. I know that sounds strange. But in my grannies physical state she had little freedom, yet her mind could transport her back to a time when she was young, able and wildly in love. My human mind, though only 14, could rationalise death in old age. It’s a part of life I’d been told and it was so far away from me in years that I wasn’t scared of it.
But it was that same month two of my cousins were murdered. A young mother and baby. The father, my cousin, suffered from severe schizophrenia and went off his medication. One week later he was found by police confused and clueless to what he had done and sentenced to life in a psychiatric prison. That I couldn’t rationalise.
I was stopped in my tracks, unable to move forward in this new cloudy place where I felt anger, hurt, denial and grief. I was faced with the questions that sooner or later we all ask. Why are we here? How can injustices happen if God is real? And what happens after death?
So I marched to church one Sunday morning, half to feel closer to my granny who was a faithful believer and half with a vendetta.
‘Go on then God, if you’re so great and powerful, show yourself.’
Well, he did. What I can only describe as something supernatural, pushed me over the pew in front of me and I was shaken with a tingling sensation that it was time to wake up from sleep walking through life.
I started going to church every week with a new friend at school who encouraged me to try different churches and to ask BIG and BOLD questions without fear of insulting these unusually kind people. Shortly after I gave my life to God.
Since becoming Christian, my life isn’t ‘easier’. God doesn’t promise us an ‘easy’ life, he isn’t a wish factory that grants you what you want or pray. We still face and will face pain, injustice, suffering and grief. We might ask those same three questions at different intervals in life. Why am I here? How can there be injustices if God is real? What happens after death? But the lenses in which you see the world change. You see suffering with compassion and you act or try to act through love. Last year I started writing a letter once or twice a year to the father in prison that has to live with what he’s done but who is also a human that needs love, forgiveness and hope. Sometimes it takes me weeks to come up with a word, sometimes it takes me months to post it, and that’s ok. As Christians we have the simple task of saying, ‘God, send me’ as Isaiah did and God will do the rest.
On the other side of suffering, there is always hope. Life is a gift, one that is given by grace and it was never ours to begin with. In fact God tells us in Matthew 10:39, ‘if you cling onto your life you will lose it, but if you give up your life you will find it.’
Instead of seeing life by the number of years, see life by how God uses it. Lastly remember that earth is not the peak of the mountain. We’re just at the bottom, looking up. A pain free, stainless and perfect eternity with a loving father is the mountain we can’t yet fully see.
On the other side of suffering, there is always hope.
Anna Millinson - constant
Before coming to uni I was living my life in the way that I wanted, where my feelings governed my morals and my desires. I thought my truth was greater than anyone else’s.
When I came to uni I lived in the same flat as two Christians. They were living in a different way to what I’d ever seen before. Until uni, I thought Christians held unconventionally extreme values and only believed what they did because that’s what their parents had taught them. However, the Christians I met disproved this almost immediately. They held their beliefs with fervour, reason and had evidence for all of it. They knew exactly what they believed and why they believed.
However, I disagreed with much of what they stood for. We’d have discussions on life’s big questions; suffering, science, life. I knew I disagreed with them, but when I was challenged on what I believed, I didn’t really have a leg to stand on. I really didn’t know why I believed what I believed.
In response to this, I started reading books: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The Reason for God by Tim Keller. I hoped these would provide a reason as to why I didn’t agree with what my Christian housemates were arguing. In contrast, it led me down a path where I started to understand the message of Christianity. I started to see purpose, to understand why we exist. Before, the general consensus of society was my standard for my beliefs and values. Yet, I noticed how society is changing constantly, but God remains constant. I was understanding that God has never changed, and how He loves us has never changed. I knew that the teachings of the Bible are what we should base our lives on, as these were unchanging.
Once I had this realisation, I knew I needed to learn more. I started attending a local church in Bath where I heard the Bible taught every week, and came to a course called Life Explored. This discussed how we were made with a purpose - to worship God. However, when we rebel against God we worship anything else; money, relationships, family. I was sinful, living my life in a rebellion to God, essentially saying that I know what’s right for my life better than He does.
Knowing I was sinner, I fully understood what Jesus’s death meant. I understood that Christ died for my sins, even while I was still a sinner, so that I could know God. The significance of this resonated with me, and suddenly I knew of God’s love.
One day, I was sitting in church while communion was happening. A lady from the church sat next to me and asked me how much I knew about communion. I knew almost nothing, and so asked her to explain. She said how the bread and wine are representative of Christ’s death, that the bread symbolises Jesus’s body and the wine Jesus’s blood. The Bible teaches us to remember Christ’s death by taking the bread and wine as believers, that we should remember how Jesus poured out his blood for the forgiveness of sins. Although she said that only believing Christians normally take part in that, so if I wasn’t there in my faith, then I could go up and ask to be prayed for. I did this, thinking I wasn’t yet a Christian. Although as soon as I sat down, I had this overwhelming feeling that I should’ve taken the bread and wine. In that moment I realised, I was a Christian. I knew that I was a sinner and I believed that Jesus had died for me, and so I had to ask for forgiveness.
Now, I aim to live my life for Christ every day, in my actions, in my speech, in my relationships. I know that Christ is the foundation of my life and therefore I will live my life like He has commanded me.
Joel Peachey - Happiness
When I was 19 I came to the stark realisation that I had already lived about one quarter to one fifth of my life and it struck me how little I had really accomplished that was truly significant. I began to think about the next three to four portions of my life and how I would look back on them. Would I have the same feeling of triviality that I was struggling with at 19 about my life, achievements and purpose? Many people will tell you to go and enjoy your life and find happiness, but I knew that the search for meaning was surely more important than the pursuit of happiness. To me happiness without meaning was just a façade, it was like a smoke screen to cover a gaping hole of unanswered questions. It was blissful ignorance and yet wholly illusory. It was in this place that Jesus began to open up my eyes to His meaning and purpose for my life. The Bible says that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and it is through him that we can find meaning and purpose. As my life was given meaning and purpose I also knew that the happiness I found in following God’s plan for my life was actually real. Sometimes we need to face the big questions in life and allow them to challenge our views and beliefs, in order for us to discover what truly matters in life.
Eleanor Hyde - Faithful
Purpose is everything and one of my greatest life mottos was to run every step of the race with purpose. I’m not just talking stepping with meaning, but actively living. I believe that I was created by a loving God who cares for me and desires me to live for him. As a runner, I know that God created me to run fast and use that to glorify him. I love running! However, what happens when suddenly you can’t run anymore? How can you run purposefully when you’re faced with the possibility of never running again? In August I was hit with injury. My training hit a level where I just wasn’t improving or getting faster. I would wake up in pain and go to sleep in pain. When I ran, I felt guilty for potentially making it worse, yet when I rested, I felt rubbish in myself. Reaching out for help felt scary and facing the prospect of never running again was something I just wanted to avoid… 6 weeks later, having been diagnosed with the issue and working hard on physio, I was still having pain. Whilst I’d taken up cycling and swimming, I had fully given up on running. Three weeks ago I moved to university and the pain was getting worse, not better. Within the first few weeks I found myself at church asking for prayer. I was prayed for twice. The first time, the pain got a little bit better but days later started to get worse again. No result. Later that week, I went to an evening meeting and the lady who prayed for me asked me how I was. Reluctantly I agreed to let her husband pray for me, although at this point I was pretty skeptical. However, as Peter prayed over me, he started to speak truth. He spoke about how he believed that God had made me to run and that he wanted to bless me as I ran for him. God was not finished. Why was I giving up? By giving up I was giving this pain the authority to be there when Jesus had put that to death on a cross. Another weird experience of having oil put on my head later… The pain is pretty much gone. Whilst I still get the odd achey leg that comes from general use and exercise, the pain in my knees has gone! I’ve joined an athletics club, been training and even done a park run. How incredible is this? Now, when I run, I am reminded of his faithfulness! For me, running has become a form of worship in which I glorify God. For he has blessed me so richly. In a time when I wanted to give up, Jesus pursued me. Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how good God is?! I’ve been praying for my leg for months. It wasn’t healed straight way in a swooping miraculous situation. Rather, as I trusted God and waited on him, he gradually turned the bad into good. I still have a recovery ahead, but the progress has been crazy good! And in all of this, I can only glorify God!
Ruth Hanson - Purpose
Before coming into relationship with Jesus I didn’t understand what the purpose of my life was, I questioned why I was here and what I was supposed to be doing. This led to quite serious anxieties growing up. I worried what others thought of me, whether I was performing well enough at school, what the future might hold and more. When I realised that the God who made the universe has a plan and purpose for my life and loved me enough to send his one and only Son, Jesus, so that I could know Him , all those anxieties became manageable. I know now that life isn’t fulfilled in others’ opinions or my achievements but rather in knowing and loving the God who made me and that is the greatest comfort.
Sam Pibworth - Faith
Hi, I'm Sam, I'm a 4th year Chem Eng student. I became a Christian when I was really young, in fact I can't remember not being a Christian! That's not to say that I've never been exposed to opposition to what I believe, or that I've never had to critically examine the fundamentals of my faith.
In fact, since about age 11 I've been close friends with those who hold very different views to me. Being very much a rational, scientific person, much of the discussion I've had revolves around questions like 'Is the Bible at odds with scientific discovery?', and 'How do you believe in something for which there's no evidence?' These questions have been a challenge to me, but I have to say that my faith has only increased having thought about them. I think there are a couple of reasons for this:
1) All world views require faith in what you cannot see. The more I study science, the more I am amazed by the world around me. Take, for example, the various organelles which fill the cells in our body. Biologists will tell us about all the richly complicated ways in which the organelles work together and communicate, much like a well-designed factory, in order to provide all the functions. The observer is left with a choice of conclusions: either you believe that this machinery has evolved out of millions of years of trial and error, or you can believe that a higher power designed it all. Which requires greater faith?
2) Science can only ever answer part of the question. Imagine a kettle boiling. An observer asks: 'Why is the kettle boiling', and the scientist replies: 'Well, the electricity provides an electric filament with the energy required for a heating effect, which is then transferred into the water by convection, which causes the water to boil' Of course, this statement is completely true. But it doesn't really answer the question. The question of 'why' is answered: 'Because I want a cup of tea!' So, science is an immensely valuable tool for discovering the mechanism by which our universe works, but it can't answer the question of 'why?' Instead, I look to a different source to answer the ‘why?’ The Bible says that ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’ This creator has shown what he is like through what he has made; the universe is part of God revealing himself to humanity. This makes so much sense to me - the universe is far too ordered and beautiful for there not to be a creator. The bible goes even further, claiming that God has revealed himself in a person too: ‘In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.’ That’s a serious list of accomplishments: God in human form, maker and sustainer of the universe, and the one who removes sins. This is the God that I believe in. I believe that God became man, lived on the earth for 30 years doing amazing miracles (which are possible because he’s the one who defined the very laws of nature that he’s breaking), finally dying on a cross and rising from the dead. Honestly, studying in science has only helped me know this God more. But the beauty of nature can only reveal so much. The centre of my hope is not in scientific achievement, it’s in Jesus. He died on the cross to get rid of my sins, so that I could know the creator.
Hannah Stanaway - Love
Having grown up in a Christian family I always knew how God perfectly loved the world, but the one question I always kept coming back to was If God is a perfect, loving father, why does he allow so much suffering? My dad has Multiple sclerosis and has had since I was born. I struggled to comprehend how the living God who l know has the power to heal today, allows my Dad – the Godliest man I know to suffer each day with pain in his body. I don’t have all the answers, but God’s word does, and his word is powerful.
Dad has been prayed for many times and so far, he’s yet to be healed but that doesn’t mean he won’t be. The song “Do it again” has been a bit of an anthem in my home church and in my life over the past year. The lyrics “Your promise still stands great is Your faithfulness, I’m still in Your hands, this is my confidence” are ones that have spoken so much to me. I don’t always feel like praising but through forcing myself to position my heart in a place of praise and worship, I feel it’s a way of showing the enemy that he hasn’t won. Something that’s also helped me to gain perspective is to look at things with the mindset of eternity. When Dad is sad that he can’t go on runs with me, he says that one day he will do. I don’t always understand suffering or why God hasn’t healed my Dad, but I do know this for sure – Our circumstances, however horrible they are, do not shake or change the fact that an almighty God died for us. He is for us not against us, he loves us relentlessly and he is always good.
John lee - Joy
Growing up as the child of a pastor and a missionary meant that I had the perfect environment to grow in my faith right from the beginning. Despite this upbringing and identifying myself as a Christian, I had never fully understood or experienced what that meant and so my life did not reflect my beliefs during most of my time at school. The freedom that university brought lead to my brash living during first year. I was trying to find satisfaction through countless nights out, getting drunk, chasing after girls and football. The truth was that although these things may have given me some satisfaction during the time, I came to realise that it was all so futile; I would play well one week, play awful the week after giving me a period of joy that lasted one week. I would have a wild night out making me feel like a king for a couple of hours, then feel absolutely horrendous the morning after. I knew that things had to change and so I threw myself into everything that the Christian Union and my church in Bath had to offer at the beginning of second year. Slowly but surely I was starting to change up my lifestyle and was seeing the benefits of putting my trust in the One who gives me endless joy and satisfaction. During the second semester of that year, I went through a particularly hard time in my life where I had to rely fully on God’s help for the first time in my life. Psalm 18:1-2 says, “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Through this hardship, I found peace because God became my strength. He is that everlasting foundation that brought me hope. When I had hit rock bottom in my life, I realised that Jesus is that rock at the bottom for me and was more than able to lift me back up higher than ever before. The things that had previously brought me the most joy, all ended with time and circumstance. But no amount of time, no change in circumstance will change the promise that Jesus has given me by dying on that cross so that I can now live my life to the full, knowing that this isn’t the end and that there is more to life than this.
Polly McCallum - Created
I was brought up by a Christian mother and a non-Christian father, which meant going to Sunday school but the rest of the week God was never mentioned. Faith seemed like a very private and personal thing and it definitely wasn’t something I had myself, even if I would’ve told people I was a Christian.
This lack of faith meant that when my mum got ill and carried on going to church, even when it was the only thing she could leave the house for that week, I couldn’t understand it; especially as it would visibly cause her so much pain.
When she passed away, the concept of faith was gone from my mind, and I began to question everything. My mum had lived such a loving and ‘good’ life, and in the end it seemed to all count for nothing.
This really troubled me and made me question what the point of anything was. Why are we here? To slowly die? So I searched. And I found that happiness seemed to be the most popular meaning of life. My friends seemed content in seeking happiness everyday, and so I tried to focus on that. But I never felt satisfied because I knew that soon it would end, nothing really seemed to have purpose.
One day, some friends I had grown up with in Sunday school invited me completely out of the blue to dinner. I went for a catch up and ended up staying for their bible study. This was the first time I really heard about the Jesus I thought I knew from childhood. Not only did they actually believe this was true, but their lives were being moulded around it. They actually lived with a purpose, to serve and honour and love and worship their God.
This threw me, so I researched. I read everything I could find to see if there was any truth behind any form of religion. The Bible is routed in accurate history and is full of so many prophecies in ancient texts which later were fulfilled in the New Testament that I couldn’t believe this was coincidence. It is truth. I read the Bible and fell in love with God.
Now I have a purpose. I can see that my life was created with meaning, and I can use my life to turn away from my Creator or turn to Him in worship. So I choose what I was created for.
Matt Leedham - Grace
Growing up in a Christian family, I was blessed in so many ways. Always going to church, I always believed in God, but did not have a personal relationship with Him. I was seeking ‘life’ in so many other things: enjoyment in life, friends, popularity, and work. And going down these routes made me prideful and selfish. In my soul I was empty, I was seeking satisfaction in things that promised so much but never delivered. I wasn’t experiencing life to the full because I was not living in reference to the God that created me. Apart from God’s grace, I couldn’t make sense of life. But by God’s grace, at various Christian summer camps I began to see how He was changing lives of my friends. He started to convict me of sin, and show my own helpless state as a sinner before a Holy God and He revealed to me his love through the person of Jesus. Throughout my time at uni, God has been inviting me to trust the finished work of Christ on the cross. He has been faithful even when I have not, when my heart has been cold towards Him and I have looked for life in other things. Ultimate joy can only be found in Christ, and life to the full can only be found by trusting in Jesus Christ, who lived and died on the cross to forgive our sins, so that we might enjoy God’s presence for eternity. In Jesus I have found true life, joy and peace, and I have a hope for the world to come.