“I am anxious about everything”, I typed into Google.
I was only a few months away from graduating, but I was at breaking point. Ever since my early teenage years I’d struggled with intense social anxiety. I had had some counselling (which helped a bit) and got me interested in psychology. That’s why I chose to study it at university. I had this idea that if I studied the subject I would be able to save myself from anxiety, and eventually help others with the same problem. But as a student it got worse. I came to the point where I couldn’t speak to people or leave the house. I started panicking because my life was not going as planned. I was trying everything to get rid of my problem, but nothing was working.
I’d searched everywhere for an answer. What would Google have to say?
Captivated by the Bible
As I scrolled through the answers on Google, my eyes fell on some words from the Bible:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7 [NIV]
As I read it, I felt that God was speaking to me. So right there, I prayed and asked for help.
God did not answer my prayer immediately in the way I was expecting; instead, He put a strong desire in my heart to study the Bible. Once I’d finished my degree, I would spend six hours every day reading Christian books, listening to sermons and watching lessons. I was captivated by it.
Searching for the truth
I had grown up in Malta as a Roman Catholic, along with 98% of the population. I had gone to Mass every Sunday and Catholic classes through the week — more because I had to than because I wanted to. I would struggle to stay awake in Mass, and the main reason I went to catechism was to play football and see my friends. I’d never questioned my beliefs, but I’d always felt something was not quite right.
When I began to read the Bible for myself, I found a lot of contradictions with what I had been taught growing up. Initially I found it very difficult to accept. I realised that I’d been taught some things that didn’t match up with what I was reading in the Bible. As part of my search for the truth, I decided to go along to an evangelical church. After the service, one of the pastors shared the gospel with me. That very day, I admitted I was a sinner and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I was baptised a few months later.
Knowing what I believe
I struggled to tell my parents about my new faith in Jesus. I kept it a secret at first because my whole family is Catholic, and I knew they wouldn’t approve. But after just a few weeks, my parents caught me with a book about the Bible in my hand. I had to tell them the truth. It didn’t go down well. And it’s still very difficult today, one year on. They think I’ve joined a cult. They think I’m wasting my life studying a book which has no value. They don’t want to listen.
Most of my friends walked away from me and the few who stayed around still criticise me and try to persuade me to go back to Catholicism. I am not surprised by their reaction. In Malta, most people think evangelical Christianity is a cult. They don’t really know what the Bible says. It was the same for me. Before, I actually did not know what I believed. I assumed that everything the priests and Catholic teachers taught was the truth. Now I make sure that what I hear and believe comes from the Bible and that I know why I believe what I believe.
Challenges living as a follower of Jesus
As I’ve shared the gospel with others, I’ve found that most people believe they are good people. They think they’re going to heaven because they do more good than bad. Even though some of them don’t agree with everything they are taught, they won’t contemplate changing. They say, this is the way I was raised.
Since coming to faith in Jesus I have continued to struggle with anxiety. But I have improved a lot, and when I worry now I go to God in prayer. He comforts me and helps me get through it. Another challenge has been finding a job. A lot of jobs would require me to work on Sundays, which would prevent me from going to church. I’ve struggled with loneliness, since there are not many people following Jesus in Malta, especially in my age group. At the moment I don’t have any best friends, but I spend lots of time with God and He comforts me in this difficult time.
I am now studying an online Masters in theology and am considering becoming a pastor or a full-time gospel-worker overseas in the future. I do not know if God will call me to leave Malta. For now, I am committed to my local church, and serving there is my priority.