Hi there! I’m Julian, an LSE law graduate (2016). I was born and raised in Hong Kong with Malaysian parents and have gone to international schools my whole life. I’m a third-culture kid, seeking to live for Christ in the places he calls me to.
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
Having been born into a Christian family and grown up going to church, I’m always a bit hesitant in singling out any particular moment where I can say I ‘became a Christian’. Yet there are certainly points that I can look back to as moments where God has been especially close and changed me for the better.
I must have been around ten years old when The Passion of Christ was released in cinema. My parents sat down with my brother and I and shared with us what the film had been like. I remember being moved to tears as my father explained to to me in vivid detail the extent of Christ’s sufferings in his crucifixion: how he was beaten to the point that the flesh and bones on his back were exposed, how his limbs were twisted and broken, and how he struggled in agony to sustain his breath as he was stretched out on that rugged cross. I understood that Jesus’ suffering, in bearing the consequences of our sin on our behalf, reflected the vast extent of his love for us… for me. To this day I am grateful to my father for conveying to me the simple beginnings of the Christian journey; that those who know God know Him by faith and are made right with him by trusting in His forgiveness and grace, not by our own moral efforts.
Fast-forward to the beginning of my teenage year; I was thirteen when our church employed Josh, our first youth pastor. He and I developed a strong friendship; besides my parents he was my first great mentor and taught me many things about life and discipleship. Around this time, I knew that God was inviting me, on various occasions, to commit to Him at a deeper heart level. The invitation was to make a transition from ‘doing church’ because it happened to be my parents’ faith to following Him with my all and knowing Him as my LORD. I committed to reading the Bible for myself and spending time in prayer on a regular basis. At various talks and worship events I encountered God’s presence with a warmth and vividness that I had never experienced before. I know that it is around this period of my life that I had committed my whole life to Christ as LORD, to leaving everything else behind for the pearl of great price, His kingdom.
Plenty has happened in life since those early teenage years. God graciously provided for me to do well enough in secondary school to find a place here at the LSE, and now its crazy to think that in a few months’ time I’ll be graduating (Lord willing!) and moving on to whatever He points me to next. Throughout the journey I’ve learnt more about myself - the good and the bad - and God has given me the grace to trust Him with more of my life and through his Spirit to change for the better. I suppose you could say that if Jesus is a fisher of men, he certainly cleans his fish after he catches them!
But for the remainder of this testimony I want to share about how God has been at work during a particularly rough season of life in my second year of university.
During that time, I wrestled with intense periods of depression. Perhaps many of you have had similar experiences: of how depression drastically alters your perception of time and the day seems to pass by at a painfully slow pace, of how drained you begin to feel and unable to concentrate on ordinary tasks, of how you begin to ask ‘when will this end?’ or maybe even ‘is it worth carrying on any longer?’.
I struggled with all of these things. I think I found the experience of often not being able to clearly identify why exactly I was feeling so depressed particularly difficult. The serious and introspective part of my personality would take over and I’d become frustrated over not being to ‘solve’ or ‘get over my feelings’, causing me to go further into a downward spiral. These were difficult times not only emotionally but spiritually too; God felt incredibly distant at times and I found it hard to trust that He was working through the trials I was facing.
And yet looking back, I know that God was present and active in my life, even when I didn’t feel He was particularly close. Allow me to share some ways in which I’ve learnt and grown from that season; my hope and prayer is that this might a blessing for you, whether you would identify as a Christian or not.
Firstly, I learnt to affirm that we are embodied persons, and God is pleased that it is so. We are finite human beings who are dependent on material things like food and sleep. Over time I’ve learnt to accept this gracious fact for myself and make more of an effort to take care of my body. Funnily enough, this personal experience points to a larger theological truth: our God is the LORD over all of life, not just over ‘spiritual things’ but over heart, mind and body too.
We see this most clearly in the person of Christ himself, who in taking on a human body affirms God’s care for the material world and His determination that it will be redeemed through and through in the age to come. Through this, I have learnt to thank God for the simply gifts of food and sleep, knowing that all good things come from Him.
Secondly, I have learnt in a more direct and personal way that the human mind is a finite thing, and that sometimes it really is possible to overthink things! I’ve been formed in a church tradition that has emphasised the mind; we grow by learning the truth about God in his Word and applying this to our lives. I affirm that through and through, but have also learnt to embrace the role of mystery in the Christian faith and in life generally. As I have learnt to acknowledge that mystery in both the large and small matters in life, I have found with that a greater freedom to pursue what matters most: loving God and loving my neighbour.
Finally, I’ve learnt on a deeper level the truth that through the gospel we have the grace to present ourselves to God not as we feel we have to pretend to be, but as we really are, knowing that in Christ we are accepted by Him (Romans 12:1-2). Through the gospel we know God not only as our King but as our friend and Father, and that means that we’re able to be honest with Him in all our doubts and imperfections.
Through continuing to be honest with Him in prayer and being real and vulnerable with friends and family, God has brought me to a much better place since that season of depression. Through this story I wish to testify to this very same God of grace, Jesus of Nazareth, who now lives and reigns victorious over all forces of sin and death. “I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me”.
Questions? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org