By Mark Brunner
Death is a weird concept, and if you're anything like me, it's not something you ponder much. After all, we've all been alive as long as we can we remember, so there's really no reason to worry or think about what happens when we die. Dying, let alone anytime soon, was the furthest things from my mind in November 2012. I was in paradise on Earth, Grand Bahama Island.
Over the course of my stay, I found the locals on Grand Bahama Island to be incredibly kind warm and caring individuals, intent on making you feel welcome and at home as a visitor. But like any place there are people with bad intentions. And on the third day of my trip, unbeknownst to me, I became the target of an elaborate set-up involving several people, with the plan being to rob me.
To make a long story short, I was strangled by two men and left for dead in the middle of a sun-drenched field. The attackers had rushed up from behind as one of my new friends, who was in on it, walked me back toward the plaza after hanging out at local's house.
It all happened so quickly. In a matter of seconds, the men had dashed up from behind, put me in a choke hold and shoved me to the ground. I managed to twice beg for mercy for my life, but before I could say anything else, I lost consciousness as a result of the blood and oxygen being cut off to my brain.
When I woke up, I was devastated to realize my valuables were gone. After the initial shock, I eventually found help in some nearby apartments. Soon thereafter the police arrived, and I was taken to the hospital.
The medical personnel seemed very concerned about my well-being. I begrudgingly agreed to be admitted, as aside from the sore throat, I felt fantastic. The next day, when I looked in the mirror, I understood their concerns. All of the blood vessels in my eyes had burst. To put it plainly, I looked like a demon, as the whites of my eyes were blood red.
Yet my sense of humor remained intact, and I joked to nurses and doctors, who didn't find it to be funny, that if this had been a month earlier, it would have been the best Halloween costume ever. To their surprise, my physical well-being was fine, but emotionally it was a different story.
After two nights in the hospital, reality set in and my world came crashing down. With nowhere else to turn I began to talk to God. I wondered what
To my shock, He answered, using a couple of locals visiting the hospital to deliver a message that God loves me, He will never leave me, and He wants me to know Him on a personal level. They spoke of a life of hope and joy regardless of circumstances, which at that time seemed impossible. But I knew that if that were true, I wanted it and asked God to give it to me.
The next day I woke up, and I felt a peace unlike anything I'd ever experienced. Upon getting home to the US, I had an unquenchable thirst to get to know God better.
I couldn't put down the Bible or stop talking about Jesus, which was strange since my whole life I'd been more or less indifferent about God.
I'd always been a passionate and talkative person who enjoyed life, but I'd worshipped sports, particularly my beloved Cleveland teams, instead of God. Yet now, while I still loved sports, I suddenly couldn't get enough of Jesus. I started to attend church again, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I began to meet other, mature Christians who helped me learn and grow closer to God.
It has been nearly two-and-a-half years since that day, and at least once a day, I think about what happened. I still ask God from time-to-time, Why me? but now it's a question posed in awe and wonder. What did I ever do to deserve a second chance at life? The answer is, it's not anything that I did, but rather the awesome grace of God.
God's grace isn t just for me, but for you as well. It s completely free, purchased by Jesus, who conquered death in the process. He doesn't promise you a life without problems or that it will be easy, but He does promise to unconditionally love you for the rest of time.
The best news of all is that you don't have to go through what I went through to discover the joy and peace that comes from a personal relationship with God. All you have to do is ask, and in that moment, God will change you into a new person like He did with me.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, and the new has come! - 2 Corinthians 5:17
"My wife had been growing increasingly distant.
One day she looked at me and said,
'I still love you, but I m not in love with you.'"
"...after a few days it was clear she wanted to end it.
I collected the pieces of my shattered heart
and was on the next bus home."
"To make a long story short,
three-and-a-half years later, we were married.
Well, it didn't take long for our marriage to become a mess."
In the end, this led to even more broken relationships and emotional scars.
By my high school graduation, I was a battered mess.
"'We haven't been able to revive her; you need to pray,'
was the first medical report I heard after about ten minutes of anxious waiting."
"My sexual orientation
has been constantly questioned through high school and college.
Even now in my work place people have asked about my sexuality."
"God needed me at Newsbox, Etc. at 1717 Dryden Street
to pray and talk to those two ladies...God's timing is perfect."
"It all happened so quickly.
In a matter of seconds the men had dashed up from behind,
put me in a choke hold, and shoved me to the ground."