He sat behind the steering wheel in his parked car. Moments before he had contemplated driving his car into the river ahead and drowning himself.
It would certainly look like an accident. The river bank was steep and the road and its shoulder were very close to the bank. Who would know that he had purposefully driven off into the deep river rather than merely taking his eyes off the road while driving?
"God would know." thought Jared. Though this thought should have been enough to sway him, Jared still felt the weight of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and lost dreams come flooding back. It was hard to say which one exactly he was feeling at the moment. They all seemed to swirl and churn together like the muddy river in front of him.
"I just want to escape!" Jared suddenly said out loud.
He gave a half-chuckle and said, "Am I praying or am I just talking out loud to myself? God, I don't know."
Jared had weathered tough times before. The year his father died he suddenly realized he was all alone now in figuring out manhood.
"You're the only father, I have now, God!" he said that night through tears.
"But then, that's always been the case, I guess."
"On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother's womb you have been my God."
Yes, Jared had read that passage in the Bible shortly after his father had died. He could not sleep well so he read the Bible and tried to find comfort from it. He started with the familiar 23rd Psalm ("the Lord is my Shepherd...") but found himself drawn to the agony of Psalm 22.
In it, David says that he was cast onto God from birth. Jared closed the Bible and prayed. "You're all I have, Lord. My life is dependent on you. You have watched over me from birth and you can sustain me now."
Many years earlier Jared had come to another crisis. College had left him messed up and confused. Far away from home he wondered, "Who am I?"
He had been searching for the answer to that question and he did not like the answers he found. When he looked in the mirror he saw someone who faked it, put on a mask, lied so much that he wasn't sure anyone knew the real Jared. His quest for pleasure and popularity left him empty. Guilt was a constant companion.
But at his darkest hour so much became clear. It was clear to Jared that his life was messed up and that he was to blame. It was clear that he had rebelled against God by doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted without regard to his Creator. Jared had been his own god and Jared was sure that the real God was not happy that he had tried to usurp Him. For years Jared had been taken to church by his parents. Now in college he attended sporadically with friends. Jared thought he had heard it all but only now did the message make sense. He was a sinner. He had rebelled against God. His wicked sin separated him from a good God. God would punish him as a lawbreaker and he would be sent to Hell. But Jesus...
Here is where the light shown into the darkness of Jared's life. Jesus, the son of God, coming down at Christmas long ago to be born as one of us. Jesus, the only man who ever lived a perfect life and fully pleased God. Jesus, who willingly died for sinners, such as Jared, on the cross as a sacrifice to turn God's wrath away. The same Jesus rose from the dead at Easter and appeared to his hopeless disciples. He encouraged them for forty days then ascended into heaven. The disciples gawked until angels appeared telling them that Jesus would return in the same way some day. Until then they were to proclaim to others about this Jesus, the risen Savior and Lord, that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.
"Have you made Jesus your Lord and Savior?" Jared had heard a thousand times before on the lips of people he had humored—people who were proclaiming the message like Jesus' first disciples. "What a strange phrase!" Jared had thought at the time. Now as a college student who was hopeless and humbled by his sin he finally understood.
"Jesus, save me!" he cried out. "I need your forgiveness! I have ruined my life. Please lead me—be my Lord. My life is not my own."
From that moment on in college life had never been the same for Jared. His trust had been in God and not himself or his circumstances. He saw the world with new eyes, had fresh hope, and a new birth.
Jared was startled from his reminiscence and found himself sitting in a car on the edge of a river. "Jesus, you are enough. You are all I need. Thank you, Jesus, for the reminder."
He put the car into gear and slowly pulled back onto the road. The river now seemed like a calm, ever-rolling stream that extended far past his view rather than a watery grave before him.
A year later Jared drove up to his home after work. Hardly out the door of his car his three kids ran out in the yard to meet him. They began talking all at once, competing to tell him about their day. He gave them hugs and tickles. Inside his wife almost had dinner ready for the family. When she saw him she apologized that the food was not ready yet. He assured her that he appreciated her hard work.
"How are you doing today?" asked Jared's wife.
"Better than I deserve." he replied with a smile.