I was 17, and I hit rock bottom.
I felt tension with my family, friends and boyfriend. Crushed by the pressure from my parents to be a perfect student and the constant need for me to prove myself worthy to others, I was struggling with my mental health and didn’t see a future for myself anymore. I had no idea how and if things were going to get better.
It was a 2016 night, I was 17 and alone in the house, staring at my blotchy, tear-stained face in my bedroom mirror. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my copy of the Bible sitting on my nightstand. I had been reading it from time to time, but irregularly.
I said to myself, “God if you’re real, if you care about me, and if you will bring me out of this, I need you to show me.” Next thing I knew, my hand had flipped to a seemingly random page.
Immediately I saw John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
My knees buckled as I fell to the floor. On came the uncontrollable sobbing and an overwhelming sense of peace I had never felt before. I lay on the cold, wooden planks crying tears of joy and relief. In an instant, God met me where I was, and my once unbearable pain melted away.
He spoke to my broken heart in His kind and loving words, “Olivia, my child, I have loved you since before you were born. I have always been with you, and I will never leave you.”
I felt as if I were being held by someone who knew just how to hold me.
At that moment, I knew I was safe. I finally understood that I was fully known and loved by the God who I had known to be real all my life. I decided that I was going to put my life in my Father’s perfect, trustworthy hands. That night, my life changed forever. I was in for one heck of a ride.
Growing up, my household wasn’t religious. My family has a Romanian Orthodox background, so while culturally they believed in God, they never dragged us to church or taught us anything about Christianity.
For as far back as I can remember, I had a sense that God was real. I prayed every night as my grandma had taught me to when I was young. Yet ultimately, I was only living for the secular world.
When I was about 12 years old, I began attending a Christian theater arts camp in the summer, which sparked my interest in learning more about this God that I was convinced existed. I continued to attend for eight summers as I started to learn more about the Bible and someone named Jesus Christ.
Fast forward to the present day, and I’m now a senior at Temple University. It’s been just over four years since I decided to live for Jesus. I’ve learned so much about who God is, and who I am in Him.
I study tourism and hospitality management. I aspire to be a wedding planner and own my own business someday. I am the president of a campus ministry called Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, where I help facilitate a loving, welcoming community for students who want to seek God’s heart together. I serve on two different worship teams at two different churches, where I have found friends who have become family.
During the past four years, I’ve experienced excruciating heartbreak through a long, painful split from my first serious boyfriend, someone I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I also stepped into and flourished in a leadership role in Chi Alpha that, at first, I didn’t feel I was cut out for.
But above all, I’ve found my purpose and identity in Christ.
I’ve come to a place in my life where I am healthier, happier and more fulfilled than ever before. I no longer rely on relationships, social media, success in my education or career, or the opinions of others determine my worth. It has been a journey to get to where I’m at now, but every step along the way, every heartache, every obstacle, every hard decision, my God has worked together for my good.
Most people have heard of Christianity before. There tends to be a stigma that comes with the idea of religion. When I tell people I’m a Christian, I can see the underlying judgment in their eyes, immediately labeling me as a “religious” person. And I don’t blame them.
We, humans, get it wrong constantly, and I too fall under this category. I am imperfect, just as we all are, and I humbly accept that. What’s important is that we do our best every single day to show the love of Jesus and share the truth with others as humbly and respectfully as possible.
I no longer wake up every morning to an oncoming wave of nausea due to the stress of what the day will bring. Instead, I smile, thank my Father for another morning of breath in my lungs, and crack open my Bible to soak in His sweet promises of everlasting life and encouragement.