Testimony: My Burden of Sin Lifted After Following Jesus in College

A woman opens her arms in front of the sea.
A woman opens her arms in front of the sea.
By Stephen Tian October 21st, 2022

Editor's note: A college student found Jesus when she felt heavy and meaningless in pursuit of grades. Spending much time on many unnecessary things, she was helpless to do the right thing. Intending to drop out of school, she encountered the Lord in a campus fellowship and eventually 

It has been 12 years since I began to follow Jesus in 2010. In fact, I believe that from the moment I was born, even when I was in my mother's womb, those invisible hands have been guiding me. He had planned my life and had led me step by step to get closer to Him and know Him.

In the fall of 2009, I left Gansu, my hometown in the far northwest of China, for the first time in my life, and came to Shanghai to attend college. What should have been the spring of hope in my life turned into a winter of disappointment. When I was in high school, I was full of longing for university life. I was once a person with lofty ideals, but by chance, I became a brainless dullard.Before college, I only knew that I should study hard and be admitted to a famous university, and then I could change my fate, and make the world a more beautiful place. It was as simple as that. However, the ideal is far away from reality. After I entered university, reality constantly broke all my illusions about life. At school, I used to get the best grades. Although I was always diffident because I was the shortest in the class since childhood, and a little fat, the results could still make up for the pain caused by defects in other aspects. However, in the university, even my grades became the lowest in the class. Looking at my brilliant classmates, I had no confidence, fell to the bottom of the inferiority complex, and could not find a sense of existence.

I lived a miserable life. Waking up early had become very difficult. I spend much time on meaningless things, and I always put off doing the things that were really good for me. At the end of the day, I just felt endless emptiness. I wanted to read more books, I wanted to study hard, and I wanted to exercise regularly, but I was not free to do what I wanted to do. Gradually, I realized that I had no control over my life, and I felt a deep sense of powerlessness about myself. I could not change myself through my own efforts, I was also unable to change society.

There was also a kind of heaviness that I couldn't put my finger on. This feeling of heaviness had been with me ever since I was a child. It was not because I did something that I felt tired. Even if I did nothing, I still felt tired, and that feeling was getting stronger and stronger. I couldn't find a way out. I was lost. I didn't know where my life was going and what was the point of living like this. This was not the life I wanted to live. I was not happy, and my heart was full of anxiety and uneasiness. Reading or learning could not bring peace to my soul or solve the problem in my heart.

After the first semester of my freshman year, I wanted to quit school. I didn't want to go to school anymore. I went home for the winter vacation with a heavy heart. Many times, I planned to tell my parents that I wanted to quit school, but I never said it out loud, because I was burdened with too many expectations from them to let them down. They thought I should be very happy for being admitted to a good university, but no one knew I was actually helpless. In that confused and helpless situation, I thought of God. Though I didn't know God at that time, I just thought to myself that if there was a power in the world that could change me, it would be God.

Maybe there was a divine plan. My mother believed in Jesus when I was in elementary school, and I went to church with her at that time. Even though I didn't understand anything, I liked to listen to their hymns and to go to gatherings because I felt peaceful there. I didn't go to church since I was in junior high school. On the one hand, I was busy with my studies, and on the other hand, my father was very opposed to us going to church and tried to stop us by various means. But it was this little seed of the Gospel that was sown when I was ignorant, and it began to sprout in my heart when I grew up. Thus I opened the Bible in my family, but I realized I couldn't understand it after I turned a few pages. I became a little discouraged and uneasy.

 At the beginning of the new term, I returned to school with a tired heart. The only hope for me was to find the church after I went to Shanghai, otherwise, I didn't know how to continue my life. It was about the first week of school, on my way back to the dormitory after class one day, I asked a classmate if she knew where there was a church. Then amazingly she said she knew a church and told me I could go with another classmate on Sunday. So that Sunday I contacted the classmate, and he took me to church. That's how I came to a fellowship in a small church.

On that Sunday, one of the sisters who was in charge of the fellowship got my phone number. Then she contacted me and invited me to study the Bible at school, maybe three or four times a week. I still remember my first class of Bible study. It was about Matthew 11:28-30, entitled “Rest in Peace”. After I attended that, I thought it was a baptism of the soul, a new world was opening up for me, and it was the Lord's gentle call to me, calling me to come to rest in Him. For the first time, I felt how the world could have such words that touched my heart and revealed everything about my soul. I was finally beginning to understand what that heavy burden was that had been weighing me down for as long as I could remember. It was the burden of sin. It was sin that I had been trying to get rid of. It was sin that made me miserable. It was sin that made me anxious and upset. And the heavy burden of sin did not begin to come off until the moment I met the Lord, even though I did not quite understand how God worked in my heart. "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." That verse was stuck in my memory. God's word took hold of me, and my soul finally found its home.

In the process of studying the Bible, I kept wondering about life, the world, and myself. I began to have a new understanding, and my heart was constantly changing. I came to know that there is such a beautiful world. I agreed and accepted everything the Bible said, especially the words about sin. Then I quickly welcomed Jesus Christ as my Savior.

 I didn't have much of a struggle with the existence of God at the time. Since I was a child, I believed in another world. I believed in a spiritual world. I myself have experienced some supernatural things. I could not explain them, and no one would believe them at that time. Later I even had doubts that what I experienced at that time was not true, and I just had some hallucinations. But I still believed that there was something beyond man, though I didn't know what it was. I still remember seeing the sunset once. There was a kind of inexplicable sadness. The kind of soul loss that cannot be told. I really wanted to know the world over the cloud. There is a vague yearning for eternity in me. Therefore, it was easy for me to accept the worldview that there is a god.

Later, I saw a paragraph written by C. S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters, which could explain the mood that I could not describe at that time. He said,

"The gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realized what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not 'Who are you?' but 'So it was you all the time'. All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside. He saw not only Them; he saw Him."

That's true. "Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20) God has put in man the ability to know Him, and if you listen to the voice of your soul, you will see God. I thank God for guiding me to Him when I was young. I thank the Savior Jesus for taking off the burden of my soul, freeing my imprisoned heart, letting me see the light of life, and giving me hope in life. Therefore, the direction of my life has changed.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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