Hey everyone, my name is Jon Bixby, and I am here to share my story with you! My younger brother and I were raised in California by our loving parents. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was around 9 or 10. Growing up in a Christian household, I regularly attended church with my family and would go to Sunday school, where I would learn and memorize Bible verses. Even though I attended church every week, I never took what was said to heart. To me, it was a bunch of words a pastor was preaching to me and it didn't have any real meaning. Then, in 2004, I was baptized here at Saddleback Church. I remember feeling really nervous, but when I came out of the water, I felt very joyous and happy, like all of my past had been washed away and I was starting a brand new life!
As the years went on life was great; I was doing well in school, getting good grades, and hanging out with my best friends. However, God started to slowly disappear in my life. I still prayed at night but it was just another routine to me, and the words I was repeating had no meaning. Then, in 2007, my life changed forever. My dad was working for an energy company at the time, and one afternoon my mom received a phone call from my dad saying a new CEO had joined the company and laid off the whole department my dad was working in. After that, nothing was the same.
My dad was unemployed for over a year and a half. My mom got a job on staff here at Saddleback Church in Food Services department, but even with my mom's salary, we still had to drastically cut our food budget, clothing, entertainment, water, electrical, pretty much everything in order to not lose the house and sell everything we had. During that time, I told God I didn't need him anymore and I was going to handle all this on my own. I stopped praying and reading my Bible all together.
Throughout that dark period of time, I thought my family was the most dysfunctional, messed up family on the face of the earth. I still regularly attended church but instead of telling those who cared about me what was going on in my life, I would put on "the mask" and pretend everything was alright. When someone would ask how I was doing, I would reply "Everything is fine" or "I'm doing well" even though I really wasn't. I felt very alone and depressed, and instead of seeking God to fill the void in my heart, I filled it up with: playing violent video games for hours on end, watching violent movies, listening to music with lyrics having to do with drugs, sex, alcohol and other things I am ashamed of just to get away from it all. Most of all, I had thoughts of suicide.
I felt like night after night, as soon as I stepped into the doorway, my parents would be on top of me for doing something I wasn't suppose to do earlier in the day, which would quickly turn into an argument and I would end up going bed and then crying myself to sleep. If I didn't fall asleep, I then would start thinking of cutting myself. I thought no one loved me or cared about me. I slowly, built up a "wall" inside of me to block out all of the emotion and keep it deep, deep down inside of me.
After 2 years of constant arguing, fighting, and being in a deep depression where I didn't care about anyone or anything, I couldn't take it anymore. One Monday night, I plotted out my suicide. That night I cried so hard, my stomach hurt. Then in a moment, though my tears and sobbing I cried out to God and said "God, I surrender, I give up, I need your help. If you’re there, please help me change and let me feel you." Then I fell fast asleep.
That next day, I did my normal routine of school and chores, and then headed over to church. I planned on taking my life when I walked home that night, but God had other plans. It was a bright and sunny day, and I was listening to my iPod while walking, feeling very sad, alone, and extremely depressed when I came upon the intersection of Los Alisos and Marguerite. After crossing the street, the song "He Reigns" by Newsboys started playing as I was making my descent down the hill towards church. In a split second, I felt this overwhelming, joyous energy flow through my veins and body! I started laughing and smiling uncontrollably; I started skipping and shouting the words in the song praising God. It felt like a light switch had been turned on inside me – That’s when I knew I experienced God’s glory, love, joy, and peace. The people who were driving past me at the time, looked and saw this huge dude skipping and jumping like he was in skipping down the Yellow Brick Road. There are ZERO words to describe how I felt, I had never felt anything SO POWERFUL in my ENTIRE LIFE!!!
Ever since then, my life has been dramatically changed due to God's unfailing love. I now know what it means to have a relationship with God and involve Him in my everyday life. Now I know - God WILL provide, He WILL come through! He was waiting for me to surrender and say the words: "God, I surrender, I give up, I need your help."
Through the difficult times, God was with me and my family, and provided us with the necessary things. During that time of my dad's unemployment, my faith dissolved to pretty much nothing. I didn't depend on God anymore, I depended on myself. It seemed to me God didn't care about me, because if He did, He wouldn't allow me to go through what I was. I found reconciliation through God after I experienced Him while walking to church that Tuesday afternoon.
Now, I strive every single day to read God's Word and learn more and more about Him. Having a relationship with God is not praying for just His help when you’re in trouble; having a relationship with God means allowing Him in EVERYTHING you do in your daily life, talking and thanking Him throughout the day. Life isn't perfect and there are still days where I feel overwhelmed by all the stress, anxiety, and other things going on in life. TO THIS DAY, God is still helping me to break down the "wall" that I built up inside of me from all those years of emotional abuse and find healing. I thank God everyday for my small group, my mentors, and close friends whom I know love me, care about me and care about my walk with Christ. If it wasn't for my friends being there for me and if I hadn't experienced God that afternoon, I would not be here today, and sitting here telling you my story.
I want to end with a challenge for you. If you are having any of these thoughts or are struggling in an area and need help, please please please tell someone so they can help you get out of that area or situation. You can talk to any person on stage, the staff, or anyone on the prayer patio. Remember, God is ALWAYS with you, He will never leave you or forsake you. If He was there for me, He will definitely be there for you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 says: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Thanks for listening!