"Who am I? Why am I here? What is life all about?"
As a teenager, David found himself wrestling with these questions. Growing up as one of twelve children, he struggled to find his own identity and discover his place in the world. He wasn't very good at school. He couldn't imagine himself in any particular career. Maybe he would find direction serving in the military, as his father had done. Only seventeen, David convinced his parents to let him enlist in October 1958.
The Army taught David some useful skills, gave him discipline and a sense of accomplishment--even a taste of success. He quickly rose through the ranks to become Buck Sergeant. But to David's dismay, there was still an emptiness deep inside. Something was missing. David began experimenting with behaviors he associated with maturity and manhood: living hard--and partying even harder.
He spent all of his free time in bars and dance clubs. "It was so destructive," he recalls. "I was literally wasting my life away." For a while he managed to keep out of any serious trouble, but hard living began to take its toll. He realized he was losing control.
"Many times I'd go to sleep at night not knowing how I got back to the barracks, not knowing when I went to bed. I hated waking up in the morning fearful, not knowing what I might have done or failed to do. I felt so discouraged, so disappointed in myself. I couldn't stand who I was. I wanted to give up on life."
Just when it seemed he'd hit rock bottom, David was asked to escort a company of soldiers to a chapel service on base. Something in the chaplain's message caught David's attention. Hours later, David found himself sitting in the chaplain's office, pouring out his heart. "I didn't know what I was doing there--but I wanted someone to hear my pain."
The chaplain listened with great compassion. Then he asked David a thought-provoking question: "Sergeant, how would you like to start life all over again?"
David didn't think he could. "I don't see how I can clean my life up and become the person you want me to be," he said.
"No, no," replied the chaplain. "You don't have to. God will take you just as you are." He went on to explain that the Bible says: "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
We've all chosen to live life our own way, on our own terms. We've broken God's rules, disobeyed his laws. The Bible calls this "sin." Sin becomes an instant barrier between God and man. Ultimately it leads to death and hell--eternal separation from God.
But God had a plan. He made a way to reconcile us to himself. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Jesus set an example for us by living a perfect and sinless life. And then, although he didn't have to, he willingly laid down his life for us. He died on the cross for our sins, taking the punishment in our place, paying the penalty for us.
The Bible tells us that because of what Jesus suffered, because of his death on the cross, because of his resurrection, the power of sin has been broken. Those who trust in Jesus are "born again." The Scriptures explain, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Listening to the chaplain share these truths, David says, "My defenses were shattered. For the first time, I realized that I needed the help of someone greater than myself. I swallowed my pride and invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior."
That day he began a journey of transformation, a journey of faith. Along the way he found answers to the questions that had long haunted him. He discovered meaning and purpose in life. He found hope and peace and joy. So great was the impact of his experience, David decided to devote his life to helping other searching soldiers find their way. He became a chaplain himself and served from1974 to 2007.
David rose to the highest position of service in the Army Chaplaincy in 2003. As the Chief of Chaplains, he led 3,000 chaplains who continue to help soldiers find their way.
Now retired after forty-three years of service, David still holds firm to his discovery that purpose and meaning in life can only be found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That same life-changing relationship is available to you today. Experience it for yourself, by praying something like this:
Dear God, I know that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me. I surrender my life to you completely. Show me what your plan and purpose is for me. Help me to live in a way that honors you. Amen.