After a life of drug dealing and prison, Richard Stuart thought he was the last person God would bother with
At the age of 24, I was at the end. The pain in my heart and mental problems made my life unbearable.
When the agony gets too bad, you can see only one way out. Ketamine and alcohol could no longer deaden the pain from a bad relationship and my own unstable emotions.
I parked my car in a remote place and started a petrol generator on the back seat. The carbon monoxide fumes, I knew, would soon kill me. That is the last I remember.
I found out later that I was in the car for 14 hours before I was found by the emergency services (ambulance and police) and pronounced dead.
Amazingly, though, I didn’t die, but awoke, confused and utterly disorientated in a hospital bed. After a couple of days my brain function returned.
A wonderful sense of peace, purity and glory enveloped me
But something had happened while I was “dead” that changed my view of the world. I remember a light beaming down on me, while a wonderful sense of peace, purity and glory enveloped me. This was my first encounter with God.
Later I discovered that a Christian friend had been “told” by God to pray for me. I’d known him for ten years – he used to tell me about Jesus and I thought he was insane. My friend told me he’d had a real sense of danger – he knew something was wrong.
How could someone like me, with my criminal past, have been allowed to cheat death?
Drug dealing had been my way of life from 14 when I started selling cannabis. I was pretty naive and certainly learned my ‘trade’ the hard way.
At 15 I was sent to juvenile prison for the attempted robbery of a post office
At 15 I was sent to juvenile prison for the attempted robbery of a post office and over the next five years I was in and out of prison like a yo-yo. In fact, juvenile prison was worse than the adult prisons I was in later – there was much more bullying.
From the age of 20 to 24 I had what I thought was the party life, until my insecurities wrecked my relationship with a lovely girl. Suddenly my party life was powerless to stop the mental torment, which was what drove me to that remote place with a petrol generator.
Yet it seemed God hadn’t allowed me to die! Unbelievably, while I knew that something spiritual had happened, I was too hard-hearted to believe in him and continued to try to run my own life.
The next seven years saw my descent into heroin addiction. I no longer cared if I was caught and sent to prison; I had a lot of enemies in my home town and felt safer in prison. It provided a stable life and my laundry got done!
My frequent visits to prison were strange, though. I kept being put in cells with Christians!
My frequent visits to prison were strange, though. I kept being put in cells with Christians! They all told me about Jesus, and my previous experience of God’s light and glory occupied my mind – it wouldn’t leave me alone. I slowly came to realise that God’s hand was on my life.
Finally, at the age of 32, I cried out to God, “If you’re there, help me – I can’t take any more.”
I suddenly had the thought, “Recovery House Rehab”. It was a Christian rehab that I’d heard about two years earlier in prison.
I told my grandparents and they contacted the rehab, who accepted me straight from prison with no interview. A miracle!
At this stage, from years of drug addiction, I was barely human. I could only scream aggression at people. I slowly became aware of all the terrible things that I had done in my life. As soon as someone explained the death of Jesus – how he died so that I could be cleansed of sin and also healed, I couldn’t say “Yes” to him quickly enough!
From that time God really was at work in my life. I was free from drug addiction, God found me somewhere to live and sent kind-hearted Christians to show me love.
I was increasingly aware that other people were free and I needed that freedom
Then I was told about a Bible college and felt strongly I was to go. I gave up my flat and slept in my car while I waited for accommodation to become available at the college. Once there, enjoying the worship times, I was increasingly aware that other people were free and I needed that freedom.
God didn’t let me down; as my emotional and mental freedom grew, renewing me from the inside, it was wonderful. All this from just sitting at
Jesus’ feet and waiting on God. In many ways, Covid has been a blessing because it enables me to do just that.
My desire is to shout from the mountain top: “God loves you and can change your life beyond recognition”
When I look back at my pitiful state in that prison cell just four years ago, I am so grateful to Jesus for rescuing me and giving me a new life. I would love to see others receiving Jesus the way I have. My desire is to shout from the mountain top: “God loves you and can change your life beyond recognition.”
The way we can receive new life as we die in Jesus, and then are reborn in him, is, in my life, a fact that cannot be denied. ‘Happy clappy’ is the usual derogatory term for people like me. That’s fine – I’ve got a lot to be happy about!
God reached out to me even when I was killing myself. I am utterly convinced that he loves you, too – with the same intensity!