I grew up in a big, blended family. You might have childhood memories that bring joy: playing on the swings, swimming at the beach and having wild adventures in the backyard. But I only vaguely remember these types of memories as one overrides the rest: my mother’s death when I was five.
When we moved to Dad’s place, the house was full of kids, roughly seven—a range of ages, with the youngest about three and the oldest 14. We had a lot of love for each other but due to my own brokenness, I felt lonely. Among all the basic things that need to be done to run a house—with children going to different schools, not having a car big enough to fit us all—our parents tried to cater to each of our needs. But I felt neglected. On the surface, I didn’t seem to need that much attention. But inside I desperately wanted and needed connection. I felt unloved. The older I became, the more self-absorbed I was—fixated on how I was missing out, feeling unloved and drowning in my own self-pity. I was jealous of those who could go home and be with their mother.
At high school, I chased every distraction. I tried finding love through friends, boyfriends or even friends’ families; anything to gain connection with someone. I thought the brokenness inside of me stemmed from my family, so I cut them off and invested my life in others, who may not have always wanted what was best for me.
Once I got a little older—around 16, 17—I began to sink into depression. I started binge drinking to the point beyond remembering. I took days off school and work just to drown in my problems a little further.
After high school, I moved away with my boyfriend. He was dealing with the same problems I was. It didn’t last. I left my job, my car, my friends, my family, and I felt completely isolated because my depression was preventing me from moving forward.
A doctor prescribed anti-depressants for my illness but they didn’t take away the mix of feelings and loneliness. Then came the first of many overdoses. This one was only mild. I was kept in hospital for observation overnight and after a psych-analysis through teleconference, I was released.
Just one week later in January 2019, I was an emotional mess; feeling conflicted, missing everyone back home and having no spirituality yet so badly desiring to be connected and loved in some way. Mix drinking with depression and I was an absolute trainwreck.
Crying in a ball at the end of my bed, I wanted out of everything life had to offer. I stared at the pills littered across the floor. My face drenched in my tears, I looked up to the sky and said, “God, if you are really here, please, please show me because right now I need You.” I took all the tablets.
When my vision went fuzzy and I could no longer hear, I was rushed to hospital. The next thing I remember was waking up surrounded by doctors and nurses, asking if I knew where I was.
“Of course, I know where I am,” I said, but it turned out I didn’t.
I’d been airlifted to Canberra. My dad and his wife were driving 10 hours to see me. I really was alone.
A couple of days into my stay, I learned the extent of my overdose. The pills I’d taken were used for slowing the heart down—the amount I’d taken slowed my heart to the point it stopped—cardiac arrest. I was upset, confused. But I was also praising God I was still alive.
Picture this. My heart stops and the nurses say: “That’s it. She’s gone.” But one nurse pushes to the front and she says, “No, she can’t be.” She shoots up a prayer and starts administering CPR. My life is saved.
The nurse was a Seventh-day Adventist woman I’d never met, but I did know the rest of her family. I’d been to her church once and I’d also worked with her daughter. Now she’d saved my life. She must have had the strongest impression from God that my life was not over. I was just so thankful she had a connection to God. It’s amazing the way God works through others; it was a miracle I survived.
My whole attitude changed from that moment. I could clearly see God is real and He cares about me. For the first time in my life, I knew I was 100 per cent receiving love. I didn’t need to look to others for love, because that love was right there with me.
I was fully known and yet fully loved. This was the beginning of something special. Right at that moment, I had a fire in my heart and wanted to become connected to God.
After I was discharged from hospital, I went to a small group Bible study. The topic happened to be “Who is God and what is He like?”
The group were in a circle taking turns reading. It came to my turn and the verse I was asked to read is still my favourite verse to this day, found in the book of Isaiah:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
I cried; not just a little tear, but full-on tears. God was telling me that He was the One who saved my life and that I needed to become connected to Jesus.
Back home in Grafton, I got stuck into my Bible studying and reading, but I didn’t have much experience and no background knowledge.
I was given the number for a Bible worker in Grafton. I texted him immediately and found out he was in town twice a week. Since then Greg and I studied twice a week together.
I always looked forward to it. At the studies, my eyes were opened and truth was revealed to me. As I learned more, I felt more and more connected to God. Everything was making sense. God was continually showing me His love, opening my eyes to His Word.
My relationship with Him was growing so fast but that’s not to say everything was perfect. At a weak point, I suffered another overdose. But by the power of God, my life was once again preserved.
After a while I was ready for baptism.
There couldn’t be any better person to baptise me than Greg, the one who helped me in my relationship with God. After giving my life wholly to Jesus, after feeling so loved, I was able to give love to others, to those relationships I had broken. I was able to heal.
When you truly grasp the idea of God’s love for you, you naturally want to pour that love out on others. I desperately wanted to fix what I had broken with my family; to love them as God desires for us to love everyone. And God was able to restore those broken relationships. I’m now more connected with my family than I ever had been.
Two weeks after my baptism, Greg and I were engaged. Four months later we were married. We weren’t rich but we had true wealth in God. We were surrounded by amazing people who supported our journey. We paid practically no money for our engagement party or wedding due to the generosity of the family of God (our church) around us.
God uses those who are around you to bless you. God did it in my life although I didn’t always see it. God was with us every step of the way. Every big decision was made with prayer, and because of this, it was so clear that God was leading in our lives and our marriage. Whenever we were struggling, a major miracle would just happen.
A few months into our marriage and the house we were renting was put up for sale. This was so stressful. I was pregnant. I’d always desired to have a little family of my own; now it was really happening.
But we had no money and no clue what we were going to do. So we prayed. I was struggling with tiredness so much and I was constantly cleaning to upkeep the house. With two weeks left on our lease, we still didn’t have a house to move to. But God had one lined up for us. The real estate agent selling the house told us he had just bought a house and would love us to be tenants.
We just had to look at the house, and if we liked it, we could move in. So we did!
I am the happiest now I have ever been, having been brought back to life both physically and spiritually. God did it for me and He can do it for you too!
I have everything I ever wanted. I’m married with a family. I’m no longer depressed. Every day is a blessing; not just an ordinary life but a life filled with an abundance of love and thankfulness.
Do you feel alone? Do you feel like you’re under attack?
Jesus is with you and He wants to help. The question is, do you desire to be connected with Him? Because that connection brings life.
If this article has raised any difficult feelings or issues for you, please speak to a trusted support person, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (Australia) or 0800 543 354 (New Zealand).
If you’re searching for connection, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonita Fernance is from Grafton, NSW, where she is an expecting, stay-at-home mum. You can read her husband Greg’s story in next month’s issue.