McDowell demonstrates how to soothe pain of past

January 15, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

Josh McDowell told the audience he wasn’t going to give a talk, he was going to tell a story — and what a story he told at Chapel. (Photo by Gillian Rea)

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

There are two ways to react to Josh McDowell’s emotional talk about the horrors of his childhood:

“Wow, I didn’t have it so bad.” (True for hopefully 99.99 percent of the listeners.)

Or, more likely …

“I need to do something – and maybe forgive someone – to put those past hurts behind me.”

There’s no question which reaction McDowell would prefer after his Chapel talk Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena.

It was blunt. At times, it was graphic. But the message was something that a lot of people probably need to hear, for two reasons.

“Every day you meet a Josh McDowell, someone hurting from their past,” said the Christian apologetic and evangelist who founded Josh McDowell Ministry, has written more than 150 books and lectures all over the world.

And …

“Deal with your stuff and listen to others.”

McDowell’s childhood in southern Michigan included gut-wrenching examples of being abused. What it did not include was a belief in God, and McDowell recounted how he became isolated and on several occasions wanted to die.

“Have you ever thought it wouldn’t matter to anyone whether you lived or died?” he asked the audience.

His troubles turned McDowell against God and Christianity, and he considered himself an agnostic when he went off to Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich. But then, as fate would have it, he met regularly with people who were Christians, one of whom challenged him to examine the Bible and then see if he wanted to join them.

“I thought that was a joke,” he said. “No, I’m serious. I thought Christians had two brains – one was lost and the other was out looking for it. I figured if a Christian had a brain it would die in isolation.”

He said he was going to write a book that would “make a joke of those Christians.”

So McDowell, who had made some money through a company he’d created, traveled halfway around the world to find “evidence” until he found himself in a London library, poring over Biblical manuscripts and scrolls.

His intent: to show they weren’t reliable. Here’s what happened next:

“I was sitting there in the library, and I’ll never forget – I leaned back in my chair, cupped my hands behind my head, and right in front of everyone, which was probably about three people, I said, ‘It’s true! It’s true! It’s true!’”

When he went back home, he couldn’t sleep. He realized he had been what he considered “intellectually dishonest” in his disbelief. Even though he thought – and his anti-Christian reputation suggested – that he was the unlikeliest person of all to come to Christ, he got together with a friend in private and prayed:

  • He thanked Jesus for dying on the cross for him.
  • He confessed his sins.
  • He invited Jesus into his life.

“In six months,” he said, “my entire life was changed.”

He felt compelled to forgive all the people who had abused him, no matter how difficult that was, no matter how much the thought would have repulsed him for so many years.

His closing message:

“Why did I share my testimony? Because, one, there’s a good number of you sitting here that haven’t maybe had the same background but similar, and there’s still things in your life you haven’t dealt with. Deal with your stuff. Don’t try to do it alone – you need help.”

● For a replay of Chapel, including the music by the Worship Team, click here.

● Next week: No Chapel because of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or



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