If you met Adrien* today, you would never guess that just a few short years ago, he was an atheist who battled inner loneliness and emptiness. All you will see is a fulfilled father and husband, who is now a missionary along with his family. How did this transformation occur?
Adrien grew up in Quebec, going to church on Christmas and Easter but it was by more by obligation than by choice. Early in his teenage years, he totally rejected the idea of God and came to despise religion. He turned to science for an explanation of the world and for the purpose of life. “I was an atheist and I was strong about it. Religious people were fools in my eyes.”
After he finished his education, he joined the military. During his basic training, he became friends with Roy, a guy in his platoon. They ended up getting stationed on the same base. At this point in his life, Adrien had everything the world had to offer—a good job and lots of money. However, he was lonely and empty inside.
But then, a few years later, Roy came back from a six-month assignment and couldn’t seem to stop talking about Jesus and God and church. He had become a Christian through the testimony of his uncle and now wanted to tell Adrien all about it. But Adrien wanted none of it. He was cold and distant with Roy, who quickly realized that he had to go easy on Adrien. Because Roy was sensitive towards Adrien, they managed to retain their friendship. “After all, he was one of the only friends I had,” Adrien says. “Over time, he would share some of his experiences with God, with the church, his struggles and his joys. From time to time, he would bring me a tract he found at church about God vs. evolution and things like that. I don’t think I ever read them.”
One day, however, Roy showed up in Adrien’s room with a book for Adrien to read. “He told me there was no pressure, but he had read this book and it was one of the main reasons he came to Christ.” It was L’Homme sur le chemin d’Emmaüs, the French version of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus.
Adrien goes on to say, “I don’t remember what I told him, but I took the book more out of kindness than willingness. However, I’m a curious guy by nature and so I started to take a peek at it. Perhaps it would help me better understand all Roy’s craziness.”
His interest was immediately grabbed by the book’s forward.
“To this day, I still remember the preface of the author, stating that this book is an objective summary of the Bible and not his own subjective opinion or belief. He stated that he was very careful not to impart his own view, but to simply relate the Bible. He also said that at the beginning of each chapter were references to biblical passages and if we weren’t sure on the validity of the chapter, that we were free to look for ourselves. I still remember that this statement had a big impact on my decision to read the book. I had no interest in someone else’s ‘beliefs,’ but an objective retelling of the Bible sounded intriguing.”
So Adrien started to read The Stranger. He found it very engaging. Here were people and events in the Bible he didn’t recall hearing about before, despite the fact that he had grown up around religion. It took Adrien about two weeks to finish the book.
“I still remember finishing the book and telling myself, ‘This is all very interesting. I wonder if the Bible really says that.’”
He returned the book to Roy, who was startled to discover that Adrien had actually read it all the way through. He had given the book to others and none of them had read it yet. Could it be that his atheist friend was actually more interested than he let on?
But Adrien wasn’t about to open up. “I didn’t want to talk about it with my friend, so we didn’t. But in the back of my mind, there was always this curiosity about what the Bible really says… I needed a French Bible. But I was not going to ask Roy if he had one. You need to understand that I was a very proud man. Any sign of religious beliefs was to me a sign of weakness. Therefore, I allowed myself to look into it, but only privately.”
Finally, six months later, Adrien was able to buy a French Bible for himself. As soon as he got home from the bookstore, he sat down and started to read. “I remembered that there was an Old and a New Testament. I also remembered that the church had given me a New Testament… I figured that if they only gave me a New Testament, then it must have been more important than the Old. So I located the book of Matthew and I started reading.”
For an avowed atheist who had dismissed religion, what happened next took even him by surprise: “I was devouring the Bible, amazed to discover this Jesus, of whom I had no recollection of anyone telling me about in the past.” He couldn’t put the book down!
But Adrien then hit something of a roadblock. “As I was reading the Gospels, there were many things I didn’t understand, such as the Sabbath or this Law thing. So, I figured I would go back and start from the beginning. I read through the historical books all the way to Chronicles. This gave me a better understanding of the things describe in the New Testament.”
All this time, he told no one about his secret reading. But as time went on, Adrien found himself feeling more and more miserable. He now believed that there was a God, and he had discovered that this God was his creator and owner. He was a holy God, who had a standard of perfection that Adrien couldn’t meet.
“I used to sin and it wouldn’t bother me. Now when I sinned, I knew it was wrong but was unable to stop in my own strength. I was reading all those promises of peace and joy, but had none of that.”
Then one day Adrien observed Roy and another Christian talking together. Watching them interact, he realized that they had what he wanted. “I could see in their lives something I didn’t have. Somehow, I knew they had something that enabled them to live a Christian life, but didn’t know what it was. I only knew that it was what I needed.”
That night, Adrien went home and acknowledged his need of the God he had resisted for so many years and put his trust in Jesus for salvation. “There was no vision, no angels, no feelings,” Adrien says. “Just a simple genuine prayer before going to bed.”
Adrien continues, “When I woke up the next morning, I had a new conviction. I took a garbage bag and threw out all the wrong stuff I had. I went to my friend and publicly acknowledged Christ to him. A few weeks later, I started attending church and never returned to my life of sin.” He was now a child of God.
For Roy, it may have seemed pointless and discouraging at times when Adrien rebuffed his evangelistic efforts. But in the end, his gentle and caring persistence had won out. What a joy it must have been to hear Adrien tell him of his new-found faith in Christ!
This seemingly hardened atheist is now a happily married man who is raising four beautiful daughters to follow Jesus. Adrien would have never guessed that he and his family would now be serving as missionaries in Central America. His search for truth had brought him to an unexpected and yet welcome conclusion. His primary desire now is to follow and serve Jesus.
(*Names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)