“I jumped full speed into everything college had to offer,” said Justin McVeigh. “My first semester was marked by very little sleep, a lot of partying, inappropriate relationships with girls, and struggling with a pornography addiction that started when I was in high school. I experienced overwhelming stress as I put on a front to my Christian friends and parents while also trying to keep perfect grades.
“I became involved in a student ministry on campus several of my older fraternity brothers were a part of. It was more to ‘check a box’ and assure my parents I was doing the right things than something I truly wanted to be a part of. Regardless of my disinterest, I was surrounded by faithful Christians and exposed to the goodness of God through this ministry. Looking back, I see this was just another way the Lord was continually chasing me.
“One morning after a long night of partying, I woke up and felt drastically different. It wasn’t the same hungover feeling I was familiar with. I was truly overwhelmed by my sin for the first time. God was convicting me and showing me that I was missing something.
“Earlier that semester, I signed up for a conference with the student ministry after being invited by older fraternity brothers. I originally had no intent of actually going, but after talking with my parents and processing my feelings of discontentment and conviction, they encouraged me to go.
“At the conference, I heard the gospel – the truth that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and offers the gift of eternal life to all who trust in Him. I had heard those words so many times before, but for some reason, this time I really listened. For the first time, I realized I didn’t have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. While I knew Jesus died for my sins, I had never taken steps to know Jesus and make Him Lord of my life. This was the start of a gradual realization that the faithful Christians around me lived lives that were radically different than mine.
“For a brief period, I practiced spiritual disciplines and read my Bible, but I didn’t have strong community or accountability. By the time college ended, I was right back to making the same sinful decisions. I wasn’t falling off the ‘deep end’ in the eyes of the world, but I was not living in a way that was glorifying to the Lord.
“After graduation, I shifted focus to finding success in my career. I adapted to the ‘work hard, play hard’ culture quickly when I got my first job in finance. My job required long hours and I used this as an excuse to not get involved in a local church. I struggled with anxiety and stress at work, and numbed these feelings with alcohol. Although I'd found some freedom from my porn addiction previously, it came crawling right back in my isolation.
“I started coming to Watermark and forming new friendships, but no one around me knew what I was going through. I really felt alone and empty. I knew a life in Christ offered more than what I was experiencing, I just didn’t know how to get there.
“I called my dad and explained that I felt like I was at rock bottom. He encouraged me to share with my new friends what I was struggling with and going through. Although I barely knew one of the guys, I took my dad’s advice. I shared for the first time everything I was struggling with in my life. It was freeing to be completely known and accepted. I realized that even during my struggles, God put people in my life who were willing to fight with me.
“With encouragement from my parents and new friends, I took steps to join a community group at Watermark and started counseling. Living in authentic community has been one of the biggest vehicles the Lord has used to help me find freedom from my struggles. Through my roommates and community group, I’ve learned what faithfulness and obedience to God looks like.
“So many things in my life changed when I fully surrendered to Christ and His plan. I still have a strong work ethic, but my motivation has completely changed. My first year out of school, I was motivated by the hopes of big bonuses and approval from my senior partners. Now, I am driven because I know the Lord has entrusted me with a career and specific gifts.
“I don’t have a clean ‘bow on top’ ending to my story. I’m still wrestling with the combination of a demanding job and being a faithful follower of Christ at work. I am learning that just because I don’t work for a church or have a job with a flexible schedule doesn’t mean I can’t honor the Lord every day. There is always an opportunity to reflect Christ in my actions, words, and behaviors.
“Through my struggles and uncertainties, I am confident I can go to the Lord exactly as I am. For so long, I didn’t know I could go to Him with sadness or frustrations. God has been and is faithful through His Word and His people to continually show me that He will catch me in His arms no matter what I’ve done.”