Rachel McBetween the ages of 0-23, I came close to dying five times. Once I fell forty feet out of a tree but only fractured three vertebras; there was not a bruise on my body!

I remember the doctor looking rather shocked that I was alive, let alone, able to walk. Many thought an angel must have broken my fall. I knew God had his arms around me. However, as a twelve year old, I was just disappointed to spend my Spring break indoors recovering!

Growing up in a Christian family, life always looked pretty perfect. My parents were still married and my siblings and I were healthy. I thought I had it pretty good. It was as if I was in a bubble where my world was always sunny and it only rained on the outside. Nothing prepared me for ‘the rain’ coming my way.

As a little girl my father was my hero. I loved sitting on his lap, dancing with him as I stood on his feet, and generally spending as much time with him as possible. Nothing tainted my view of him. Then the rain seeped into my perfect little bubble. My dad told me a long time family secret – a secret as old as I was. As a well-respected leader of a Christian organisation, he had fallen from grace, committing adultery. Everything I thought I knew of my father within an instant had been turned upside down. I tried to put on a brave smile but this secret began to tear me apart. My relationship with my dad began to deteriorate and it even affected my parents’ marriage. Mom would take my side when I got upset, which only frustrated my already guilt-ridden father more. I could no longer be in the same room as my hero.

Anxiety overtook me. I would have panic attacks in the middle of my high school. Sadness, heartache, sleepless nights, lack of appetite took over. I was done and ready to go home. Being with Jesus seemed like the perfect solution. I had not slept in days, was not eating properly, and on various medications. I felt so far from myself. My heart was broken; my world had crumbled around me.

On September 30, 2006 I took a massive overdose. My mom found me passed out and I was rushed to the local hospital and immediately transferred to a larger hospital in Portland. I remember vaguely the men in the ambulance trying to keep me awake. Everything was a blur but I overheard a conversation between a doctor and my mom – they could only wait and see if I would make it through the night. All of a sudden I realised the magnitude of what I had done and the consequences of my thoughtless decision hours earlier. In that moment I did the only thing I could. I quietly uttered a prayer of desperation. “Lord, if You are willing, if You still love me, despite what I’ve done, please…please save me.” Eight more hours passed and my body began to calm down. I was coming back to life. I became more aware of everything around me. God had answered my prayer. I knew He still loved me, but I couldn’t believe why. I was transferred to a children and teen’s psychiatric unit for the next week. Tiffany was a psychiatric nurse on my ward and she was a Christian. She gently approached me and said, “Rachel, I’ve seen your chart and I know you are a Christian. I’m a Christian too and I’ve asked to be assigned to your case today.” She encouraged me and reminded me how much God loved me and spoke of the wonderful plans He had for me.

Three months after being discharged I was in a nearly fatal car accident. My parents were legally divorced the following day. I broke several bones and could not walk properly for 6 months, but God graciously restored me back to great health. In October 2007, at the age of 17, my mom left my brother and me. She met a man on e-harmony, married him, and moved a few States away with him. The truth of a verse in Psalm 27 became my lifeline. “Even though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” This sustained me through those dark days.

More than five years later, I sit here in England, writing these vivid but distant memories. God has transformed my life completely. My story is now one of hope, healing, forgiveness and restoration. I’ve had the incredible opportunity of sharing my story with hundreds of teenagers, helping those with similar problems. I am happily married to a godly man who works as the youth-worker in our church. We have a beautiful son born in July 2013 and we couldn’t be more excited about this new story.

My true hero has never left me. He has never abandoned me. He has always been faithful and I know that He will never fail me. He died for me that I might live, and have life to the full. His love has changed my life.