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Standing Up To The Emptiness

Matt Lauster's Story


I just wanted to go home, but I couldn't.

My family lost our house in Las Vegas, and I was moving to Columbia, S.C. with my mom. I didn’t want to move, but I was 16, and I didn’t have a choice. It was raining when we landed, and as we drove to our new house, I just stared out the window, with an empty feeling in my stomach. The day we left was the start of my depression; I fell into a black hole.

I felt full, I felt free, and the emptiness was gone.

A Place to Belong

My new high school was nothing like my old one. I just didn’t fit in. I tried so many different ways to fill the emptiness. I spent Thanksgiving with my dad in Vegas and wanted to stay, making plans to move back at Christmas. But on my second trip, it didn’t feel the same. My friends had moved on, and I was actually glad to return to my mom and the few friends I'd made in South Carolina.

But I still didn't feel like I belonged.

My friend’s mom invited me to come to NewSpring. The day I attended, they showed a video story of a man who struggled with depression, drinking and drugs. When he talked about how Jesus saved him and gave him a plan for his life, I realized if Jesus did that for him, maybe He could do the same for me.

Pastor Perry told us to stand up if we wanted to receive Christ. I didn’t want people to see me, so I stared at the floor telling myself “I'm not standing,” but I found myself standing anyway and asking Jesus to come into my life and take control. In that moment I felt full, I felt free, and the emptiness was gone.

Walking Alone, Walking Away

I stopped drinking and went to church for several months, but I still felt alone. I didn't join the youth group or a small group, and I was afraid to invite my friends. I tried to read the Bible, but it confused me, so I stopped.

With no real support around me, I had nothing holding me back from my old habits. I could feel the dark hole pulling me in again.

The night of my junior prom, wanting to fit in, I drank with my friends. I was hung over the next day, so I decided to stay home and watch the church service online, but I fell asleep. I didn’t go the Sunday after that either.

I continued drinking, telling myself, "You already did it once, you might as well keep on." The emptiness returned. The more I drank, the more I felt like I wasn’t good enough to go back to church.

Home for Good

Then my friend's mom called, saying that someone backed out of going to Gauntlet, the summer youth retreat, so I could go for free. I thought maybe Jesus is still pursuing me, so I went.

During the first night's sermon, Jesus got my attention. He spoke to my heart, saying no matter how far I’d walked away, He still wanted me. I decided I was tired of running. I prayed, telling Jesus I never wanted to go back to my old life. I just wanted to come home.

I started inviting friends to come to NewSpring, and several of them gave their lives to Jesus. I'll never forget that feeling.

Now I’m thinking of going into student ministry. And I'm going back to the Gauntlet this year as a leader. Before Jesus, I couldn't even see myself living past age 20. Now all I want is to help other teenagers come to know Him and avoid the struggles I went through.

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