He’s hosted 11 successful TV shows, written several books, hiked Mount Everest, wrestled an alligator and he holds the world record for the “Highest Open-Air Formal Dinner Party”—in a hot air balloon at 7,600m. Bear Grylls is known for his insane accomplishments, wild ways and impressive survival skills, but also for his faith in God.
From a young age, Edward Michael “Bear” Grylls embodied adventure.
He learned to climb great heights and sail great waters. As he grew up, it’s no surprise that he had a tendency to run toward danger. He admits he was a difficult child to raise.
At eight years old, Grylls became a Cub Scout. He earned a dan black belt in Shotokan Karate when he was only 11, and by the time he was a teenager, skydiving had been crossed off his list of exhilarating activities. At just 23, he was one of the youngest in the world to scale Mt. Everest.
“I had a very natural faith as a kid,” Grylls told Relevant Magazine. “As a really young kid, I never questioned God. I just knew God existed and it felt like He was my friend.” Grylls often refers to his Christian faith as the “backbone” in his life. But he admits that believing hasn’t always been as easy as it was when he was a kid. “It’s been a kinda wiggly, messy journey that is still continuing,” Grylls says.
It wasn’t until high school that his faith was tested. Grylls began meeting ‘believers’ that distorted his view of Christianity.
“When I got to school it [Christianity] became a lot more religious and I thought, ‘I don’t like this,’” he told CBN. “It was all about church-going and people telling you not to smoke behind the bike shed. I thought, ‘If this is God, maybe I’ve got the whole deal wrong.’ So I kind of ditched my faith.”
As he abandoned his faith, Bear took that dangerously-alive spirit he was born with and rebelled. With stories of surviving a sinking mud-pit, or being kicked out of prep school for kissing the headmaster’s daughter, his teenage years would make even the worst teenagers look like angels.
But at 16, Grylls lost his godfather—who had been like a second father to him. The grief was too much for him to bear, and not knowing where to turn, Bear looked to God for comfort.
“I remember wanting to pray, but not knowing how to,” he recalled. Grylls climbed up a tree and cried out to God. “Will you be that friend to me that you were at five or six when it felt natural?” he asked.
It was that simple prayer, a moment of surrender that finally led Bear to once again “find his faith” in Jesus Christ, and rediscover what he had in his youth.
“It was no more complicated than that. And actually the amazing thing is that all God asks is that we sort of open the door and He’ll do the rest. So often we kinda hide behind our yearning for love and acceptance with loads of complicated theological questions, and actually once that’s stripped away, what we really are is just somebody who wants to have that relationship with your Father.”
Grylls says he found comfort in realizing that following Jesus wasn’t about the religion. In fact, Jesus was “the least religious person you’ll meet.”
“Christianity is not about religion, it’s about faith, about being held, about being forgiven. It’s about finding joy and finding home… I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t want to be forgiven or held or find peace or joy in their life. We try loads of other stuff—we think booze or foxy women or whatever will fill it—but it doesn’t fill the hole.”
That was only the beginning. With restored faith in Christ, Grylls joined the ‘Territorial Army’ (Army Reserve UK) straight out of high school. It was there where he learned, developed and taught many of the survival skills he’s best known for today.
In 1996, Grylls survived an unimaginable parachuting accident in Zambia. His parachute ripped and opened partially, causing him to free-fall and land on his back. The accident almost took his life, but by the grace of God, Bear survived.
Just 18 months after that accident, Bear fulfilled his childhood dream of reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, in Nepal. He met his future-wife, Shara, while training for the climb, and the couple married in 2000.
Though the newlyweds were on top of the world (literally), they were faced with the reminder of their constant need for God when both of their fathers tragically died within the year following their wedding.
“Losing my dad when we had just got married was a really tough one,” he admitted in an interview with The Telegraph. “Suddenly it was like, ‘Bang! OK. How are we going to pay the electricity bill? How are we going to look after our mothers?’ I felt totally thrown in the deep end. It always felt too early. We had to lean on each other, and that was when our marriage really started.”
Grylls doesn’t claim to be a perfect Christian. In fact, many of the deepest struggles he’s faced are what caused him to turn to Christ. He attributes his successes in life, marriage and adventure all to his faith in Jesus Christ.
“Jesus never said, ‘I’ve come so you can feel smart and proper and smiley and religious,’” Grylls told Relevant Magazine. “[Faith] is about finding life and joy and peace. I am not at church a lot because I’m away a lot, so I kind of cling to the simple things, like, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ and ‘I’m holding you by your right hand.’ The simple things is what I try to keep my faith like. Jesus is unchanging and we are forgiven.”
Bear and Shara have three sons, Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry. As a family man, Grylls is strongly aware of the risks he takes for his adventurous lifestyle. “Life is risky. If we embrace it, look after each other and learn how to manage risk, we are all better off,” he says. “I for one do not want to reach the end of my life in a perfectly preserved body. I want to come flying in sideways, covered in scars, beaten up and screaming: ‘Yahoo! What a ride!’”