Bear Grylls may be known for his wild ways and impressive survival skills, but there’s a side of Bear Grylls many haven’t seen. Bear Grylls believes in God. And if you meet him in person, you’ll quickly learn that he’s unashamed to tell you so.
But Grylls doesn’t claim to be a perfect Christian. In fact, he admits that many of his life’s deepest struggles are what caused him to turn to Christ.
Edward Michael “Bear” Grylls was born on June 7th, 1974, in Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland. At one-week-old, Grylls’ elder sister and only sibling, Lara Fawcett, gave him the famous nickname that’s stuck to this day: “Bear”.
Born to conservative politician, Sir Michael Grylls and his wife, Lady Sarah Grylls — daughter of politician, Patricia Ford; it’s safe to say that Grylls had a fairly prestigious childhood.
When he was 4-years-old, Grylls’ family shifted to Bembridge village on the easternmost point of the Isle of Wight — it was there that young Bear’s wild ways would begin.
From an early age, the adventurous little tyke learned to climb and sail with his father, who was a member of the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron. But Bear’s curious ways and tendency to run towards danger made him a difficult child to raise.
Grylls admitted, “I behaved badly at school, perhaps in part because Dad was working very hard, and often late. My mum, as his assistant, worked beside him. I remember once biting a boy so hard that I drew blood, and then watching as the teachers rang my father to say they didn’t know what to do with me. My father said he knew what to do, and came to the school at once. With a chair placed in the middle of the gym, and all the other children sitting cross-legged on the floor around him, he whacked me until my backside was black and blue.”
Bear became a Cub Scout at the age of eight, earning a dan black belt in Shotokan Karate when he was eleven, and learned to skydive as a young teen, and also was one of the youngest in the world to scale Mt. Everest at 23. Grylls’ formative years were quite impressive, but all the while, he clung to his Faith in Jesus Christ.
“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.”
Young Grylls’ adventurous spirit and wild heart didn’t make it easy on his parents — and he has an endless amount of escape stories to prove it.
Grylls shared, “My mother was forever having to lock me in my bedroom for trouble-making, but she would then get concerned that I might run out of oxygen, so she had a carpenter make some air-holes in the door. I worked out that, with a bent-over coat-hanger, I could undo the latch through the air-holes and escape. It was my first foray into the world of adapting and improvising, skills that have served me well over the years.”
In high school, Grylls came across several ‘believers’ that distorted his view of Christianity, and over time, Bear abandoned his Faith.
“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.”
With stories like miraculously surviving a sinking mud-pit, and getting dismissed from prep school for kissing the headmaster’s daughter; Grylls’ teenage years make even the wildest teenagers appear to be saints.
Bear reflected back on his rebellious ways, “I would explore all the forbidden areas of the school and grounds, and I knew I was faster and more agile than any of the security guards. One night, I attempted an ascent of the 120ft-high school library dome. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a pupil before me, had conquered it by improvising a stepladder. I used the lightning conductor.”
But everything changed at age 16, when Grylls lost his godfather — who had been like a second father. Crushed with grief and not knowing where else to turn, Bear looked to God.
“I remember wanting to pray, but not knowing how to,” he recalled to CBN. Grylls climbed up in a tree and poured his heart 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 of surrender that finally led young Grylls to “finding his faith” in Jesus Christ once again. Grylls says he soon learned that religion has nothing to do with entrusting your life to Christ, and in fact, Jesus Himself was “the least religious person you’ll meet.”
Bear told Relevant Magazine, “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.”
With a restored faith in Christ, Grylls joined the ‘Territorial Army’ (Army Reserve UK) after high school and worked at the Special Air Service unit of the army for three years. While there, Grylls was a combat survival instructor and learnt demolitions, parachuting, unarmed combat, evasive driving and trauma medic.
During a SAS skydive in 1996, Grylls survived a horrifying parachuting accident in Zambia. His parachute ripped at 16,000 ft, partially opening, causing him to free-fall and land on his back. The accident partially crushed three vertebrae — and almost took his life, but by the grace of God, Bear survived.
According to his surgeon, Grylls came “within a whisker” of being paralyzed for life and it was questionable whether he would ever be able to walk again. Grylls spent the next 12 months in and out of military rehabilitation at Headley Court.
On 16 May 1998 — just 18 months after his horrific accident, Grylls achieved his childhood dream of climbing to the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal.
Twenty-four-year-old Grylls registered his name in the ‘Guinness Book of Records’ as the youngest Briton to climb Ama Dablam, a peak described by Sir Edmund Hillary as “unclimbable”.
But a world record wasn’t the only gift Everest brought him. Grylls met his future-wife while training to climb the world-famous mountain — and it took a special kind of woman to capture the adventurous heart of Grylls.
Bear met his wife, Shara, at a very inconvenient time. He had finally recovered from his parachute accident and was focused on preparing and training for the climb of his life – the summit of Mount Everest – which was only months away.
That’s when he noticed her. Grylls was attempting a “training hike” for Everest, and with every step, the danger grew. All of the girls began to get frightened, some even to the point of tears, at the difficult terrain. All but one — a beautiful young lady by the name of Shara Cannings Knight persevered and kept her composure.
It was indeed, love at first sight. And from that moment forward, the two wild-hearted adventurers were inseparable and have been together ever since.
In a very unconventional marriage proposal, Grylls “popped the question” while skinny dipping.
Grylls revealed, “I pulled out the ring from my butt cheeks,’ the TV personality explained during an episode of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories with a grin on his face. Despite the bizarre proposal, Shara said ‘Yes’.”
The match-made-in-heaven tied the knot in 2000. Soon after, the couple went for relationship counseling — despite many of his friends thinking they were ‘nuts’ for doing so.
Grylls explained, “We figured that if [marriage] was the most important thing we were ever going to do, we should do everything we could to stop it breaking in the first place. At our wedding, we asked our guests for their best marriage advice. We got some gems of replies but the best came from a couple who had been married for 50 years. It was also the simplest: ‘Never stop holding hands.’ That’s what Shara and I have always tried to do, both physically and metaphorically.”
But within a year of their wedding, Grylls’ father – the most inspirational figure in his life – passed away at the age of 66. And a few months later, Shara also tragically lost her father. The newlywed couple was crushed and devastated beyond belief.
“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.”
In an emotional interview, Grylls could barely talk through the grief and struggled to describe just how much his father meant to him.
It was at this low point that the couple decided to attend the “Alpha Course” in Christianity; a 10-week course on the basics of Christianity launched by the Rev. Charles Marnham in London. God sovereignly used this Christian course to cement the couple’s faith.
Grylls told CBN, “It helped us in a very low-key, un-pressured way to explore some big questions. Faith has been the wildest ride. And Jesus — the heart of the Christian faith is the wildest, most radical guy you’d ever come across. He was always hanging around with the prostitutes and the tax collectors and having parties and banquets, and I found myself drawn to that character, not the kind of fluff that we like to box as religion.”
And despite all of his accomplishments, Bear Grylls considers his Faith and family his greatest joys. Bear shared that he’s committed to honoring his bride, and plans weekly date nights.
He explained that activities don’t have to be “expensive or fancy” — it’s more about spending quality time together. “Togetherness is what it’s all about,” he added.
Bear and Shara have three sons, Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry — the last of whom was born on their Thames River houseboat — the same “fixer-upper” they purchased just before their wedding. As a family man, Grylls points to his and Shara’s shared faith as the foundation of their marriage.
“We’ve been married almost 10 years, and that’s been a great glue to our family, actually. I look back now and I think it’d be really hard without that faith together — that sustained us.”
Recently, Grylls shared that he believes that husbands and wives should love their spouse “above everything else” – even the children.
Grylls explained, “Couples often think that the kids should always come first, but smart couples know that the best foundation for the family is their relationship. In protecting that, they can then best love their children.” Grylls added, “If you ever think the grass is greener on the other side of the hill… it’s time to start watering your own.”
He’s hosted eleven successful television shows, authored several books, and accomplished dozens of personal goals such as hiking Mount Everest, becoming the youngest Chief Scout ever (at the age of 34-years-old), wrestling an alligator, and holding the world record for the “Highest Open-Air Formal Dinner Party” — held in a hot-air balloon at 7,600m.
But despite his many achievements, Bear Grylls remains a humble family man who honors his wife and trusts in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Bear Grylls told Relevant Magazine, “Sometimes it’s hard for us to believe, really believe, that God cares and wants good things for us and doesn’t just want us to go off and give everything up and become missionaries in Burundi. And some people are just scared, and they go, ‘Oh, God just wants me to be religious,’ but actually He just loves us. He just wants us to be with Him, and that’s been a journey to discover that. That’s one of the big questions I asked, was that, you know: ‘If You do exist, are You cozy? Are You what my heart really aches for?’
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.”
“The simple things is what I try to keep my faith like: Jesus is unchanging and we are forgiven… 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!’” – Bear Grylls
Praise God for His redeeming love and grace! While listening to Bear Grylls’ inspiring story, I just couldn’t help but think of Colossians 1:13-14 which reads,
“God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.”
Thank you, Bear Grylls, for sharing your inspiring message of Faith! America needs more Christ-followers like you! Please share if you agree!