At 10:00 am, on, January 1 2000, my life changed forever. Upon entering the upstairs bedroom of the apartment where my wife and myself lived, I found her lying on the bed, not breathing. I would find out a few hours later, that a reaction between Tylenol and Alcohol, had stopped her liver from functioning, and stop her breathing.
After a call to 911, within a few minutes, several emergency vehicles arrived, and a team of technicians were working in a fight for her life. There was no pulse and no breathing, after their repeated attempts. So they rushed her to the hospital.
As I paced and waited in an emergency waiting room, a hospital Deacon name Grant, came in to comfort me. As the unbearable minutes passed, Grant asks if I would like to pray, and I nodded yes. For the first time in my life I prayed with him, to God, who I knew existed, but who I never really knew.
An hour passed the doctor came in. He informed me there was no brain activity, and very little hope. He said they were running some final tests that would take about an hour. Grant had been called out of the waiting room, and I began to think about what our lives had been like. I felt my drinking problem, and my lack of ability to open my heart in love to my wife, had led to her drinking. I knew that my actions and lack of love had played a part in what had happened to her. I knew that I couldn't bear to face life without her, and the events of the coming hours and days. So I decided that after I received the final confirmation that there was no hope for her, I would return home to our apartment, and take my own life.
I stood on the edge of eternity, and felt that surely my fate would be Hell. But because I felt responsible for what happened, and because I was in Hell at that moment, I didn't care.
Grant came back into the room, and he asked if I would like to pray again, and I again nodded yes. This time it was different, because at this point my life was over, and my eternity was set. Then as we prayed I turned my life over to God. I had always believed in God, I thought at some point in my life I would find out who He really was. But now that time had come, and in a moment He revealed to me that He is Love, God is Love.
I realized that if I took my own life I would never see Margaret again. I realized that was not what God wanted, and that was not what Margaret would want. So I began to pray myself, for God to give me strength to go on, and He did. The next morning at 7:00 am, on January 2 Margaret passed away.
I know that I could not have made it through the days and weeks that followed, without God's help, and I prayed many times a day. I began to understand and know, that this life is very temporary, and that all those that love God will be together with Him forever. As I prayed I could feel the power of God in me, and during some of the worse times, God's Love brought me peace. Soon I wanted to know more about God's love, the plan that He had for us, and how that plan was fulfilled through his son Jesus. I encountered some unexpected surprises along the way as God led me, and taught me. God would show me things and reveal things to me that some would call coincidences, but my mathematical background with probabilities in engineering, would confirm to me they were not coincidences.
I spent a week at my sisters, before returning home. One morning as I stood looking out a bedroom window, I noticed a Bible on a bookshelf. I had promised God that as soon as I could think straight I would read and study the Bible. Something told me just to pick it up and read anything, so I did. I turned to the verse:
2 Corinthians 7:9-10
Ö 9yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
I knew that this was a message from God to me, and that He was telling me that I would not study the Bible to please Him, I would study so that His words could help me.
After returning back home, and to work, I now found myself waking up early every morning. I soon found a show called "Through the Bible with Les Feldick". Les Feldick teaches Bible classes on TV all across the country, and he has been teaching the Bible for 30 years. His show is prerecorded and is at different points in the Bible, depending on when they started showing it. It just so happen when I started watching the show he was just finishing his teachings on Acts, and starting into Romans. It just so happened that he, and most others, say this is exactly where a new Christian should start studying.
I had remembered that several months before this had happened that Margaret had received the book "Power for Living". I had been concerned about Margaret's relationship with the Lord, but I knew that she was one of the most loving people that I had ever met, and I would just have to have faith in the Lord. I knew she had attended church before we had met, but we had never discussed our beliefs. One morning as I was watching Les's show, something told me to get out the book. I was hesitant, because I didn't know what to expect, but as I opened the book I found she had turned down five pages. One of the pages was a prayer which read:
Dear God . I've been living my life my own way. Now I want to live it Your way. I need You and I am now willing for You to take control of my life. I receive Your Son Jesus Christ, as my personel Saviour and Lord. I believe He died for my sins and has risen from the dead. I surrender to Him as Lord. Come, Lord Jesus, and occupy the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.
Over the next several weeks with the help of Les's teaching, the teachings of others, and my mother, I wrote a few simple pages about what I learned about becoming a Christian. I shared these questions and answers with family and friends, and I put them on an Internet site I built to share with others. The name of the site is www.JustHaveFaith.org.
One of the hardest times was about 6 weeks later, when I traveled back to Illinois, where Margaret had been laid to rest, to spend her birthday with her mother, and the rest of the family. I knew it would be a terribly difficult time for all of us, and that we all needed to be together to comfort each other. On Sunday morning the day before her birthday I decided to attend a local church there. Her family were not regular members of a church there, so I decided just to attend one that was near by. There were probably 50 to 80 churches in town to choose from. As I waited for the service to start, I noticed a man that looked familiar, but I thought I was mistaken, because I didnít really know anyone there. Then I realized he was the Pastor there, and the man that had spoken at Margaret's funeral. We talked after the service, and I told him about the things the Lord was doing in my life, and told him about the Internet site I had built.
As the weeks went by I continued to study, and looked for answers to the many questions that I had wondered about Christianity all my life. I began searching through over 3000 pages of transcripts of Les Feldick's teachings that were posted on his Internet site, from his ten years of teachings. As I found the answers to these questions, I got his permission to post them on a new Internet site called www.HaveFaith.org. These answers help me to build my faith and fully understand God's plan, and I wanted to share them with others. Les has a way of presenting answers in such a simple way to understand, directly from the scripture.
I had purchased the Bible program Quick Verse Version 6 to help with my studies. Every day when you start the program, it gives you an inspirational message for that day. The messages are from a Book called "My Utmost for His Highest", which I believe was written around 1945. I noticed on several occasions the messages almost seem to be speaking directly about some question or problem I had in my life that day. If fact they were so direct at times that on one of these occasions, something told me to go back to January 1 to see what the message was for that day. In part the message read:
"Ö my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:20).
My Unstoppable Determination for His Holiness. "Whether it means life or deathóit makes no difference!" (see 1:21). Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing exactly what God wanted. But before we choose to follow Godís will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to Godís gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decideófor or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.
The most unusual and important message from God came to me around April. I was Baptized on February 12 at Southeast Christian Church. In April, for the first time since my baptism I met with the Deacon that had helped and advised me, Doug Merrill. We talked about how I was getting through each day with God's help, and the wonderful things I was learning. Doug mentioned that there were several books by Max Lacado that had very inspirational messages that might help in my journey to build my faith. I had never heard of him, being a relatively new Christian, so I wrote his name down. That was Saturday, and I returned home that following Monday. When I arrived home Monday afternoon, I found a package in the door. As I went in I looked at the package, and it was from Grant (the Deacon from the Hospital). I opened it and it was the book, "Six Hours One Friday" by Max Lacado. I thought this was more than a coincidence, since I had not heard from Grant for several months, and Grant and Doug did not know each other.
As I read the book, I enjoyed each story, but I wasn't sure if there was some special message I was supposed to get from it. Then I came to the story. It was a modern day version of the story from Matthew 9:18-26, where Jesus raises a girl from the dead. In Max Lacado's story it took place in a modern day setting, but it was the same story. A man who was Jesus came and brought her back to life. The next morning as the family sat around the table, still in shock, the father turned to the girl and he said princess, "What was it like". The girl replied "itís a secret", "it's too good for words". Then it hit me. I remembered our return trip home the day before this happened, after visiting with our families, Margaret had made a comment to me. She said she knew that after the first of the year all of her problems would be gone. She had a problem with drinking, she was always depressed, and we had many difficulties in our relationship. I asked her what she meant, how did she know all her problems would be gone. She said she couldn't exactly describe the feeling, but that she could just feel it. It was like some type of spiritual feeling of peace. So I dropped the subject.
God is real, He is alive, He loves us, and He speaks to us if we will only listen. No matter how big our problems may seem in our everyday life, they are nothing in comparison to loosing someone we love. God gave the life of His son so that we would understand how much He loves us. God is Love, and with God there is hope, but without Him there is none.
Email Paul Hartley or visit his website