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We are so thankful that Rick Freed allowed us to share his story with the church. Thank you Rick for using your story to give others hope and comfort right where they are at! 

I grew up in a Christian home, in what I call “Old School” Christianity – we didn’t talk much about God or read the Bible in the home; that was the church’s job.  And I don’t recall my church emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus.  Sermons were more of the ‘feel good’ type that seemingly had no application to my life.  My Dad was a plant manager and in late September, he had been working a lot preparing to open a new plant in Puerto Rico.  After a couple weeks of feeling fatigued, he saw a doctor who told him to go home and tell his family he was admitting him to the hospital.  He had leukemia.

When word spread throughout the church that my Dad had cancer, some of the adults told me that Jesus said in the Bible that if you ask for anything in his name, it would be given to you.  I looked it up and there it was in John 14:14.  I began praying for my Dad to get better and come home.  After a couple weeks, his condition wasn’t any better.  I was beginning to doubt what I had been told and what I had read.  So I started to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ with God.  I bargained for everything I could think of, including changing places with my Dad.  All I heard from God was silence.  Where was he in our time of need?  Why were we being punished?

My Dad’s condition continued to decline, and one day while my mom was sitting with him, he recited from memory Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

A few days later, he slipped into a coma and six weeks after entering the hospital, he died. For the first time in my life, I was in the valley.  At the funeral, those who had tried to comfort me by quoting Scripture patted me on the shoulder and said, “Really sorry about your Dad.”  I remember thinking, “That’s all you have to say?  But you told me the Bible says ….”  My doubts about the Bible and trusting those who believe in it would be cemented for a very long time.

I spent a lot of time that winter being alone, usually walking the railroad tracks that ran behind our housing addition. I should have talked to someone about my feelings, but Mom was doing the best she could to cope with suddenly being mother and father to me, my brother and sister and I couldn’t burden her with one more problem.  I definitely didn’t feel I could trust those in the church...they had burned that bridge.

One day in March, I was walking on the tracks when I saw a train coming.  I decided I wasn’t going to move off the tracks.  I was back in the valley.  I was fifteen years old and didn’t care if I lived or died.  I remember thinking it would only hurt for a second.  At the very last moment, I did step off the tracks but remember feeling very indifferent about it.

For the next twenty years, I did my own thing, never attending church unless I was home visiting Mom, but I was only putting in pew time.  My mind was closed to anything the pastor had to say.  When I was 30, I got married and two years later had a daughter. One morning when my daughter was four years old, I was getting ready for work and my wife told me she wanted a divorce.  I was in the valley once again and felt things couldn’t get any worse.  But I was wrong.  The next day, my boss told me I didn’t have a job.

After leaving my company, I went to work in a retail bakery the owner was considering selling to me. To learn the business, I was working 70-80 hour weeks and seeing my daughter very little.  My ex-wife had remarried and the three of them had become a perfect family and I had nothing.  I quickly came to hate the both of them: my ex-wife for leaving me and taking away my daughter, and her husband because he was now more my daughter’s father than me.  I thought if anyone had earned the right to hate, I had more than paid the price.

The stresses of life and my job were taking their toll on me.  In five months, I lost 30 pounds and I became physically ill every morning driving to the bakery.  My mind kept taking me back to that day on the railroad tracks and I knew I couldn’t allow myself to go there.  I was ready to check myself into a stress center.  My life seemed to be one endless and hopeless valley.

Because of the hours I was working, the only way to find another job was to quit. So I was unemployed, broke and alone. I don’t remember exactly when I committed my life to God but I do remember being on my knees in my apartment and telling God I couldn’t do this alone anymore.  I wish I could say I became an on-fire Christian that night, but that’s not the way it happened for me.  I didn’t realize it then, but I was still carrying all my baggage around with me.  My ex-wife remarried and they both eventually accepted Christ as their Savior as well.  I met my current wife, Diane, and we got married the next year.  Because of her strong faith, and at her suggestion, we started attending church on a regular basis and I even took some classes at a Bible college.  I found that as I grew closer to God my hatred was beginning to fade, although I’ll confess...I fought that for a while.

It took another ten years after accepting Christ as my Savior before I became 100% convinced that it was the hand of God that moved me off the railroad tracks that day.  That was God’s grace for an undeserving soul.  Over time, my heart continued to soften towards my ex-wife and her husband.  Eventually, whenever we had blended family gatherings for one of my daughter’s school functions or birthdays, after finding my daughter, the first person I looked for was her step-dad–the guy I had resented for so long.  I came to realize that despite the history of our relationship, they were my brother and sister in Christ.  God gave me grace again and showed me that forgiveness was possible.  Today, I have a very good relationship with both of them.

I try to frequently remind myself that I’m still very much a work in process.  I’m active in the church serving as a Deacon and being in a small group and part of the mowing crew.  Diane and I sponsor three children in Uganda through Compassion International and have been blessed to travel there the past three years to see them.  In June, we will be returning to see them and I’ll be giving three messages in the Kigungu Deliverance Church on two Sundays and a Wednesday evening.  There’s no way that kid on the tracks could ever have imagined he would be presenting the Gospel one day in Africa or be active in church, but God had a plan.

You have a story too and although it may be different than mine, it’s no less important to God.  When you’re at your lowest, it’s all too easy to tell yourself that your situation is the best it will ever be, but you can’t let situations and circumstances define your life.  That’s what Satan wants you to think. He wants to rob you of the hope that is waiting for you in Jesus Christ.

I believe everyone goes through the valley at some point in their life.  When you’re in the valley, remember, God loves you, He is with you and will never leave you and He has a plan for your life.

 



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