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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: Where do we go from here?

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairy Published on 18 January 2022

Unfortunately, in our society today, we hear so much about depression and suicide affecting many people. A large part of the population has many mental health problems, and doctors treat many of them with medication, with little success.

The experts tell us that in the wintertime, especially after Christmas, is when this affects most people. Sadly, suicides and suicidal attempts go way up at this time of year. They say part of this is from shorter daylight and the end of the joyous Christmas season. It is a very sad part of our culture today.

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I most certainly can relate. Many years ago, at the very end of December, I nearly committed suicide. If it wouldn’t have been for God’s grace and good doctors, I most certainly would have died. Why did I do it, you ask? I was raised in a terribly abusive home. While it is true that we as a family went to church every week, it was all dead religion. It was impossible for me to see any hope for myself for the future when I was abused daily. Many times, it looked to me that the easiest way out was for me to kill myself.

But one thing terrified me about this: I knew I would have to stand before God someday. As a young person, I once heard Billy Graham preach on TV. His sermon was, “The Great White Throne of Judgment.” Based on Revelation 20:11-15 KJV, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” After hearing Billy read these verses that one time, I never forgot them; they stuck with me down through the years and terrified me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I killed myself, I would end up in the lake of fire for eternity.

Things were so bad, though, that I nearly did kill myself. But after that instance I decided I had better not do it again. I was so terrified of God and the lake of fire. So, for the next two years, I just kept on existing, not knowing what to do. Totally hopeless.

Then, one day, I got a letter in the mail advertising a new book for sale. It was written by Catherine Marshall and called Meeting God at Every Turn. I read the information through a couple of times, trying to comprehend what it was saying. The book’s title just didn’t make any sense to me. I always thought God was way out there somewhere, totally removed from us, and that He was coming back someday to judge us – and I knew I was in big trouble. I knew I was a very wicked, sinful person, and I deserved God’s judgment. But this book’s title totally shocked me – Meeting God at Every Turn. It sounded like God was in this world today and guiding people. It sounded like He loved and cared for people. I had never heard of God like that before – period.

I stood there thinking for a while: Was this woman crazy or a nut, or was there a real God that was in this world today involved in people’s lives? I kept thinking: “I nearly killed myself two years ago, and my life is totally empty now. What do I have to lose by spending a little money and buying this book? I really think this woman is a nut, but what if she is right? Then there might be hope even for me.” I knew the chances of that were very slim, but I wrote out a check and mailed it.

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Several weeks later, the book came in the mail. It was during the busy fall harvest season, so I laid the book on my desk, and over the following weeks, it was buried under other stuff. Winter came, and then Christmas came and went again, and it was totally empty for me.

Jan. 17, 1982 came. It was a bright, sunny, bitter cold day outside. My family had all left earlier that morning, and I was left at home again to finish up all the chores. I got the cattle all fed and taken care of, and then I stood outside the barn door looking over the cold, snow-covered fields and the woods standing leafless in the cold. I thought, “Everything is so cold and dead-looking, just like I feel inside, but what can I do about it?” After thinking about it for a minute, I decided to go to the house. Inside, I noticed a lot of mail piled up on my desk and thought I should go through it -- I didn’t have anything else to do.

As I started going through it, throwing most of it away, I came across Catherine Marshall’s book. I had forgotten all about it. I decided right then to go up to my bedroom and read it; I had to find out about this person and her God. I started reading it, and I was shocked. She told of growing up during the Great Depression and how, as a young girl, she walked forward in church one Sunday and repented of her sins and asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. She went on to tell how she and her family would pray and how God would answer their prayers time and again, and how He would lead and guide them. I had never heard of such a loving, caring God. Her home, her life, her God was totally different than mine.

I got down on my knees by my bed that day and prayed. I confessed my sins to the Lord the best I could. I told Him I was sorry for the wicked, sinful life I had lived and that I was repenting of it. I asked Him to forgive me. I asked Him to be the Lord of my whole life; I was giving it all to Him. If He could use my life in any way at all -- I didn’t see how He could use it -- but if He could, He was free to do with it whatever He would choose.

I got off my knees, and inside I was a different person. I knew Jesus was in me. I knew then if I were to die, I would go to heaven to be with Him. For the very first time in my life, I felt loved. I was amazed at the love and peace inside of me for the very first time in my life. Later on that day, when I went outside to do the evening chores, I was amazed; the cold, lifeless fields and woods didn’t look dead and lifeless anymore. I had a joy and peace inside of me. And I never once thought about suicide after that. I had Jesus inside of me, I had Life. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

And now, 40 years later, I can say God is so good and so loving. He has led and guided me these many years. I’m so glad I didn’t throw my life away. Living for God and following Him is the greatest life possible. God has met me at every turn; He has never failed me. Catherine Marshall was not crazy or a nut.

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If your life is hopeless and empty, like mine was, I can’t urge you strongly enough to turn to God. He’s waiting for you. John 3:16 KJV says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” end mark

Tom Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Contact Tom Heck  or order his book at Tom Heck

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