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The day I wanted to die

person, alone, man, silhouette, cloudy
Photo: Unsplash/Kal Visuals

I was sitting in a tree stand deer hunting on the side of a mountain in upstate New York. I had a twelve gauge shot gun which, with its rifled barrel, was short enough to allow me to put my toe on the trigger and place a shot, one that I knew would not cause me any pain. I was far enough away from my home on that mountain that I also knew that it would be medical professionals and not my family who would find my body.

I had watched God provide ninety four thousand dollars to enable me to build a home, which I had intended to use as a residence for troubled youth. Prior to its inception, I had spent several years praying for such a home. When it was finished, it had almost a commercial feel to it, to enable it to withstand the rigors of housing young people with special emotional needs. However, a very important part of my life was missing. For this very sensitive spirited young minister its lack was a daily devastation.

My wife and I had three children, two girls and a boy. I hoped that if over time, I could prove myself to my wife through what I was accomplishing, she would fall deeply in love with me. The emotional infatuation that most people feel when they are dating and are newly weds had quickly worn off on her part. I felt very alone and unloved in a marriage, trapped for the rest of my life. Had I known then that to win her love would require me to help her in a healing process towards her father and men, then I would not have so strongly blamed myself, which intensified feelings of confusing pain. I did get a lot of attention from women who had no way of knowing the longing of my heart to be loved. The rejection issues that I had faced as a child further fanned my desire to be desired. As a young minister, evangelist and most importantly a Christian I knew an affair or even a divorce for such a reason was out of the question. So the inner suffering continued and it fueled a frustration of existence that longed for a way of escape.

Complicating the pain of my present situation was the still raw pain of my past. At age twenty-one I married a girl that I had dated through high school.  She was my first love, the first one I was ever with sexually. One night less than a year after we were married she said to me “Nolan, I never really loved you. You were a nice guy with a nice car and lots of friends. I am moving out and leaving you.” She even got involved with my best friend. Not knowing God, like I know Him today, I did not understand how to find the grace to make it through such a tragedy.

I met my children’s mother about four years later. It had taken me that long just to be able to love again. By that time I had newly rededicated my life to Christ and was recently filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I entered into this new relationship with a graduate of a world famous Christian college holding nothing but hope that it would be wonderful for both of us. However, our marriage became nothing more than mechanical and was more similar to a business arrangement, lacking any romantic element. She shared with me that she chose to get married just so she could have children. Again my heart was devastated.

During that time I was successful as an evangelist holding meetings and seeing many people touched and changed. I was being effective as a youth leader and assistant pastor in our home church. I had almost completed at that point building a 3000 square foot 6 bedroom 3 ½ bath home on the side of that mountain which had, on a clear day a 40 mile view. I was also producing a syndicated radio program for teens called Teen Talk Radio. Yet in spite of all of this, I felt that to my wife, I was nothing.

I just wanted to die! That day as I sat in that tree stand starting to position that shotgun for fatal effect, big white snowflakes began to fall. I had always been fascinated with the mesmerizing beauty of snowflakes. It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart in His still small voice asking “Who is going to be Aaron’s father?” My son Aaron was just two then. He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to me when my children’s mother declared, after she had birthed two daughters that we were done having children. I told her then that God had promised me a son and Aaron had been the fulfillment of that promise. All I can say is that at the words of the Holy Spirit, I started crying. As my tears mixed with those big white snowflakes, I put the gun back in a safe position. Those words were exactly what I needed to hear at that dangerous moment, and highlighted something that I had not thought of before. Thank God for our personal relationship with Him. He knew just what to say.

Today my son Aaron is a lieutenant in the United States Army National Guard. After completing his ROTC training at college, he went on to complete four years of active duty as a paratrooper. He is also an Army Ranger. Last year he was ranked 2nd out of 34 other officers. He will soon make Captain and is highly loved and respected by his peers. He also works a management position in corporate America. My daughters are both teachers and wonderfully loved in their jobs. Thank you Lord that though the marriage eventually ended amicably, you had a wonderful plan. I’m glad you gave me a reason to live!

Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is

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