One morning, a number of years back, I made plans for my suicide. That very afternoon I met Jesus Christ in a way that changed my whole life forever.
I grew up in an environment that taught me to compete, to strive, to overachieve. As an adult this same attitude marked my life. Even after I was married and had children, my self-worth came from my job. I watched others succeed, and saw that their success lead to more money and admiration. I wanted to be like them. I worked harder and modeled myself after them. As I became more of an achiever and successful in the business sense, I was becoming increasingly less successful as a father and husband.
My identity was tied to my job. Yes, I was religious in the conventional sense. I even took my family to church on Sunday. That year there was a dip in the business, which affected the company, me included, and we found ourselves with a new boss. I threw myself into my job with even greater effort and time.
Meanwhile, at home things were getting worse. My wife was sick and depressed and even hospitalized for a while. Because this was something new, I wondered if it related to my obsession with my job. Things got worse. I began to feel guilty.
Meanwhile my new boss had me take on customer accounts that my former boss had never been able to develop to the satisfaction of the home office. I had built up a good number of customer accounts, but I now found, to my dismay, that these accounts were being transferred to a new sales engineer in the organization. My newly assigned accounts were not developing or buying nearly fast enough, and I was concerned that I would surely experience a drop in what had been a very high salary based on my previous commissions.
I knew I was in trouble and could not seem to work my way out of it. Thinking about failure caused me to realize that I was already experiencing it in other areas of my life. I now knew that I had led a life centered on my job and as a result, I had been a better provider than father or husband. While my wife was going through a period of depression, which caused her to be hospitalized, we had a seventy year old lady caring for our children. All the uncertainty in life which had been an occasional concern to me before, began to increase until I was in a continuous state of anxiety. I realized I was being stripped of my self confidence that was so crucial to my work. I was beginning to think negatively. I began to think that life had dealt me a rotten hand. This in turn led to bitterness and I found myself trying to deal it with by taking to drink. I wondered, would my wife get better? When? Would my job situation improve? There came a point when I became too depressed and found that I had trouble thinking straight.
Things began to worsen to the point that I began to consider suicide. I had hit a low point where I saw suicide as the only way out. It occurred to me one day that I carried a large insurance policy on my life.
It was a cold February day in Cleveland. I was sitting in a fast food restaurant planning my suicide so that it would appear to be an accident. I was startled when a total stranger, a black man, sat down opposite me at my table, made the sign of the cross and began to pray. He proceeded to tell me, unsolicited, how much despair he had known in his life as a salesman and even as a father and husband! He told me that he had felt defeated until he came to know Jesus, who in time had turned his tears to joy.
I sat spellbound as this man, who knew nothing of me, held up a mirror of my own life in the story of his own. He also told me about the answer to my troubles-- believe and turn my life over to Jesus. Something in me told me he was speaking truth, and for the first time ever I did believe. I told him, "You can't imagine how much of what you've said means to me and how it applies to me." I felt hope. Not in me or the circumstances of my life, but in this person, Jesus, whose death and resurrection I came to realize was real and, who was within me. At that point I did something unusual for me. I told him everything about my job, family, sick wife and ultimately what my plan was before he came in and sat down across from me. He listened, looked into my eyes and said, "I don't think you will do that to yourself because Jesus loves you, and I'm going to pray for you every day. I go to church. I go to Communion every morning, and I am going to pray for you, and in two weeks your wife will be out of the hospital. I know God will do this for you."
I left the restaurant a few minutes later believing God had done something to me. I could not explain it, but I now really believed that Jesus Christ was the actual, living Son of Almighty God, and that he died to save mankind, which meant me. Two weeks later, my wife came home from the hospital [read Marge Lynd's story here]. Over the next several years, our lives changed totally- our attitudes, values and our relationship. As I thought back to that encounter in the restaurant, I realized my unknown friend had a personal relationship with Jesus. Now I know that same relationship. Jesus changes everything.
Sam Lynd, Age 41, Sales Representative,
Married 21 years, 5 children
Royal Oak, Michigan
(Originally written in 1979)
How Wtness.org heard of this story: Bob Ovies, the long-time deacon of the now-closed St. Columban church in Birmingham, Michigan, shared with Bill Griffin, Managing Editor of Wtness.org, a book Bob had edited titled "New Lives". In this book was the story of Sam Lynd of Royal Oak, Michigan, who Bob knew personally in 1979 when this story was written. In 2013, Wtness.org's John T. Spencer (penname) mentioned that he attends the same Bible Study as Sam (now retired, and still telling this amazing story every chance he can), and together they worked up this version of the original "New Lives" story.