James MacDonald has defined faith as believing the Word of God and acting upon it, not matter how you feel, because God promises a good result.
My name is Daniel Cook and my life was rocked in 2010. I was raised in a Baptist home until the age of 12 and in fear of God. From a young age I knew about God, Heaven and eternity. And I even knew Jesus was the only way to heaven. I was baptized at a young age and always wanted to be a “good person.”
My parents divorced when I was 13 and life as I knew it drastically changed. Looking back on things now, I truly see God’s love and grace throughout this time. At the age of 14, I met my wife Kristie at a soccer tournament. She was two years older and I was overwhelmed with how she made me feel. Never having kissed a girl, I thought perhaps this could indeed be “the one.” I’m sure you are wondering, and yes indeed, she was my first kiss.
At the age of 15, I was all over the place in my head. With no other options, in my opinion, as a young adolescent I thought death would be better than life. I swallowed approx. 250 pills- whatever I could get my hands on in the medicine cabinet. By God’s grace my life was spared. My mom, single and raising three teenage boys, was at a loss and checked me into Pine Rest. This is where my anger began to take root, along with the art of manipulation. After staying 15 days, the counselors agreed that I could return home. Having no heart change simply just “playing the game” and living a lie, life went on. Yet God was chasing me.
In my junior year of high school, Kristie was pregnant with our oldest daughter Kaitlyn. Being a father I knew my life was forever changed once again. Life was good though. After all, I had a girlfriend, played soccer, lots of friends, and for what it’s worth was even homecoming king. After graduating in June of 1995, Kaitlyn was now a year old and Kristie and I married that September.
The next 14 years of marriage, although difficult, at times was (in my opinion) good. A couple years later, we had a healthy baby boy, Tyler. Two years after that, another beautiful girl, Eyliana. I was the man. New house, new cars, new Harley, travel trailer, four wheelers, and amazing vacations. I owned my own landscaping business. As I knew it, my life was great. I worked hard and played hard. Life, after all, was about me- skydiving, hunting, fishing- whatever I wanted, when I wanted.
Due to poor business decisions and being selfish,my business tanked. All my cars and toys were returned to the bank. All we had after bankruptcy was our house. Needing work, I took a position teaching classes across the country and traveled 5 days a week. Without getting into detail, my disobedience to God was spiraling out of control. Drinking was the norm, coming home with tattoos that I had no business getting, and to my own disappointment and more importantly to Gods, neglecting my wife. Kristie and I decided it would be better for me to get a job where traveling was not needed. God was chasing me and giving me plenty of warning where my life was heading. I didn’t listen!
With my experience in landscaping, I quickly found work and was now able to be home with the family. However, putting my significance in self rather than God was eating away at our marriage. At the time I did not see it, but the continued pressure I put on my wife was building. After all, my significance was found in her and I needed constant approval from her on what a great guy I was.
One day after our 15 year anniversary, my wife and I sat on the front porch of our house. Kristie looked a bit sad and I asked her a question. “Why do you look so unhappy?” Her simple response was ”I’m not happy, I’m done, we need to separate.” I lost a business, lost my toys, and went bankrupt (all due to my poor decisions) and I could handle that. But my wife wanting to separate? I could not handle this. Let’s just say after hearing those words, I felt as if my world had stopped. God had been chasing me and trying to get my attention, and now He had it! I knew in my heart some serious changes needed to be made if there was even a chance.
The next month was an emotional roller coaster for me as Kristie and I both agreed to make this as easy on the kids as possible. We rented another place and would each take a week in our home, while the other would go to the condo.
For the next month it was all I could do to just get out of bed. My brother Dave was there for me and constantly checking in. Drinking became the norm once again, and on two separate occasions, I found myself with a Bible, a fifth of vodka, and a loaded pistol down my throat. I don’t share this with you for anything more than to show you the greatness of our God. God was working and He never gave up.
After a Saturday of drinking, I decided on Sunday to check out Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake. Strategically I came in late and left early. The only thing I remember about this day was watching the praise and worship team singing and thinking of all the times my wife would sing on Sundays, and all I would do was complain about the time Kristie spent practicing. I never encouraged her or let her know how awesome she sounded. Conviction was truly starting to set in. God was working!
I believe it was the next day that Pastor Dave Wisen reached out and asked if I wanted to meet for breakfast. I agreed to breakfast, after all I was a mess and had no idea what to do.
Dave just asked a few simple questions. He started by asking if I would like to talk with someone who is a bit slower to get to the truth or someone who would be in my face. To which my response was “In my face, please!” Dave’s response was “Ok, you will be meeting with me.” I didn’t care who it was. I just wanted my wife back.
One of the hardest times was when Dave asked, “Are you prepared to follow the Lord even if your wife does not return?” “No!” is what I wanted to say. However, with hesitation and doubt, I figured I would try.
Dave gave me a CD series by James McDonald - Lord Change Me. James said something that tugged at my heart: “Faith is believing in the Word of God, acting upon it, no matter how you feel, because God promises a good result. I replayed it over and over again until I had it memorized. Tears began to flow down my face and I was out of control emotionally. I proceeded to pull my truck over and cried out to the Lord for strength and direction.
Let’s just say God and I had a heart-to-heart in that moment. I realized it was my move. God had pursued me and it was time to completely put my trust in Him. My life at that moment was forever changed! And to this day by God’s Grace, continues to change in ways I never imagined!
The story does not end there. God had so much He wanted to teach me and wasted no time getting at it. Conviction was setting in with a vengeance and other things needed to change in my life. Instead of living to please myself and wanting nothing more than my wife back, my heart’s desire needed to be to Glorify Him in everything!
Since leading my wife to the foot of the cross at that time would be rather hard, I knew that resting in Him and leading my children was what I needed to do. When it was my week with the kids, I asked if they would like to join me at church. They all agreed and actually seemed to enjoy it.
Kristie eventually agreed to meet with Dave and Kristen Wisen. On two separate occasions, Kristie walked out of the room angry, “But God” in His grace and love was working on her too.
Kristie did eventually come back to counseling and God slowly started to change her heart. She was obedient to what God was asking her to do and I learned that I needed to keep being the man God called me to be regardless of what she was doing. After approximately three months of living apart, Kristie agreed to move home and give life together a try. I will never forget her agreeing to go to Harvest for the first time. It was Christmas and we were all singing. My heart was pounding, hands were sweaty, and all I could pray was “Lord do your thing! Holy Spirit please show up and do what only you can do.” During the singing, Kristie began to cry! I’ll be honest, I was stoked, after all, I haven’t seen emotion from her in three and a half months. We didn’t discuss anything but I knew God was working! There was another five long months were all I could do was love her like Christ loves the church and show her I cared and to just be thankful she was at least home. We both agreed to join a small group and were placed with Mike and Angie Tuburgen. They loved us, cared for us, and genuinely showed what loving others like Christ is really all about.
There were a ton of ups and downs, but as both of us now wanted to Glorify God, slowly our relationship with each other started to change. We found ourselves both unemployed at one time but God provided opportunities only He could! We remained faithful and continued to keep our eyes on Him. My wife auditioned for the worship team and was soon leading people in worship. Our life together was beginning to change into something I still, to this day, cannot seem to explain in words. There were and still are many trials in our life, however God promises us that there will be trials in our lives in James. The difference now, is we both know where our strength truly comes from!
My wife is now employed at HBCSL and serves on the worship team - (Yes, I cry at times when thinking about it) We have been blessed to lead a small group the last two years.
I get the privilege of teaching Sunday school a couple times a month. We are both involved with Biblical Soul Care counseling others and pointing them to the cross, using our story at times show that there is hope when we truly trust in Him. What God has and is continuing to do in both of our lives is awesome. We are both truly on fire for Him and cannot imagine our lives any differently. We are both blooming where God has planted us, knowing that His work in and through us is not completed. We look forward, and are by His Grace ready for what He has next. My name is Daniel Cook and the Gospel truly did change everything!