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I had always thought the world was a wonderful place, full of beauty and love and light. Growing up, the life I imagined for myself looked more like a fairytale than I care to admit. I had plans for my life, big plans. But just as I was coming into my own, just as I was about to seize all life has to offer, my world unraveled when confronted by an evil I never imagined possible. My dad, who I love more than I can ever say, was murdered, and with that loss, all the lofty notions I held about life shattered.
Things like this don’t happen to people like me, I thought. I grew up in a nice, quiet small town. I came from a good, loving family. How could my dad have been murdered? I wondered.
I found myself sitting at a park after the funeral questioning just about everything I thought I knew to be true. Something my mom always said came to mind. “Everything happens for a reason,” she used to say. I pondered this familiar adage for some time, wrestling with my new reality, before crying out, “How could there be a reason for this?” through my anger and tears.
This was not my plan. This was not the path I thought my life would take. And I was angry. Mostly at Anthony, the man who murdered my dad, but it was more than that. I was angry at the lack of sensitivity I saw in the media. I was angry at the indifference of others watching the news coverage. I was angry at our society and its unhealthy fascination with murder. But I was also angry that my life was not turning out the way I thought it should.
It just didn’t seem fair. All those big plans I had for my life were upended by my new awareness of evil. Nothing good can come out of this, I thought. Nothing.
But I was wrong.
The years that followed were characterized more by trying to be okay than actually being okay. Shortly after the murder, I put on my happy mask and decided it was time to move on, and so I did. I buried my pain and went on with my life, hoping my past would stay in the past. But it doesn’t take much to know that unresolved pain rises to the surface at one point or another, regardless of how deep it’s buried.
It took nine years for my pain to resurface, and when it did, I was absolutely stunned by it. My pain showed up in the form of anxiety and depression, something I had never dealt with before. I didn’t know what to do when this monster reared its ugly head. And for the first time in my life, I was presented with something I could not fix. I was able to work through every other struggle in my life prior to this, but this time was different.
I tried everything the world tells you to do in a situation like this. I tried eating better and exercising more. I tried meditation. I tried taking a stress management class. I tried yoga. I tried self-help books. And I even tried taking medication, but it only worsened my condition. Nothing worked. And so with all other options exhausted, it seemed God was my last and only hope.
But I was not a believer. In fact, I was a skeptic. I was one of those people who thought faith was something weak-minded people relied on to get through life. All that stuff in the Bible seemed like a fairytale concocted to tickle ears and make people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But at this point, I had come to the end of myself and saw no other option out of the mess. And so with a fearful heart and an analytical mind, I attended church, fully expecting the God-thing to be yet another rabbit trail that would lead absolutely nowhere. But it wasn’t.
As I listened to the pastor speak, my mind only semi-present due to the anxiety, God did something I never imagined possible. He showed up. He continued to do so time and time again until there was absolutely no denying it was Him, and I received faith.
But I don’t believe I would have ever gotten to that point apart from my dad’s murder, and so the very thing intended to destroy my life would be the thing that would save it. Apart from this terrible tragedy, I would have never experienced true life. God had a better plan than the one I had planned for myself. A messy plan. A plan that included tragedy and loss. A plan that included pain-filled searching. But also included in that plan was my salvation and the call to love and forgive my enemy which ultimately resulted in the beautiful message of hope and redemption that I have been called to share with this world.
Yes. We live in a broken world. A world that involves evil and loss and pain. But apart from the darkness, we would never fully know the light. Only in the darkest of dark does light shine the brightest. Only in a broken world can we see healing and redemption. Love is shown greater in the face of hate. Beauty is all the more beautiful in the face of the ugly.
And what beauty there is to behold in this wonderfully messy world.…
Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, and she is a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve and Crosswalk. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery.
Her new book, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness––which tells an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God––has just been released. It’s available wherever books are sold. Be sure to pick up your copy today!