“He’s going to hell because of me!” I screamed at my dad as he continued to tell me that my brother had been found dead. I wailed and fell to the ground as I realized that an event I thought couldn’t happen to a “good Christian girl” was at that moment, shattering my world. How was it possible that something so horrific, as four boys losing their lives, could be related to me? What did I do wrong, to deserve this?
I stared out my bedroom window for the next 2 weeks until his funeral, not knowing how to process what had just happened, jumping up every time I thought I heard the garage door opening and his car pulling up into the driveway. I thought to myself, “Why did I let my desire of wanting to look “cool” in front of my big brother keep me from sharing Jesus with him? What if I never see him again?”
Saturday, January 19, 2008 I walked into my 18 year old brother’s funeral with a fake smile on my face, pretending to be strong and that I was fine. The truth was, I wasn’t. I walked up on stage ready to sing the song I had written for him. I was able to get out the first half of the verse, till I looked over at my older brother, sitting with our high school’s orchestra, as he had one single tear fall down from his cheek. The accompanist carried on playing while I looked out at the crowd of 500 who had come to celebrate my brother’s life. Tears began to flow. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I stood there, frozen, trying not to break down in front of everyone. I stepped down from the stage and ran to the bathroom, where I fell on the floor and cried harder than I ever had. For the first time, I yelled at God. I couldn’t understand how he could take my brother away from me, how he could let someone so young, die. It wasn’t fair.
A friend walked into the bathroom and picked me up off the ground. She wiped my tears and told me it’s going to be okay. But I knew it wouldn’t be. How could it? My brother had been drinking, smoking, partying, and doing drugs. I grew up in church, so I knew where he was headed. I told God at that moment, that the only way I could be okay, is if I knew I would see my brother again.
As my brother’s friend walked me back into the ceremony, I stood at the back door as I saw a young Asian man, I had never seen before, standing at the pulpit. I wondered why my parents would let some stranger speak at my brother’s funeral. The man continued on saying how he knew my brother. He was a pastor. A pastor of a Korean church that some of my brother’s friends attended. It was his next sentence that changed everything. “A week before James’ car accident, he gave his heart to the Lord.”
It was at that moment that I had felt the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” It was as if God, himself, said to me, “you’re going to be okay.” With my heart filled with hope, with strength, with unexplainable joy, I walked down the aisle and sat with my family.
A few days later, I was asked to speak at a candlelight memorial service in honor of the 4 boys who had lost their lives. I prayed that God would help me to know what to say and….. He did. I shared about the person my brother was, a person who wanted to bring joy to all those around him, and… he did. As I shared my brother’s story, the Lord had me challenge almost 400 teens to seek God in this situation, to allow hope to be restored in their lives through Him. As a result, multiple teens gave their life to Jesus!
God was going to bring beauty out of this disastrous event. I was beginning to believe that He had a bigger purpose for my life than I could think of for myself. But as I tried to search for that purpose, I began filling up all my time doing things for God, that I stopped making time with God. I thought if I kept myself busy, then I could distract myself from the pain of losing my brother. I graduated high school and continued on with my life, not realizing that the harder I tried to be okay, the more broken I became and the farther from God I fell. I began living a life full of partying, going out to clubs, and dating guys who were emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to me. My life full of distractions from pain (or so I thought), were now causing more pain than I had ever felt.
Years went by, as I lived a double life. I continued to show up at church on Sundays, even led worship for the youth and sometimes in the young adult services. No one seemed to see how broken I was, or at least no one said anything about it, but how could they? I was a great actor. It was the first time in my life that I understood the meaning of feeling all alone in a room full of people. My friendships had become superficial. Doing things for God was for show. I was in and out of a new relationship every few weeks. My tank was officially on “EMPTY.”
At this point, I was so ashamed of my life, I didn’t even know how to talk to God. I had tried so hard to take care of myself that I ran away from the only one who could heal me. Thankfully, my heavenly father never stopped pursuing me. At the perfect timing, a messy heart break, I was invited to a conference in South Dakota, called SALT (through Chi Alpha ministries). I decided I needed to get away for a while, so I accepted the invitation. It was at that conference, that the Lord reminded me of His goodness. He reminded me of the overwhelming love He had for me and the plans He had for me. He had been wanting to bring restoration to my life. He did not condemn me for turning to this world, instead of to Him. He didn’t rub in my face all the mistakes I had made because of my prideful thinking that I could take care of myself. No. Instead, He showed me that it’s okay to be broken, it’s okay to be messy, angry, and hurt. He could handle it. The source of all comfort, just wanted me to rest in His presence. To lean not on my own understanding, but to trust HIM.
I am now turning 28 years old and am living proof, that God’s love is transformative. I am now married to an incredible man of God who encourages me every day, to be the woman God created me to be. We have been living out our call to missions, in Taiwan, the last couple years, discipling teens from many different nations. The Lord has let me share my story around the world! Why is this important? Because we are all given tests, but it’s up to us if we are going to allow God to make that test into a testimony!
“The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” (John 10:10) We may never fully understand why things happen the way they do. We live in a fallen world and as children of God, the enemy wants to keep us away from our Father. But because our Creator, is very much a redemptive God, we can be confident that He will use what the enemy meant for harm to be something to bring glory to Himself!
Right now, you may be going through a storm. You may feel weak and ready to give up. You may feel like your burden is too heavy to bear. I am here to tell you, you don’t have to fake it anymore. God can handle your messiness, your anger, and your questions. You don’t have to have it all together. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).
Life is hard, but God is GOOD! Rest in His presence and let God be God!
Christie Peterson, along with her husband, Tyler, are missionary associates to the country of Taiwan, where they primarily serve youth and young adults. Christie was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. You can contact Christie by email below.