Bill had cleaned and loaded the gun. He knew that he had no other choice but to stop the abuse. Conversations had not worked, threats did not stop it and the bruises were more than he could stand to see. Jessica was Bill’s only daughter and since she had married Jim her life had only gotten worse. They had been married for a few years and had two children.
Jim had been unable to hold down a job for any length of time, which is common for alcoholics. His drinking had increased over time along with the abuse.
The more Jim drank, the more he abused Jessica. Bill was sick of it and was not going to let it happen anymore. Then the day came. The day Bill planned to kill his son-in-law. He had already picked his 30-06 as the weapon of choice. He knew it would kill him quickly and he was making plans as to how and when he could do it.
Bill is not a man prone to violence. He worked 30+ years as a fireman and retired early because of an injury. He attends church on a regular basis and serves as an usher. We have been friends for 20+ years. He will tell you what he thinks if you ask him and has a great sense of humor. If I ever need someone to help me with something, Bill would drop what he is doing and come help me. I love the guy.
But everything changed one Sunday night when Bill came to church.
It seems that Pastor Mike found out about Bill’s plan. Pastor Mike was a retired minister who attended church together with Bill. He was a soft- spoken elderly gentleman who radiated Godly wisdom and the love of Christ.
Following that evening’s service Pastor Mike took Bill aside and asked him how he was doing. For more than an hour Bill told about what was happening to Jessica and what he had tried to do to stop it. As Bill retold the story he was filled with anger, and shook as the tears ran down his face.
After Bill finished his story, Pastor Mike began speaking. He spoke quietly and compassionately, but with a spiritual authority that only comes from a man who has followed Christ for many years.
What was the gist of Pastor Mikes message to Bill? “You have to forgive him,” he told Bill. “All your bitterness and anger will destroy you, and killing him will only land you in jail.”
“But he does not deserve it” Bill said emphatically.
“That is true” said Pastor Mike “and neither did we when God forgave us.”
“But I can’t do this. Look what he has done to my daughter.” Bill persisted.
“Bill there is one more thing you need to know. The Bible tells us if we don’t forgive others then God will not forgive us,” said Pastor Mike.
Bill dropped his head and cried while Pastor Mike prayed for him and his son-in-law. Bill knew Pastor Mike was right though he did not like it.
When Bill got home that night he called Jessica and asked if he and his wife could come over. She said yes. Bill’s wife was insistent on him leaving his gun at home. He agreed.
When they arrived at his daughter’s home, Bill told Jim he had something to tell him. As Bill stood in front of Jim he told him how mad he had been at him. He told him how hurt he had been over the abuse of his daughter. Jim sat silently and listened to what his Father-in-law had to say. He knew all of it was true. But after Bill had finished speaking his mind he said, with tears in his eyes, “But I forgive you just like God has forgiven me.”
No one knew what to say next. It was a powerful moment which left everyone speechless. Bill and his wife dismissed themselves and headed home.
After that night Bill still did not like Jim. He did not trust Jim and he had good reason not to. After all, there are things that forgiveness does not do.
That night changed Bill, his wife, and his relationship with God. He was still not comfortable with what had occurred but Bill had left it in God’s hands. Over the weeks Bill and his wife continued to pray for Jim. He knew the situation had to change but he did not know how.
Three months after Bill’s encounter with Jim he received a call one morning from his daughter. Jim had died during the night. She did not know how. Because of the nature of his death, an autopsy and toxicology tests were done to determine the exact cause of death. All the tests were inconclusive.
No one knows for sure why Jim died. Certainly the life of alcoholism increased his chances of an earlier demise. Bill and I have discussed this at length and no one, including the coroner, really knows why he died. Any speculation about God having a part in it is nothing more than speculation.
Many times it seems we have little power to directly affect the outcome of particular events in our lives. But we are not powerless. We can choose to live a life that does not accept bitterness and resentment as “acceptable responses” in difficult circumstances.
Life is not an easy journey but God can help. Seek Godly wisdom to make the right decision and in the right way.
I know they may not deserve it, but neither did we.