I often wonder what my parents were like...

I don’t have any memories of them; everything I know about them is something I’ve learned through a story or a photo. I really wish I could know things like the sound of their
voices or the sound of their laughs. They died when I was 11 months old – a murder-suicide when my dad shot and killed my mom and then himself.

My uncle and aunt adopted me and were the only parents I had ever known, and they worked really hard to provide and care for my brother, sister, and I. My mom stayed home while my dad worked two jobs; my tangible needs were always met and we were fortunate enough to have what we needed plus some. I am so thankful I was able to stay in a family and grow up knowing and having a relationship with my siblings. My sister is one of my best friends and I’m really gratefulI was given the opportunity to grow up with her and have such a close relationship with her to this day.

I was raised going to a Roman Catholic church with my family. Church was less of something that we did to worship and meet with God and, at least to me, more of something that we did because it was good to do and because we had always done it. I heard about God and could tell you a few things about him, but I didn’t come to know him until I was in high school. One of my teachers sponsored First Priority, a club on campus that met once a week and explored scripture. He, along with the youth pastor who led the meetings, encouraged me week by week; I kept coming back because I knew there was something different about what I was hearing. I can’t tell you what the leader talked about that one particular week, but I remember hearing the gospel and knowing that if Jesus really was who he claimed he was, I wanted to know and follow him. For the first time I saw
that I didn’t have to keep slaving to earn approval from God – instead I saw Christ who lavished me with his grace and approval simply because of his love for me. I think that plays a big role in why I have a heart for youth and teen ministry -- I see the value in outlets like First Priority where students can hear the gospel at their schools or in youth groups.

I’ve never been angry with God for what happened, but I’ve been angry with him for not telling me why it happened. I think I almost feel entitled to an answer sometimes. I get caught up in thinking that I can’t trust God’s sovereignty and goodness until I know how he works things out for my good. A week before I began college at the University of Miami, my mom died unexpectedly after an outpatient procedure. I remember being in the hospital room asking the Lord to graciously allow me to trust him despite the outcome – to be content in him and to seek him whether or not the situation turned out the way I wanted. Through the grieving God has shown me that he is the one who gives me peace, something that ultimately an answer or an explanation can’t do.

My relationship with God continues to shape my understanding of tragedy and suffering – it’s by no means a topic I feel like I’ve firmly grasped or been able to move beyond. Grieving is exhausting and a much deeper process than I ever expect. One of the biggest areas I’ve grown in is trusting the truth that God is present in pain. I’m seeing clearer the God who is present in suffering, the God who suffers himself, and the God who meets people in their suffering rather than outside of it. So often I seek answers and justification for the pain that has caused fear and doubt in my life; God continues to teach me that information alone can’t heal my wounded heart. He continues to show me that he is the one who is perfectly redeeming and restoring my life, no matter what my circumstances look or feel like.

God doesn’t minimize or moralize suffering – he himself comes to heal it.