“This is going to shock you, but I’m getting a divorce,” the letter read.
She was right, I was shocked. My sister and her husband had been married for 10 years, with three beautiful boys, and they were on their third house.
I hated that talking to her would be long distance, but that didn’t stop me.
“Hello Peg?” I barely got said.
She started yelling, “I can’t talk now, he’s harassing me again!”
And I could hear him in the background, taunting her.
What was going on??? My stomach started hurting.
Feeling helpless, I said, “I’ll pray,” and I hung up.
The 2000 miles between us felt like a million.
A couple days later, I received another call. I ran to the phone, hoping it was my sister.
“Did you hear? Peggy’s gone!” my sister-in-law said. “No one knows where. Her husband says she just walked out.”
And that began our nightmare. But we knew one thing. She never did walk out.
You don’t walk out and leave your three precious children.
You don’t walk out without picking up your last paycheck.
You don’t walk out in a suburb of Chicago and NOT take your car.
But we never saw her again.
Her missing person’s case was changed to a possible homicide, and we had ten days in court. But this was 22 years after her disappearance.
Yes, we had ten days in court. It was grueling. Not very long, but long enough.
Long enough to let the whole thing rip us apart again.
Long enough to hear even more things that made us hurt.
Long enough to hear the judge pronounce her husband, “Not guilty.”
And what happened then? We sat in silence and watched while the other side of the courtroom erupted in cheers, giving Peggy’s husband high fives and slapping him on the back.
How do you trust God?
A couple of weeks after the trial, we did have a memorial. We stood on her empty grave.
So, how do you trust God when you have no answers?
How can you trust God when you don’t understand the losses you’ve endured?
You lean into what you know to be true.
God is Sovereign
This means God knows everything. He was not surprised when Peggy sent me that letter. Nor was he surprised when she disappeared.
God knows exactly what happened September 12, 1982. She’s been missing to us, but never to him.
Days of Torment
I’m not going to lie and tell you that all I had to do was trust God, and the whole thing was easy. It was hellish. There were times I’d be driving home from my homicide group in Kane County, pull off the road, and scream at the top of my voice, letting my tears fall.
My heart shattered into a million pieces.
I remember one day in particular, when I was being tormented by what her last moments must have been like.
It was then I heard God gently say, “Anne, I was with her.”
It says in Philippians 4:7, God will give us peace. His peace is unlike any other. There was no way I should have been able to rest in those circumstances. And yet, I felt all surrounded by a calm. It had to be God. It didn’t make sense.
Leaning into God
Whenever we feel like we’re all alone, we need to lean into God.
Trust in what you know to be true, no matter how you feel. Feelings cannot be trusted. We can learn to lean, just like he tells us in Proverbs 3:5 & 6.
The problem we have is that we lean on what we understand, instead of leaning on God. It takes trust to stop trying to figure things out. We make a decision that even though we don’t understand, it is enough that God does. And we will put our faith in him, knowing it is in capable hands.
As children, we heard the words, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
We need to trust like little children.
Trusting Despite the Pain
When I was a young mom, rushing around one day, I accidentally closed the car door on my three-year-old son’s finger.
Nathan looked up at me with his giant brown eyes, tears running down his face.
“Why did you do that, Mom?”
He couldn’t believe I would hurt him. I took him in my arms, hugged him and explained it was an accident. As he settled down I could feel him totally relax. He still had the pain, but he trusted me again.
But where is she?
Some people have told me they would never be able to rest if they did not know where their loved one’s body was. And I understand that, because that’s how I felt for a while. But when God gave me peace, it changed everything.
I don’t know everything, but God does. And his knowing was enough.
We can handle it with Him.
There is a myth Christians sometimes tell those who are hurting:
“You know, God will never give us more than we can handle.”
That statement is not true. If God only gave us what we could handle, we wouldn’t need him. When we tell that to someone who is hurting, we just make them wonder, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I handle this?
God gives us what we’ll be able to handle with him.
In John 15:5, Jesus talks about being the vine and he explains we are the branches. But he also goes on to say, “Apart from him, we can do nothing.”
We make the mistake of thinking, apart from him, we can do less. The longer I know him, the more I’m aware of how much I need him.
God is ever present.
Can I tell you something? No matter what I have gone through in life, God has never stepped back.
Believe me, when I have stared this story with others, some have stepped back. It’s a hard story to hear. But no matter how hard my life has been, my heavenly Father never moved. Maybe that’s because he promised he would never leave me nor forsake me, in Deuteronomy 31:6.
He listens to me whenever I share my heart.
He has saved every one of my tears I have shed over my sister.
And when God told me he was with Peggy, I pictured him seeing her take her last breath. And then he picked her up and carried her to heaven. And she’s with him right now.
What about you?
I don’t know what you’re going through in your life, but may I just tell you God knows all about it. And he cares. He really does.
Heavenly Father, I bring this reader before you. I pray that whatever is happening in their life that you give them your peace. Remind them of your everlasting Love, Father, and how much you care about them. And thank you, that you are the giver of peace that passes all understanding. I love you, Lord, and I pray this in your Son’s most precious and Holy name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. She knows life is hard. So she writes words to make it softer. Anne is a poet, speaker, and published author of 14 books, including Broken: A story of abuse, survival and hope. To find out more about Anne you can visit her on her website, facebook, twitter, google+, and pinterest. You can also read her articles on Medium. Click here if you’d like to sign up for her new eBook: Helping Someone in Grief:17 things you should know.