I Saw Him More Clearly

She was gone forever and we didn’t know where. My sister, Peggy disappeared September 12, 1982. Married for 10 years, she seemed to have it all; a house, three little boys and a loving husband. But things are seldom as they appear.

I’ll never forget the day I received her letter.

“This is going to shock you, but I’m getting a divorce.”

I ran to the phone and called her, “I can’t talk now,” she snapped, “he’s harassing me again.” In the background, I could hear him taunting her.

“I’ll pray,” I whispered, hanging up the phone. All I could do was cry.

Later that night she called back, telling me about his threats, the violence, the knife he held to her throat. “Calling the police was easy, I wish I would have done it sooner.”

Two days later I received another call, but it wasn’t her.

“Did you hear Peggy’s gone? No one knows where. Her husband said she just walked out.”

For 22 years our questions remained unanswered. Then her missing person case was reopened as a possible homicide. In 2004, we attended her trial, where I was to testify.

Minutes before I entered the courtroom, I sat alone in a room, awaiting my turn. I started out by praying and ended up softly singing hymns. While my body sat in that courthouse, I pictured myself sitting on God’s lap, singing to him. And when my turn came, God went into the courtroom with me.

When I was asked to point to my sister’s husband, I didn’t want to even look in his direction, but God steadied my shaking hand. When I needed to answer questions, God cleared my foggy mind.

Living through the nightmare of Peggy’s disappearance wrecked me. I thought I’d feel better if learned more about what happened to her, but I was wrong. Each new piece of information tore me apart.

One night, as I pictured what her final moments might have been, God whispered to me, Anne, I was with her.

My heart started resting, knowing she had not been alone. Knowing that when she breathed her last breath, it was God who carried her to heaven. Though her body was never found, and I still have unanswered questions, God has given me peace.

Through my sister’s disappearance, God is teaching me some truths.

  • God sees our pain. Not one thing happens to us without his knowledge. He keeps all our tears in a bottle; not one escapes his notice.
  • God works all things together for our good. God promises in Romans 8:28 that he will work all things together for good; this doesn’t mean that everything we go through is good. Because God gave man a free will, sometimes man chooses evil, and we experience the consequences of his choices.
  • God comforts us. In our painful times, God comforts us so we can comfort others who are hurting.
  • God shows us Jesus. In our deepest agony, we experience the fellowship of his suffering, we get a glimpse of Jesus we never had before.

Sometimes, we can spend our lives trying to protect ourselves from being wrecked. But God has a greater purpose: to make us like Jesus. And in our pain, we see him more clearly.

About the author: Anne Peterson is a writer, speaker and poet. She is the published author of 42 Bible Studies with Christianity Today as well as numerous articles. Presently Anne is working on a book about Loss. You can visit her website or see her recent writing on facebook.com.

About the Author

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This is a post by a guest author. To submit your own story of how you got wrecked, click here.

Comments

  1. Wow. What a heart-wrenching, life-touching story. Thank you, Anne.

    • Anita,
      Thanks for taking the time to read it. I appreciate your comment.

  2. I am stunned with the heartache of this story. Thank you for sharing how God brought comfort. I am so sorry for your family’s loss

    • Christa,

      Only God can comfort us like he does. He comes and just sits with you, carefully catching each and every tear. To him they are precious. And I believe that God grieves with us. I so believe it.

  3. Oh, Anne. How this story makes my heart ache. Bless you for sharing it. Thank you.

    • Janelle,

      Thanks for reading it. Sometimes I have felt so different from everyone because of what we went through. And yet, I have felt the comfort God grants to those who hurt in such a profound way.

  4. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through, Anne. What a beautiful testimony of God’s grace as you chose to focus on the Father through every step of your trial. God bless you as you continue to use your difficulties to point other to Him.

  5. Maria,

    Thanks so much for reading the story. During those years we hurt so badly. We even thought having more information might help. But with every piece of information we got, we felt worse. I felt God’s presence in such an awesome way when it was my turn to testify. My hands shook as I identified the pictures my sister had sent me. Pictures of our three nephews. But, God helped me. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

  6. Anne, how deeply tragic. At the same time, how equally deeply reassuring that God was there with you through it. I’m glad rather than becoming bitter, you were able to feel God’s presence and lean into Him to find comfort. I agree with you God does grieve with us.
    I too have had tragedies and have seen how He cares very much about the intensity of our suffering. One comfort for me is that God does compensate us for our losses even if it is indeed as you said with a greater revelation of who He is.
    That revelation of Christ is one of the treasures of the darkness. A quote by Corrie Ten Boom comes to mind when she said, “No pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
    Thanks for writing this and sharing your heart to encourage others. Sharing to comfort others is one of the ways God redeems the tragic things which happen to us.

    • Sharon,

      Thanks so much for reading the piece and for your comments. Could there be any greater comfort than a closer look at Him? And yet, even as I write those words I remember when all I wanted was to know it wasn’t true and I would see my sister again. One thing I am thanking God for is that one of her sons has accepted Christ and is growing so beautifully. My sister knew the Lord, I know I will see her again some day.

      Yes, you’re right God does know the intensity of our suffering. As only he can.

  7. Wow. What a hard, sad tragedy. I’m so glad Jesus settled you.

    • Mary,

      What a wonderful way to put it. He settled me. I am not one to believe in closure. Not on this side of glory. But, I do believe that God can give that peace that passes all understanding. I’ve tasted that peace.

      I know so many people in my life just wanted me to “move on.” And yet, my grief was complicated because she had been missing for so many years and we never regained her body. Still, we had a memorial for her and I felt like singing so I did. It was from the joy of knowing I will see her again. Thanks so much for your comments.

  8. Judy Chapman

    This was very concise and well written recapping that horrible tragedy. Your understanding of the Lord being with us during those horrible times is beautiful and true.

    • Judy,

      Thanks for reading it. You know the struggle I have had through the years. How God has brought me through all of it. You know how much I miss her and yet, I know I will see her again some day. Thanks for taking the time to read it and to leave a comment. Thank you.

  9. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. [Psalm 56:8 NLT]” Reference for your first point.

    My adopted cousin, Eddie, was murdered. I had already moved away by the time it happened. It aged my aunt very much. It was over something really stupid.

    I’m glad to know that God keeps track of our sorrows.

    I’m glad you could feel God’s presence in a time of distress. That feeling is one that just can’t be described – only cherished.

    • Eva,

      Thanks for reading and for your comments. I love those verses you listed. Yes, he keeps track of every sorrow. And keeps all our tears. Believe me, I have bottles.

      So sorry about your cousin. I’m sure it aged your aunt. I had the privilege to be part of a homicide support group. It was such a help. Those stories were so sad, and yet we shared a bond.

      And you are right feeling God’s presence in our time of distress is unbelievable, yet available. Thanks again for reading.

  10. I have never experienced such a loss Anne, and can’t imagine how it is to go through something so horrific. What a blessing to read how God drew you in closer to Him through it. I am sorry about the loss of your sister. I hope that justice was served in her case.

  11. Stephanie,

    Thank you so much for reading and for your comments. We may not experience each other’s trials, but no matter what we do go through God reveals himself to us. He draws us close and whispers to us.

  12. A beautiful, stirring story of redemption thru loss. Thanks for sharing it, Anne. And for living hopefully in spite of tragedy.

  13. Very moving. Thank you, Anne.

  14. Wow…what an amazing story, Anne. That God redeems our loss and makes beauty out of ashes. Will need to read you book when you finish it. Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • Lorna,
      Thank you for reading it and for your comments. Yes, God definitely is the redeemer.

  15. Awsome! lmc

    • La,

      Thank you for taking time to read the story. And for responding.

  16. Wow, wow, wow… I don’t even know what to say, but I’m soooo sorry you had to go through this. My heart hurt when I read this. I can only imagine how you feel. I think the hardest part is never knowing, never getting closure. I’m so glad you have the Lord, those who don’t, bear it all alone. It is despairing.

    • Pilar,
      Thanks for reading my story. You’re right. Not knowing sure complicated things. That’s where the peace that passes all understanding comes in. There is nothing like that peace. Thanks, for your comments.

  17. Anne. When you wrote that Peggy was not alone, that God was with her. I felt like you opened the door to allow me to see one of the most remarkable and intimate insights of a lifetime. It comes at such a cost. Most of us will never know that kind of insight, or receive that kind of whisper from God. Which is why it is so important that you share it, write it. We need to know from someone’s first hand experience that God IS near to the broken hearted, the wrecked. Thank you for telling your story.

    • Marilyn,

      Thank you so much for reading the story. And thank you for your encouraging words. You know as hard as it was, it did help me to see the Lord in a deeper way. I have to share it.

  18. Anne – What an awful (yet wonderfully written) story. Your last paragraph is so true. I have spent so much time trying to keep from getting wrecked that I know I have missed many of life’s blessings.

    • Jody,

      Thanks for reading my story. I’m so glad that even when we think we may have missed something, God takes us around another mountain. I’m glad that the work he is doing in us is a process. We get to the point, we see his hand in everything. It makes us look at life differently.

  19. Pat Bieber

    Oh Anne, how long does it take to develop a heart of compassion? (I speak of myself) I remember your times of talking with Lois in the basement about your sister, and the earnestness of your heart and your plea to know what happened and where was God in this. I remember with shame that I did not even begin to perceive the depth of your pain. And yet I know you never held my lack of understanding against me. That’s where Jesus Christ meets us all – at our need for forgiveness. I watched you sing and heard you pray and share and write songs and play piano and serve amidst that community of young believers all while your pain was deepening. And 40 years later, the one constant is the abiding, loving presence of God. He is faithful. Thank you for sharing your life so that others may see your Savior.Thank you for your abiding friendship and forgiveness; by it I am blessed.

  20. Pat, Thanks for reading the story you already knew. And thanks for your kind words. Just today I read another account of someone whose life was full of trials. Her words dripped with comfort, it was wonderful, and yet, she had to go through such pain to experience God’s comfort. Thanks for taking the time to read, and for your kind words.

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