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book - forgivenForgiven: The Amish School Shooting, A Mother's Love, And a Story of Remarkable Grace,Published by Bethany House Publishers
Amazing Story

Finding Strength in Your Darkest Moments

By Terri Roberts

On October 2, 2006, my gut wrenched, my heart closed in, and my mind searched for logic. There was none.

It was my son who walked into that Amish schoolhouse in quiet Lancaster County, PA, shooting ten girls, killing five of them, and taking his own life. When the authorities and media talked about the actions of the gunman, they were talking about my eldest son. And it was my grief that was in the spotlight.

In my deepest hour of searing pain and gripping sorrow, I asked God, as dark as the day was, to somehow use this sorrow to bring great light in an unimaginable way. Could anything good or of value possibly be birthed from such utter devastation?

Several years later, I spent an hour at Sunbeam School with Rosanna, the most injured survivor of that tragedy, and numerous other Amish youth who face communication challenges. That single hour was like an infusion of appreciation for the smallest details in life. Those who feel hopeless, as our son did on that fateful day, need to experience a moment in time that transcends life in the present, a moment that transports them to a spacious place beyond their circumstances—toward the simplicity of true JOY. Observing the simplest forms of song, physical touch, and communication among the students—or scholars, as the Amish refer to them—brought great joy to my heart. It was a glimpse of love lived out in the day-to-day.

When we have descended into a pit of despair, we can come forth with incredible hope, tapping into the strength that comes by faith. This is a resource beyond our understanding or ability to cope, within a divine plan for hope and a future. Are you living that truth?

There is no professional background in my own ponderings, only life experience. I encourage anyone who feels as if life is closing in on them to go to the Scriptures to find the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:8-9). We all have a choice to make. I do not pretend to understand clinical depression, but I encourage all to focus on this passage daily.

Reading the Psalms and singing hymns lifts our spirits to a height that we cannot attain by trying to figure out life on our own. Self-focus on our inadequacies takes us to the pit of despair. We need to let go and let God be supreme, recognizing that our perception of how our needs are being met is clouded at best. His care for us is immense.

This is just my encouragement to you as I breathe in life to the fullest. Tomorrow may hold disappointment—or great promise.

Can we choose to look for the joy? Each day holds some happiness if we are willing to make the choice not to give into our own understanding. Trust in a holy God who cares deeply for you and about the circumstances of the day. Expect Him to shed light on you no matter what tomorrow holds.

I recall the second Sunday after the shooting, which the Amish call "The Happening." I was singing in worship in my church, repeating, "He gives and takes away" and crying my eyes out. Then the worship team launched into "Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing, glory and honor and praise to our King!" In a matter of minutes, I went from desperation and tears to lifting my hands in praise. YES, when we resist our "right" to self-understanding, He can lift us out of the PIT!

What is your choice today? Choose to look for the JOY! Trust in the love of God in Christ Jesus! Christ died for me; He died for you. His love is perfect for all of our longings, even on the darkest of days.

Copyright © 2015 by Terri Roberts. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Terri Roberts travels the United States and the world speaking about the Nickel Mines Amish school shooting, forgiveness, and hope. She has been interviewed by CBS News, the Associated Press, and Reuters. Terri is a mother of four sons and a grandmother of eleven, including two step-grandchildren. She and her husband, Chuck, live just south of Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Learn more at

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