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TITLE: Bridge to Faith
By Perry Stearnes

When we think there is no hope, Hope seems to find us.
Chad was fed up. He couldn’t take it anymore. The stress at work, the stress at home, money problems; it was more than he could handle. At the end of another frustrating day, he found himself standing atop a back road bridge looking at the large creek below. “All I have to do is step over this rail and all the headaches are gone. No more unreasonable boss, no more bills, and no more stress. Maybe Judy and Jessica will be upset for a couple of weeks, but when the insurance money comes in, they’ll be better off. I’m sure they’re tired of me being in a bad mood and yelling all the time anyway.”

Judy was his wife of eight years and Jessica was his young daughter. They have always been a close, church-going family, but some recent turns of events had changed Chad into a bitter person. He felt bad about taking it out on his family, but couldn’t seem to find any other outlet. He felt as though everything was spiraling out of control and he didn’t know how to stop it.

As he stood there looking down at the swift moving, muddy water, he felt the presence of someone else. He turned to see a bearded man dressed in a ragged clothes walking up. “Great! Now I have strangers disrupting my life too!” he thought to himself. He turned to the man and said, “I don’t have any money, so if you’re here to beg or rob me, you picked the wrong guy.”

“I’m just walking.” exclaimed the stranger. “I don’t want your money. You seem a little pre-occupied with the creek. Did you lose something?”

In a harsh voice Chad replies, “No I didn’t lose anything. Now if you don’t mind, I’m busy so please just keep walking.”

“Busy? You have nothing in your hands and you didn’t lose anything. What could you be busy with?”

“Look! I’m just busy, OK!? Now move on!”

The man stood there in silence staring at Chad as if he were reading him. After a few minutes Chad gets irritated and snaps, “What’s it take to get you away from me? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Calmly the man answers, “What are you afraid of? Why would you want to do this and deprive your family of so much?”

“Deprive them? I’m helping them! What do you know anyway? You don’t know me or my family and I certainly don’t know you! So, just keep your opinions and advice to yourself!”

“But, I do know you. I’ve seen you and your family at God’s Mercy Baptist Church. You usually sit about halfway back.”

“How do you know that? I’ve never seen you there.”

“I’m always there. You just haven’t paid much attention. It’s obvious that your mind is in other places while you’re there.”

“Hey! Don’t judge me! You have no idea what I’ve been through these past several years. I’m at a dead-end job that barely pays enough for us to survive. My wife was laid off two years ago and has since hurt her back where she can’t work and my six-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with cancer. So, until you’ve walked in my shoes, don’t bother me with petty details.”

“I don’t think ignoring the Word of God is petty. Your daughter sings beautiful praises to God and you don’t even listen.”

“I’ve got too many problems to worry about the little things. There are bigger issues that need my attention.”

“So, instead of taking these ‘issues’ to God in prayer, you want to dump them on your family and let them worry about it. That’s pretty cruel don’t you think? You know, God still performs miracles.”

“God? God knows what’s going on. But, does He step in to help? No! He’s done just like everyone else and turned His back on me. Are you some kind of preacher or something? You gonna tell me you’re a child of God next?”

“I am God’s child. That’s why I care. And, yes, I am a preacher of sorts. But, being a child of God doesn’t make life on earth perfect. He allows some adversities in life.”

“Wouldn’t you say that’s cruel? If he truly cares, He would help.”

“You’ve got it all wrong. God doesn’t want to be a part of your life only when things are going bad. He wants to be involved in all that you do. When things like your daughter’s cancer or your wife’s back happen, He wants to hold you closer and comfort you because you are one of His children. He is saddened when you push Him away, but He loves you just the same. But, when life is treating you kind, He wants you to share your happiness with Him too.”

“If God is so great, then why hasn’t He done something already? He knows what we’re going through. Why isn’t He here to help? How do I know that jumping isn’t the right thing to do?”

“God is great. And, He sees the big picture, so He knows when the time is right to do something. And, when He does it, it will have a purpose. As far as you jumping…if God wanted you to jump, He wouldn’t have sent me here to talk with you.”

“Sent you? You just happened to show up at the wrong time.”

“Chad, I know this road. There may be ten cars a day come through here. That’s why you picked this bridge. What are the chances that I am here at the same time you want to kill yourself?”

Chad thought for a second. It is a pretty big coincidence. Somehow, hearing this stranger call him by his name seemed to relax him in a way he couldn’t explain. “You seem to have all the answers. If I leave now, what will change? I’ll still have the same job I hate, my wife still can’t work, and my daughter is still sick.”

“God has a plan for you. If He didn’t, I wouldn’t be here. Talk with Him, cry with Him, but don’t try to do things your way. Ask Him to show you His way and listen to Him. You are the head of your family. They depend on you to get them through any troubles that come your way. Show them your faith and let them follow your example.”

Chad lowered his head. He felt exhausted. He also had run out of excuses to jump. All he wanted to do is go home and see his wife and daughter.

The stranger extended his hand to shake Chad’s. “Go home Chad. Your family needs you. Give them a hug and you’ll feel what you’ve forgotten.”

Chad shook the man’s hand, but was puzzled by his last comment. As he drove home, he felt a deep sense of sadness. It dawned on him that he had wrapped himself so tight in his own self-pity that he had forgotten the most important assets in his life…the love of his wife and daughter. They are his strength and now it’s time he becomes theirs. “Maybe God does care” he mumbled to himself.

When Chad got home, he walked over to Judy and hugged her tightly.

“Well, someone’s in a good mood tonight” she said. “Something good must have happened today.”

“Daddy!” came the cry from his daughter as she ran up to him.

They all stood there in a three-way hug and Chad said, “Yes, something good did happen. I came home to you two.” He suddenly felt comforted. It was something he hadn’t felt in a long time.

As they stood there, Jessica said “Daddy! Your hand is bleeding!”

Chad looked at his right palm and noticed the blood. He checked and discovered he wasn’t injured. As he thought for a second, he realized it must have come from the hand of the stranger on the bridge. “I must have gotten it from someone I met today. I guess he had a cut in his hand. He says he’s seen us at church.”

“Really?” asked Judy. “I’ve met most everyone there. What’s his name?”

“I didn’t think to ask, but he looks kind of homely and has a long beard.”

“Are you sure he’s been to our church? I’ve never seen anyone like that there.”

“He says he’s always there and has seen us. He even knows Jessica is in the choir and where we sit.”

Judy giggles and says, “You sure you weren’t talking to the Lord?” As she was wiping the blood off of Chad’s palm, she says, “Boy! You’d think this blood would have dried by now.”
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