Husband forgives distracted driver who killed his wife: The power of faith in storms of deception and pain

Husband forgives distracted driver who killed his wife: The power of faith in storms of deception and pain October 20, 2020

Melissa Nielsen kissed her husband Curtis goodbye and told him she would see him soon. She then left for her daily morning walk around their neighborhood in Rigby, Idaho.

Within minutes, Curtis’s phone rang. It was Melissa’s friend saying she’d discovered her on the side of the road. Curtis rushed to the scene, where he found his wife lying on the ground. Their next-door neighbor, Lincoln Lear, was standing nearby in horror. 

Lincoln’s life was already deeply difficult. His wife suffers from a debilitating respiratory condition. In 2014, the couple lost their oldest son to a neuromuscular degenerative disorder. Then came the news that their two other children have the same disorder. 

That morning, Lincoln said he had been driving to work and reached down to plug in his phone to charge. In that moment, he swerved and hit Melissa. 

As Curtis knelt beside his wife’s body, their four children (ages fifteen, eleven, eight, and four) were sleeping at home. “I started breaking down,” he recalls. “I started to pray. I knew she wasn’t going to be with us after this.” 

However, Curtis knew Melissa would want him to forgive Lincoln. So that’s exactly what he did. 

Lincoln was subsequently charged with vehicular manslaughter and pleaded guilty, but Curtis has been supportive of him. Lincoln’s offense is punishable by a year in jail and steep fines, but Curtis insisted he not go to jail or pay anything. “He was always being tortured enough by his own actions,” Curtis explained, “and I didn’t want to jeopardize him not having time with his own family.” 

Lincoln says, “I feel so grateful. Everybody’s been so supportive, caring, and sympathetic. If his attitude was different, I’d be in jail.” 

The difference faith makes in a marriage 

Grace in a world of hate makes headlines and changes hearts. So does faith in a world of skepticism. 

In the midst of stories slandering Judge Amy Coney Barrett for her faith, the New York Post cited a new report showing that highly religious couples experience positive outcomes on a variety of levels. Couples who worship at home report fewer disagreements about finances. Women in such relationships are much more likely to say their partners are “forgiving,” “kind,” and “responsible.” Such couples report greater relationship quality and stability and are three times more likely than less-religious peers to report a sexually satisfying relationship. 

And the Associated Press headlines, “Amid pandemic challenges, houses of worship show resiliency.” The article reports that while many churches and denominations are facing financial shortfalls and smaller attendance during the pandemic, numerous ministries are reaching people online in ways they have not before. 

Some are ministering to people without internet service: one church in Montana kept in touch with older congregants by sending them handwritten notes. “This is the church’s moment,” a local leader explained. “It’s pushed the church to leave the building—they’re coming alive in their communities.” 

Responding to QAnon with biblical truth 

However, we need to note that it’s the object of our faith that matters, not whether we have faith. Jesus transforms marriages that trust in him and his word (Ephesians 5:21–33); his Spirit uses churches that minister in his power (Zechariah 4:6; Acts 1:8). 

I make this point in light of the escalating controversy over the conspiracy movement QAnon. When President Trump was asked about the group during an NBC town hall last week, he stated that he did not know much about them. I heard numerous commentators afterward say the same. 

As a result, I researched the movement and wrote a website article titled, “What is QAnon? Why is it popular and dangerous? And how can Christians respond?” In my paper, I note that QAnon is appealing to some Christians because of some similarities to biblical doctrine, its followers’ quoting of Scripture, and its prophecies predicting a “Great Awakening” that will lead to a utopian age. 

However, as my paper shows, QAnon is both dangerous and divisive. It is impeding those who seek to help sex trafficking victims and has inspired numerous acts of violence. The FBI considers QAnon to be a domestic terrorist threat; the US House of Representatives recently voted 371 to 18 to condemn it. 

I hope you’ll read the paper to learn more about biblical responses to this deceptive movement. 

How to “praise him in the storm” 

In a culture filled with confusion and deception, our Lord calls us to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). And to prove the reality of our faith by our love (John 13:35). 

Over the weekend, I read John Grisham’s new legal novel, A Time for Mercy. I won’t spoil the plot, but I will tell you that a small congregation called the Good Shepherd Bible Church and its pastor play a starring role. Whatever our thoughts about the complex legal issues Grisham masterfully describes, this rural church comes out the clear winner. 

Grisham is not just expressing his personal faith—he is describing a universal truth. As Matt Chandler noted, “The greater your knowledge of the goodness and grace of God on your life, the more likely you are to praise him in the storm.”

What is your storm today?

NOTE: Our Advent 2020 devotional is now available. My wife, Janet, compiled twenty-six reflections on past Christmases from her friends, family, and readers. (You may discover one or two new Christmas traditions). She also wrote short devotionals for each reflection to point you back to the greater story of Jesus in each of our stories. Janet’s Advent devotional is (unsurprisingly) our most sought-after book every year. I encourage you to request your copy of Our Christmas Stories today.


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