HOPE

She tried to die by laying on the railroad tracks
in front of an oncoming train. 

The Lord gave her a ‘new life’ instead.

The first thing you notice when you meet Kristen Jane Anderson for the first time is that she is in a wheelchair. The second thing you notice is her legs, ending at the knee, one shorter than the other. As you gather yourself from the surprise, you look up, and immediately take in the warmth, the sunshine that is the smile on her face.

She has a grace, a vivacious spirit; a self-assurance that overshadows the apparent fact that she is in the ‘chair’. Though she may have lost her legs, she has gained a boundless energy and zest for life. Why would anyone with such life have wanted to take it away?

It was the second day of a new year, a new century, and a new millennium (2000) and it was late in the evening on a cold, winter day. Kristen sat in a swing at the park of her small hometown, not wanting to go home. She had disappointed her parents too many times lately and she could not see herself being confronted again. She was a young woman on the edge, thinking grown up thoughts in a child’s playground.

As she sat there, smoking a cigarette, slowly moving back and forth, she contemplated things that would have never entered her mind a few years earlier. 

She had once lived an idyllic life, growing up in a nice house with wonderful parents who made good money. A senior in high school, she was pretty, personable and popular. She had everything that a material life could give. At that moment in time, thinking about things in the swing, the wonderful life that she had lived seemed far away.

A series of horrible circumstances, any one of which could bring one pain, had begun to consume her. What once had been a romantic view of what life was supposed to be, had become all too real. Within 18 months, Kristen had lost four of her friends; one to a brain tumor, two in car accidents, and one hung himself in a cemetery. And later her grandmother died.  What does a teenager do with the presence of so much death when so much life is ahead of her? 

What seemed to put her over the edge was the rape. It took away her innocence. It took away her trust. It took away her hope. But most of all, it took away her desire to live the life that she was living. After all of this grief, she just wanted the pain to go away. 

So there she was, with each rotation of the swing, arguing with herself about what to do. She saw the stationary train that was dormant on the tracks and walked over to sit on it for awhile. As she contemplated her future, an idea began to simmer inside her head. What if she were to end her life by jumping in front of a train? For over an hour, she argued with herself. Life will not get better, maybe it will. Like the chugging of a slow moving train, the idea of suicide began to gather steam. It was very cold and she had to make a decision or go home.

When she heard a train coming from a distance, impulsively, she decided to end her life. At the last moment, when the train could not be stopped, she laid down on the tracks, facing away to avoid seeing the impact.

That night, a total of 33 cars ran over her at 55 miles per hour. She remembers feeling a tremendous weight, like a mighty wind, holding her to the tracks. She now believes it was the hand of God. She lost 8 pints of blood, two legs, and the life that she once knew. On the second day of a new year, a new century, and new millennium, the Lord allowed her to live another day.  

As she crawled out from under the train and lay semi-conscious, she noticed her legs, lying eerily, 10 feet away. Her new white tennis shoes were still on her feet. It was a horrible nightmare, one that would not go away. As she began to lose consciousness, the song Amazing Grace kept reverberating in her head. There was something soothing about the words and music of the song. 

For days she clung to life. For three months she remained in the hospital. Doctors tried to reattach her legs, but were unsuccessful. After a number of surgeries, she was finally told that she would live her life in a wheelchair.

One of the first times that she went to church after her accident, a woman in her church told her that she would have gone to hell if she had died that day. Though cruel and insensitive, the Lord used it to plant the seeds of new life.

This sent Kristen searching for the truth. Though she had grown up in the church, God had always seemed far off. The idea of a personal relationship with Christ was a concept that was totally foreign to her. She battled within herself, asking why she was still here and why God had spared her life. 

It didn’t become clear until one evening, when a close friend shared God’s Word.

The verse that stood out was John 14:6, which says:  Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

It was then that she realized that God had given her a second chance and that her life wasn’t hers to take. That night, she prayed a simple prayer and asked the Lord into her life. 

It would be easy to say that things got better overnight. However, the next three years were very difficult. There were more surgeries, more depression and more thoughts of suicide. Though she was a new Christian, she didn’t realize the importance of fellowship with God through His written Word. 

One day, Kristen began talking to a lady in the parking lot of her local college. “She shined with the love and light of Christ like no one else I had ever met,” Kristen says. 

Kristen began to cry out to God and asked Him how she could have a relationship like this lady.  As she continued to pray, the Lord spoke with clarity.  “You have to let me be your best friend,” was His reply. It was then that she began to learn how to give Him first place in her life.   

Today, Kristen has shared her story with thousands of people, telling about the hope that God has given her to carry on each and every day. The train took her legs but God gave her life. 

“I really try to find my value in God each and every day,” Kristen says. When sharing with others, she explains that “His plan and purpose for them is so much better than anything they could ever dream of. They too can know how real God is. All they need to do is open their eyes and open their hearts.”

Kristen's story has reached the far corners of the globe, from Billy Graham to YouTube to Oprah. Since that cold winter day, she has developed Reaching You Ministries, an organization that shares this hope to those who are experiencing depression or contemplating suicide. And her story, Life, In Spite of Me, has been published so that many can read about the transforming power that the Lord has had on her life. For, what was meant for destruction and evil on that second day of a new year of a new century of a new millennium, the Lord has used for good, many times over.

Today, Kristen loves to sit at a train station and watch trains go by, feeling the rumble of the tons of metal, rolling down the tracks and causing the earth to tremor. It’s this macabre reality that gives her pause; and a great appreciation for who God is and how awesome His power is in her life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
. Romans 15:13