The book "Life, In Spite of Me" is the amazing story of Kristen Anderson- a girl who survived suicide and went on to start a ministry that would save lives. The story starts out the night of Kristen's suicide attempt. Kristen was overwhelmed with hopelessness and her thought that if she killed herself, it would be over. She wouldn't hurt anymore.
The January night was cold. She felt the numbness not only in her body, but in her heart. She wanted to die, and the train was coming. She made her decision, and laid down on the tracks. Moments later as the train ran over her, Kristen could feel, through the pain, the wind and momentum of the train sucking her body up underneath the cars. She was sure that this was it. This was the end.
But it wasn't. She felt a stronger force, stronger than the wind or the suction of the train above her, pushing her body back down to the ground. Kristen would realize later that God intervened.
The story flashes back to Kristin's childhood. Her early childhood years were idyllic- she was a carefree little girl with loving parents, a big sister and brother. But things started going downhill when she was in 5th grade and her dad started struggling with depression. When she was in high school, her world continued to rock even more. Her grandmother died, her friend committed suicide, and she was raped. Kristen kept everything bottled up inside her, and she started having anxiety and stress-related problems. Seeing counselors didn't help. Medications from the doctor didn't help. Overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and the feeling that she just wasn't good enough, Kristen decided to end it all. She laid down on the train tracks. Thirty-three freight cars ran over her at 55 miles per hour.
When the train stopped, Kristen realized that she wasn't dead. Ten feet away, she could see her legs lying on the ground where the train had severed them. She managed to get out from underneath the train and began to cry before blacking out.
Someone found her. Rescue workers rushed Kristen to the emergency room. Normally it would have taken 45 minutes. They blocked all the intersections between the train tracks and the hospital and made it in 8 minutes.
It wasn't certain that Kristen would survive, even in intensive care. Medically, her survival wasn't possible. She had lost eight pints of blood. Normally a person would die after losing five pints. But God worked a miracle. Kristen lived. After a week of intensive care she was moved into moderate care. In two months she was able to go back home.
During the weeks and months that followed, Kristen learned to cope without her legs. She went to physical therapy, but used a wheelchair because her prosthetics were very painful. But she was still trying to cope with depression.
On her first Sunday at church, a woman told Kristen that she should be glad her suicide attempt failed because she would have gone to hell when she died. Kristen had thought that she would go to heaven. She'd made mistakes, but she was a good person. Everyone knew that. But Kristen started wondering. What if the woman was right? Kristen knew she should have died when the train ran over her. It was a miracle that she survived. But she wanted to know: if she had died, where would she be?
Kristen had to know. She asked a friend of the family who was going to a Christian graduate school to become a pastor. Kindly and patiently, he explained to Kristen that just knowing about Jesus and knowing He's the son of God isn't enough. No one can go to Heaven unless he or she chooses to put their trust in Jesus Christ and accept His forgiveness. He showed Kristen those passages in the Bible.
Kristen knew she was a sinner. She realized that there was nothing she could do to become good enough for heaven unless she accepted the forgiveness that Jesus offered by dying to take the punishment for her sins. She realized that if she had died that night, she would not have gone to heaven because she had never asked Jesus to forgive her sins. Kristen also realized that God had kept her alive that night and given her a second chance to accept Jesus so she could spend eternity with Him. Later that night, Kristen asked Jesus to forgive her sins and to come into her life.
Her life changed from that day on. She still struggled with problems, but she had God's peace. Kristen gradually got off of her antidepressants and pain medication. She started sharing her story with girls in a therapy group at the hospital and began to feel God calling her to ministry. Her story was already impacting people. When she was baptized, her mother made the decision to follow Jesus. Kristen went to a church youth center ever week, and then starting leading a small group with high school freshman girls. She shared her story of God's amazing grace and impacted lots of teens.
Kristen decided to start Reaching You Ministries, a ministry to hurting teens. When she chose Bible college and ministry over a full-time working job, she thought she would have to give up on getting prosthetics that she could easily use, but God provided prosthetics for her in a really neat way through an acquaintance who was involved in an organization to provide prosthetics for people who couldn't afford them.
One day Kristen was on The Oprah Winfrey Show to tell her story. Later on, she received an email from a young man who was intending to kill himself that day. He had walked into the living room, gun in hand, to turn off the TV first. Reaching for the remote, he heard Kristen telling her story. He heard her talking about how Jesus changes lives, and that everyone is here for a reason. He decided then not to take his life.
God had kept Kristen alive that night for a reason. When the momentum of the train should have sucked her body up underneath the cars, He held her down. When she lost eight pints of blood, He kept her heart beating. He gave her a second chance at life and at salvation. God is using the story that Kristen was once ashamed to tell, to save countless lives and bring hope to many others.
I really enjoyed reading Kristen's story. It was very encouraging and inspiring to me.
I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah publishers in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are my own.