- - Wednesday, March 6, 2024

There’s nothing more traumatic, painful and heart-shattering than the loss of a child. This reality has been on full display in recent days after the Feb. 22 murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student whose vibrant life and promising future were senselessly snuffed out.

Riley‘s killing immediately escalated into a flammable national news story, with the details surrounding her accused killer’s illegal immigrant status pouring gasoline on the raging fires of consequential election-year debates over border security and an ever-percolating migrant crisis.

As the media and political narratives coalesced, my aforementioned statement about the pain of losing a child was immediately corrected. As it turns out, I now imagine there’s nothing more horrific, heartbreaking and daunting than the murder of a child amid a nonstop, hyper-politicized media culture in which everything is political and very little is sacred.

In an age prone to reducing people to soundbites and inhuman ideological cogs used for the purposes of winning arguments and furthering outrage, I have struggled to imagine what her family must be feeling as the loss of their daughter continues to be plastered across TV screens and newspapers.

From anger, pain, rage and lostness to despair and despondency, one can only envision the elevated agony so much scrutiny and attention would add. Yet most of these reactions and emotions were missing when Riley‘s mother, Allyson Phillips, broke her silence in a series of Facebook posts over the weekend.

Though Ms. Phillips opened the heartbreaking statement by noting she has “no words” amid “devastating, unimaginable loss,” she progressed to offer the most stunning of proclamations — a powerful, faith-filled blueprint that could teach us all a thing or two as we navigate our beleaguered, toxic culture.

Rather than lashing out at the accused, lambasting government policies or feeding into political furor, she took time to praise God for sustaining her family.

“I would like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for being with me and my family during this heartbreaking time,” Ms. Phillips wrote.

But it’s what came next that truly left me moved beyond belief. This grieving mom — a woman who would be within her rights to ask for prayer and seek solace and help from the community — instead extended herself to express compassion and love for others, encouraging the strangers reading her posts to discover the power of God’s love.

“I encourage everyone to have a personal relationship with Jesus,” Ms. Phillips continued. “I give Him all the glory for getting us through this.”

She, of course, didn’t shy away from the intense pain she is experiencing, admitting it would be “easy to lose … faith in mankind” after the ordeal, yet Ms. Phillips was clear she’s leaning into love, not abandoning it or allowing anger to eclipse her quest to point others to eternal truth.

In a separate Facebook post, she also shared about Riley‘s own love for the Lord — and even invited strangers to attend church, opening an invitation to anyone willing.

“If you are curious about furthering your faith walk and are looking for a place to call home, I would like to invite you to attend [our church],” Ms. Phillips wrote. “If I know you and you would like to go with us, please let me know. If I do not know you, I would love to meet you and you can come sit with us. If walking into church is too much to get started, you can view our services online.”

And the selflessness didn’t end there, as Ms. Phillips concluded her message by asking parents to consider there’s “no greater gift” than helping their children develop a relationship with Jesus.

“I know my sweet Laken knew Jesus personally and she will live eternally in His home,” Ms. Phillips added. “He never left her side until the very last second she was here on earth and He will take care of her now and forever in heaven. I find peace during this devastation in knowing that.”

It’s almost impossible to imagine a grieving mother in so much emotional turmoil so boldly turning outward to offer such profound love and consideration for strangers. It’s a response that exhibits the true strength and courage bred through a relationship with Jesus.

Ms. Phillips, like her daughter, finds perseverance in faith and wants others to discover the same. Her powerful words and boldness are a stunning embodiment of what the Bible calls the “fruit of the spirit.” These attributes, outlined in Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV), provide the evidence of true faith in one’s life: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Politicians, journalists and talking heads most certainly will fixate on the immigration status of Riley‘s accused killer, the migrant crisis and our porous border. And while these issues certainly have their place, Ms. Phillips‘ hope — a love and expectancy rooted in God — should be the primary message shouted from the rooftops right now.

After all, our hate-fueled, self-centered culture could truly benefit from seeing someone amid their most vulnerable and painful public moments share love for strangers. Placing others above self is a lost and essential art. Please pray for Riley‘s friends and family to continue to run this race well as they inspire us along the way.

Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” Mr. Hallowell is the author of four books.

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