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'American Sniper' Widow Taya Kyle Forgives, Clings to Jesus 11 Years Later

In this Feb. 11, 2013 file photo Christopher Kyle's wife, Taya, is escorted to her seat after memorializing her husband in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)
In this Feb. 11, 2013 file photo Christopher Kyle's wife, Taya, is escorted to her seat after memorializing her husband in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

Taya Kyle faced a real-life nightmare Feb. 2, 2013, when her husband, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were murdered at a Texas gun range by a former Marine they were trying to help.

Listen to the latest episode of the “Quick Start” Podcast

The loving wife and mom of two has bravely shared her family’s story and worked diligently to inspire others to process and navigate their pain. Her latest project, “Prayers for Bears: Bailey the Grateful Bear,” is a children’s book that reflects her family’s story.

“We’re about 11 years out of Chris’s murder — just over 11 years,” Kyle told CBN News, explaining how she has had to focus on gratitude over the years to navigate such profound loss. “When he first was killed, I remember talking to a friend of mine, saying, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to afford our house.'”

But her friend assured her she would always have a roof over her head and food to eat. That encouraging friend reminded Kyle there are people who love and care about the family.

In the end, this advice was proven true despite the difficulties the family faced. That reminder has helped Kyle and her children, Colton, 19, and McKenna, 18, refocus on thankfulness.

“My kids and I pick that up and we pray that, even to this day,” Kyle said. “[We pray], ‘Thank you, God, for the roof over our head and the food to eat it.'”

Watch Kyle explain:

She continued, “Those are blessings. And even if it doesn’t negate that bad things are happening when you’re grateful, I think that’s an important point.”

Remembering the good and bad can coexist — difficulties and times of gratitude can coincide — is something Kyle now seeks to instill in readers and fans.

She, of course, knows a great deal about finding hope amid struggles, as she and her children had to deal with the very public loss of her husband, a revered sniper known for his incredible skills.

The process of journeying through loss was “messy,” Kyle admitted.

“The great news is that I believe God prepares us for the things that are going to happen to us later,” she said. “He just does it really lovingly and really gently, so we can’t predict the bad thing that’s coming.”

Kyle said she now sees how the Lord equipped her and her family well before Chris was killed. She recalled how she began clinging deeper to her faith while Chris was still in the military and deployed, relying on God to navigate fear, find joy, and cope with loss.

“So, I think, in a lot of ways, God had already prepared me by knowing that He’s the one — He is going to be there,” she said. “He could lift my fear when I had it. … I get chills talking about it. He had been so present in my life in different ways that were undeniable that I knew I had Him to rely on.”

After losing Chris, she said her faith continued to grow “exponentially.”

That growth came with tough times. Kyle found herself alone with two young kids as she traversed the country to speak and share her story. The children came with her and she hired a homeschool teacher to help. Missing any time with them was unthinkable, even as she balanced so much.

Kyle shared how McKenna, in particular, had a hard time processing “God being good and allowing this” — a topic many people struggle with when bad or tragic events unfold.

“We have spent a lot of time diving into that, and looking into it, and seeing the different ways,” Kyle said. “It’s an important question to address if you’re a person of faith. And you have to make sense of that.”

Kyle said there were other spiritual considerations to make as well, including processing and understanding “the existence of evil.”

“I knew that evil existed and I knew something could happen stateside or overseas, but I also thought that maybe God did things for a greater purpose,” she said. “So, maybe we lost Chris, but, immediately, we saw this influx of people who wanted to be better fathers and wanted to be more supportive of military. So, at first, I thought maybe there’s just a sacrifice sometimes in life.”

But another widow corrected this assumption and offered a differing perspective.

“[She] said, ‘Taya, I don’t believe that.’ She said, ‘I think God is crying with us,'” Kyle said. “And that opened my eyes, really, in a different way.”

More than a decade after Chris’ murder, Kyle said she is “joyful and blessed” most days now and knows God will be there during the ups and downs.

“If something happens, I know I’ll survive it,” Kyle said.

As for forgiveness, she admitted it took some time to get there, particularly when it came to the man who killed her husband. Over time, there, too, she found healing.

“I don’t forgive the act,” Kyle said. “I forgive the person as a child of God falling to temptation repeatedly until it got to a different place of character.”

As for Kyle’s current work, in addition to “Prayers for Bears: Bailey the Grateful Bear,” she continues to run the Taya and Chris Kyle Foundation, an organization that helps restore and sustain the marriages of first responders, military members, veterans, and others.

Kyle said these families face “unique challenges,” so the foundation offers programs to help them navigate.

As for “Prayers For Bears,” she said she hopes the book inspires people to read with their children and focus on important elements like gratitude and prayer.

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