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Lifting the Weight of Guilt to Embrace Forgiveness

Eric was 17 when he was arrested for the death of his best friend, Josh. “I blame myself for everything and I just - I would have done anything to make it right.”

The two were always hanging out. They especially liked playing together on their high school basketball team. “Josh was extremely gifted. He was much better than I was, but he always pushed me. He was just a-a fun-loving guy. He-he didn't care what people thought about him.”  

On a Friday night in September 1998, Eric was giving Josh a ride home when a girl they knew passed them on a two-lane road. “I remember Josh looking at me, and he goes, ‘Are you going to let her do that to you?’"  

“I got alongside of her and I looked over. I noticed out of the corner of my eye the headlights of a truck coming up the hill.”

“I looked over at Josh and I said, ‘Are you okay?’ And he looks at me and goes, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be fine.’ The next thing I know I woke up in the ambulance. And at that point is when I started to pray, which I've never done before.”

Eric was taken to the hospital with a concussion, and a number of cuts and bruises. Eric asked his nurse about Josh. “She had tears in her eyes. I knew at that point he never made it. I blamed God from probably maybe an hour-and-a-half after the accident, ‘Why me? Why now? You're supposed to be there to protect us.’”

Eric also blamed himself, and couldn’t understand how anyone could forgive him. “The first people to the hospital were his mom and his grandma. And they came in there and they were crying. They've already forgiven me. I didn’t know what that meant at that point.

Days later, they buried his friend.

Eric was arrested for negligent homicide. Released to his parents, he spent the next 8 months in and out of court. During one appearance, his friend’s mother read a letter to the court on Eric’s behalf. “And in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Why are you doing this? I don't deserve this. I deserve to go to jail.’"

Eric was only given 4 years probation with community service. But memories of Josh dominated his thoughts. “I went to drinking. I went to smoking marijuana, just to forget about all of it.”

“I remember sitting there with one of my stepdad's guns and just sat there and thought about all the people I hurt, the problems I've caused, the path I was on, the drinking, the drugs - for what? I don't need to be here anymore. I just never could do it.”  

Over the next 16 years, Eric continued to struggle with guilt and depression. The drugs and alcohol didn’t fill the void left by his friend. On occasion, he would visit Josh’s grave.

But on a graveside visit in October 2014, Eric’s thoughts turned elsewhere. “I just sat there and just started praying and just asking God to, ‘If there's anything left for me to do here on this earth, just point me in the right direction.’”

Eric started reading the Bible and going to church. As he did, he discovered an important truth. “I found out that there was people in the Bible that weren't perfect. You know, that did bad things, and Jesus forgave them.”

Eric asked for, and accepted God’s forgiveness. “It was just such a surreal moment of just - I gave it all up, everything. And when I truly repented and I gave up everything - the drinking, the drugs - it was gone. I know what that void is. The void was Jesus. The void was Christ.”

He also felt the weight of Josh’s death was finally lifted. “There was a sense of hope. Others have forgiven me for what I've done already that I didn't know. Everything changed; the way I thought, the way I felt, the way I started to see things, just clear.”

In 2015, Eric married Michelle, and today have a beautiful daughter. He’s thankful for the freedom of forgiveness he now has through Jesus Christ. “It's a feeling of just peace, to know that He's our Savior, and to wake up every morning with forgiveness from Jesus, and thank Him every day for that forgiveness. That's all you need.”

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