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Finding Hope Through Family Tragedy

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Finding Hope Through Family Tragedy

Speaker Keith Becker describes how the tragic loss of his younger brother in a drunk-driving accident ultimately helped to bring about healing and restoration to their family.
Original Air Date: August 12, 2015

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Episode Summary

Speaker Keith Becker describes how the tragic loss of his younger brother in a drunk-driving accident ultimately helped to bring about healing and restoration to their family.
Original Air Date: August 12, 2015

Episode Transcript

Excerpt:

Keith Becker: My brother Todd and I were out doing what we had grown accustomed to doing—drinking, partying, chasing the girls. At about 12:15 or so that night, it was kinda like this dark cloud came over that party.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Keith Becker, and today you’re gonna hear what that “dark cloud” was that he sensed that night and how it led to really dramatic changes in his family. Your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, we’re gonna hear about the troubled life of a young man from a very dysfunctional home.  And boy, I can relate to that. I lived that life as a teenager too. And both of our stories are evidence of what God can do to change a person’s heart and change their life.

If you’re a parent of a teenager, I need to strongly suggest you listen to this message WITH them and talk about it afterward. It is a great conversation starter. There are a lot of good lessons that can be learned from what Keith and his family went through.  And we feel so strongly about that we’re offering today’s message as a free audio download so as many people as possible can listen to this. And you can get that at our website.

John: Yeah, this really needs to be heard. And that download is at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

And as we get into Keith’s story, he’s going to refer to a family picture. He was showing our staff a photo of his mom and his dad, and two brothers. And with that backdrop here’s Keith Becker on Focus on the Family.

Keith: I think I should just share my story because I think my story really is a perfect picture of the ministry that Focus on the Family does. So, this morning what I want to do is, I want to take you on a brief journey just through my life, as … uh … you introduced to me here this morning, we travel around the Midwest and we do high school assemblies, and that’s my ministry.

But there’s a lot of things that have brought me to this place of where I am now able to minister from. And so, I want to take you on that journey of how I’ve come to be who I am today and … and where I’m going now.

I think it’s important though that before I begin to share my story, I need to just say that I’m gonna share some pretty raw, some pretty hurtful, some … I don’t know how other to say it, some pretty tough stuff from my family life.

And I think when you hear somebody talk about their family life it’s easy to think, you know, that guy’s just a bitter guy, mad at his family. And I guess I just want to say before I even begin that … that it’s important to know the ending before I even begin and that’s that I have a wonderful relationship with my mother and father now. A healthy relationship. God has restored many things.

So, I want to take you to Carney, Nebraska, where I made the trip to come and speak to you today. That’s where I grew up. And in fact, my year began in 1984. That’s when I was born. I want to share with you a little bit about this town that I grew up in. Where my mom and dad reared me. They raised me. They brought me up. And to do that, I think it’s best to show you a picture of my family.

Well, to many of you, you look at this photo and you may go, you know, it looks like a typical Midwestern family. And I suppose … I suppose you could think that, that we’re a typical family. Typical in this sense: my mother and father didn’t get along. Typical in the sense that as a young man growing up in a home, I never was certain if my mom and dad would be together when I woke up. Typical in the sense that there was turmoil in my home, and I say “typical,” because guys, today that is the typical American family.

As a result, my world grew very dark. In fact, many times, as you look at this photo, you may look at that and relate. I know I can relate personally to my young son. He’s 2-years-old. And many of my days as a young man, as a 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-year-old, was spent in between my mother and father as they fought. In between … I was the middle uh … child, always feeling like, you know, I’ve gotta fix this problem between my parents. And knowing that oftentimes when I would go to bed, I would hear my mother and father scream at each other.

And you see the darkness in a young man. I was scared. And in fact, it got so bad in my ninth, 10th year of life, I vividly remember calling 911. I didn’t know if my dad was gonna kill my mom and I … and I didn’t do it to get my dad in trouble. I just was afraid that my dad would do something to my mom that he would regret. And so, I would call 911.

And of course, the sheriffs would come and three or four of ’em would slam into the door and … and then I didn’t know. But then what would happen is, I would get the guilt from my parents. The guilt when the sheriffs would come, my mom and dad would sit down and they’d say, “Oh, it’s all right. We just havin’ a little argument. It’s no reason to … Keith … he’s just a little kid. He didn’t know any better. We were just havin’ an argument.”

And I would see week after week, my mom with a … a bruise and a black eye. My dad with a knife, slamming it on the table, talking about things that I dare not speak. And so, when the sheriffs would come, the 911 calls would come, I … I didn’t know what else to do but call the sheriff over and over. And to this day, I unfortunately, have a relationship with those sheriffs for the wrong reason, because my house became a typical place.

But every time… every time the sheriff would come, and anyone who’s been in sort of an abusive home environment, can identify, I felt guilty. Because they would never do anything. I didn’t want my dad to be taken away. I didn’t want my mom to, you know, go off in handcuffs. I just wanted there to be security. To know … that sheriff to come and say, little boy, young man, I promise you, your mom and dad are gonna be okay. But they never did that. What they did was, they believed my mom and dad.

Well, fast forward a few years now into my 11th, 12th year of life. By about 12th year, my parents did something that I thought was really strange. I thought this was crazy, because my parents took a three-day vacation. Now I remember my brother Todd and I, when my mom and dad said they’re goin’ on vacation, I remember thinkin’ to Todd, I thought, “Todd, mom and … I thought they hated each other. I mean, why would they go off three or four days up to South Dakota on a vacation? They can’t even control their selves and be happy the few hours they’re at home.” I … we thought this was crazy.

But my grandparents came to our home there in Nebraska to watch us three boys. And mom and dad went off on this vacation. Maybe they went to marriage counseling. I don’t know, but they were gone.

Well, my brother, Todd and I were down in the basement of our home. That was an unfinished basement, so down in that basement, I mean we did everything. Lit fireworks shot BB guns. We did everything under the sun, right? That was when you didn’t have all the regulations.

But anyway, this particular day, we were down there playing roller hockey in the basement and my brother Todd and I, back and forth. Well, anyway, we got hot and we decided, well, let’s go up to get some water. So, I ran up the stairs first. And the first thing that I did, is I walked into the kitchen of my home and I opened up the refrigerator. And with my left hand I opened that frig and on the right hand I felt a hand lay on my shoulder.

And it kinda startled me, ’cause I ran up the stairs quick and I opened that door and the hand was shaking. And I turned around and it was my grandmother. And her hand was just shakin’ and tears were streaming down her face and she looked at me and she said, “Keith, Keith, you need Jesus.”

And I looked at her and I thought, “Good heavens.” The only thing I need is to get the heck out of here. I turned around, walked around my grandmother, stopped my brother who was runnin’ up and I said, “Todd, you don’t want to go up there. Gran … you don’t … Grandma told me that I needed Jesus.” What in the world do we need Jesus for? We had God in our life. I mean, we believed in God. But I took my brother downstairs and I said, “Todd, Grandma … you know, we kinda thought she was getting’ old. Let me confirm; she is old, and she is goin’ nuts. She said I needed Jesus.” I mean, as a young boy, the turmoil in my life, I just … I don’t need Jesus. So, I thought, right?

Well, then another year passed in my life and the turmoil within the home began to grow and the 911 calls continued. In fact, so much to the effect that my older brother was sent away. Was sent away off to a … I don’t know where, jail or something. Us boys never really found out the truth. But because my parents couldn’t get things straight, the discipline wasn’t there, my brother got into drugs and he was out of the house. So, now we were down just to two brothers, my brother Todd and me.

Well, see, my father was a very good baseball player in his college years. He was a minor league ball player, had a little bit of a stint. So, as I’m growing up into my teens now, I wanted to please my dad. I wanted my dad to look at me. I wanted my dad to say, “You know, Keith, I’m proud of you. You’re growin’ up like me.” And I longed for that. So, baseball was one of the ways that I did that.

I loved to play baseball. In fact, it was one of the most important things in my life as a teenager, but one thing that happened that I was just so honored that happened to me and so excited to tell my dad and that’s that I made … my 13th year, I made the All-Star team. I finally did somethin’ that I thought would get my dad’s attention and say, “Man, I love you, Keith. This is awesome. You’re gonna be a man. You’re just like me.”

Well, the day before the All-Star game, my dad and I got in an argument. And I don’t really know what all transpired, but I do know that I ended up in the hospital with a concussion. And I remember when the sheriffs came to investigate it, I lied again.

And when the All-Star came … the day of the All-Star game, they came. My teammates came and they brought in, you know, balloons and we’re gonna miss you at the game today. And they, of course, all of them wanted to know what happened? And I lied to ’em. I said dad and I were out hittin’ fly balls. We were out hittin’ fly balls and he hit one really back and I … I was goin’ back and I … and I swung my arm over this way, and I slipped over and I … I hit the fence with my head, and I got a concussion.

Friends, I say that not to belittle my dad. I know my dad to this day is ashamed of that. But see, the abuse and the confusion and the dysfunction, I was absolutely lost when I went into this very school, Carney High School. I was lost. I didn’t have a relationship with my mom. My brother, oldest, had been sent away in jail. My youngest, I … it was just a mess. Home was a place of insecurity.

And so, when I entered high school, I did what Amos 3, verse 4 describes. I began to be led astray. You see, when you enter the lion’s den and you don’t have anyone, when you don’t have a Daniel in your life, when you don’t have someone in your life to say, “This is the way, young man; walk in it. This is how a godly man grows up,” I was led astray by lies. The lies of Budweiser. The lies that deceived my ancestors, they’re going to deceive our children. Budweiser, MTV, Playboy, you name it.

When I entered my freshman year in high school, the voice of my father was shut off. I couldn’t trust him.

Friends, I don’t say that to blame my problems on my parents. I am responsible for my own choices. But I think it’s important to understand the influences in young people’s lives that cause them to do, in some part, what they do.

But see, I was led astray by these lies and these lies told me … I mean, I saw the Playboy. I saw the Budweiser ad. They said, man, look, go after the girls. If you’ve got a long neck and a girl on your left, you’re a man.

I was led astray by the lies that deceived, that lied to us, that told us this is a man and so, that’s what I did with my brother. I told my youngest brother, Todd when he entered high school, he was a freshman; I was a senior. I had the fake ID; I had the places to get the beer. I knew what it would be to make a man out of him. So, I led him into all this lie and lifestyle.

Well, February the 5th, the year 2005, my brother Todd and I were out doing what we had grown accustomed to doing—drinking, partying, chasing the girls. And that night it was a normal party. We were at a friend’s house drinking and the radio was blaring; AC/DC was goin’ pretty loud. And my brother had kinda ran off to another party and … and I was at this party.

You know, you’re windin’ down, thinkin’ about, okay, who can … who can I get home with? Da-da-da-da-da. And at about 12:15 or so that night, it was kinda like this dark cloud came over that party. It was as if the … the party ended, but the music was still blarin’. The people were still around. The girls hadn’t left yet, but all of a sudden, this black cloud came over.

Well, one of my friends came upstairs and he pulled me out of kinda the crowd and he said, “Keith, you need to call home.” And I remember lookin’ at him. His name was Case. I said, “Case, I’m not callin’ home it’s 12:30. I’m drunk. I’m not callin’ home.”

And he pulled me a little further aside. He pulled me into the bathroom, and he said, “Keith, you need to call home.” Finally, I said, “Case, I’m not callin’ home.” Well, he dialed my home number and just shoved it up to my ear. And my dad answered.

I said, “Dad, what’s goin’ on?” Silence. I said, “Dad, this is Keith. What … what’s goin’ on?” He said, “Keith, it’s your brother. He’s dead.” And he hung up the phone.

John: Such a sad turn of events for Keith Becker and his family, as his brother, Todd, was killed in a drunk driving accident that night. And how quickly things can change. We’ll continue the story here on Focus on the Family in just a moment, but this reminder: you can get a free audio download of this program to listen to again. Perhaps with a teen or young adult in your life, at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Let’s go ahead and return now to Keith Becker, speaking to the Focus on the Family staff.

Keith: It was at my brother’s funeral that I saw for the first time my father down on his knees, weeping. The first time I saw my macho, tough father shed a tear was down on his knees, pounding the floor, saying, “No! No!” And see, it was over for my brother, Todd. Our family dysfunction, the insecurity at our home had grown to the highest level. No longer was it something that we could just hide and pretend like all is well.

But see, something at the funeral happened to me that really stuck out at me, that spurred something in me. As I sat in the front row right in front of this casket, the pastor came up and … and he prayed a prayer that was very, I guess you could say confusing to me. The pastor came forward and he laid hands on it and he prayed like this. “Oh, dear God in heaven, we now give you our beloved Todd Becker up to Your presence in heaven. Amen.”

And sittin’ right there in front of that casket, I remember hearin’ that and thinkin’, “my brother is in heaven?” We loaded him up. Took him to the top of the cemetery. Atop the cemetery, the pastor, once we loaded him over this hole, the pastor came forward and basically prayed the same thing, “Oh, thank You, God that we’re assured of heaven. Hallelujah. Our brother, Todd’s in a better place. Amen.”

Really? And I went home that night, and when I lay in bed, it was like that pastor’s prayer kept ringin’ in my ear, ringin’ this prayer of “heaven, Todd Becker.” It was confusing to me.

All of a sudden, when my brother died, everybody was talkin’ about how good of a Christian he is. I knew that was a lie. There was something within me that said, “Keith, that’s not the truth. Just because you die in America doesn’t mean you go to heaven” I began to question, how is it that we can live like hell and expect to go to heaven?

Now guys, I’m not sayin’ I know where my brother Todd is. I can’t make that judgment. But what I can tell you is that began my journey to the cross of Jesus Christ. And it just so happened to be that the college class I sat in, next to me was a pastor’s daughter. Well, three weeks after this funeral, the pastor’s daughter brought me a note from her father. And the note read something to the effect of, “Keith, I know your brother’s just died and I’m sure you’re hurting. If you want to talk, come to my office.” And he wrote down his number.

And I looked at the note and thought, you know, “I’ll figure this out on my own.” Well, a few days passed, and the pastor’s daughter sat next to me again and well, she brought another note and I looked at it and said, “oh, I don’t need it.” Well, finally on the third note, on the third note, I decided, you know, “I’m gonna get this pastor off my back and just politely say I’m not interested.”

Well, I ended up in his office. I ended up in his office and at his office he got out what I’d never seen before, what I’d never heard before. He got out this Bible. And he sat next to me, one to the other, pulled out his little desk drawer and slipped through the pages of the Bible. And the pastor, for the first time in my life, clearly explained to me the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And he didn’t water it down. He didn’t say, “Oh, Keith, you know, you … you’ve been a good boy. At least you haven’t murdered anybody. As long as you have a little faith, you’ll go to heaven.”

He said, “Keith, look, if you don’t repent of your sins, if you don’t turn away from the path of death and if you don’t embrace Christ…. He’ll forgive you. He’ll set you on a new path. He will show you how to be a godly man. But Keith, it requires total surrender.”

Man, that’s all you needed to say for a young man that was totally broken. Totally broken. Show me how to be a man. Show me what it means to live. Show me what it means to die. And this pastor was persistent. Three times. Finally, he shared the Gospel because he got me in his office.

And friends, that was the moment I grabbed that pastor’s hand. I didn’t know what I was in for, but I knew where I was at right there was brokenness. “God, I need someone to come. I need someone to take the brokenness, take my choices, not just blame it on my parents, but take responsibility for my own choices.” And I received Christ, put my faith in the Lord.

And guys what I can tell you is that happened nine years ago. And I’m standing before you on this platform and saying my life has never been the same. Has never been the same. The things that I once loved, the drinkin’, the parties, the MTV, the Lady Gaga’s, you name it, those things that I once loved, as soon as Christ came in and I read the Word, I began to see, “man, God doesn’t like that.” And all of a sudden, I began not to like it. The things that I once hated, the things that I thought were so worthless, I began to embrace and say, this is what it means to truly live.

And so, guys, I come to you today. I know from a light start to this meeting, to a pretty heavy load here. I come to you today to share with you the absolute importance of the work that you’re doing. The family structure, the family structure, listen, it is the single most important structure in our culture that will determine how young people shift off into our society.

I didn’t have a stable home. And because I didn’t have a stable home, I had an unstable life. My life was a wreck. And so, I want to share this very Scripture that was read earlier with you. It’s in the book of Corinthians. 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, to encourage you and to challenge you.

“My dear brothers and sisters, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.” Immovable says, “I’m not gonna let the waves of our culture, I’m not gonna let the deception of the enemy, I’m not gonna be moved. I know the God whom I serve. I know what God has called me to do.” “Be strong and immovable and always work enthusiastically.”

You see, my grandma thought that what she said to me was of no value, because I walked away thinkin’, “what a nut.” But here’s what I’d say to my grandma. Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. Nothing. My grandma surely thought this is … well, she didn’t get it.  Keith walked away and again, his life’s a wreck. But there when that hand was laid on my shoulder, it was as if God Himself was planting a seed in my heart that seven years later would come to pass. And here, because of one grandmother’s faithfulness, and because of a pastor’s faithfulness, to be persistent and be immovable.

Friends, I’m here to tell you, my generation and my family has been changed. Because no longer … I’m not a perfect father. And my family isn’t a perfect family. But what I am here to tell you is, my mother and my father have come to Christ. They’ve put their trust in Him. It doesn’t mean that everything got perfect. But I can look at this photo on here and say, we have a stable family. We have a stable family. It doesn’t mean perfect. But when I look into the eyes of my 2 ½-year-old, I know that what this young man wants is the security of knowing mom and dad love each other. They’re not goin’ anywhere.

And so, I leave you with the challenge. A challenge, as you look at just one photo of an American family, one photo of an American family that, because of the Gospel, was transformed. And that’s what Focus is all about, leading people to Jesus Christ, just like my grandma and just like that pastor did. And because of it, by God’s grace, my home will be stable. And most importantly, by God’s grace, my children will know what it means to be a godly young man and a godly young woman.

So, guys, thank you. It’s been a honor to speak with you this morning. It’s been a privilege. And again, I want to encourage you. Be strong and do the work. Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. Thank you, guys. God bless. Thank you.

Audience: (Applause)

John: This is Focus on the Family, and Jim, for such a difficult story, it is reassuring to hear that God ultimately used those really hard circumstances to redeem Keith’s entire family.

Jim:  It is, John. And we know that redemption is only found at the cross of Jesus Christ. And that’s what Keith’s family learned through the loss of his brother, because of that terrible combination of drinking and driving.

You know, Romans 8:28 – all things work for good. It’s sometimes hard to see that, but man, the scripture’s true.

And you know, it’s amazing how God can take the pain and suffering that one person experiences and use it to minister to others, to show them a better way.  And that’s why we’re making today’s message available as a free download so all of you can share it with someone who needs this message of redemption, or for yourself.

And as Keith said so graciously, that’s why Focus on the Family’s here. To offer hope and salvation through Jesus Christ. Surveys tell us that over the past year, Focus on the Family has helped more than 700 people a day commit, or recommit, their lives to Christ. And I want to say thank you for making that possible.

And here’s an amazing endorsement that we received from a woman I’ll call Julie, to maintain her privacy. She said: I’ve been diagnosed with aggressive leukemia and have just a few weeks to live.  I’m calling to renew the Clubhouse magazine subscription for my grandchildren, so that they will keep getting that blessing every month. And I want you all to know that Focus helped me tremendously over the years.  You helped my husband and I stay married, even though there were times when I just wanted to run away.  You helped me raise my children, who have blessed me with grandchildren.  I’m writing my own obituary, and in it I’m going to say I don’t want flowers – I want my friends to donate to Focus on the Family!  God bless you all!

John: Oh, my goodness, Jim. What a strong, godly lady!!

Jim: Whew…she’s amazing. And I’m looking forward to meeting Julie in Heaven one day. And what a great reminder of the positive influence that Focus on the Family is having on families, all around the world. Wouldn’t you like to be a part of that impact?  We’ve got the machinery in place; we just need you to provide the fuel to keep this motor running!

And by the way, if you’re hurting, and you’re worried about someone in your family, give us a call. We count it a privilege to pray with you, and if you need more intensive help, we can have one of our Counselors give you a call back.  So please, get in touch with us today. Don’t stay in your pain!

John: Mmm. Yeah, we’re here to help!  And our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or visit us online and request that free download of today’s message from Keith Becker at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

While you’re at the website, look for the free little booklet called Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God’s Family.  It has details about becoming a Christian and the steps to take after that decision.

And if you enjoyed today’s program please plan to join us next time, as well.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller and thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. Join us again when we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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