Is it possible to forgive if something seems unforgivable? How can you leave pain and resentment behind?
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[Steve Myers] Is it possible to forgive when something seems unforgivable?
> Police are looking for any evidence that can help solve the mystery of what happened to 31-year-old Michaela Diemer.
>> We’re going to follow a breaking development on the Cleveland west side.
> First exclusive all new at 6, Kristin Volk is here to share the emotional ride Michaela’s family is now on.
>> She was last seen near the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
> 31-year-old Michaela Diemer hasn’t been seen since August 20th.
[Steve] The words that come to mind are: inexcusable, pain, anger, hate. Yet, how can I handle it?
Stay tuned to this special edition of Beyond Today, “Unforgivable: The Michaela Diemer Story.”
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[Steve] You’ll never have peace of mind until you do this. Without it, you cannot have a right relationship with God. In fact, it’s a vital tool in overcoming evil. You should even give this to those that oppose you.
What is it? Forgiveness.
You may have experienced the feelings: A pain that is so deep it’s hard to express. Sorrow that doesn’t go away. Perhaps guilt—guilt that holds you captive. Bitterness, anger that fuel resentment and hate. Even condemning and blaming others for our own suffering and hurt.
All of us can probably relate to feeling and acting this way, but God calls us to a different way of thinking. In fact, it’s so different that He says, “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 Matthew 5:44But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
American King James Version×).
But is that even possible? How can you leave pain and resentment behind? Can you ever really get over the emotional need to punish someone who has mistreated you? Is it just wishful thinking? God says it’s critical. He even commands it. He says that we cannot be a part of Him and His way without forgiveness.
On today’s program, we’ll examine God’s concept of forgiveness through the story of Michaela Diemer, and we’ll have a special free offer for you later in the program.
> Neighbors in the quiet community were stunned to hear Diemer was missing.
>> I had no idea. I was horrified to find out that there was somebody from our neighborhood that was missing. I feel really bad for her family.
>She was last seen near the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
[Steve] I spoke with Michaela’s father, Andy, about the experience.
[Andy Diemer] Michaela’s birth was one of the happiest moments of my life. As a little girl, she would often shower me with little girl kisses and send me little cards and greetings. And, one time she drew a picture of the factory I worked in and instead of the dirty factory building, it had flowers in the windows and curtains and it was much different in her mind, because that just came out of her heart, those types of—that expression.
[Steve] The joy of a father. The innocence of childhood. A reminder of the kind of God that we have.
Psalm 103 says, “Despite all your many offenses, He forgives and releases you… When people are crushed, wronged, enslaved, raped, murdered, the Eternal is just; He makes the wrongs right… An earthly father expresses love for his children; it is no different with our heavenly Father; The Eternal shows His love for those who revere Him.” (Psalms 103:3 Psalms 103:3Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases;
American King James Version×; Psalms 103:6 Psalms 103:6The LORD executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
American King James Version×; Psalms 103:13 Psalms 103:13Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him.
American King James Version×; Voice).
As time moves on, innocence can fade. Forgiveness becomes a challenge.
Michaela's teen years were difficult for her. With the breakup of her parents, her father was left to raise the children on his own as a single parent. At that time, she started to experiment with alcohol.
Michaela’s always had a caring heart though. Immediately after high school she studied nursing and graduated 2nd in her class. Her career in nursing gave her the opportunity to help others. Patients and colleagues alike took notice.
[Andy] The people at the nursing home truly loved her. In fact, the resident’s families would tell me when I visited it sometimes how much they appreciated Michaela taking care of their loved ones. She had such a heart for giving and the gift from God that she had to care for people.
[Steve] Life held out hope for a wonderful future. So Michaela moved to San Diego where she continued to help others. She volunteered at Big Brother, Big Sister of Pasadena and continued to work in nursing. Now unfortunately, her drinking began to affect all aspects of her life. The DUI’s added up and she ended up losing her nursing license. In time, she hit rock bottom. Now 31 years old, she decided to moved back to her home town of Cleveland, to be near her family and hopefully, to get a fresh start.
[Andy] She came back to Cleveland area where we live and I began to immediately get involved with her again, to help her get on her feet. And she did not ask me to come here, because she probably knew I would say, “You need to fix your life. You need to fix yourself. You cannot stay here and go out and party and then come home. You can’t do that.” So she went to a homeless shelter. And that was very difficult for me.
I hugged her goodbye, and that evening, actually not very long after that, I think it was even before I arrived home, she sent me a text and told me that she was going to make me proud.
[Steve] At the homeless shelter, Michaela met others who were trying to put their lives back together. Through a contact, she found work cleaning up at the local baseball stadium through a temporary staffing agency. Her father was hopeful that this would be the first of many steps to get her life back on the right track.
[Andy] She and I were maintaining contact with texts. She was telling me that she was going to go get her resume made up, going to go down to the library as I suggested and look on the database there for jobs. She was telling me, essentially, that she was trying to restart her life. Then, I texted her back that “That’s good! Happy that you're trying.” Just was positive back to her. We always had a lot of X’s and O’s in our text messages—hugs and kisses.
[Steve] Though optimistic, Michaela’s father was still deeply concerned.
[Andy] I do remember praying—I keep a diary of my prayers, and I wrote about that experience.
“Many of my thoughts today are on my daughter. She is staying at a homeless shelter, or so it appears, and has worked a few hours in the last several days. Her job is to pick up trash at Progressive Field after the Indians games. She informs me that a bus transports her and other homeless from the shelter to the field. How could this nightmare get any worse, O God? I pity my poor daughter, but I can hardly help her if alcohol is more important to her than being cleaned up of her addiction. Father, I know You hear my prayers for her. Please watch over my dear one and draw her to You.”
That was my prayer that day for her.
[Steve] And all of a sudden, nothing. No word from her, nothing.
> Hi, you’ve reached my voicemail, leave me a message and I’ll call you back.
[Andy] And I started to look. Nobody had seen her.
Well I continued to pray during that time as the realization dawned on all of us that something seriously wrong had happened—something seriously terrible had happened. And as that realization began to dawn on me, I went to my strength; I went to God on my knees and in my thoughts. I went to God for strength to get through that.
And the morning that she went missing, I wrote in my diary these words:
“This morning, my thoughts go again to where they have often gone of late. I’m thinking of my daughter. I do not know where she is at the moment, but I pray, O Lord, that You are watching over her. Please reach her heart today, so that she may turn to You and live.”
[Steve] After four long days of silence, Andy reported his daughter missing to the police.
[Andy] I went to the police and filed a missing person report and a feeling of a deep foreboding was with me—that I was going through a personal hell. Now my wife knew, but the people I worked with didn’t. It was only until Michaela’s missing persons report went public that other people began to know, and then I didn’t feel so alone.
[Steve] Michaela’s father put up signs, called her friends, drove the streets looking for his daughter. Days turned into weeks. Then a glimmer of hope—two long weeks after her disappearance, Michaela’s cousin happened to spot her car, but Michaela wasn’t driving it. Someone else was.
So she followed the car to a gas station. The driver filled up the car, went in and paid, and then drove off. Finally a break! The surveillance camera from that gas station would certainly help police identify that man who was driving Michaela’s car, which would lead to finding her.
Police viewed that video tape and after another week and a half, they came up empty. They couldn’t find the man or the car on the video tapes. Yet Andy was determined. He was determined as a father. He went to that gas station. He asked to review the tapes himself. Now while reviewing those tapes, they noticed something that explained why the police couldn’t find anything. They realized the time stamp on that video was an hour off. Andy immediately searched the tape accounting for that lost hour. There he was! The car and the suspect—clear as can be—right there on video.
[Andy] I didn’t know what to think. I did not know why this man on that video was driving my daughter’s car. I just knew we’d identified this person at least on the video, and I asked the police to come immediately to the gas station. They did, along with an FBI agent, who was now also assigned to the case.
[Steve] Armed with the image of the man from the surveillance video, police were able to identify that man as Michaela’s supervisor at the staffing agency. Andy had spoken to this very same man while going through Michaela’s phone records. This was the same man who told Andy that he had no idea where Michaela could be and that she “just stopped showing up for work.”
[Andy] And I think I was holding it together fairly well at that point, but on the drive home, the weight of this experience overwhelmed me, and I just began to cry out to God, literally, in my car, as I’m driving, telling God that it has to end. We have to know what happened.
[Steve] God answered that prayer and things began to progress quickly. The police were able to stake out the business where the man was employed and waited for him to come and pick up his paycheck. When he did, they finally captured the only one who would know what really happened to Michaela.
[Andy] And then about 3:30 AM that morning, I received a knock at my door. It was the FBI agent and a Cleveland homicide detective, said, “We found a body which we believe to be your daughter.”
[Steve] It was the worst news. The body they found was indeed Andy’s only daughter, Michaela.
Police discovered that on the night of Aug 20th Michaela’s supervisor, Ronald Hillman, had taken her to an abandoned house near his home. It was there a struggle took place. Michaela was raped, beaten, and murdered in that house. Her body was left for several days until Hillman, fearing discovery, dumped her body near train tracks not far from his home.
As Andy went through that horrific story, he asked me: “Could you imagine your daughter laying out here—for a month?” I couldn’t, could you?
And yet there’s more to the story. Andy will have an opportunity to confront the man who killed his only daughter. What will he do? Just imagine, what would you do? Stay with us. We’ll find out right after this.
[Steve] You see when you understand God’s purpose for your life, it changes everything.
[Gary Petty] This is about having God come into your life, to change you, to make you into His child.
[Darris McNeely] America is at a crossroads. You have seen the world go through dramatic changes. What’s God doing? And what’s His plan and purpose for you? How can you take control of your life and meet the challenges for our day. You need to hear our message of hope and understanding. Come see Beyond Today live as we present, “America: The Time is Now.” Join me, along with Steve Myers and Gary Petty. We’ll give you answers to understand today’s world events and hope for what God has planned for you.
We’re coming to Nashville, Indianapolis and Columbus. Check our website for details and get your free tickets today. Come hear a message of help for today and hope for tomorrow. America, the time is now!
> And today we’re uncovering the story behind the charges just filed in the death of a missing woman. Ed Gallek was first to report. He joins us now with what He has learned. Ed.
>> Charges now against Ronald Hillman. Police say he killed Michaela’s Diemer—missing for a month, body just found. And we’ve learned more of what happened.
[Steve] The man pled guilty to all charges and faced life in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentencing took place only 1 year after Michaela’s murder. The family would have an opportunity to speak to the murderer directly. Can you imagine talking to the one who killed your loved one? What would you say?
[Andy] Before I went to the sentencing where the family would address the killer, who had now admitted to all the crimes, I prayed on my knees and wrote prayers in my diary, as I often do, and was trying to determine what I would say to him. And I realized I wanted to let him know how important Michaela was to me, how much she meant to me.
Then, I told Mr. Hillman: “I’m talking to you very sternly now, but I don’t hate you. In fact, I don’t have any—an ounce of hatred against you. I just feel sorry for you, for what you’ve become.”
And I told him that, “You now have life, and while Michaela doesn’t have life, you have time to reform and fix yours.” When I told him that, Mr. Hillman sobbed. He was a broken man. Completely broken.
[Steve] Forgiveness is powerful. Difficult words, challenging to verbalize and even more challenging to actually do. But it wasn’t over yet. Ronald Hillman was now given an opportunity to speak.
[Andy] He stood up and he said, “At first, I wasn’t going to say anything, but I think that would be unfair to both myself and everyone here.” He said, “I took responsibility for what I did, and I deserve every punishment I get. I think the only thing I have left to say is, ‘May Michaela rest in peace.’”
[Steve] Sorrow. Repentance. Was he truly repentant? Only he and God know for sure. But we did see an amazing display of forgiveness that came straight from the heart of a grieving father. Even the judge took notice.
[Andy] Mr. Hillman was sentenced to life without parole and led away. And after the judge left the courtroom, he removed his robes and came back out, walked directly to me, and shook my hand. And he said, “You’ve displayed a tremendous amount of strength today in a very difficult situation.” But I know where that strength came from.
[Steve] It’s easy to forgive an occasional slight or minor hurt feeling, but can we forgive when it seems humanly impossible? Can we display godly forgiveness?
[Andy] I never felt any hatred or ill will against him. I simply did not make that choice. I didn’t harbor any resentment. I realized it would have done no good. God will judge.
By choosing forgiveness, we are doing what God would have us do because He sees the potential in everyone. He’s made an opportunity for everyone to have eternal life.
What I would say is that the burden is too heavy for you to bear a grudge, to bear hatred, to bear resentment. It’s too heavy a burden. Let God take care of that and you go on with your life.
As I look back now and I see how much His hand was involved, it’s incredible to see how close God is to us—even in our darkest hours, how close He is.
[Steve] God is always close to us. Will we choose to be close to Him?
I’d like to take a moment to remind you to order your free copy of our helpful Bible study aid, Forgiveness Is Possible. How could you forgive the unforgivable? And, how do we seek God’s forgiveness?
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Could you forgive a murderer who took your daughter’s life?
Seems impossible to most of us. Yet, we have a great God who forgives everyone their shortcomings and sin. The Bible tells us, we’re like that murderer—we deserve to die for our sins.
The Bible shows that God loves us—no matter how big or how small the sin. He can forgive everything when we repent, and when we change and when we begin to grow. We’ve also contributed to the death of Jesus Christ—the one who sacrificed His life so that we may truly live. We’re the killers! We helped take the life of Jesus. Yet, we can be different people. We can be godly people. We can be forgiven people with the help of His Spirit.
So let’s make it our goal to become more like Christ and to learn how to forgive.
That’s our program for today. Thanks for joining me. Now don’t forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again next week for another edition of Beyond Today and join me in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today, I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.
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