I met Sophia at church. She was sixteen. I was seventeen. She was my first real girlfriend; my first real love. We got married when she was twenty-three and I was twenty-four. We were ready to set out for a great life. She was born with a heart condition. She had surgery when she was born and again when she was seven. We thought everything was OK. You would think that if any heart problems were to rise it would have within the six years that we dated.
Sophia was a Puerto Rican girl. She was short. She had a spunky attitude. Our friends called her a fireball because she was quick witted. She was a grill all around. She was beautiful. She was awesome and had a heart for the Lord. During our first year of marriage, she began having spells where her heart rate would increase to around two hundred beats per minute. We had to take her to the hospital where they admitted her and had to shock her heart. They told me her heart had failed and that they had to resuscitate her because her heart was not responding to the surgeries that she had undergone. They then informed me that she need to go on an artificial heart until they could do a heart transplant.
I and my church started praying and praying and praying at this time. It felt like things were happening. People’s lives were being changed. But nothing was happening with her. Other people at our church were experiencing healing but not Sophia. One night my friends and I stayed with her until about 3:30am, praying. I had nothing left in me so I did what I did best. I just started worshiping and singing. The next day the doctor called me and said, “You need to get in here. There’s nothing we can do.” She had already turned gray and there was nothing left.
It was a challenging time. What do yo do when God doesn’t answer your prayers? What do you do when everything you believe about God is being tested; when he doesn’t look like the good father that he says he is? During this time, I keep telling myself, “I’m going to keep the faith. I’m going to keep the faith. Remember the bible stories. Remember the bible stories. But inevitably I fell into a deep depression. I could not sleep at night. I dealt with thoughts of suicide. I would never do it. But I couldn’t escape the idea that suicide would be a good escape.
It was like I was holding on the casket of my wife, and as morbid as it sounds was like I was being buried. I remember picturing myself breaking my grip with an invisible hammer off of her casket to let go of that toxicity; to let go of what you didn’t understand. I had to stop asking all the questions and just trust and don’t let that situation take you down. It didn’t happen immediately but I kept exercising letting go. It was almost like somebody pulled a plugged out of my heart. It was like the toxic emotions, the bitterness, the anger, hopelessness, and despair drained out of my heart. I could see God’s goodness and faithfulness again.
The question I had and didn’t understand was, “Where else do I go? If I stop following Jesus, then what?” Little did I know is that God was writing a story. God had bigger plans than I could see. I had already planned to go on American Idol. One month after Sophia’s death I was faced with a choice. Do I go or do I stay home? It was my last opportunity. I was of the age where you don’t get another opportunity. So I went to the audition. Little did I know that God was building a story through that.
I was on Season 8 of American Idol, 2009. I ended up taking 3rd place. I shared my story with millions of people. Lives were touched. That was the bigger picture. I didn’t know that. I wrote a book after that. I started a non-profit organization call “Sophia’s Heart” that is taking homeless families off the street. All that was birthed our of that broken situation. The God I knew as a child was the same God that brought me through that dark moment, and he’s going to be the same God that brings you through your dark moment.