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Jill Biden tells church how she found faith again after death of stepson Beau

First lady says she felt 'betrayed by my faith'

Jill Biden
U.S. first lady Jill Biden delivers remarks during an Equal Pay Day event in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C.. |

When God didn't answer her "one last desperate prayer" before the death of her stepson, Beau Biden, from brain cancer in 2015, first lady Jill Biden felt so "betrayed" she "couldn't even pray." A visit to Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, four years later, however, would change everything.

In an unannounced visit to the church where she renewed her faith in 2019, the 70-year-old Biden told the congregation in an address broadcast on Facebook Live Sunday how her faith had been an important factor in her life since she was a teenager. But she just wasn't always very public about it.

"It's always been an important part of who I am," she admitted as she was visiting the church to celebrate Pastor Charles B. Jackson Sr.'s 50th year in ministry. 

"I chose it as a teenager when I fell in love with the peace of the quiet wooden pew, the joy of the choir, like this magnificent choir you have here, and the deep wisdom of the Gospels. Prayer is especially a way that I connect to people that I love and to the world around me. But in 2015, my faith was shaken."

In May 2015, Joseph "Beau" Biden III, the former attorney general of Delaware and the eldest son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, lost his fight with brain cancer at 46.

"For over a year, I watched my brave, strong, funny, bright, young son fight brain cancer: chemotherapy, operation after operation, weight loss. Still, I never gave up hope. As a mother, we can't," she said, acknowledging Robin Jackson, the wife of the church's pastor.

Beau Biden, Joe Biden, Vice president
Beau Biden, the son of US Vice President Joe Biden, has died. |

"While we were worshiping, I had to be strong for my children and for my husband. But most of all, for my son, Beau. I had to be strong for him because, in the middle of it all, he was being strong for us. So I kept going every day. I put one foot in front of the other. And despite what the doctor said, I believed that my son would make it. In the final days, I made one last desperate prayer. And it went unanswered," the first lady said.

"After Beau died, I felt betrayed by my faith, broken. You know, my own pastor wrote emails occasionally, which he was checking in with me, inviting me back to the service. But I just couldn't go. I couldn't even pray. I wondered if I would ever feel joy again," she continued.

As her husband campaigned to become the next president of the United States in 2019, the journey took them to Brookland Baptist Church. That's when Jill Biden felt like God spoke to her.

"In the summer of 2019, many of you may remember this, Joe and I came to worship here at Brooklyn Baptist Church. And something felt different that morning," she said. 

During worship that day in 2019, Biden said that Robin Jackson sat beside her and offered to be her "prayer partner." 

"And I don't know if she sensed how moved I had been by the service. I don't know if she could still see the grief that I'd feel still hides behind my smile. But I do know that when she spoke, it was as if God was saying to me, 'OK, Jill, you've had enough time. It's time to come home,'" Biden continued.

She quoted from Hebrews 4:16 and Matthew 19:26.

"In that moment, I felt for the first time that there was a path for recovering my faith. The book of Hebrews says, 'let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.'… We can't heal ourselves alone. But with God, all things are possible," Biden said.

"Robin's kindness, her mercy and grace pushed past the calluses on my heart. And like a mustard seed, my faith was able to grow once again. It brought me comfort in the long hard days of the campaign trail. And you all know how hard they were."

She recalled feeling a sense of "joy" by seeing how "strangers could sacrifice for each other."

"It reminded me what was at stake: not an election, not a partisan battle, but a country in need of healing, families that were torn apart by the pandemic, communities wrestling with the evils of racism and discrimination, a nation in search of hope. This church changed my life," she said to a standing ovation. "And it helped shape the course of our journey to the White House."

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