Believing God will Work this Pain for Good

amazingContinued from here.

No matter what you are going through in your life … no matter how painful it is … no matter how broken you are … God is BIGGER! I know this because I have seen what He can do. The same God who was able to heal me from the suicidal urges, self-injury, eating disorder, anxiety disorder, insomnia, and nightmares is the same God who is able to heal you. I had a mental health professional tell me that I needed to be realistic about my goals for therapy, and a book written by someone who endured a similar level of child abuse and brokenness advised me to accept my limitations: to become comfortable in an emotional wheelchair. However, God had other plans! God has no limits. If He can heal me from an “incurable” mental health disorder, then He can heal you as well.

While I have my moments (as everyone does), I am generally not an anxious person anymore. I experience much joy and peace in my life. I am no longer anger or bitter toward anyone. I am generally patient with other people. I feel excited, passionate, and even grateful for my life. My history has not changed, but my perspective has. While I would never wish child abuse on anyone, I am grateful for mine – not because the child abuse was good but because God is good. The backdrop of the child abuse has helped me see God’s amazing love and power in ways that most people don’t experience to the degree that I have, simply because few people have been broken to the degree that I was.

If you haven’t been deeply broken, thank God for sparing you the pain. If you have, hear me as someone who has been in a similar place: God is bigger. If God can healed my shattered heart, then He can heal yours. If God can lead me to a place of gratitude where I once felt nothing but bitterness, He can do the same for you. There is NOTHING so big that it overshadows God – He is simply that amazing!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hand on her head and mouth agape under the word, “Amazing!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Greater Dependence upon God

ice_creamContinued from here.

One of the challenges of being human is the deep-seated desire for independence and control. The reality is that we don’t control a thing – even the air that we breathe is provided by God in His goodness. The sooner we learn dependence upon God, the sooner we get to experience the many blessings that come from staying connected to the Vine.

The child abuse warped my brain to such a degree that I am incapable of making a healthy decision apart from God. During the decades I tried making my own decisions and living by what I saw as “right,” I repeatedly walked myself into one emotional pit after another. I used to be so angry about this because I blamed the child abuse for this: “if only I had not been abused, then X would not be happening.”

Once I accepted the reality that I do not have even one emotionally healthy bone in my body, I stopped making decisions based upon what looked “right” to me and, instead, depended upon God to show me the right way. Since I have been doing that, so much in my life has turned around for the better. It has become a habit to pray for God’s wisdom and discernment, even in the little things that shouldn’t be a big deal to do on my own. I have no illusions about my ability to make good decisions. Either I depend fully on God to guide me, or I know I’ll find myself in another emotional pit.

This was a painful lesson to learn, but considering that the goal for every Christian is to learn to connect the Vine and depend upon God to lead us through life, the child abuse has actually been a blessing. If I could get by even half the time on my own strength, I would be much less likely to connect with God and seek His wisdom in making decisions. Because of the child abuse, whether or not to seek God’s wisdom is very “black and white” for me: either I follow God’s leading, or I will find myself in another emotional pit. There’s no gray in this area of life for me, which has empowered me to walk more faithfully with God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s head inside a scoop of ice cream that has fallen off the cone. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Greater Empathy for Hurting People

hugsContinued from here.

Another reason I am grateful for the ongoing and severe childhood abuse I suffered is that my experiences taught me empathy for those who are in severe emotional pain. Miserable people are not fun to be around because they are incredibly self-absorbed. I know because I was one. The natural response to pain is to lick your wounds. I was severely wounded, so my focus was on myself for decades, which wasn’t much fun for the people around me. All I saw was my pain while all they saw was my self-absorption. Most people eventually removed themselves from my life, and this only exacerbated the pain. It reinforced my deep-seated belief that I was fundamentally unlovable and that I needed to hide the “real me” because I was so repulsive.

I understand miserable people in a way that most people don’t because I was once one of them. This gives me compassion for them far beyond what most people are willing or able to tolerate because I see past the self-absorption into the pain. I know what it feels like to live in a prison of pain, and my empathy for those who are still there drives me toward them while others are being driven away.

Another reason many people avoid those who are hurting is that they simply don’t know what to say to them. People seem to think they are responsible for saying the “right” thing, and since they don’t know what that is, they avoid being around those who are hurting the most. Because I have been the hurting person, I know that there are no “magic words” that are going to take the pain away. What hurting people need is for someone to listen, not to talk, and to reassure them that they are loved, which is communicated better by presence than by words. We must resist the urge to try to “fix” people and, instead, gently lead them to God, who is the only one with the power to heal their brokenness.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding out her arms and asking, “Hugs?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Greater Experience of God’s Healing Power

epicContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, I am grateful for the ongoing and severe childhood abuse I suffered for many years. No, I am not a masochist. Nothing that has happened to me in my life affected me more profoundly than the child abuse except for one – experiencing God’s healing power! God turned out to be bigger – so much bigger – than my child abuse. Because my child abuse was soooo bad and soooo big, I have a much greater appreciation of the size of our God than most people do because of the child abuse.

People talk about having a broken heart, and you can see how, in time, God might be able to knit the two parts back together. However, my heart was not broken – it was shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. I saw no possible way that anyone – even God – could knit that mess back together because there wasn’t much left to work with. I don’t know how God did it, but He gave me a new heart. It took a lot of time and a lot of tears, but He somehow took the shattered pieces and made something beautiful out of it as only He can do.

That leads me to my first reason for being thankful for the child abuse: only someone who has been as broken as I have gets to experience this degree of God’s healing power. Someone who breaks a bone can marvel over the restoration of the restored bone. Someone else who shatters a bone with multiple fractures is even more grateful and awed by complete restoration of that bone. My bone was run through a wood chipper with nothing but slivers of bone fragments scattered all over the yard, and yet I stand before you showing you my restored bone. That’s nothing short of a miracle.

Because my bone was run through a wood chipper, I have a perspective that is different from most people. I know that I know that I know that there is N-O-T-H-I-N-G that God cannot restore because I have experienced the height, depth, width, and breadth of that healing power in an area that mental health professionals said was beyond repair. I learned firsthand that God is bigger than A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G that you, I, or anyone else will ever face. Learning this came at a heavy price (ongoing and severe child abuse), but it was worth the price to develop this kind of faith and trust in God that I can now share with others who are hurting and fear they are beyond God’s healing power.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking wide-eyed under the word, “Epic.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Being Thankful for Extremely Painful Circumstances

Televangelist and Christian speaker Joyce Meyer has a particularly power testimony, which you can listen to here:

She shared some of the details of being repeatedly sexually abused (raped) by her father throughout her childhood and youth. At the end of her testimony, she said something that is probably shocking to most people after hearing her testimony:

I cannot explain this to you, so don’t even ask me to, but for years I said of course I wish that I would have never been abused, but God has helped me recover. And about three years ago, I said that of course I wish I wouldn’t have been abused, and God stopped me. He said [to] stop saying that. And then I thought about it, and I know this sounds crazy, but I’m glad it happened.” ~ Joyce Meyer

How on earth can someone who was repeatedly raped say she is glad it happened? The answer is simple – God. I know because I am in the same position as Joyce in that, I, too, was repeatedly raped (NOT by my father – the circumstances of my ongoing and severe child abuse differed from Joyce’s), and I am also thankful that it happened.

In this blog series, I will share some of the reasons why I am now grateful for something as horrendous as child abuse – something that wreaked havoc on my life and caused all sorts of misery, including suicidal urges, self-injury, an eating disorder, panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, and intense self-loathing. The aftereffects of the child abuse tainted every single aspect of my life, including every relationship – with my family, friends, church, coworkers, and especially with God. Like Joyce, I repeatedly wished I had never been abused, but like her, I am now grateful for it. If I could go back in time and change it, I wouldn’t. I’ll explain why in this blog series.

Let’s give Joyce the last word. Here are some of her reasons why she is grateful for the child abuse (from the YouTube video):

You know why? Because I’m a better person now than I ever would have been. I don’t know how to make any sense out of that, but I know that I know that I know that God has received me and he has taken what Satan intended for harm and worked it out for good, and I’m a better person than I would have been . . . I’m stronger. I know God better. I understand people’s pain, and I believe . . . that it’s made me able to reach out to you in your pain and your need and to tell you with all passion: God is alive. He loves you. He’s got a good plan for your life, and don’t you ever doubt that. Don’t ever doubt that can you recover. You’re looking at somebody who did.” ~ Joyce Meyer

To be continued…

[Graphic: Link to YouTube video. Courtesy YouTube.]


Recovery Testimony: Child Abuse

crazyContinued from here.

God’s faithfulness in bringing me my son grew my faith. I was active in church and Bible study. Then, my life blew up again because it was time for God to heal my pain from the childhood abuse. This testimony is far too complex for a 400-word blog entry, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

When my son was a toddler, I started having flashbacks of the childhood abuse. Up until this point, I had no conscious memory of the child abuse, and yet my life screamed my truths. I found a checklist online listing 37 common symptoms of people who have been severely abused in childhood. Someone with over 25 of those symptoms is likely to have experienced ongoing and severe childhood abuse. I had 34 of them. Reading this checklist was like looking in a mirror. For most of my life, I thought I was “crazy” with multiple unrelated issues. I did not realize that I was actually “normal” – a “normal” child abuse survivor.

The pain was so intense that I wanted to die. I even considered suicide but could not figure out a way to do it that would not traumatize my young son. While I held onto my faith during this season of life, I was mostly along for the ride as wave after wave of past pain pounded me. My eating disorder got worse, and I started self-injuring to help me manage the pain.

A church friend asked our pastor for a therapist recommendation, which is how I found my wonderful therapy, who is both a Christian and a qualified psychologist with experience in working with people who were severely abused in childhood. God used him to guide me along the path to healing.

The person I am today is so different from the person who entered therapy in 2003 that I can barely see a resemblance. I have completely forgiven all of my childhood abusers. The pain is gone and has been replaced by joy. I no longer self-injure or binge eat … or experience flashbacks, nightmares, or suicidal urges. I now love and accept myself exactly as I am. All of the self-loathing is gone. I truly am a new creation in Christ, to the praise and glory of God!

Over the years, I have encouraged countless child abuse survivors along their own path to healing. I wrote a blog (under another pen name) for six years in which I shared that hope and healing are available, no matter how severe your childhood abuse was. Several people have confided in me about having been abused as children – I was the first person they told. God has made much lemonade out of the lemons of my childhood abuse.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking wild-eyed under the words, “Cray Cray.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

It’s Not About the Chocolate

bummerContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared a simple example of how to put out the fire of anger. Unfortunately, people are rarely simple, so we must go deeper to get to the root of our anger and put it out. My cousin and I have a shorthand saying for this: It’s not about the chocolate.

My cousin and I traveled to Europe with a tour group. For our last day in Switzerland, we had the morning to buy souvenirs and then spent the afternoon atop Mt. Pilatus. Of course, many people bought Swiss chocolate, which they left on the bus while we visited Mt. Pilatus. The day was warmer than expected, so some of the chocolate melted. On the surface, getting angry about melted chocolate seems silly, but my cousin knew the back story of one of the travelers and pointed out that her anger was “not about the chocolate,” hence our shorthand saying.

Often, our anger is not about the precipitating issue. Instead, the current (often trivial) issue triggers a deeper reaction to something in our lives that we have not yet given over to God to heal. Until we heal the deeper issue, seemingly trivial issues will continue to trigger our deep-seated anger, causing the people around us to draw conclusions about us that might be way off base.

This is a common dynamic for child abuse survivors. They carry around anger from being abused as children that was unsafe to express at the time the abuse happened. They lock the anger away, but it’s always simmering beneath the surface. Then, when their chocolate melts (or something else happens to trigger their irritation), they react out of proportion to the surface-level trigger. As they choose to allow a small opening to vent their frustration over melted chocolate, the pent up anger from years of child abuse also pushes its way out, causing them to come across as “overreacting” to melted chocolate when they are really expressing legitimate anger toward past pain that was never processed.

If you find yourself repeatedly “overreacting” to trivial life annoyances, you might have repressed anger that needs to be dealt with. Thankfully, you have a God who understands the real source of your anger, and He’s waiting for you to invite Him in to heal it.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace frowning over the word, “Bummer.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: God the Healer

Continued from here.

In my last blog entry, I addressed two of three truths from the Bible that helped me choose God in my trials: (1) God was with me all through the child abuse; and (2) I will have trouble in this world, but Jesus has overcome the world. Today, I’ll address the third concept that helped me make peace with my past and trust God as I faced new trials. Here’s the passage:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor. ~ Is. 61:1-3

I learned about this passage of scripture through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, which I cannot recommend highly enough, particularly if you have been emotionally shattered by life as I was. I learned that Jesus’ first “job description” was binding up broken hearts. There would be no need to bind up hearts that have not been broken, so this must mean that God doesn’t prevent our hearts from breaking, but He does heal them … and I am living proof of this. So, I don’t need to fear heartbreak, despite its pain, because God is bigger than my broken heart and can give me a new heart that is no longer shattered.

Some Christians try to gloss of over the heavy issues in life, but I didn’t have that luxury. I came to God with a heart shattered by severe childhood abuse, grief over my father’s passing, infertility, and parenting a special needs child. That’s a quadruple heavy load, but God healed all of it.

Perhaps you know what it’s like to have a heart shattered by the death of a loved one, child abuse, rape, infertility, divorce, physical or emotional disability, job loss, or one of the many other types of traumas that life can throw our way. Your God is bigger than your pain. I know this seems impossible, but He is the God of the impossible.

Before trying to persevere through the next trial, I recommend spending some quality time with God, inviting Him to heal your brokenness. Beth Moore’s book, Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, will walk you through this process. I had to work through her book four times before I fully “broke free” from all of my issues, but it was well worth the investment of time and effort. I am now FREE from all of that pain, and God has given me a new heart. He can do the same for you.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Beth Moore’s book, Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender. Courtesy]

Perseverance: Where is God?

where_are_youContinued from here.

As I discussed in my last blog entry, choosing to stay with God in the trials is tough, but it’s a prerequisite to the maturity process. If you run away from God or reject Him every time you face a trial, you aren’t going to make much progress in developing perseverance.

One of my greatest impediments to choosing to stay with God in the trials was my history. I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8, but the child abuse did not stop then. In fact, it got even worse through ages 9 and 10 as my child abusers sought to break my will. (We moved away soon after my 11th birthday.)

I wrestled with where God was during the child abuse. I could understand Him not intervening before I became a Christian but not after. Why would He allow such sadistic abuse of His own child to persist for over two more years? Several of my most traumatizing experiences happened during this time. Where was God during all of this?

After much prayer and introspection, I found myself needing to make a choice: Would I believe God’s Word over my own experiences? God’s Word says that He will never leave me or forsake me. If I believe that God is telling the truth, then I must accept that He was right there beside me as I was being tormented by my childhood abusers.

Why would God be right there beside me and not intervene? I found my answer in a couple of places in the Bible. Jesus said,

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Contrary to what I wanted to believe – that being a Christian would insulate me from pain, Jesus guaranteed that I would have trouble in this world. Note that he doesn’t say that we “may” have trouble. No, he says we “will,” which means that trouble is going to come our way. However, we can be encouraged because Jesus has overcome all of the trouble that the world can bring us.

I’ll discuss the second helpful passage in my next blog entry.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking through a telescope inside the words, “Where are You?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]