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 The pain is gone and has been replaced by joy.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.

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

Perseverance: God the Healer

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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.

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

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.

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

Perseverance: Choosing God in the Trial

hitchhikingContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared some of my testimony of how perseverance did not come naturally to me. While what I shared was from the perspective of an immature Christian, parts of my testimony showed the beginnings of growth.

The first time I faced a serious trial (sudden death of my father), I walked away from God for 11 years. At the most immature level, that’s our natural reaction when we encounter trials: “I’m out of here!”

While I got most things wrong re: perseverance with my next trials (infertility, adoption process, and therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder), I did do one thing right – I decided that I would maintain a relationship with God. Walking away from God a second time was not an option. In fact, when I learned I was infertile, I decided that I already knew that trying to deal with a heavy life blow (losing my father) without the support of God did not work, so I made a conscious choice to go through this trial while having a relationship with God.

Nevertheless, I had quite the chip on my shoulder about it. I found it very unfair that most of my peers had both a living father and the ability to become pregnant while I was “cheated” out of both. It took me a long time to make peace with both the loss of my father and my infertility, and I certainly never considered either trial to “be pure joy.”

One important aspect of perseverance is choice. We must choose to say to God, “I’m going to stay in this relationship with You no matter what.” That’s one thing I did do right, and it began the process of maturity.

This first step can be particularly difficult when you have gone through very deep pain, such as the death of a loved one, child abuse, rape, a serious illness/injury, or other such life-altering blow. I can’t remember where I heard this, but a man who lost his son angrily cried out to God, “Where were You when my son died?” The answer he received was, “The same place I was when My son died.”

As someone who has endured numerous life blows, including the sudden death of a parent as a minor, rapes and other severe forms of child abuse, infertility, and parenting a child with special needs, I know how difficult it can be to make the decision to stay in a relationship with God. It’s human to question where God was when all of these painful life events crush your world. However, you do have a choice. The choice to follow God, even in the midst of serious life trials and challenges, is the first step toward maturity in Christ.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace hitchhiking. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: Immature Christianity

flipping_tableContinued from here.

Let me assure you that “considering it pure joy” that I am facing a trial does not come naturally to me. In my flesh, I am one big baby with an even bigger chip on my shoulder when it comes to suffering.

When I was a teenager, I read the entire Bible cover to cover (ages 14-16). I sincerely valued having a relationship with God, but that relationship was immature. I did not believe it was immature because I was doing things that most of my peers were not, such as reading the entire Bible, being active in my church, and doing Bible studies. My faith was sincere, but it was very immature, as was evidenced to how I reacted when my father died unexpectedly six weeks before my 17th birthday.

One would expect that someone within a sincere interest in God would have turned to Him for comfort during this painful season, but I didn’t. I could not get away from God fast enough! I refused to go to church or Youth Group. I stopped reading the Bible. I cussed God out multiple times and otherwise denied His existence. My attitude was that if this was the way God was going to treat me after I just read the entire Bible, I wanted nothing to do with a God like that.

It took 11 years for God to woo me back. After He did, I learned I was infertile and went through 4-1/2 years of infertility treatments and the adoption process to become a mother. And then on the heels of that, I started having flashbacks from the severe childhood abuse I suffered.

I had one heck of a major attitude about all of this. Why did I have to be abused as a child AND lose my father (who was not one of my abusers) at age 16 AND be infertile AND have to take 4-1/2 years to become a parent through adoption AND have to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder … and, and, and? See what I mean about the big chip on my shoulder?

This is an example of an immature Christian’s view of suffering and perseverance. It doesn’t matter that I read through the entire Bible twice (second time was a re-commitment after the 11 years away from God), was active in Bible studies, and later led Bible studies through my church. While all of those were “good things,” they did not succeed in maturing me, much less making me complete.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace flipping over a table. Courtesy Bitmoji.]