This is a guest post by Lisa. Despite growing up in a loving, Christian home, she found herself faced with single motherhood and entangled in an abusive relationship. When the stress of caring for an autistic child, discovering infidelity in her marriage, and believing the lies of unworthiness came to a head, she had nowhere and no one to turn to but God. Her story tells of how God rescued her from brokenness and disappointment to a life of freedom and hope.
Depression. Heartache. Anxiety. Sadness. Loneliness. Low self-esteem. These are the emotions that consumed me daily from 18 – 42 years of age.
These emotions ruled me and became the soundtrack to my life. They initially began during childhood with me desperately wanting to fit in and be like everyone else. I didn’t understand why I felt so different and questioned why these emotions would be associated with a daughter of a pastor – a young lady who genuinely loved the Lord and tried her best to lead a life pleasing to God.
On the outside, I looked like I had it all together, but on the inside I was dying by the minute. Instead of enjoying and living life, I seemed to be in a constant fight for my life. It felt like every time I tried to reset and get back up, I would get gut-punched over and over.
THE PAIN OF BEING BROKEN
This is the big picture of how my life unfolded…
Blow #1: I was date raped my first year of college and my virginity was stolen in an instant. I didn’t tell anyone about this incident and a year later, since I hadn’t received any counseling to work through it, I decided to live a life of “I don’t care.” I wasn’t a virgin anymore, so I figured I’d just have sex with the next guy who showed me any attention to avoid being raped again.
Blow #2: I found out very quickly that I did still care, but not in time to avoid a teen pregnancy, becoming a college dropout and a single mother.
Blow #3: Years later, I thought I had finally found the man of my dreams and my life would become the fairy tale I believed I was destined for. Instead, it was a 10-year nightmare of emotional, verbal, spiritual, and sometimes physical abuse.
Blow #4: After being able to find some much needed peace in the births of my two youngest children, I received a diagnosis of severe autism for my 2 year-old son.
Blow #5: I discovered years of infidelity in my marriage after having the two children and still processing the diagnosis of my son.
Blow #6: I finally made the decision to end the cycle of abuse and file for divorce, yet still felt completely humiliated.
Final Blow: My entire life started crumbling piece by piece, right in front of my eyes and for the entire world to see. At this point, the negative emotions were in full effect and I believed all the lies that I was unworthy and not good enough that were constantly playing out in my head.
THE HEALING PROCESS
There were many times I pleaded for God to take my life because I was so overwhelmed and stressed. I was so deep in despair that I had no idea how I was going to make it from day to day. The only thing I knew to do was pray and ask God for the strength to help me make it from one minute to the next. During this time, I was forced to depend completely on God.
Initially, I didn’t know where to start, but I started with becoming aware of the specific emotions that were overwhelming me and looking up Bible verses to pray for the opposite of what I was feeling. For anxiety and fear, one of my verses is Isaiah 41:10. Anxiety was the emotion that hit me first thing in the morning, so I set an alarm on my iPhone for it to pop up at 7:30 am each morning. For encouragement, Galatians 6:9 pops up later in the afternoon.
I have a verse and/or quote that pops up every hour; I read them and then go on with my day. I feed my mind these truths daily so when the negative soundtrack begins to play in my head, I can turn it off instantly and play my “truth soundtrack” – the verses that feed and nourish my soul.
Learning to depend completely on God was scary because I was used to being an independent woman. For the first time, I felt completely out of control and had no one else to lean on but God, so I did. I was stretched during this process, but it enabled me to find rest and peace in Him even when my circumstances seemed overwhelming. When I felt anxious about the future, I would pray Matthew 11:28-30, tell God what was worrying me, and leave it there. My problems didn’t go away immediately, but I was able to not let them consume me. It’s a real peace – a place where there is noise, trouble, and hard work – but where I could still be calm in my heart.
FINDING A PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING
Today, I am no longer concerned with fitting in or what others think of me – I care only about who God says I am. I am loved and chosen by Him. I am “perfectly imperfect.” I am not a victim, but a conqueror. God completely delivered me from that abusive relationship, meeting our needs daily and turning the broken pieces from that experience into something more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. He has blessed my family in so many ways:
Blessing #1: We relocated and my son is receiving better services and therapies, the environment is more family-friendly and less stressful, and I am closer to family.
Blessing #2: I am able to show my girls how a woman of God completely depends on Him for everything.
Blessing #3: I am able to teach my children what God says about them so that they know they are worthy – they know that God sees them, loves them, and will take care of them.
Blessing #4: I no longer feel a need to fit in or question why I’m not like everyone else. I accept and value that I’m different (not more or less than anyone else) and I am learning to find the beauty in my broken pieces and loving God’s beautiful creation, flaws and all.
Blessing #5: I have been able to find true peace and been given a new beginning. I went back to school at the age of 41 and earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice (with honors, I might add!). I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Nonprofit and Association Management so that I can assist and empower women who find themselves in crisis situations heal and thrive.
Blessing #6: By the grace of God, I am still here, persevering and learning from my experiences. God has given me the courage to step out and share my experiences and a passion for helping others in similar situations.
I cannot fully make sense of why my life has unfolded in this way, but I am truly thankful for the strength God continues to give me each morning to keep going in spite of what is happening all around me. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God loves me and He has a plan for my life even though I don’t know how it will be accomplished or when it will come to pass. I don’t know if there will be more blows in the future, but either way, I’m not worried because I know God will be right there with me to fight my battles. I trust that He has it all under control, even when I do not.
I don’t have a traditional fairy tale ending to share with you. I’m still divorced, but this part of the journey has helped me focus on God’s plan and allowed me time for self-care. My son still has autism and is still nonverbal, but is making steady progress and is a true blessing to me. Raising a child with autism has taught me about unconditional love, love without words, seeing the world from a different angle, and greater compassion. Mostly, without saying a word, he has shown me who I am – the good, the bad and the ugly. He’s like a walking devotional – correcting, guiding, and encouraging. I find myself saying out loud, “Okay God, I get what you’re trying to teach me.”
I am exhausted most days when I lay my head on the pillow, but the genuine joy, peace, and hope that I have is unbelievable and something that I have not experienced for most of my life. It is based on knowing that God has been with me through the journey and I can rest in Him now and in the future. It’s just that simple – it’s ALL HIM!
The key message I want to share with other women who may be facing similar challenges is to not get discouraged when life doesn’t unfold the way you think it should or when life is unfair. Remember that God is not angry at you – He loves you, cares for you, and is concerned about you! Trust Him and seek His will for your life when you are confused and frustrated. Listen and wait for Him to reveal His very specific and unique purpose. Focus on Him and not the distractions (the blows, the hurt, the pain, the people, the circumstances). Most importantly, know that it’s never too late! I don’t care how old you are, what you have been through or what your background is, don’t limit God.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
If you would like to reach out to Lisa, you can leave a comment below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a story you would like to share, please email me with “Broken to Beautiful” in the subject line and I will follow up with you. Thank you.