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Tell Me Your Story—From Broken To Beautiful (Part II)

DSC_3703_2Dear Readers,

We continue last month’s interview with a remarkable woman who shares her journey to healing. The final segment of the interview focusing on the theme of forgiveness will be published in the November issue, so stay tuned!

Note that our magazine theme this month is Loving a Prodigal, and you will find the editor’s letter here.

pregnancyLast month you shared your painful history with us, yet by God’s grace, yours is a story of hope and redemption. To pick up the story where we left off, you dealt with bulimia and postpartum depression after the birth of your second son which led to a break through. Tell us about it.

God used the pregnancy of my second son to deliver me from a five-year battle with bulimia. A precious gift from God was growing inside me and taking care of it became top priority. I threw away my diet pills, laxatives, cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and stopped purging. Though I gained over sixty pounds during my pregnancy, I didn’t revert back to purging. God guided me to a healthy diet and exercise program and showed me that I am beautifully and wonderfully made no matter how much I weigh. Later, I lost sixty-six pounds in twenty-two months the healthy way. The bathroom scale no longer defines me. God loves me unconditionally!

You shared already how you found healing for a deep wound. Tell us a little more about that.

In the throes of postpartum depression, I knew I needed to tell someone about the shame-filled secret I’d been carrying, or I was going to take my life. I reached out to my aunt, and when she insisted the incest had not been my fault, I finally found something positive to cling to. For some reason I’d always blamed myself for the abuse, so I acted out with food, substances and sex to punish myself.

To actually hear someone affirm my childhood innocence was refreshing. But Satan worked hard to keep me enslaved with lies like, “You resolved to take the secret to the grave, and now by telling you’ve betrayed yourself.” But God led me to read The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. Some of the exercises in the book helped me tremendously. Reading His Word helped me battle the lies of the enemy. I devoted an hour each morning to God, and that’s when I started seeing change.

At one point you said, “God convicted me—you can’t live a lie.” Would you elaborate?

At a young age I learned to “pretend” everything was okay even when I was living a nightmare, so lying became a “normal” part of life. When I came out with the abuse and God started healing me, I learned what it meant to be a believer in Christ Jesus. For so long, I lived through the filter of what other people thought I should be doing because I didn’t have an identity of my own.

Once I learned who I was through the Word, I realized that I had made decisions based on others’ opinions instead of hearing from God and doing His will. As God’s truth opened my eyes, I got real and have no more reason to lie. Because Christ lives in me, and I’m forgiven, there is no shame but glory for all He has done to transform me.

You’ve lived in a lot of fear and anxiety. Yet today you take no pills and enjoy freedom. How did this come about?

After my first suicide attempt at age fifteen, psychiatric doctors put me on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. I was on and off these meds over the next thirteen years and was even diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In and out of psychiatric facilities, I believed I was mentally ill. When I was twenty-eight years old, God led me to a Biblically based support group for women traumatized by sexual abuse. I studied the book On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Mandt Langberg. Numbed emotions from childhood began surfacing and thawed little by little. But there were times when I thought I was literally dying as terrible panic attacks sent me to the emergency room. I literally could not catch my breath.

But through Jesus Christ and His truth, I learned that I was misdiagnosed. I was not bipolar. I was suffering the effects of being abused. And He has shown me that there is no fear in His love.

Would you comment on the role medication played in your life?

Medication got me to a calmer place where I could hear God, so I’m not saying medication is all bad. I would never encourage anyone to stop taking medication without a doctor’s consent. God gives us wisdom and expects us to use it.

The reason I have not been on medication for over five years is because God heals. When He showed me my unrepented sins and the lies of the enemy, I was able to face my fears and anger, acknowledge the hurt, and then nail them to the cross. With no symptoms of depression or anxiety, I no longer need medication.

When I get irritable, God simply reminds me that there’s nothing to be irritable about anymore. Most of my anger and irritability was bondage from my past. I’m not saying I’m never irritable these days, I’m saying that instead of lashing out, I now see reality more clearly and react in a calmer fashion. My perspective is no longer filtered through my pain, but instead, it’s filtered through what I know through Christ.

Sharing heart to heart with women who feel like there’s no hope for a new life, no freedom from the prison they’re in, no way out…what would you say to them?

I’d say that Jesus understands. And that I can relate to how they’re feeling. Some of the wounds we suffer are indescribable and ugly. Jesus experienced the same wounds we have and even worse, so He understands what it’s like for us. We live in a world filled with sin and sin is evil. But He is here. And when you feel nobody else on this planet understands, He does.

Very few people understand me or what I’ve been through. Sometimes I don’t even understand myself. But as I faced the pain and deep anguish in my life with Jesus at my side, He led me to the right people and places at the right time. When I felt hopeless, God’s truth brought me back to reality. Even though I didn’t feel like I had hope, God showed me in His Word that it’s there, I just had to believe. Keeping a pure heart before God is important. Although He has delivered me from addictions overnight, healing is usually a process. And it’s all in His time.

What do you feel should be our attitude as we seek healing from the Lord?

Opening up, believing, and trusting Him to heal you is vital. For so long I believed that I was “too messed up to do anything.” But God gently spoke to me and said, “Honey, everyone’s messed up!” We all need a Savior and that’s Jesus.

Our journey is about becoming like Christ. There will always be work to be done. We won’t be perfect until we get to heaven. But I believe that unrepented sin kept me from having the joy of the Lord in my heart. I don’t always see what’s hidden deep within me, but God does. And like He’s done for me, as you seek Him, He’ll show you anything that’s blocking that deep inner joy, the fountain of living water.

I make this a daily prayer: “God, examine me and know my heart; test me and know my nervous thoughts. See if there is any bad thing in me. Lead me on the road to everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

He is a loving God. His purpose is not to punish but to correct and nurture. The enemy condemns, not God. My prayer is that you will believe and obey in the One who heals. Psalm 107:14 says, “He brought them out of their gloom and darkness and broke their chains.” And yes, He will break your chains too, when you come to Him.

To study resources and scriptures this sister in the Lord found helpful in her recovery, see her suggestions at Resources to Rebuild Your Life.

©2010 Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Ruth Wood is the columnist for Tell Me Your Story. Do you have a dramatic or unique story that would encourage others in their walk with the Lord? Currently, Ruth is looking for stories in particular that deal with serious or chronic illness, a prodigal child, or care-giving. Share what you’ve learned through your trial about God and faith. Send an email to Ruth with subject line “query” and include a paragraph summarizing your story to ruthywood@gmail.com.