I was sexually, mentally, emotionally and verbally abused by my father as far back as I can remember until I left home at the age of eighteen. He did many terrible things…some which are too distasteful for me to talk about publicly. But I want to share my testimony because so many people have been hurt, and they need to realize that someone has made it through their struggles so they can have hope.
More than anything, I want you to know and really understand that anyone who has been abused can fully recover if they will give their life completely to Jesus.
Abuse is defined as "to be misused, used improperly or to be wasted; to use in such a way as to cause harm or damage; to be treated cruelly." Any time we are misused or used for a purpose other than what God intended us for, it's damaging. And I realize many people can relate to this. For some of you reading this article, I'm just telling your story. You know what it's like to live with a terrible, shameful secret that is eating you alive.
My father was a mean, controlling and manipulative person for most of his life. He was unpredictable and unstable. As a result, the atmosphere of our home was super-charged with fear because you never knew if what you did would make him mad or not.
We always did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it. We watched what he wanted to watch on TV, went to bed when he went to bed, got up when he got up, and ate the meals he wanted us to eat…everything in our home was determined by his moods and what he wanted.
The sexual abuse started when I was very young, and when he decided I was mature enough, he took things even further. From this point until I was eighteen, he raped me at least once a week. My father, whom I was supposed to be able to trust and who was supposed to keep me safe, was the person I came to fear the most.
I was so profoundly ashamed by this. I was ashamed of me, and I was ashamed of my father and what he did. I was also constantly afraid. There was no place I ever felt safe when I was growing up. I don't think we can even begin to imagine what kind of damage this does to a child.
At school I pretended I had a normal life, but I felt lonely all the time and different from everyone else. I never felt like I fit in, and I wasn't allowed to participate in after-school activities, go to sports events or parties or date boys. Many times I had to make up stories about why I couldn't do anything with my classmates. For so long I lived with pretense and lies.
What I learned about love was actually perversion. My father told me what he did to me was special and because he loved me. He said everything he did was good but it had to be our secret because no one else would understand and it would cause problems in the family. It became my burden not to let my pain cause problems in our family. And as long as I kept this secret, I couldn't get free from the pain of it.
You may be wondering, "Joyce, where was God in all of this?" He was there. He didn't get me out of the situation when I was a child, but He did give me the strength to get through it. It's true my father abused me and didn't love and protect me the way he should have, and at times it seemed no one would ever help me and it would never end. But God always had a plan for my life, and He has redeemed me. He has taken what Satan meant for harm and turned it into something good (see Romans 8:28). He has taken away my shame and given me a double reward and recompense (see Isaiah 61:7).
It may seem impossible, but God's truth has set me free from a life of pretense and lies and has restored my soul. I am living proof that nothing is too hard for God. And no matter what you've been through or how bad you hurt, there is hope!
That's why I'm telling my story. You need to know how good God is and that your struggle is worth it. If you will give your life to Christ and really trust God, you can be completely healed and restored so you can live the life Jesus died for you to have. Don't give up!