My prayer is that every child would grow up in a loving, nurturing home with Jesus Christ as the central focus. In far too many homes today, belief in Jesus is not a child-rearing necessity. Here are some true stories that demonstrate the various ways abuse can ruin lives and that also serve as examples of how God’s grace can transform the lives of abusers and survivors.
Conquering the Cage of Guilt
Mary DeMuth is a Christian blogger, international speaker, and the author of more than thirty books. She has survived many hardships dating back to her early years. Here is an overview, in her words, about how God has helped her heal from the pain of childhood sexual abuse.
I grew up in a world where I didn’t feel safe. Sexual abuse at age five, three divorces, the death of my father, drug abuse permeating my childhood neighborhood—many of these traumas I kept quiet. For years I lived under the unwritten, unspoken mandate that to tell was to betray.
Healing Erupts in the Light of Truth
It wasn’t until I met Jesus at fifteen that the secrets started to spill. Knowing Jesus and His extravagant love for me helped me know that no matter what I shared, I was still wildly adored by Him. He gave me the courage to tell my story and an insatiable desire to be whole. Throughout college, where friends dared to pray me toward healing, I learned that healing erupts in the light of truth. Simply put, if we hide things, we fester. But if we want Jesus to uncage us, we have to tell the truth.
It does hurt when we acknowledge the pain from the past. Thankfully, Jesus comes to our rescue in two ways.
Consider Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:24: “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’” See the beautiful juxtaposition there? Jesus’ death and sacrifice means He not only bears our sin, but His outrageous act also heals the wounds we receive from others.
I am living testimony that it’s possible to heal from trauma. It’s possible for Jesus to so dynamically transform you that others would never know you walked that path of pain.
God Transforms Broken Lives
My life affirms this kind of personal revolution. I was nothing—a girl who questioned her worth—yet God chose me to show how well He can transform a broken life. The apostle Paul wrote, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
When I became a Christian, though, I didn’t quite understand all of this. I thought I was supposed to be strong and perfect. I thought that for others to see Jesus in me, I had to push down my pain and not share it openly. I had to play-act my way toward perfection.
I now realize that God takes us on quests, not day hikes. Healing takes time. Throughout my twenties, when I married and had children, old wounds reemerged. As a sexual abuse victim, I found the marriage bed scary. And when my daughters reached the age I’d been when neighborhood boys raped me (five years old), I panicked. For a long time, I disconnected from my three children and husband because the risk of intimacy was just too great.
In my thirties, I met with a couple of counselors. I moved across the country, which helped me heal from festering memories. I finally realized that Jesus loved me just for me. I still had questions about all the whys of my past, but I also felt contentment for the first time.
Think of Your Past as a Stage Where God Can Display His Power
You may be thinking, “Yes, but you don’t know what I’ve endured. You don’t see the aftermath of my pain.” You’re right. I don’t. But I’d like to invite you to think differently for a moment. Instead of seeing the past as a detriment, begin to see it as a stage for God to display His power. You actually have an advantage. Why? Because you know your need for Jesus. You know you can’t heal on your own. Your weakness is the very starting place for Jesus to let you out of your cage.
That’s the beauty of weakness. That’s why I can thank God for the fear, pain, and shame of my childhood. Because all those things helped me see my extreme need for Jesus to set me free.
You have a choice. You can either move forward or wallow in the past. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with Him.” We have an irresistible future ahead of us. After we’ve told the truth about the past and experienced God’s healing, it’s time to cultivate a holy anticipation for what God will unfold.
I am happy to say today that I’m a joyful mother of three adult children, the wife of twenty-seven years to my husband, Patrick, and a full-time writer. I have the uncanny privilege of writing and speaking about Jesus’ ability to restore our lives.
I used to think joy was impossible for me. But now I walk in it every day. That’s my prayer for you too.
Mary shares the following verses on her website, http:// www.marydemuth. com, to encourage those who are struggling to overcome the lasting effects of sexual abuse:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14)
My Thoughts on Mary’s Story
Mary has an inspiring way of seeing the good in situations that, on the surface, seem to be anything but good. She says to those who have experienced abuse, “You actually have an advantage. Why? Because you know your need for Jesus. You know you can’t heal on your own.” Her ability to see strength in vulnerability is a testament to her strong faith in God.
Also, Mary reminds us that Jesus’ painful death on the cross heals the wounds we receive from others. Jesus experienced unspeakable suffering, and He has compassion for our suffering. We can learn from Mary’s example that we need to acknowledge our pain and turn it over to Jesus so that He can “uncage” us from our pain.
Time for Personal Reflection
- Initially, Mary feared disclosing her abuse and harbored the painful shame and guilt for a long time. She even moved away from her physical surroundings to remove herself from an environment that constantly reminded her of the past. If you have ever suffered from abuse, what was your initial way of coping?
- Mary’s faith in Jesus Christ led to her relief and freedom from guilt and shame. Do you continue to hold onto your pain instead of giving it to God?
- Only you can determine if you’ll choose Mary’s path to recovery by revealing your experience to a trusted friend or counselor or decide, as others have, that it just can’t be disclosed at this point in your life. Whichever approach you take, know that you can open up to the One who has given His life for you. He will eliminate your pain and return you to a healthy, guilt-free, and shame-free existence. Lay your burden at the feet of Jesus Christ and believe that He will open a path to full recovery. Ask for His healing and loving grace in persistent prayer. I encourage you to stand on His promises and expect a miracle. And, like Mary, when you are ready, you may be empowered to impact the lives of other survivors by sharing your story with them.
Praise for Grace Revealed
“The ultimate measure of Christianity (or any religion) should be whether it helps human beings live meaningful lives—even in the face of tragedy. In Grace Revealed, Fred Sievert has collected nineteen stories of humans from a wide spectrum of society and Christian traditions who have discovered the transforming grace of God in crises. These stories remind us that God’s grace is not principally a theological construct or a lofty sermon, but the reality of God in our lives—a reality that helps us live meaningfully, even when we have been devastated by life.”
—Gregory E. Sterling, the Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean and the Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament, Yale Divinity School
“Fred’s mission is clear—to spend the rest of his life telling people about God’s grace. In this book, Grace Revealed, Fred shares people’s stories of suffering, addiction, abuse, and loss, which prove to be the ultimate opportunity for God to display His incredible gift of mercy and redemption. These stories will inspire you to look at your own life and see just how powerful God’s grace really is!”
—Kevin Palau, president, Luis Palau Association; author of Unlikely: Setting Aside Our Differences to Live out the Gospel
“Much hope can be found in the amazing stories of the Bible, but they happened so long ago that it can be difficult to relate to the circumstances and people. God has not stopped creating amazing stories in the lives of those who cry out to Him, but the stories are rarely shared and even more rarely shared in an accessible style and format that can bring hope, healing, and transformation to people in crisis today. Grace Revealed does exactly that. With insightful background on today’s struggles, thoughtful reflections, and helpful biblical references, Sievert weaves these amazing contemporary stories of God’s grace into an uplifting and easy-to-read tapestry of hope, healing, and transformation for those struggling with life’s toughest challenges.”
—Paul Michalski, founder, Integrous LLC; president, NCS New Canaan (founding chapter of the New Canaan Society)
“In Sievert’s book, grace is not a theological concept or a religious term. Grace is the mode of God’s presence as experienced and expressed by flesh-and-blood people; it is a reality pulsating with life, bearing as many faces as there are human lives and situations and taking on as many forms as there are sufferings and delights, defeats, and victories. In Grace Revealed, you will hear many grateful voices giving their best to sing their ode to grace.”
—Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale Divinity School; founder and director,
Yale Center for Faith and Culture
“It is common in recommending a new publication to refer to the book as a real “page-turner,” suggesting that once begun, the reader will not be able to put it down. But because I loved the narratives in Grace Revealed, I occasionally had to put it down. The stories were as painful as they were personal, the revelations as raw as they were revealing. I came to care about these people, and my caring demanded not only my attention but my time. As a pastor, I am in the “grace business,” believing that good things really do happen when people cry out for it and accept it. I can picture them singing the words of an old Christian hymn, “I love to tell the story; It did so much for me.” Because it did. And with Fred’s help, these men and women in crisis have now told their inspiring stories.”
—William A Ritter, pastor emeritus, First United Methodist Church, Birmingham, Michigan
“Fred Sievert has made the biblical concepts of grace, forgiveness, and healing come vividly alive through these real-life experiences of people and their journeys from confusion, pain, and despair to hope, joy, and new life. One cannot come away from Grace Revealed untouched by the way God individually and creatively works in people’s lives. Fred’s ability to incorporate Scripture, commentary, and the opportunity for personal reflection will leave readers feeling both challenged and inspired to find ways in which God’s grace touches them. This book will offer encouragement not only to those of deep faith, but, more importantly, to those who question God’s love and ability to intervene.”
—Rev. Rebecca Mincieli, senior pastor, John Wesley United Methodist Church,
About the Author
Fred Sievert started his career as a teacher, later entered the insurance business, and retired in 2007 as president of New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 corporation. Following his retirement at age fifty-nine, Fred attended Yale Divinity School and was awarded a master’s degree in 2011. In his career, Fred enjoyed many successes but also had to deal with much stress, many challenges, and even some serious setbacks. Through it all, he credits his success to a reliance on daily prayer, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fred has had many nonfiction essays and articles published in the past, most often about his own providential and life-changing encounters with God. In 2014, he published his first book, God Revealed: Revisit Your Past to Enrich Your Future. He views his thirty-five-year business career as a mere prologue to what God is calling him to do today—write and speak about his faith.
Throughout his adult life, Fred has been active in his church and has served in numerous lay leadership positions. He and his wife, Susan, have five grown children and three granddaughters and reside in East Falmouth, Massachusetts.