I receive a lot of survivor messages. Messages from women in crisis, from women losing hope, from women unsure if their reality qualifies as “abusive”.
Every letter is precious. But now and then, one really stands out. This is from a survivor in one of my online coaching groups, and she gave me permission to share it with you. Somewhere, someone desperately needs to read her story. Is it you?
There was a time in my life, not so long ago, I wanted to be dead.
I wanted to run away from who I was, I wanted to break out of my own mind and thoughts.
I seriously considered suicide, more than once.
I firmly believed God’s love was for everyone but me. I believed He did not care a dot about me, my feelings, my heartache, my situation. You see, I started praying for a godly man at the age of 10. My parents got divorced that year, and I never EVER wanted to live through another divorce ever. So I did what I could, at the time. I prayed. Earnestly, sincerely for a godly husband someday.
I went to a Christian college and met a lovely young man. I fell in love, but my mother strongly disapproved to the point where she paid him money to move to a different country so he would leave me alone. He became a pastor and speaker. A well-respected, godly man.
My mom chose a husband for me while I was at college and arranged a couple of dates for us, without my knowing. When I went home for vacation, she said, “You will go on a date with this man, so help me God, even if I have to drag you to the car kicking and screaming, myself!”
To keep the peace I went. I did not know that my mom and my soon-to-be-husband, had already agreed we would be wed.
My educational plans were canceled. I was not allowed to get a job. I was kept at home until my wedding day. I told my mom I am unsure of this. I dont think I want to marry this man. “All brides are nervous,” she said. “You’ll be fine.”
I was 19 years old.
Before the honeymoon was over I knew it was a mistake but I was trapped. How could I say I want a divorce two weeks after the wedding? How was that giving it a “fair trial”?
I thought “I’ll stay for five years.” And then within two months I was pregnant. My daughter was born prematurely, after I lost her twin.
I was devastated.
Not only by the loss of my baby, but because of my husband’s callous treatment. He wanted more kids. I did not. Within nine months I was pregnant again.
Two kids and no income does not make for a lot of prospects. My husband threatened to beat me. I lived in fear.
I went to see a lawyer, but he told me I would get minimal child support and offered no further help. I was stuck. I tried my best to make it work, but it takes two people to make a happy relationship. Not just one.
I became very ill. I had encephalitis, but instead of taking me to the hospital, my husband went to church board meeting. My mom took me to the hospital and I lay there for 3 days not knowing what day it was. When I was conscious again, I realized my two toddlers had been forced to go to work with my mom every day because my husband refused to take vacation days to care for them.
I learned later that he sold his vacation time for extra cash to spend on prostitutes and pornography. (I had no idea that was where his money went, just that we could never afford anything the kids or I needed.)
I wanted out desperately, but I had nowhere to go.
After 15 years of misery, but unable to pinpoint what was wrong, he confessed his porn addiction. Actually, I use that term loosely. More accurately, he had a slip of the tongue and I picked up on it and asked questions.
I was devastated again.
I could not believe he could lie to me blatantly for so many years. I cried myself to sleep and cried myself awake for about a week. It was the deepest mourning I’d ever felt. Worse than when my brother died.
But then I thought, we have been married for so long now, how do I just give up on ALL OF THAT? After all, I’m a survivor.
So I went looking for an addiction therapist, and a marriage counselor. For the first time, I realized I was not losing my mind!
I hoped things would get better. Now that everything is out in the open and we can deal with it, right? I was wrong! Dead wrong. Everything got a lot worse. By a lot, I mean A LOT.
We had some good days. After a while we at least had good times when on vacation. Then… we only had variations on how bad it was.
I could not stand it. I also wanted it to work.
I still naively believed that if I could somehow hit some golden spot, all would be well.
So I made a solemn oath to myself to love him with everything I’ve got. Love changes everything right? Love never returns empty, and all those other sentimental platitudes.
Once a month I made him a treat box on a theme. Like military wives make. (Don’t judge me, okay? I really thought it would help. So naive.) I wrote him 365 love notes to keep in his office and read one every day.
I set up this routine:
- Monday = love note
- Tuesday = pray and fast
- Wednesday = joke email
- Thursday = Bible verse
- Friday = email with photos of our week, thanking him for working so hard, so we can do all the things.
What were all the things? Homeschool + 11 extracurricular activities!
- Saturday night = family movie night with all the treats and goodies
- Sunday = family fun night
- One full Sunday a month was dedicated to a family party on a theme… Cowboys, Hawaii, whatever…
You know what??? The harder I worked the more miserable everyone was… especially him! I wanted a break. Help. Something. Anything. Nothing I did made it any better. Not even praying!
I hated my life. I hated myself. I hated the stressed-out person I had become. Not finding a justifiable reason for a divorce according to the biblical ideas I had been taught — I wanted to be dead! I wanted out so badly, death sounded like a welcome retreat.
That was when he admited to once again having an affair, and by the way, “Yep, I still consume pornography daily.”
That was my moment of clarity. He was not going to change. He had never loved me like God teaches husbands to love. This was my window of opportunity to get safe.
It was almost an out-of-body experience. God told me, you are praying for an answer. Here it is.
“I want a divorce,” I said. After almost 30 years, suddenly the time I spent with him meant as little to me as it had to him. I was not angry, I was not sad, I was not shocked. I was finally certain.
The year that followed was frought with danger and sleepless nights. Lots of prayers. Lots of tears. Fear was a constant companion. I don’t remember exactly when I got introduced to Sarah McDugal, but what a lifesaver!!! Sarah gave advice and prayed with me.
Around this time, we were hijacked in our home. My kids were held at gunpoint inside the house. My therapist says she’d bet money my husband paid for it.
The time since has not been easy, but it has been filled with miracle after miracle. For the first time in my life, I know that I matter to God. He sees me and cares about my pain. He guided me every step of the way when I decided to break free.
I’m now safely divorced and living in another town. God even paid attention to the little details I’d always longed for, like wood and tile floors, a garden, good neighbors, my cat adjusting well, my son feeling happy, enough income to stay home, good furniture…
For the first time, I feel God’s love and care for me. It is humbling to know the God of the universe looks after me. I can say to everyone of you, even if it doesn’t feel like it, He cares about you too. He sees your tears, your pain, your hopelesness, your every hurt. He knows, He cares.
Hold on! He is working behind the scenes for you too! Your breakthrough is on its way. Hold on. Above all, He loves you.
I cried, reading her words. So much mirrored my own survivor story in many ways. But what touched me most, is how God has revealed himself to her in deep and meaningful ways. Where once was anguish and death, there is now life and growth and glimpses of happiness.
If you’re wandering in your wilderness right now, this message is for you. If you’re a survivor and you feel utterly alone, this is for you.
God does care.
He does see.
And he is working behind the scenes for your deliverance and healing.
Will you choose it?
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
For anonymous, confidential help 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
Want survivor resources to read? I’ve gathered my favorite books on abuse recovery, healing, and relationships into a handy list here.