We are currently in a time of unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty with the coronavirus pandemic. We are in an unseen battle with an unseen evil, which is prowling like a lion looking for its next victim. We don’t know if we will be its next victim. Each day as we hear the news, we wonder how much worse it can be. We don’t know who is safe and who is not, so we are in isolation to protect ourselves, yet we miss our loved ones and grieve the loss of normalcy in our lives. Some of us are daily risking their lives to help others, others have lost their jobs, almost everyone’s financial resources have been dramatically decreased, and we don’t know what the future brings. Sadly, some have died. Even if they survive, no one who has been a victim, will ever be the same. There is no known cure.
The situation is remarkably similar to someone caught in or trying to escape domestic abuse – except she knows she is the target. So the fear and anxiety are far worse. And because I have walked that path and I have experienced God at work, I know that His promises are true and that He is faithful and that He brings good out of evil. He gives me peace and calms my soul, even in the storm of this pandemic. And He will do the same for you if you let Him.
God’s hope is different than human hope. For us mere mortals, we hope that the Cubbies win the World Series (and won’t take another 108 years to do so), we hope that we do well on a test, we hope we get a job offer. For humans, hope is defined more as a wish. But in God’s vocabulary, hope is defined altogether differently. God’s hope is looking forward with excited expectation of the promises we know God will fulfill. We have hope for a good future because God has promised that His plans for us are good. (Jeremiah 29:11). We have hope for what lies ahead, even though we don’t know the future, because we know that God goes with us and so he tells us not to be afraid or discouraged. (Joshua 1:9)
My own personal path of hope in the midst of trial taught me in a very real way that we, indeed, have a great God who loves us through our trials, rescues us, redeems and restores us, heals us, and gives us a victorious, abundant life. And so, during this time of a lockdown, I thought I would share a personal story of hope and healing.
I was raised in a Christian family, and I don’t even remember a time when I didn’t know Jesus. I knew him as my savior and had walked with him my whole life. As an adult, I served on the board of a Christian university and on the board of deacons at my old church, I represented numerous Christian organizations on a pro bono basis as an attorney, I taught Sunday School and went on mission trips, I led a Bible study, I had daily devotionals and I led my children in daily devotionals. I was all in. I thought I knew God well. But I got to know him in whole new ways these past eight years.
You see, while outside appearances suggested that I was living a charmed, successful life in an affluent town with my handsome, church-going family, behind closed doors, I was living in domestic abuse. The details of my abuse would require far more time than we have today, but suffice to say that my former husband was an equal opportunity abuser, and was adept at all the types of abuse – emotional, verbal, physical, sexual and spiritual. My abuser started out with financial and emotional abuse, but at the end of a 20+ year marriage, it had escalated to a daily level of violence that was unsustainable. My home had become a prison and I was dying a slow death – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
And, despite being nearly non-functional, I heard the Lord say, “You must get out, and get out now.” I fled my house in April of 2012 with only an overnight bag and went into hiding for 2 ½ years.
And that is where I got to see God at work as Rescuer. He was doing a rescue mission on me. Like Moses, He took me out of bondage and led me through the desert into his Promised Land of peace and rest. He revealed to me that, like Pharaoh, my then-husband was not repentant at all. He had no interest in my well-being, only my service to him. And like Pharaoh and all abusers, he escalated the abuse to monumental levels when I left.
During those dark days, I also came to know God as my Protector. Listening to God’s whispers that I needed to protect myself, I went into hiding and hired two armed guards when I moved my personal belongings out of his house. Even though the church leadership knew of his unrepentant abuse and slander, they allowed him to continue attending. So, it was not safe for me to attend church or be anywhere near him. Eventually, the Lord revealed that his abuse would never end, and He gave me the courage to get an Emergency Order of Protection and then a permanent restraining order.
I also came to know the Holy Spirit as my Teacher. I felt completely alone. Satan had taken away my marriage, my home, my children, my friends, my church, my town, my community, even my law practice. But there was one thing that remained – and that was God. The words of Paul to the church at Philippi became very real to me. “I count everything else as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.” Phil. 3:8 I had lost everything that was important to me – except for God. I dove into His Word for hours each day and sat with him, seeking His Presence and his Peace.
His word revealed a living, powerful God that takes care of his children now, just as He did during Biblical times. Reading through the eyes of someone who had just come through domestic abuse, the words of the Bible jumped off the page in ways that I had never known before as if he was speaking directly to me. He was teaching me to hear His voice.
And I came to know the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. God exposed the truth through unearthed documents that revealed 25 years of my husband’s lies that I had believed.
When I first spoke publicly as an advocate for others, I was scared to death. But God calmed those fears. “Just tell the truth. I’m not afraid of the truth. And neither are any of my children.” He whispered to me.
And as I began to replace the lies I had believed about God, and myself, and others with God’s truth – with God’s perspective – I healed. His truth really does set us fee.
I came to know God as my Provider. God revealed how He had actually been orchestrating my past, using even things that my husband had intended to harm me for my good. Joseph’s words in Genesis 50 and Romans 8:28 came to life for me.
I came to know God as a Warrior. God revealed the great spiritual battle that we are in. God revealed that the awful things that we experience in this life are not from Him, but from the Enemy. And while He allows wicked people to reject Him and to spiral into more wickedness and self-deceit, He goes before us in battle and equips his righteous ones with his own armor – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the shoes of peace, and prayer in the Spirit. Those are not just words on a page – those are our real weapons that we use against Satan and his minions.
I came to know God as a Healer. He does some of His best work in this area through others. God led me to a new church with an amazing pastor who is led by the Holy Spirit and every week brings God’s Word that resonates with me and has brought healing. And then God led me to an unbelievable group of Spirit filled women who prayed for me, encouraged me, showed me how to pray powerful prayers, brought the Presence of God, and equipped me. And because they loved me through this awful time, I began to heal and experience His powerful Presence in a way I had never known before. The Truth is that God delights in us, He sings songs over us, and His banner over us is love. I know He is beaming about each one of us saying, “That’s my girl!! Isn’t she something!” or “That’s my boy! I was showing off when I made that one!” God’s crazy about us! And His love heals.
And then I came to know God as a Restorer. After 2 ½ years in hiding, I was able to move out of my apartment and buy a house that God hand-picked for me in a quiet neighborhood with wonderful neighbors, and a quiet pond in the back surrounded by lush green horse farms. By that time, I had been asking God for direction for years, and He softly told me that He was leading me beside the still waters and was making me lie down in green pastures, and he was restoring my soul. So, for a time, I would just have to wait until He healed me and restored my soul before He gave me his next assignment. And so, I waited.
In the midst of healing, I came to know God as the One who gives us the desires of our heart. Much to my surprise, God gave me an unexpected gift. God reconnected me with a wonderful young man that I had known in 1981. He was in the Air Force then and I went off to college, and an overprotective father who wanted his daughter to marry a doctor ran him off. He was the same thoughtful, kind, young man of integrity that I had known. And because he had the Spirit of the Living God in him, he saw that same Spirit in me – the one the Enemy and his minions had tried to crush. He sold his business in North Carolina and moved here to the land of the Yankees, not knowing a soul but me – now that’s love. In 2015, 30 years after the original plan that my dad sidelined, my husband and I were married. And I now know what Ephesians 5 looks like when a man loves his wife like Jesus loves us and is a blessing to all who know him.
After I was healed and restored, God gave me a new assignment. And I came to know Him as Mighty to Save. The Holy Spirit was calling me to minister to women in abuse. In 2015, I started a support group for women in Lake Forest, IL where I had lived for 20 years with my abuser. But God had much bigger plans than just starting a support group. He wanted me to be Moses to other women. Later that year, I heard the clear urging of God to quit my job at the law firm and use my legal background to help other women out of domestic abuse in the courtroom. I was not at all happy to hear that call. But God promised to go with me.
So, I opened up my law practice in 2016. And God has shown up in every case, Mighty to Save. He reminds me I am a Lioness of the Lion of Judah. I remind each client that she is a daughter of the King of Kings and He goes before her. I often need to get a sheriff to escort me and my clients out of the courthouse, because I always have a crazy man on the other side, and Satan has a target on our backs, but God continues to protect us.
God also called my husband and I to open our doors to other women who need a safe place to live. Over the last few years, we have opened our doors to a dozen women and children. Now we have an extended family that fills our lives with richness beyond what we had ever imagined. We have the privilege of seeing God heal them and become what God designed them to be right before our eyes.
I have written legislation here in Illinois that protects victims of domestic abuse. And, for the last few years, God has been urging me to write a book to help women of faith, His daughters, recognize, remove, and recover from domestic abuse. In October of this year, a Christian publisher will be releasing that book, entitled Overcoming the Narcissist, Sociopath, Psychopath, and Other Domestic Abusers: A Comprehensive Handbook to Recognize, Remove, and Recover from Abuse.
I came to know God as a miraculous Reconciler of hearts. Parental alienation is part of every abuser’s tool kit. The Enemy was at work trying to destroy my relationship with my children. But the Enemy is no match for God, who can change hearts. And so, I fasted and prayed that the hearts of my children would turn to God, and I knew that when they turned to God, they would also turn to me. Sometime after I started my ministry, God softened the hearts of my children and healed those relationships.
Finally, I came to know that God’s grace is enough. As every woman who has been in an abusive marriage knows, an abuser is never really out of one’s life. They refuse to honor agreements or orders of protection, and one is forced back into court for breaches of agreements and orders they never intended to follow in the first place. I came to appreciate the “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” that Paul refers to in 2 Cor 12. But, despite the ongoing battles, and regardless of the outcome, I have peace because I have seen first-hand that God’s grace is sufficient and He is the One who provides the strength when we are the target of Satan’s arrows.
My only response to God’s amazing grace is a humble thank you, which doesn’t seem nearly enough. Many times during worship, I am overwhelmed with God’s goodness and what God has done in my life. When we sing that God breaks our chains and releases us from prison and calls our name so we run out of a grave, I remember my time in literal chains. And now I see a godly husband who loves me like Jesus, a church filled with good-hearted people, a family restored, loving relationships, and a life filled with God’s purpose and supernatural grace.
The Roaring Lion of Judah said, “Oh no, Satan. That’s my girl. You can’t have her.” And our God broke those chains, shook the prison, called me out, and set this captive free. And He will do the same for you. How great is our God!
Peace be with you.