We Have This Hope: My Story of Sexual Abuse & Salvation

“If anyone causes one of these little ones –those who believe in me– to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” ~Mark 9:42

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” ~Arthur Golden

When I was four or five years old. My mom had me stand at the top of the stairs in our thousand square foot, split level house, and jump into her arms in an attempt to explain Faith to me.  Faith that she’d catch me. Faith that there was a God who sent His son to die for me.

I’m sure her intentions were pure, but unfortunately the only thing I took away from the conversation that night was that there was this really scary place called Hell. And, if I didn’t say a special prayer to God, I was going to burn in the lake of fire for all eternity.

I remember inviting my friends to church at a very young age, thinking that if I could only get them to hear this magical prayer, recite it and really mean it, they’d earn their “get outta Hell free card” just like me.

I must have said the sinner’s prayer at least a dozen times growing up, hoping I’d eventually get it right. When God didn’t save me from the darkness that consumed my life or fit in the perfectly wrapped package I had created for Him, I began to question and doubt His goodness.

Don’t get me wrong, if anyone asked me if I believed in God, I’d tell them, “I have faith!”  I believed there was a God. I believed in the power of God, but I never yielded to Christ. Without even realizing it, I had jumped on the treadmill of Jesus plus something else…

Growing up, I can remember being left alone often as a young child. My mother had struggles of her own which made her physically and emotionally unavailable most days of the week.  On the weekend she spent most of her time at church practicing for the choir or cleaning up for service. My father worked 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet. On weekends, he acted as the church treasurer and was an active member on the deacon board.  As the eldest of four, a lot of the responsibility of managing my younger siblings unofficially fell on me.

I didn’t have many friends and looking back I realize now it was because my family led a double life.  I learned not to speak of what happened in private, to smile even when things at home were tough.  I often felt unloved and unsafe. I never felt good enough or that anyone could possibly understand or relate to what I was going through. I adapted and learned to be a chameleon in order to blend in and be accepted. I quickly realized that I couldn’t trust or rely on other people, especially those in a position of power over me. This caused me to feel even more isolated and alone.

I spent more hours in a church building than I did my own home. It wasn’t uncommon for families like mine to allow their children free reign of the church. We acted like we owned the place… I actually remember the pastor at the time scolding some of the parents, including my own, that would try and correct their kids who were running and laughing and playing, saying something along the lines of ,”The kids are just being kids, let them be.”

Unfortunately, as awesome as my childhood church seemed at the time, the gospel being preached was being watered down and the congregation started to believe all kinds of errors. The enemy used deception to pull members far from God.

Before I was old enough to write my name, I had been repeatedly sexually abused by a man that was very involved in this church.  He not only abused me, but he abused my younger sister and some of the other girls who attended as well.

ENDIT” movements like “NOMORE” and “LOVE146” hadn’t hit the scene yet, so most parents weren’t educated on the warning signs of predatory behavior or sexual abuse. When abusers started to raise up within the church, their behavior was covered over and victims were blamed in an attempt to protect the churches reputation and tithing income.

I can remember feeling embarrassed and scared to speak out. The few times I tried, I was shunned and ignored, or was told that no one would believe me because of sins from my past. I seemed to be a magnet for these types of individuals and was made to believe that I had somehow asked for the abuse with the way that I had dressed or behaved.

I would pray to God, BEGGING for His help, but I realize now I was more interested in the comfort or escape I thought He would provide for me. I wasn’t interested in surrendering myself to Him.

By the time I turned 18 my heart was completely hardened to the things of God and I left my childhood church completely. I began to look to the world for my identity.

In 2001 I met my husband, Derek. We were married two years later.  On the outside looking in, I had what some would consider to be “the perfect life,” and I was working hard to maintain that image. We even started to attend a new church with our family. I tried not to let on that everything I was pursuing was only bringing temporary relief. On the inside, I was lacking REAL JOY and peace.

I can remember at my lowest points quoting Romans 9 and telling my husband things like, “The bible says that God is the potter and we are the clay.  He creates vessels of Glory and vessels of wrath.  I must be a vessel of wrath” and “I am no more than a Judas to God,” or “I guess God didn’t pick me.”

In October 2013, I totaled my car and shortly after was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder (Lupus) and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I battled with insomnia, paranoia, dissociation and distorted thinking. My cognitive skills and memory was affected which ultimately led to loss of my job. Medical bills started pouring in and we struggled to make ends meet.

My heart was heavy and consumed with anger.

One evening in particular stands out to me. It was only a couple weeks after I totaled my car.  I was so low I wanted to end my life. I waited until my husband and kids were sound asleep.  I was just about to leave my bedroom to carry out my plans when my cell phone buzzed and lit up the room. It was my best friend from childhood messaging me via Facebook, out of the blue, simply to let me know that God had put it on her heart to reach out and pray for me. We hadn’t spoke often since we were kids, so she couldn’t possibly know how much God was using her in that moment to extend His grace and love to me.

In February 2014 I went and did a really crazy thing. I drove out and met face to face with one of the men that sexually abused me as a young child. I approached him and his wife and the long and the short of it is, I was tempted to kill him.  I almost tried… As I was about to drive away, I thought about running him over with my truck. Thankfully God put another vehicle in my path and gave me a moment of clarity to realize He was giving me a way of escape, a backdoor out.

But the spiritual battle didn’t end there.  In March 2014, Rob Morris with LOVE146 visited my church. He did a service on compassion and told stories of young children he worked with who were sexually abused and sold into slavery. His message completely broke me.

To make matters worse, just before Summer some individuals from the Media contacted me to dig into some of the repeat sexual abuse claims that were reported with my childhood church.  While I chose not to speak with the reporters, their relentless efforts really opened up some old wounds. This ultimately led me into a downward spiral.

Fast forward six months to November. The pastor of my current church did a service on Acts 8. It was about a man named Simon the Magician. Simon had this false belief that he was going to be able to take the things of God and add them to his already great life. He believed the things of God, but he did not submit to them as his authority.

While listening to the sermon being preached, I realized that I had this hollow idea that God was going to give something to me because of all the horrible things I had gone through in life. I realized that I was just like Simon the Magician.

It wasn’t like there were magic things that happened at this point or a magic prayer that I said. I simply repented and believed.  A lightbulb went on, and my heart was opened to The Explicit Gospel for the very first time in my life.

God opened my eyes. He opened my heart. He rescued me in that moment. Hebrews 6:19 finally made sense to me!

“For we have this HOPE that ANCHORS the SOUL, firm and secure.”

The next morning I woke up feeling joy and peace.  I thanked God for giving me breath.  I thanked God for the trials he brought me through and prayed for the wives of the men that abused me.  I begged God to do whatever He needed to do in order to bring those men to repentance, so they could be released from the burdens of sin and spiritual death.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” ~John 3:16-17

All the awful things I experienced has taught me that everything in life can teach you a lesson.  You just have to be willing to learn. And, when you stop thinking life is all about yourself, THAT is when God can start to use you.  THAT is when you begin to experience REAL JOY.

I know my journey is far from over, but I can be confident of this…

“He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 1:6

“Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider myself 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 3:7-14

**RELATED POST:  Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse



32 thoughts on “We Have This Hope: My Story of Sexual Abuse & Salvation”

  1. Dear Sister -in -Christ TinaDerek ,
    I have read your testimony , through this
    You are Praising The Lord &
    Tearing the face of abusers in the Church itself . Don’t they
    have the fear of God ( El Roi – Who sees ) . Have you heard about
    many Missioneries come across very typical & critical situations for the Love of God .Lord have given you Hope & Faith on Him .
    Hold & Bear Jesus in all moments of your Life .

    Happy Loving & Living in Christ

    God Bless you & your family

    With Regards

    Joshua Ebenezer
    Chennai India

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Joshua! I am blessed by our recent connection (and all the way from India, how fun!!). Your words have encouraged me. To God be the glory!

  2. Your story is encouraging it taught me a lot of things. Overcoming sin when it is related to your past is very hard. Your strong! Our life is a preparation for God’s great work. Sometimes the problems that God gives us is the part of our life where we are the most weak. And if we are able to soar there the work starts. But God’s work in us does not end there, He is always watching and making ways to make us better. And the only way to produce in us the strength is to always test us, that is God’s way 2Corinthians 4:15-18. My life may not be great but I’ve seen worst as I reach others and share the gospel. More horrible than mine and more painful than what I’ve experienced. We are being prepared for this people we are to leave behind the thought of self-pity, for us to lead them to God. You know what Tina, you have a great work in front of you. Sometimes this memories will haunt. But I want you to know that it is God’s way for us to rely on Him every minute and everyday of our lives. God bless you Tina and Derek! May you not give up in serving and glorifying God. YOu both are awesome because you serve an awesome GOD!

    1. Thank you so very much for taking the time to read and the wonderful words of encouragement, Kennie! I am blessed by our recent connection!

  3. Thank you for sharing, I was also abused as a child and also in my adult relationships. I always felt out of place growing up in church because this great big God didnt protect me, but it wasn’t until I was 20 and really hooked on drugs that I decided I wanted something more, something better and inside I knew the answer was God. I gave my life to the Lord and He healed me from all the resentment and anger and addiction. I’m blessed that you found me on twitter and were bold enough to share your experiences, I think God is using you in a very beautiful way. God bless you Tina!

    1. I am so encouraged to hear your story and how the Lord has worked in your heart and life, Courtney. Thank you for taking the time to share with me. Praise God for His redeeming love and grace!

  4. Dearest Tina,
    My heart breaks for what you endured as a child. As you know from visiting my blog, I understand far better than I wish I did. I am sorry that the adults in your life were not there for you in the ways that they should have been, and that you were not protected and believed. I am so encouraged by reading the grace that you extend to others in your testimony. I can see the miracle that God has worked in your heart, enabling you to pray for those who hurt you, and asking that God would lead them to repentance. I am so thankful that God has brought you into my life. Your words of testimony have blessed me immeasurably.

  5. After reading this,i got the revealation that sometimes we go through pain so that God can refine us and mould us into the sorts of beings that He wants.He instills in us wisdom,understanding and a strength of character and gives us enough Grace to overcome anythng according to His Divine will and understanding.Now that you have forgiven those who wronged you and your Father in Heaven also forgave you and you have a peace of mind.Behold the old is gone and you are a new creation.Lets forcus in the future and keep Loving God,Trusting God and doing what He has put in your heart to minister to the world that your Father in Heaven gets all the Glory coz He desrves it all.I love you! You and your family are blessed n highly favoured.God loves you! Peace,Love and Progress.To God alone,be all the Glory!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and reply Ron! Your insight is very wise. I wholeheartedly agree. Once I forgave, our Father in heaven forgave me and I have felt peace and joy since. I am blessed beyond words to know the creator of the universe thought enough of me to chase after me and even in the darkest moments, never leave my side. Praise be to Him! God Bless, Tina

  6. Tina, you came by Being Woven today and read “Empty, Purify, Fill, Pour Me Out.” Then you tweeted me directly and here I am. I read your testimony as my computer would not run the video (it is my computer…I know that!). Powerful and worthy of praise to the One Father of Grace and Light. I am so grateful to Him that He never gave up on you, dear Tina. He wants all of you and handles you with loving arms, a gentle touch. He will never harm you. I am so thankful for Him in both of our lives.

    I am so very sorry for the horrible abuse you have been through. I truly am. Children are so innocent and should be taken care of and protected. Instead, so very many go through what you endured, or have to face other atrocities toward them in one way or another. The church should be a safe haven, but as you found, it is not always such.

    The door was always there for you, dear Tina. You knocked and Jesus opened it and entered your life and heart. Praising Him.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

    1. You are absolutely right Linda. The door was always opened and The Lord used the darkness of my childhood to draw me near to Him. Looking back I can see how he chased after me and I am so thankful for that! Thanks for your reply. I pray you have a blessed weekend.

  7. I “get” this story. I get you. Thank you for opening up the depths of your heart to share this. This story is powerful and so many others hold it with you. There is healing in this. You are courageous and bold. I cheer this one whole heartedly and powerfully in the name of Jesus – who provides all healing. Thank you so much for jumping in whole heartedly to join the #RaRalinkup on Purposeful Faith! I am so glad we met.

    1. I am so blessed to have met you Kelly! You are an inspiration to me. Thank you for your encouragement. I look forward to cheering you on in the Faith, along with all our brothers and sisters with #RaRaLinkup!

  8. Tina,
    What a brave and strong woman you are…or should I say how blessed you are to allow God to work through and minister to others through you.
    Please consider sharing this post on our Coffee & Conversation link party on Wednesdays… We get so many readers to that and I just KNOW your message will touch the heart of many…. http://momsmorningcoffee.com/coffee-conversation-link-party-25/
    Thank you so much for being willing to share this…I know it was a touch post to write.
    Praying that God will richly bless you for your faithfulness…

    1. Thank you, Pat, for the opportunity to use your platform to be a voice for others that may identify and are still looking for the courage to speak out. I’ll check out your blog and see if I can figure out how to share on Wednesday. As for being brave and strong… you are spot on with saying it was God who worked in me. He has been my source of strength. In my weakness His power is made perfect. To Him be the glory for rescuing me and showering me with his grace! God Bless!

  9. Nice to meet you! I’m so sorry for your past but excited about what God has done in your life. So many of us girls have experienced similar things…thank you for speaking up about it so that others don’t feel alone. You are an inspiration…keep writing!

    1. It’s amazing how many people have reached out since I went public with my history of abuse. I suffered in silence for so long, believing the lie of the enemy (ie: That I was alone in the experience and that God could never use someone like me to bring Him glory). To God be the glory for anything good that comes of speaking out. I appreciate your feedback and encouraging words, Amy! I pray you have a blessed Saturday. 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing your testimonies & continually sharing GOD’s words. What a blessing your rewards were & are (b/c there are more to come!)

  11. Hi Tina! Not sure if you would remember me but I want to say Thank You so much for sharing your story. Your strength and courage to contiue to press on toward Christ and to finally find the peace and rest He gives is remarkable. I too have a past filled with childhood sexual and physical abuse that unfortunatly turned to a marriage with abuse BUT I thank God for His perserverance to bring me out of all that and continue to heal me.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to view and share Christie. I DO remember you and I’m so very sorry to hear you can identify with not only the physical but sexual abuse too.

      One thing God has taught me in this season of life: He can use ANYTHING to draw us closer in relationship to Him. Praying for you my friend! Feel free to connect via FB or twitter so you can privately message me if you ever need or want to talk!

  12. Thanks for sharing your testimony, for what had happened in the past. All of us were also once lived in dark side, only by the grace of our Lord Who given His Son JESUS CHRIST we are saved n have blessed life forever. Hope your family’s testimony will be a great way for others to know and accept love from our Lord Jesus Christ. GBU n family.

  13. Tina thank you ! God used you and will continue t use you & your life, testimony to help others. I’m sorry to hear this honey. I still can see you & your siblings as young kids in my Sunday school class I’ve always loved you guys!!! I have a story similar at church as I was almost raped by a church member in a leadership role- very scary as a teen. I waited to speak up & when I did nothing was done so then I was made to feel guilty & ashamed.. When you’re young you aren’t bold about things & I should have handled this differently. I had a funny feeling around someone at church ” vibe” and kids in my class seemed uneasy around him and I asked him not to come around or into my classroom!! I later heard rumors & was always watchful of him.. We eventually left our home church that I loved for different reasons but we did have many happy special memories there!! God brings us thru a lot in life if we allow Him to work in our lives- and grow closer to Him. God bless you honey for sharing & growing

    1. Wow, Lori, I had no idea you experienced similar abuse. I am so very sorry! It breaks my heart to realize how many people can relate. Sin. Is. So. Messy! I know I am not alone when I say I long for the day when all things are made right. Miss you and your family (btw, your classes were some of the happier memories I had from back in the day). God bless!

  14. Tina,
    I am so proud of you. You are so brave to share your story and please know none of what happened to you is your fault. You are truly amazing and i will be praying. i have missed you, but i know you needed time to sort some things out. You are so loved Tina and if you need anything, please reach out to me. Love You!

  15. Tina, thank you for sharing your struggles you have had to endure. Thank God for his grace and redemption and restoration. It pains me to hear what you went through but I am so glad God has given you joy and peace. I love you my friend. God Bless Joy

    1. Thank you for reading Joy. I appreciate the encouraging words. God is an awesome God! I wouldn’t give up any of the experiences He used to draw me near and provide Joy & Peace. His Grace is so overwhelming!

  16. I’m so proud of you for telling your story. Your story is important, and God will use it for His glory. Through my own story I know that my pain and hopelessness doesn’t have the final word, but that God redeems more than I could ever imagine.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and reply Abby. I am so sorry to hear that you experienced similar pain and hopelessness, but encouraged to hear that God has has also redeemed you. He is so good; He loves us more than we can ever imagine!

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