Before I became a Christian, I had some Christian friends, but I thought, “They have to be faking it!” I thought their happiness had to be a cover up; their joy had to be phony! But I thought that because I had been faking it most of my adult life; I was the phony. I had a great job, a husband and family, a nice home… At work, I was a fun, flirty girl. With friends, I was the life of the party. With family, I was the wise older sister, always ready with advice. The outside package seemed fine, but inside I was hurting. My thoughts were dark; I had so many painful memories of sexual abuse, loneliness, depression, bad choices, bitterness, resentment… I had feelings of disgust and hatred for people in my past and for myself. There was a battle going on in my heart, and not a word ever surfaced about my inner struggles.

Right after we found out we were having our first baby, I laid in bed all day through the summer, with the shades down and the TV blaring. I could only muster enough strength to go to work for those few hours in the morning. I’d go home exhausted from trying to seem happy, trying to feel happy, trying to be normal. I wasn’t engaged in my life at all. I tried to will myself to come out from under the dark cloud that seemed to hang over me. My family bore the brunt of my frustrations: The only emotion that made sense to me was anger. I was quick to anger and slow to show mercy. I expected my husband to understand. I can’t count the number of times I thought, “No one understands! No one helps me around here. My husband doesn’t get it! My kids are like leeches that suck the energy right out of me. I never get time to myself…” I played little games to get what I wanted; I’d have an angry look and barely speak to my husband, trying to get him to see that I “needed help around here!” I got annoyed with my kids constantly. I blamed them for the anger that raged inside me. I told my friends about my woes at home, spouting off about how unfairly I was treated and complaining about my kids. Inside, there was a constant fountain of anger. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know how to change it. I hated what I had become, and I didn’t know how to dig myself out of it.

Even though I had been raised in church, I had never studied the Bible. But those Christian friends God had placed in my life were making me curious. I surprised myself by signing up for a Bible study—the first substantial Bible study I’d ever taken—called Healed and Set Free. I was scared to admit just how badly I needed it. From the time I signed up until the study began, everything was coming to the surface. I remember asking the leader of our study, “When will I be healed and set free?” I laugh about that now, but it was an honest question from a desperate woman waiting for something to save her. And guess what? HE did; He saved me. I told Jesus, “Here’s the worst stuff that happened to me: It’s bad, it’s sick, it’s wrong. Here is the worst stuff that I did to others; this stuff is bad too, sick and wrong. See what You can do with it, because I’ve got no ideas left. I quit!” Well, it turns out that the freedom is real. The joy is real. The love is real. I saw the truth of Jesus for the first time, and I ran to Him. He gently and lovingly helped me see what was in my heart. He took all that pain, anger, sorrow, disgust, hatred, and threw it into the deepest part of the sea. He forgave me, and I forgave everyone in my life because He taught me how. All those years I had been searching for the one trick to take away the pain, but absolutely nothing worked until I gave it to HIM. It’s good to remember what God has done. He’s still working on me, and I still use the steps from Healed and Set Free. But God is ALWAYS faithful. God is ALWAYS trustworthy. He never changes His ways. He is the same saving God that opened my eyes when I took Healed and Set Free for the first time.

by Melissa, Minnesota