I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus. (Phil. 3:13-14 TPT, emphasis mine)
Our past hurts, disappointments, traumas and pain can be so restrictive to our progress. Christ has set us free and who the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36). Many of us are not walking in this freedom because we are chained to our past.
This is really touchy subject matter and I want to treat it as delicately as possible. But I might as well just state from the outset that the only way to move on and be free of your past is to break up with it–literally. There comes a time to let go and move on.
There is certainly a time for weeping and sorrow. The Bible says there is a season for everything (Ecc. 3). But every season runs its course. We cannot be chained to past hurts and trauma and expect to live a victorious life. There comes a time to heal and move on (Ecc. 3:3b).
Now, I don’t want any of you reading this to think I am judging you or preaching at you. I come from a place of true compassion for peoples’ hurts and traumas because I have experienced many of them myself. I am not immune. Suffering is an unfortunate part of the human condition. Jesus did not promise us a ‘sunshine and roses’ existence. What He did promise is that He would be there and that through Him we could overcome anything thrown at us.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NLT, emphasis mine)
The promise here is that even though we may be victimised, we do not need to be victims. We can be overcomers! I don’t want to just survive the experience. I want to thrive in spite of it! If I’m going to go through something, I might as well grow through it.
The world can offer coping strategies, medication, counselling, psychotherapy and support groups. All of that is good. I am in favour of those options. But what Christ has to offer gives hope that you can actually overcome and have joy in all circumstances. Joy is more than just a good feeling, it is true resilience in the face of impossible situations. The joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh. 8:10).
I want to share a little of my story with you and explain the steps I took to be truly free of my past. I’m sharing this in the hope that many of you struggling can know there is always a way of escape from your troubles. We need only lift our eyes and then fix them on Christ.
My story (well some of it…)
I want to be upfront in making it clear that I do not choose to dishonour family and others in my life who have hurt me. I truly have forgiven and released them. I do believe it is important to tell my story though. I will do my best to keep identities secret as much as possible.
I grew up in a Christian home. From the outside, everything looked good. We were regular, church-going people and my parents served in the church in ministry. The reality of my home was very different. It was in fact a dark place. Behind closed doors, there was incest, violence and just chaos in general. I was molested not just by family friends who had access to me but also within the four walls of my home by family members. This is very confusing for a young child.
When my mother divorced my father, she moved from one dysfunctional relationship to another. Her new husband was also a very broken individual and totally bound with a religious spirit. He himself was a victim of domestic violence in his childhood home and he brought that chaos into ours. I saw my brothers beaten many times. My mother was also assaulted. I remember one physical assault from him but I got off fairly lightly compared to my brothers. He ruled by fear and our home was never a place I felt safe. We were even beaten if we didn’t read our Bibles and pray. It was very confusing for a young girl blossoming into a teen.
At no stage in my family life did I ever feel safe. Fear was my constant ‘companion’. (It’s a lousy companion too…). The minute I got a job and could support myself, I was out of there. But the chaos followed me because of the wounding in my soul.
I was part of a youth group from the age of 17. It was a great ministry and I really enjoyed my time there. Unfortunately at a house warming party with my friends from youth, a boy from the church sexually assaulted me while I was sleeping in my bed. He had climbed a two-story building to break into my bedroom and I was too drunk to fight back. I was 18.
Family members insisted I report the assault to police. I did this. Unfortunately the church I was involved with at the time did not respond well to this. I was accused of being complicit in the assault because I was wearing a ‘crop top’ and had been drinking. I know churches would not get away with this kind of behaviour today but this was prior to the Royal Commission into Child and Sex Abuse in churches and schools. The fact this boy was the son of an elder of the church did not help either. I must have been asking for it right?….Wrong!
I was so confused. I lost my job because I was too traumatised to work. I had to move back in with family. As family had never felt like a safe place, I quickly sought refuge in a dysfunctional relationship and eventual marriage. This man was also a very broken human being. The marriage lasted 4.5 years. I did not feel safe with my husband because he was a sexual deviant (despite being a professing Christian) and abused me sexually, mentally and spiritually. I really had no reference point for ‘normal’ so I felt trapped and constantly afraid. I am so glad that God got me out of that relationship.
During my time of recovery, I met my current husband who turned out to be the first ‘normal’ individual I had been in close relationship with. God used him to bring healing and restoration to me and to give me a sense of what a loving relationship was supposed to be.
During all of this time, I was a very driven individual. Despite the dysfunctional past, God’s hand of favour had always been on my life. I excelled at what I did. For 15 years I was an excellent high-school teacher. I changed and impacted so many lives. I had empathy for kids that had lived through traumatic circumstances.
It all came to a grinding halt in 2015 when my 37-year old body had finally had enough. Given fear had been with me constantly, no wonder my body succumbed to multiple illnesses. I was diagnosed with a long list of autoimmune conditions along with fibromyalgia and chronic adrenal insufficiency. I was no longer allowed to work. As of writing this, I am still unable to return.
I have received some amazing restoration of health by walking out a path of inner healing. I am still in process, though, as I train both my body and my mind to be at peace. My body had experienced fear for such a prolonged period of time that it was unable to produce cortisol sufficiently. This is a hormone required to restore your body to ‘normal’ after a stressful event. If your body does not make enough of it the symptoms are very unpleasant and in extreme cases can be fatal. I will spare you the gory details….
In October of 2016, I submitted to a deliverance and inner healing process. I have not looked back since. I have forgiven all of those who have hurt me and released them to God asking Him to bless them. This is so important. You cannot hold onto your past if you want to walk in destiny and purpose.
I would like to share with you the steps I took to be free of my past. I want you to know you can be free. It is a choice.
Steps to freedom from your past
1. Recognise the problem.
You can’t be free if you don’t recognise you have a problem. If you’re uncertain, do a self-check right now. Does the peace of God rule in your heart? Do you have a joy in every trial and circumstance no matter what? Do you love others with true compassion and without an agenda? Do you have good boundaries in relationships? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, then you need to ask yourself what is holding you back. It might just be your past. (I’ll bet you 9 times out of 10 is IS your past!)
2. Take responsibility
If you have been victimised, it is NOT your fault. But you do not need to remain a victim. You can take responsibility for what happened to you and choose to move on from it. You cannot control others actions but you can control your response to it.
You need to forgive anyone and everyone who has hurt you. You also need to forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself is often the hardest thing to do. At least, in my experience, this was the case. I had received those word curses spoken over me, “You asked for it because you were drinking”. Or, “If only you had dressed more appropriately this wouldn’t have happened to you”.
Forgiveness sets you free. It does not make what someone else did okay. It simply releases you from the prison of offense. You need to forgive, release and bless people who have hurt you. Forgiveness is not optional for Christians. It is a commandment:
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt. 6:14-15, NLT)
We are also commanded to love our enemies and to pray for those who have hurt us:
However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. (Matt. 5:44 TPT)
True freedom comes through forgiveness. You cannot hold anger, bitterness and rage in your heart towards someone when you are praying for them. Take the step of obedience to forgive and I promise you the feelings will follow. I don’t care if you say the prayer through gritted teeth. God will honour it and you will be free.
Yes, this is a tough topic but I promise you true freedom comes through this step. It cannot be skipped over. You need to repent for the sin committed against you and for any part you were complicit in it. Sometimes it is necessary to simply repent for getting caught up in the ‘drama of the trauma’. This is where you need to make the decision that you are DONE with your past and you are divorcing yourself from it permanently. Issue a divorce decree if you have to. It is very liberating!
5. Ask the Holy Spirit to heal your wounded soul
Once the stain of sin is removed from the soul, ask the Holy Spirit to heal any woundedness and pain in your soul. Ask Him to remove anything that is doing you harm. Ask Him to pour in the oil and wine of restoration (Luke 10:34).
6. Get professional help
Sometimes this is a necessary step. Godly counselors can give you coping strategies and practical solutions as you walk out your healing. Professionals are also much better equipped at helping us with deeper traumas. We can have good friends who guide and support us but ultimately some of this stuff is too much for a friend or even a pastor. This is the time to engage a professional.
7. Abide in Him
As you walk out your healing, abide in Him. This means spending time in His presence daily. Read His Word. Listen to praise and worship music. Soak in His presence. Delight in Him (Ps. 37:4). Stay in Godly fellowship and planted in the house of God. Keep yourself accountable to a few, trusted friends and mentors who can help you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
At the end of the day, Jesus is the only answer. He is the only one who offers true freedom, joy, peace and perfect love.
I trust in some way my story and restoration to wholeness has provided you with hope. Many of these things take time but if you are determined, you can be free. The key is to break up with your past! “I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead” (Phil. 3:13b TPT). The future God has for you is so much brighter than what has passed. Do you trust Him enough to step into all that He has for you? There is so much more…
Love and blessings in Christ,