How to Overcome Terrible Adversity
I’m an aberration. I know that. My husband is a retired federal probation officer. When he would tell me about his offenders, I would often remark, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ Having made many a mistake in his youth, he would often nod his head silently in agreement. But he knows that my past goes deeper than most and that people who lived through similar things ended up on the other side of his desk, as drug addicts, prostitutes or dead. Certainly, they don’t end up as a well paid international consultants, jewelers, successful bloggers & happily married mothers of three. Something just doesn’t add up where I am concerned. That ‘something’ is called a miracle of salvation from God. I mean that literally.
To make a long story short, I grew up in a violent home. By the time I was a teen, I was accustomed to coming home to police squad cars, broken furniture, food and plates broken and streaming down the kitchen walls and physical violence which was heard all over the neighborhood. We children were victims of physical and emotional violence on a regular basis as well.
The reason I went to West Point was because it was a scholarship. I couldn’t trust my parents to pay for an ivy league education. I was ambitious and knew that an education was the only way to ‘make it’ out of the nightmare of my life. I was willing to serve five years as an officer for that education.
You all know that I was hated and raped at West Point because I am a strong woman. Thus, what I had hoped would be my ticket out of hell turned out to be another form of hell. When I ran away from West Point because of this rape, my mother kicked me out of our home. I became homeless and dependent upon a man I had only just begun to date. He turned out to be mentally unstable, very violent and jealous. He raised his fists to me and I became trapped in his home. All my pride & dreams were coming to ashes. I almost killed myself.
I want to share how I overcame all this adversity with you in the hope that it can help you overcome yours. It worked for me- I know it can work for you. I am living proof.
- Bring It To God: This is another way of saying, “Get help asap!” I will never forget the moment when I was about to end my life. I have written more about this in my article, “One Christian’s Journey.” My ‘boyfriend’, with whom I was forced to live after my mother kicked me out, had just knocked me down and slapped me in the face, twisted my arms and had dragged me back to the house after I tried to escape from him. His mother had also attacked me by choking my neck with her two hands and shoved me as hard as she could into their car, calling me a ‘whore’ who was using her son. She was a giant, fat tank of a woman and I was a very slight young woman. The whole family was standing there yelling at me and I wasn’t sure why. The situation was as insane as the family was. All I knew was that I had been shamed to no end. My pride was at an all time low. I broke free and ran to a quiet room. I fell on my knees and did the only thing I could think of- I called out to God with all my heart, with all my mind and with all my soul. I made a deal with Him- I told him that I would serve him and not me from that day forward if he would just save me from myself. I wanted to kill myself but I didn’t want to die like that- so young and such a failure. Even though my offer was crap and born out of pride and desperation, God heard my prayer. He knew that it was at least sincere. He responded by sending me the Holy Spirit- I was baptized right then and there with fire.
- Rest & Trust In the Lord– I went crazy with happiness. I knew God was with me suddenly. I feared nothing. I simply knew that God would find a way for me. And he did. The family stayed away from me and no one spoke a single word. My mother came miraculously the next day and simply bought me a used car. She also told me to come home. I looked at her straight in the eye and said, “God is making you do this.” And she didn’t say a word. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I knew that God was delivering me. I’m not going to say that the depression suddenly was gone or that everything was easy- but I knew that God had accepted my deal. I also knew that I would keep my end of the bargain until the end of my days (and I have). I felt a new destiny upon me. This gave me hope and comfort– two things so necessary for overcoming adversity. I now belonged to a great king who could do anything. I was no longer alone in this world. I also was no longer my ownplanner and strategist. That made me feel much better about my future.
- Seek out Fellowship- This took much longer for me than it should have. Having started out alone in life, it was very, very difficult to find friends. This has taken the better half of my life. But I finally found it in my husband. You must stay true to yourself in this quest. If you belong to God, you can’t marry someone who is not in God. That is to be unequally yoked. I had a boyfriend from high school and he continued to claim atheism. As much as I yearned to be married and have a friend for life, I couldn’t marry him without God in the mix. Leaving him to find a Christian man was extremely difficult and painful- it took almost 15 years to do, but it was the right thing. I stayed true to God and myself and found the right Christian man- my beloved husband. We are One in marriage. We are raising up our children in God. It took me too long to find Christian friendship but I blame myself and my stubbornness for that. Please learn from my mistake. I left organized church for over 20 years because of the crazy family I described in Number 1 above. They were posing as Born Again Christians. I was lonely for decades for no good reason. I returned to church about three years ago and found exactly what I needed- such wonderful friends- and now my life is truly flowering over with joy. You need Christian friends when overcoming terrible adversity. Secular friends will not stand by you in your adversity.
- Refuse to Wallow in Self Pity- I never sat and felt sorry for myself. I didn’t sit and cry about the rape- well, not past the initial stages, anyway. I didn’t sit and think about everything I had lost by quitting West Point- in fact, I didn’t dwell on it. When I tanked in my grades after leaving West Point, I didn’t cry that I had made my path to medical school all that much harder. I didn’t sit and consider all that ‘could have been’. I didn’t think about how much easier my life would have been if my mother hadn’t kicked me out of my house! I never allowed myself to think that way. In fact, these thoughts never once crossed my mind. I am not built that way. My siblings think this way and they lead godless lives full of anger and misery. Instead of thinking these thoughts, which would have only led to complete homelessness, crime, drugs, prostitution or other terrible outcomes, I focused all my thoughts to survival: where will I live? How will I get a job? How will I get to my job? How can I finish my college education (I still knew it was the only way out of poverty)? I bought a newspaper (ha! remember, there was no internet then) and found two girls that wanted to rent out a walk-in closet for $75/month. Nice, huh? It was big enough for a twin mattress (exactly) and a tower of milk crates to hold my things. It had an opening window. It was close to my waitress job. I had my old bike which I could ride to university and work. It was perfect in every way! Self pity will drain necessary energy you need for basic survival and you will die. If they begin to creep in, decide to stop them and wipe them clean off your brain. You can do this.
- Refuse to Blame Others for your Circumstances– very close to Number 4, but not quite the same. I never looked at my homelessness, for example, and thought, “This is my rapists fault.” I never looked around at my misery and depression and thought, “The Army should have protected me better from all those men.” I never thought, “I should sue the Army for not providing a reporting system for rape.” I never thought, “My mother is to blame for me not wanting to live.” I didn’t even think, “God did this to me- He is unkind and doesn’t love me.” These kinds of thoughts just didn’t enter my mind. These are the kinds of thoughts that make people want to give up. You want to give up because you can’t change what others have already done to you- and you can’t control the actions of others. It is a useless focus. You must, instead, set your mind to your own actions and what you can do from this point forward. One can find very cheap lodging if you aren’t proud- you can find minimum wage jobs to do as you educate yourself for a better paying one later. You must devise a plan and stick to it. That is what I did. And when you are doing this, believe me, you don’t have time to sit around thinking about who brought you so low in life. All excess energy will be spent on overcoming all the negative forces that will constantly nag and drag at your heels (ie, depression, sadness, anger, etc) as you attempt to carry out your plan. Anyone who evaluates my Stony brook transcript will see that I withdrew from my classes several semesters due to depression. I just couldn’t go to classes sometimes- mostly because of massive blow ups with my boyfriend, homelessness or other disasters that semester. But I never gave up. I got terrible grades, but I never gave up. I just got up, dusted myself off and kept to the plan. I began to develop the following mindset: “Everything is fixable.”
- Help Other People-
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Believe it or not, I used to get stronger when I helped other people in their needs. People came to me with their problems because I am a good listener- I still am. I gave of myself to their problems. Looking back upon these actions, I now know that helping them truly helped me in my adversity. They provided me with a perspective- I am not the only one suffering in this world. It helped me to feel good about myself and my own horrible experiences because I found that my injuries could actually become assets if I could use them to comfort and help others! That was the very best elixir of all! Ugliness could be turned into beauty! Evil could be turned into light! Hate could be turned into Love. Is that not Redemption? All by loving our neighbor in distress! All by using our own pain to help someone else. Friends, I am telling you that Jesus is right– He who is willing to lose his life will gain eternal life. When I refused to wallow in self-pity or sorrow, when I refused to think about blaming people for my circumstances, I found the key to healing- turn the evil that was done to me into diamonds and light by helping others in pain! When I found that my pain could act as the best medicine for others, I found that I would not give it up for anything. How is that for a complete healing? How is that for making lemonade out of lemons? This all came from turning the focus from me out to others- in obedience to Christ.
7. Step it Out Day By Day- Then, my friends, there is nothing left but to continue your walk daily in Christ, your Lord and Savior. Each day is a challenge. As I said in Number 5, you must have a pragmatic plan in mind to get out of your desperate plight and you must never allow yourself to pity yourself or blame others- all focus and thought must be toward achieving your plan. Then, turn the evil that was done to you into beauty and light. This is your redemption every time. If you do all these things after first giving your life over to God, then eventually, you will experience the miracle I have. You will unexpectedly look back and realize that you are OK. You will realize that all the darkness that once pervaded your soul has drained out of your heel and all that is left is health. You will suddenly feel all about your mind and soul like a tongue looking for the sore tooth and find nothing there! You will be healed!
8. Give Glory To God- You will look back and see all that you have accomplished- I finished college and God dropped job after job into my lap like low hanging fruit. Though I felt I never deserved such jobs, there they were. I went to each interview and it was as if I couldn’t fail! I won every job interview I wanted. My career in international management consulting literally rocketed me to the top of my field and suddenly, I was standing with CEOs, Boards of Directors and major decision makers. God heard all my prayers and brought my beautiful husband and children into my life and I left all the money and prestige as quickly as I had found it. For me, Love trumps Money anytime! Then, I began to blog for his sake- and he exploded that too. And here I am now- having led the most amazing and strange life- about to make national news because a villain raped me in 1986 and wants to shut me up forever. Truly, I am an aberration- living proof that God exists and intervenes in the lives of his people. I give great thanks and praise to God! If you follow the same path as I, you too will be thanking him someday- all because you gave your life into his hands and kept your nose down into your own business of living a good and righteous life.
I hope this has been illuminating for you. Not many people have overcome the past I have experienced. If they have, they rarely write about how they overcame it. When I read about the advice given by modern psychologists, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get upset. Most times, I just think they are out to make repeat customers. Healing people is counter productive to their livelihood. Most times, people are surprised that I went through all this because I rarely talk about it anymore and I don’t ‘look’ like a typical survivor. It’s not that I am bottled up or repressed- it’s just that I don’t think much about it anymore. I have developed a forward thinking mentality. I don’t dwell in the past. I live a whole lot Today and think about what needs to be done right here and now. And if you think about it, those are exactly the skills that helped me survive all the most terrible events of my life. So, just because a person doesn’t complain or bemoan their past, their injuries or their lost opportunities all the time doesn’t mean they didn’t experience them. It could mean that they are that one in a million person that actually healed from them successfully. It’s a modern-day miracle. You just need to recognize one when you see one, that’s all. (smile)