Searching for Safety

02/02/2018 .
Myra Biernat Wells  .  Volunteer Storyteller

Cindy stared helplessly. Evil-filled eyes returned her defenseless gaze. She had been walking to her car in a dimly lit parking lot after a night out with friends, when a man forced her into his truck and drove away. Her heart felt like it would pound out of her chest, and her thoughts raced — “I’m too young to die at 23.” The man drove to a deserted road, holding Cindy captive for the next six hours. He repeatedly threatened to kill her. He beat Cindy and sexually assaulted her. Cindy prayed silently, “God, if you’re real, please get me out of this alive. I’ll change my ways.”



When dawn broke, her captor said he’d drive her back to her car and let her go. Instead, he drove her to a nearby dam and forced her to the edge of the stone wall. Cindy looked down at the river below, thinking her attacker was going to throw her to her death. As he made her lean over the edge, her terror and fear evaporated, and Cindy felt an unexpected peace. She felt a warm, white light encircle her, saw a hand reaching down to her, and believed God was telling her it was time to go.


Her attacker took her off the stone wall and drove her back to her car. Before leaving, he threatened to find her and kill her if she ever went to the police.


This wasn’t the first time Cindy had felt helpless and violated. When she was five years old, her father started molesting her. Even at that tender age, Cindy knew something was wrong, and she went to her mother for protection. Her mother only ignored Cindy’s pleas for help and told her to go with her father. Lacking a defender, fear became her constant companion. The abuse made her feel unloved, unworthy, and invisible — like she had done something wrong to deserve it.

As her anger grew, her behavior visibly changed. Panic attacks became normal. She struggled with schoolwork, and smoked cigarettes and marijuana to find acceptance. When a high school sweetheart left her for another classmate, Cindy felt she couldn’t trust anyone’s promise to love her.


After high school, “My life became a meaningless cycle of drinking, partying, and trying to find someone to love me,” Cindy said. “I began using cocaine to lift the depression, but once the effects wore off, the hopelessness returned.”


In her late 20s, Cindy moved back to California. With her life still spinning out of control, Cindy had a talk with her sister, who was a Christian and attending Saddleback. Her sister asked Cindy if she’d be willing to meet with a Saddleback pastor, and when Cindy agreed, her sister set up an appointment. During the conversation, Cindy poured out her heart, telling the pastor about the sexual abuse from her father, the rape and kidnapping she suffered, how she dulled her pain with drugs and alcohol, and that her life had no direction or purpose.



The pastor explained that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to save us from our sins. We need to turn away from the things that are wrong in our lives, accept what Jesus did on the cross for us, and receive him as Lord. “I knew I was a sinner — and by accepting God’s love, I could receive in his grace,” Cindy said.


After her meeting with the pastor, Cindy felt the world looked brighter, but “while I knew I was now a daughter of God, my heart still had some catching up to do,” she said. “I wanted to understand how and why I got to this spot after spiraling downward for so long. I wanted to live my life in a different way, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t truly understand grace, but I felt passionately that God was offering me an abundant life — one I’d been craving all along.”


Cindy continued to attend Saddleback and met one-on-one with a counselor. Talking through and processing her experience helped her heal from many of the wounds of her past. One particular message at Saddleback had a profound impact on Cindy’s healing. “It felt like Pastor Rick was speaking directly to me,” she said. “He explained God’s promise in the Bible to prosper me, to give me a hope and a future. Tears rolled down my face as I began to fully understand the nature of the relationship God wanted to have with me. For the first time in my life, I felt began to feel safe.”


A few months later, at her 30-year high school reunion, Cindy reconnected with the boyfriend who had broken her heart in the past, and the two discussed giving the relationship another try. They were now both committed Christians and enjoyed talking about God during dates. “I told him that God was changing me every day as my intimacy with God was growing,” Cindy said. After six months of dating, they got married.



A few months later, their marriage hit a rocky patch. Cindy’s counselor suggested the couple attend Celebrate Recovery® (CR) to work through some of their challenges. “Through CR, God started healing me in places I didn’t even know I had problems,” Cindy said. “CR taught me what happened to me was not my fault; I had done nothing to deserve it. I learned that the stronger my relationship is with God, the easier it is to see myself the way God sees me. And now, as a leader at CR, I can encourage other woman who are trying to process their pain and find healing.”


The next step in Cindy’s healing came through confronting her first abuser — her father. She had been estranged from him for several years. Cindy found out that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Feeling that God was drawing her to bring her father to Christ, Cindy went to visit him — this time armed with God’s love in her heart. She told her father that she loved him; she forgave him for everything. She then asked if he wanted a relationship with Jesus, and her father said yes! She made a cross over him and said, “I claim this soul for the Lord Jesus Christ in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The abuser and the abused were now joined together in a circle of divine love.


“I’m still working on myself. I’ve learned we live in a world where innocent people suffer. Pain and hurt are everywhere,” Cindy said. “But now, I can see the joy everywhere in God’s creation. Going through my suffering taught me God is who he says he is: in the hurt, the suffering, and the pain in life, God is near. He is good, even in the darkness. I am safe with God because of his unconditional love.”



If you've been sexually abused, there are many resources available to help you get on a path toward understanding and healing. Learn more at saddleback.com/healingfromabuse.

To watch Kay Warren and Beth Moore's message on helping people heal from sexual abuse, click HERE.

Learn more about Celebrate Recovery HERE.