Healing the hurts: How God restored my family
Joanne Chim // July 25, 2019, 6:03 pm
Have you ever had those existential crisis moments where you wonder what things will be like if not for God’s saving grace? I pondered over that thought on multiple occasions and the one thing that struck me was the thought of how God restored my relationship with my parents.
If you look at my parents and I interacting today, you can never guess the past we had. At present, we’re constantly doing things together, watching movies, shopping, eating and even setting aside family days. By right, this intimacy would have been impossible based on our history.
A CHALLENGING CHILDHOOD
I grew up under a mother who was so fierce I would be terrified to be within a metre of her, let alone sit beside her for a meal. My dad was also under her thumb, which made me see him as a silent companion.
There would often be family fights, and my sibling and I would get beaten almost daily for trivial mistakes such as not getting full marks for spelling tests. I couldn’t reconcile our faith and her actions. It didn’t help that my dad would discipline me under her direction, which made me ultimately lose all respect and trust for figures of authority.
Over time, I hated my mum and struggled to submit to those in authority over me. This bad patch between my mum and I dragged on through my teenage years, which had me sinking into depression.
Lost and forlorn, I sought love for all the wrong people, leading me deeper into the rabbit hole of a lifestyle of debauchery. Feeling so hopeless and helpless, I considered taking my life on numerous occasions but failed to do so because I was afraid of heights.
But that wasn’t the end of the trauma. In the midst of harbouring so much bitterness, I started to experience creepy supernatural experiences. I remember hearing my musical box playing in the middle of the night, which sent me into a full blown panic attack.
Abused, depressed, sexually and mentally broken, I prayed for the Lord to end my life at the age of 18. By then, I had given up all hope of experiencing the love of a family. I had given up on myself.
A FATHER’S INTERVENTION
As a result of being so terrified by the spiritual attack, I begged God to help me. I still see that as the start of His redemptive work in my life. His first intervention came through an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort.
This sense of security was a new concept for me – God’s love was so overpowering I didn’t know how else to respond to it. During my quiet times, I started pouring out my heart to Him, something that was new to me because I had been so good at suppressing pain.
And Jesus was in no rush for me to stop talking. I felt that He never brushed over my wounds and instead wept with me and asked me to elaborate on how I was feeling as I talked to Him. That process was extremely cathartic.
Over a period of two years, through praying daily, my relationship with my parents improved. I started to treat them with more compassion, and God increased my tolerance towards my mum’s temper.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Change didn’t happen overnight. Many times, my parents and I would be triggered by each other’s flaws. But through consistently praying and keeping God in the loop, we learned to forgive, love and bear with each other’s faults.
One of the biggest improvements in our relationship came when my mum did something most Asian parents would hesitate to do – saying “I love you” and “I’m sorry”. She said both of these statements tearfully while we were having a heart-to-heart talk. And it broke me, in a good way.
My dad later came into the room and hugged my mother and I – the timing couldn’t have been more on point. It was a picture-perfect scene. From that point onwards, our relationship became closer as my parents and I started to pray together and talk things through cordially.
That level of intimacy with my parents was something I never thought I’d be able to experience in this lifetime. Had God not been present in my life, I would have been a goner. My family and I were so dead in sin that the option of turning over a new leaf wouldn’t have been available if God had not first shown His grace (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Throughout my childhood, I learned that whatever the devil meant for evil, God means for good (Genesis 50:20). He’s the only sovereign one who can turn every tragedy’s end into a glorious beginning.
A JOURNEY OF BREAKTHROUGH
As a result of being reconciled to my family, my mental and emotional health improved and I started to pick up new hobbies like calligraphy and copywriting. This led me down the path of creating beautiful artwork for numerous brands I never thought I would be able to reach out to.
Today, when doubts of God’s goodness creep in or I’m tempted to believe that He’s negligent, I’m reminded of the song “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship, which contains the lines: “I’ve seen you move, you move the mountains, and I believe I’ll see you do it again. You made a way when there was no way, and I believe I’ll see you do it again.”
I would like to believe that the remembrance of these songs is God’s way of putting a new song in my mouth (Psalm 40:3) – not one of complaint, but one where I’m reminded of His goodness even during bad times.
Had it not been for God, my relationship with my parents would still be in shambles and snowballing towards a greater degree of destruction. I wouldn’t have had the desire for things to change, the strength to press on in prayer, or the opportunities to do calligraphy as a result of being healed.
Most importantly, I wouldn’t have been able to recognise and experience God’s glory and tender mercies working in my family, pushing us towards reconciliation.
THERE IS HOPE FOR EVERY FAMILY
God took a woman like me, who was broken physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and restored me to run after His heart. If He could take my once dysfunctional family and transform our hearts and minds such that we would be loving each other so deeply today, there’s nothing He can’t do for you.
He’s the best person in making beginnings out of dead ends – after all, He did part the Red Sea (Exodus 14). God’s also the best person to take whatever little we have left and make a beautiful masterpiece out of our brokenness.
And trust me, as someone who’s lived through years of pain, the breakthrough that comes from waiting on God, no matter how long it takes, will not disappoint (Isaiah 49:23).
THINK + TALK
- Do you struggle with a difficult family?
- Why do you think God placed you in this family?
- How can we love and forgive those who hurt us?
- How can you honour your parents even in pain?