In this post Hugh shares his experience with divorce. I pray that God may touch your heart through his experiences and that one day you might be able to share with us here your own experiences with God.
Testimony of Hugh – Celebrate Recovery- January 9th, 2012
Good evening, my name is Hugh. I am a grateful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and am celebrating recovery from bondage to lust, alcohol, gambling, spending, selfishness, unforgiveness, and depression. I am currently working through some issues of anger, resentment, fear and trust.
Before I begin, I would like to pray: “Lord God, thank You for loving us so very much. We love You with all our hearts. Lord, please speak through my story, touch hearts with Your love and transform lives. In the strong name of Jesus I pray, amen”.
I was not raised in a Christian home. God was never mentioned, so I had no concept of God as I grew up. I never gave Him a second thought. By about age 12, I wanted everything the world had to offer. I wanted to have a successful career someday and become rich.
I had a good relationship with my father. He was outgoing and friendly and had a great sense of humour. Everyone liked him. He was a bank manager in the small Alberta town I grew up in and was known as “the friendly banker”. There is no question that he was the hero of my youth. One regret I have is that my father was not a believer, so he was not able to introduce me to Jesus. I am convinced that I would have followed his advice in a second had he been a believer.
In contrast to my father, my mother had a hot temper. She regularly unleashed her temper on my father. As a little boy, I remember after I had gone to bed, hearing her verbal tirades against my father through my bedroom floor. My mother would either demean my dad or give him ‘the silent treatment’ for days. Oh, how I hated those days of the silent treatment. You could hear a pin drop in our house and cut the tension with a knife. I had a great deal of suppressed anger towards my mother. I secretly blamed her for making my father’s life so miserable. I was not able to process or verbalize these feelings, so I acted out by not letting her near me. I would never let her hug or kiss me. None of our family photographs ever show me smiling. There is something terribly wrong when a boy does not bond with his mother. On the inside, I felt insecure and craved love. Those feelings haunted me into adulthood.
I always knew mom was a social drinker who became very lively at parties, but growing up I had no idea that she had an addiction to alcohol. I found this out in my late thirties. I was the last in the family to know. Mom’s condition had always been the family secret that no one ever talked about.
My father stressed the importance of higher education to get ahead in life, as he only had the opportunity to finish grade ten. So I became a hard-working student, receiving recognition by maintaining an honours average. I left home to attend law school at the young age of 20. As I entered law school, I now believed I possessed the status I was craving, but on the inside I was emotionally immature. I now believe that my alienation from my mother left a huge hole in my heart.
For the first 20 years of my life, my mother role-modelled the use of anger to cope with the stresses of life. I adopted the same coping strategy for my life, but lived in complete denial of this fact. I met my future wife, Katharine, during Frosh Week at the University of Alberta. We married two and a half years later. We were both 23.
On the surface, I was a promising marriage prospect for Katharine, being an ambitious young man with a professional career ahead of him. She did not fully realize what a hurting young man she had married, or the extent of my dark side. I was not aware of my own issues because I was living in denial. My ambition was still to make a lot of money, buy a big, flashy house, drive a big, flashy car, and have lots of status so people would think I was ‘somebody’. In my heart I really didn’t care much about people. My world revolved around myself, my pleasure and my enjoyment. I was addicted to selfishness.
I loved Katharine from the time we first met at age 20, but my words and actions did not show her that I loved her. Each week at CR we read Romans 7:18 from God’s Word which says ‘each of us has a desire to do what is good, but we cannot carry it out’. That was so true for me. My love for Katharine was a human love, weakened by my selfishness and sin. It would be 24 years later that I would meet Jesus and learn what real love is: real love is the committed, selfless love of Jesus.
I carried my temper into our marriage. When I did not get my way, I reacted with explosive anger and hurtful words. Katharine was always wrong and I was always right. I did not realize it, but Katharine began to avoid disagreeing with me because she could never win. In my deluded thinking, I was winning every argument. What was actually happening was that I was crushing Katharine’s heart. I was losing her. She told me years later that she was just biding her time, waiting for a way to exit our marriage.
From an early age I had a terrible problem with lust, which I kept a secret. My thinking towards sexuality was corrupted. I viewed women as objects. My plan of insanity was to pursue sexual sin in an attempt to feel loved and pursue wealth and possessions in an attempt to feel important. I had no clear sense of right and wrong. My coping mechanism was to turn to anger or sexual sin whenever I felt insecure or stressed. As my career advanced, my morals seemed to go into a nose dive. I lived a secret life of sin. My life of secrets kept me isolated from Katharine and made me more and more miserable. I was restless, moody and angry most of the time, and I had a deep sense of loneliness in my soul.
We were blessed in the space of six years with four children, so Katharine was kept very busy as a homemaker. Being a mother was the joy of her life. As the years sped by, I had no inkling of the heavy toll my destructive words and behaviour were having on Katharine. I was lost in my own self-centered world, unaware that my years of verbal abuse had caused Katharine to stop loving me.
In our 16th year of marriage, Katharine carefully picked a time to talk with me privately. In a gentle, respectful voice she asked me for a divorce. Time stood still for me. I had absolutely no idea that this was coming. Katharine did not blame me nor mention any of my faults. Her few words brought me out of 39 years of denial. I could suddenly see my depravity. It was as if someone had placed a giant mirror in front of me and I could suddenly see my sins.
Katharine slept like a baby that night and I stayed up all night writing out a list of all the behaviours I promised to change. I presented the list to her in the morning, but Katharine asked me to move out in seven days. Suddenly, Katharine was unable to get out of bed. She had fallen into a deep depression and was immobilized. I showed love and compassion for her like I had never shown her before. She was completely blown away by how committed I was to becoming a better husband and father and how much I loved her and was committed to our marriage. I believe that God was beginning to restore our broken marriage even before I knew Him.
We saw a marriage counsellor and stayed together. I tried very hard to improve my character by reading stacks of self-help books. Looking back, I now know that the day Katharine asked me for a divorce was the day I began searching for God. In Deuteronomy 4:29 God gives us this promise: “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” That promise is true because I found Jesus five years later! Katharine and I began attending a Bible-believing church in Calgary. I was so motivated to improve my character to keep our marriage intact, that I responded to the Gospel message within weeks. I was attracted to the promise God was making to me in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” God was promising to make me into a new creation. He was offering to mold me into a husband of strong moral character, who honours and protects his wife’s heart and is faithful to her. I jumped at God’s offer and prayed to receive Jesus as Lord of my life and Saviour from my sins. I became born-again as Jesus describes in John, chapter 3. God gave me new desires: I suddenly loved the things of God, praying, worshiping God, attending church, reading God’s Word, and being in the company of other believers.
When I shared with Katharine that I had made a decision to give my life to Jesus, she watched me like a hawk for months, convinced that this was just another phase I was going through. God got a hold of me as I surrendered my life to Him. Katharine saw changes in my character as God grew the fruit of His Spirit in me. She later told me that, for the first time, she saw patience, gentleness and kindness in me and that she sensed that I had peace in my heart for the first time in my life. After seeing her ‘new’ man and falling in love with me all over again, she came to a saving faith in Christ nine months later.
For decades I held my mother responsible for my temper. When I came to Christ I finally began to accept responsibility for my own sinful choices. Over three years ago, in obedience to God’s promptings, I chose to humble myself and forgive my mother and tell her that I loved her. That act of obedience has been a rich blessing to both of us. She is now 90.
Despite all the changes that God made in me when I first came to faith twenty years ago, I still had many trials to face. God cautions us all to be constantly on guard for evil creeping into our minds. I failed to remain vigilant. I somehow thought that all my battles had already been won. When the Internet came into mainstream use in Canada in about 1998, Satan used this new technology to re-ignite my old addiction to lust. The dark underbelly of the Internet is a monster that every man must attack and slay with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Five years ago, I enrolled in an online Christian recovery program for addiction to lust. The course is comprised of 60 life-changing Bible lessons. I claimed God’s promise to set me free from bondage to lust. This promises is found in Romans 6:6,7 “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin”.
I have experienced what real love is, because I have accepted God’s incredible love for me. I no longer need the pseudo- intimacy offered by Internet pornography.
When my career suddenly ended, I badly underestimated the deceitfulness of my own heart. God says to us in Jeremiah 17:9 “the heart is deceitful above all things”. All my life I had been lusting after wealth and had never gone to my knees and sincerely asked God to rid me of this idol. When I lost my job, my identity was still based on worldly success. In my mind, I had lost my status, my sense of importance. My delusional thinking was that “God is not enough. I have to be ‘somebody’. I have to have status. I have to be rich. I began trading stocks on the Internet. I was gambling on the stock market to feel important and to chase after riches. My gambling was small and controlled at first but soon escalated into very large, risky bets with borrowed money. My gambling quickly became a secret obsession. Five years ago, after God convicted me through a sermon, I confessed to Katharine the losses I had racked up. I fell into a deep depression. I just wanted to curl up and die. But God is so faithful. I cried out to Him in desperation to rescue me from my depression. He restored in me the joy of my salvation. To pay off the losses, we sold our luxury home and purchased a modest townhouse and Katharine went back to work. God has removed my craving for wealth and I have more joy in the Lord than ever! Katharine has shared with me that she is happier in our little townhouse than any of our luxury homes, none of which she wanted in the first place!
I have now learned to anchor my identity in Christ. If I have nothing this world has to offer and I have Jesus, then I have everything! Each day I now meet with Jesus personally and intimately in His Word and surrender my will over to Him. I now experience the warmth of God’s love in my heart every day.
Several years ago I became very angry over a difference of opinion with my sister. With her, I had reverted back to my old coping mechanism of anger instead of surrendering to God. God commands me in Hebrews 12:15: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men”. I have repented of my angry spirit towards my sister.
Daily, I take my hurts and compulsive habits to God. I share my struggles and victories in my open share group each week at CR. I have completed the eight- month Celebrate Recovery Step Study course, working through the twelve steps of CR. Through that study, God has taught me to surrender my view of myself to His lordship and to the Word of God. In the past, I was refusing to surrender to what God thinks of me. God showed His incredible love for me by sending His Son to die on the Cross for my many sins against God. I am precious to God and blameless in His sight. How dare I see myself as a failure, when He loves meso very muchand has completely forgiven me. God says to us in Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus”. God tells me in 1Peter 2:9 that I am an adopted son of the King! I am a member of a royal priesthood. My identity, my sense of who I am, now comes from Christ alone, not from my appearance, my possessions or my talents.
All my life I have felt a sense of isolation from people. Now, when I am alone, it is Jesus’ love that I abide in. Now, I am never alone. God sustains me. I am learning to experience Jesus as the great love of my life, the source of the love I was always looking for. I reflect daily on God’s great love for me and His gift to me of everlasting life. That knowledge fills my heart with thankfulness and joy.
In my open share group each week at CR I have an opportunity to admit my sins and pray for the men in the group, in order to be healed. God commands us to do this in James 5:16:“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”. My faith in Jesus is greatly encouraged each week as I participate in worship here at CR and my faith in Jesus is strengthened when I hear a testimony every second week at CR.
God commands me in Colossians 3:16 to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” I find that the lies of this world creep back into my mind very quickly. That is why I need to renew my mind daily by studying and reflecting on God’s Word.
God has taught me through the CR step study to identify my emotional hurts and quickly take them to Jesus and ask Him to touch them and heal them.. I am learning to give all of my wounds to God for healing. I am learning to surrender my mood to God each day and invite God’s Spirit of joy to take over me. Each morning I must choose God’s joy. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22,23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.
I have taken advantage of the Solid Rock Café to ask questions of people who have experienced victory in areas I am still struggling with.
God has removed a lot of sin from my life, but he hasn’t finished with me yet. I still have a long ways to go. I claim the promise of God found in Philippians 1:6: “ Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Thank you for listening. Let me close in prayer: “Lord God, let each one of us experience Your incredible love. Let each of us receive Your love as a free gift and rest in it and have peace in our souls. In Jesus’ precious name I pray, amen”.