Freed from the Past

Freed from the Past

Struggles in his past made it hard for Pao to believe that God could rewrite his story and free him from all the pain, guilt, and shame. But God proved to him that He can make all things new. Here is his story.

I grew up having a deep hole in my heart.

All my life, I have never seen my dad. He was already married to another woman when he met my mom. It was not easy to grow up without a father and even harder to know that I am a product of a wrong relationship. It was difficult to carry the guilt and shame that went along with that knowledge.

In high school, I battled with identity issues. But instead of opening up to someone about what I had been feeling, I tried to cover it up by performing well in school. Seeing people getting ridiculed for acting different than what was expected of them made me feel afraid. I did everything I could and even entered a relationship prematurely just to dispel any possible doubts or suspicions about my gender identity.

But when I went to college, I suddenly started to embrace the identity I thought I was running away from. I entered relationships that were not pleasing to the Lord, and did things that only pulled me away from God. I thought I had freedom by doing things that only pleased myself. But I was so wrong.

In 2009, my classmates invited me to attend a youth service at Victory Fort. I started attending regularly without really taking things seriously nor having the heart to honor God with the way I lived my life. But things changed after a while. I started feeling empty while doing the things that gave me temporary joy. I grew tired of jumping from one relationship to another. I felt empty. I felt a deep longing in my heart.

On July 9, 2011—while struggling to deal with so many things in school and in my personal life—I cried out to God. I emptied my heart to Him and poured out all my thoughts and doubts. I texted my classmates and asked them to join me in attending the youth service. I did not know that God had already planted seeds of His Word in my heart. That same day, I accepted Christ in my life and resolved to follow Him—no matter how hard. No turning back.

After I made a decision to follow Christ, He gave me the grace to withdraw from my old ways and led me to people who helped me grow in my faith. I attended discipleship classes and felt that He was preparing me to serve full-time in the ministry. Little did I know, He was actually preparing me for something bigger.

Before I went on a short-term missions trip abroad, I met Jill. She was my schoolmate and she knew my past. Jill went through a lot in her family so I started praying for her. At that time, I was just asking God to help her grow in her faith and overcome her family’s plight. I did not know that eventually, I would ask God for something else.

During my missions trip, God dealt with my growing feelings for Jill. I prayed and tried to run away from the idea of actually pursuing someone. I knew it would be difficult for her and for me. Jill knew everything about me; I feared that she would reject me because of my past. But God gave me the courage to overcome all my doubts. After my missions trip, I admitted my feelings for Jill and told her about my intentions to pursue her.

Jill did not say “yes” right away, but after three months of praying about it, she allowed me to pursue her—regardless of what she knew about my past—and eventually agreed to enter into a relationship with me. God gave her the grace to love and accept me for who I had been and who I am now.

Last year, after another short-term missions trip, I proposed to Jill. It was amazing how God prepared our hearts for it and allowed us to have a new beginning with Him. Now, we are married and believing God for greater things next year as He takes us on a new journey together.

We can live a life free from guilt and shame because we have a God who loves us no matter who we were and what we have done. Only He can take us from a place of pain and loneliness to a place full of His love and grace. We can start anew and move forward—no turning back.

Stepping into His Light

Stepping into His Light

The Lord calls out His children from darkness to light. He can transform a person’s life, no matter how hopeless, empty, and messy it may seem.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)

*Joy, a college student who attends our church in Metro Manila, recounts how God brought light into her life.

 

Molestation and sexual violation are tragic events that I never thought would happen to me. I was molested by my stepfather, the person I thought would be my confidant and protector. When our family went through a difficult season, my stepfather became addicted to drugs and that drug brought us to the darkest times of my life.

At that point, I was devastated and angry. I also blamed myself for what happened. I thought, “If I did things differently in the past, I would never have experienced this.” My world turned black and no one ever understood what I went through. I was just waiting for my life to end because it felt like I was left with nothing.

Experiencing freedom in this painful battle of my life was hard, but not impossible. One of my friends invited me to a Victory group where I met Jesus. I survived the pain with the knowledge of God’s love toward me. I understood that no amount of tears or effort on my part could change what happened to me, but God can set me free and I can hold onto His promise of a good plan for my future.

Through my encounter with Jesus and the counsel of leaders in church, the darkness in my life turned into light. I also felt that a huge weight on me was lifted. From that time on, my perspective changed and I learned to appreciate my life even more. I became happy.

For those who also experienced what I went through, be strong and build your life on God’s truth. In Christ, we can do all things and overcome challenges. Don’t let your obstacles and past experiences limit you from experiencing joy. We have to deal with our past. It may be hard, but it’s worth a try. Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Prayer and the will to move forward are the keys to start a new path together with Christ our Lord. Jesus is our confidant and protector.

 

Joy now joyfully serves her family and our church. She decided to extend grace to the offender and forgive him. Before Joy came to know Christ, she was very distant toward her family. Now, she desires to bless them as she works while taking up a business course as a scholar. She dreams of managing a restaurant someday. As she continues to live her new life in God, she actively participates in a Victory group and volunteers in our campus ministry.

 

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the woman in this article. The featured photo is a royalty-free image and does not represent her.