Abuse: Mala shares about rejection and abuse from birth through to her first husband, who threw her out after they moved to a foreign country. The panel discusses how others like Mala can find peace.
J: Hey everybody and welcome to Greater.
Joining us today, Richard Black, Founder and Director of Mind Health, an organisation focusing on empowering people to live their best life.
We have got Rita Williams, a psychiatric nurse in the mental health sector.
And pastor Wes Chambers, who brings to the table over 30 years of ministry experience.
I'm Josh Van Berkel your host, thank you so much for joining us.
We've got a meaty topic today. We're talking particularly about some of the after effects of abuse. Specifically, rejection, abandonment, lack of self-worth. We're going to be hearing very shortly from a lovely lady called Mala, who tells a very harrowing story about some of the abuse that she suffered as a child and then the after effects of that.
First response to that, Rita, how does that make you feel?
RW: You hear the word abuse and you can't help but naturally feel grieved for someone to have to go through that. It's massive and yeah.
J: As a pastor, Wes, how do you handle that incredibly difficult paradigm of God's great and He's good. But this kind of stuff will happen in this world.
WC: Yeah, because we're living in a fallen, broken world. And people are ensnared in all sorts of issues. In sin and brokenness themselves. So unfortunately, the nature of the world is that abuse happens all too often. And I'm thankful that there are people who've got skills and understandings that can help people.
J: Richard, you're one of those guys with skills and understandings. A very special set of skills. How do you encourage people around this topic that come to you and maybe it's them that have had to deal with abuse or maybe it's a family member that they've brought to you. How do you bring peace into their world on this issue?
RB: Well, the very fact that they've come and they're willing to share, that's quite a privilege. And it's a very sacred time to hear the depth of their story and the depth of their pain. So part of it is just a desire to want to sit and hear the pain of what they're going through. The healing part is part of the journeying through what they're saying and through what they've experienced. So that they can realise that what has happened has certainly happened. But it wasn't actually about them. That those messages that they've taken from it about shame and defilement being who they are, when they realise that wasn't actually who I am, that was what has happened to me. And when they find the insight and the courage to hand back the shame and find freedom, that's a joy to behold.
J: I'll ask the tough question because we're on a show called Greater, which is all about the fact that God is greater. Why does bad stuff happen at all? Why do you have people coming into your business, your organisation, dealing with some of the after effects of abuse? How does that even happen?
RB: Well, part of what we need to realise is this world as it is now, as Wes mentioned, is a fallen world. This is not the way that God wants things to be. What's taking place on this planet has more to do with the way humans are choosing to live their life, rather than this is the way that God has set things up. And because God has given us the ability to have free will, to choose, one of the problems that comes with that, is as humans, we can choose to hurt others. And so when someone goes through pain and they go through something that is as traumatic as abuse, it's recognising that in the same way that you would hate to ever see a child of yours go through something like this, that you'd wanna step in and change it. The thought if for some reason you were restrained from stepping in, oh, that would be devastating. And what many people don't realise is that's what God is experiencing when He's restrained from stepping in, because this is the world that we've chosen to live in, that the way we've chosen this world to be. What we do know, is that God is greater and His heart for people is greater than any abuse or trauma that anyone goes through. And when you encounter that heartbeat of God, I think you find a greater degree of freedom and hope.
J: Well, I think that's exactly what Mala encounters in her story, is the heartbeat of God. So, why don't we check that out now and then we'll come back with some thoughts.
Mala: When I was born like three months old baby, my parents didn't want me. So they gave me to my grandmother to look after.
During that time, like I was sexually abused by my uncle, my grandfather's best friend. And I thought it was normal. After my grandmother died, I had to go and live with my mum and dad. And then my dad also started abusing me sexually and physically. And mum also like physical abuse. I got burn marks all over my body.
And she sent us to a Salvation Army home in Singapore, and I was brought up by Kiwis. And I think that's where I learned about Jesus. Someone told me about Jesus and I heard about Him. Growing up in the home, when all the children used to go back home in the weekend to spend the weekend with their family, I was basically like the only one left behind. So I used to cry and say, why am I here on my own? And those days I always felt like someone was sitting next to my bed and just patting my head. So I always believed that there's someone looking after me. But then again, you know you're young, you think, oh, yep, that there's God.
And then I think I came out of the home, stayed with my relatives and got married to a man exactly like my dad. He was violent, abusive and history repeated itself. And I thought, this is it, this is life. There's no way to get out of it. And he was my security when I married him. And then a few years later, he applied for a job in New Zealand. And when we came here, it was eight months and it got really bad, got really violent.
And one night he hit me and strangled me. And I rang the police. And the police came and took him away. And I was surprised that New Zealand police are so good. They get involved in domestic dispute. In Singapore, they don't. The police usually say, it's your problem sort it out yourself. And so the next day he came out from the lockup and then he said, "Get out."
I had no job, nowhere to go. Just had some friends. I really felt like there's no hope. Like there's no worth even living my life anymore. Like, why should I carry on? I just want to end it right there and then.
I think I ask God, I say, "Why did you bring me here?" I say, "All my family are in Singapore, why did you bring me here? I don't wanna be here, I have no one here." And then God say, "I brought you here because of you." And I was like, wow, just because of me, He brought me so far away from all my family.
And then I heard this voice in my car saying that my life is worth it. And I just kept driving and I reached Kaiapoi. And at that time I was relieving at a preschool in Kaiapoi. So I pulled over by the school and just started to cry. And then the healing slowly started to happen as I seek God and just ask Him to help me. The kids used to come randomly every day and say how much they love me. And they hugged me and they kissed me. So that's actually when my healing came. Since that time when I heard the voice of God in the car, I love myself. Because I'm created in His image, created by Him. So, I know my worth, my worth is in His hands.
Before, even sitting in a room with men around me, would've been so uncomfortable. But now I can sit beside a man, I can shake their hand, I can even give them a hug.
So, I've come a long way. God is showing His love through being married again and being treated really well. He's a very kind, gentle soul. I think I'm pretty blessed.
We go through life, sometime life sucks, but with God, we have hope to look at the brighter side. We can wake up tomorrow morning and say, hey, God I know You're going to look after me and protect me. And You are there for me, no matter what's happening around me. I think God loves me for who I am, He's not going to judge me, He's my rock. I know I can trust Him and put my faith and hope in Him. He's my security, He's my shelter, He's my everything. He's my Father who's not going to harm me.
J: Wow, what an amazing story. What an amazing lady Mala is. Rita, first thoughts after seeing that?
RW: Most amazing story of hope. I just can't wait for people to see that. We need more messages like that.
J: How does someone, Richard, that's gone through what Mala's gone through end up finishing her story with the message of hope that she had. She just to me, she just oozed love. How does that happen from where she came from?
RB: It truly is remarkable. And what she was showing on the video that we just saw was the power and the impact of others loving her. Of allowing others to love her, allowing the children's love to settle in. When we can get a real sense that the abuse was never who we were. It's never what we deserved. It was never meant for us, we never asked for it. But in fact, who we are, we see ourselves far more clearly in the love of others. And whether it be the love of children or her encountering the love of her heavenly Father. To know that she was created on purpose and that she's loved and that is who she is. That's what I saw find the freedom and the hope for her, which is truly remarkable.
WC: There can be sometimes the purity of the love that flows through a child. It's untainted, it's the purity in it. And that purity of love which has its source in God Himself 'Cause God is love. That flowing through those children to Mala was a tremendous healing agent. And so that's one of the beautiful things about that testimony was the purity of the love of God coming through those children to her. I'm quite convinced that those children whether they knew it or not, were actually being directed by the Lord to minister that love to her.
J: It's extraordinary, isn't it Rita? The amount of love that she was displaying at the end of it.
RW: Yeah, I think even just watching that her entire countenance showed that she encountered a miracle. You think of trauma and abuse like that, she had so many things happen to her, and even listening to it, you just felt gut-wrenched that someone had to go through that. But to see her with a smile and to say that, I'm happy, I'm worthy, I love my life. Something miraculous has to take place for you to be able to say that. And I think I was really encouraged listening to that.
J: She talked, Wes, about different times in her story about different voices. So there was the voice that spoke condemnation and told her that she was worthless and led her towards suicidal thoughts. And then there was the voice that she attributed to God that just said, "Hey, your life's worth it." And how real are those voices? That spiritual world?
WC: Very, very real. And people are coping or trying to deal with voice. The thoughts that come to their mind. Some people will believe it's them, but oftentimes it's actually not them. But then when the voice of God comes through like that, that is so powerful. The voice of God can change something in a moment. And that became actually an anchor for her. The word of God, the word of the Lord, that voice of God became an anchor for her. Her life was worth it, her life had value. And so that was a profound moment for her. And wow, just amazing.
J: Richard for someone watching, 'cause it was an extreme turnaround from where she was to where she ended up. For someone watching that, that might have resonated with an aspect of Mala's story. And maybe it wasn't as extreme as hers or maybe it was. Where do they start on this journey of... If they looked at Mala and said, I want to end up like her with the love and the compassion and the joy that she had. But it seems so far away from me at the moment. So far away from my emotional state. How do they start moving towards that?
RB: I think it's starting by talking to a trusted person. Someone that they deeply trust. And opening up and sharing even just, "I need help." So that they can move from that place to get some professional help and hopefully also get some funding for the professional help. So they can go on the journey they need to, to unpack the trauma and the pain. And they can go on the journey to discover who they actually are, not who they've been painted to be by these other voices or by the events that have taken place and discover their real self.
J: For Mala though, the central thread across her story or the redemptive part of her story was Jesus, it was God. So, Wes, as a pastor, if someone's watching and they go, I don't have that relationship, I don't even know where to start. How do you start, for lack of a better phrase, discovering God?
WC: One of the very first things that anybody can do, is in their inner focus, it's like turning your face to God. And just asking simply, "Help me." "If You're there, help me." And you'd be amazed at how many... Well, you probably wouldn't be because of your own experience. But just the number of people whose life transformation has begun by them saying, "God, if You're real, can You please help me." And it's just stunning. And to a degree that's what Mala did. It turned her attention toward the Lord. And He just loves when people turn their attention toward Him. He just takes that opportunity, He just does.
J: I think reading between the lines of Mala's story, it seems to me there's a lot of forgiveness that had taken place. Well, certainly there wasn't a lot of bitterness that she was holding onto. How important is forgiveness on the journey to restoration?
RB: It's massive. Because oftentimes when we think about forgiveness or unforgiveness, we think it's about a person somehow letting go of the pain and the hurt and saying, well, it didn't really matter. Whereas it's recognising that when we are in a state where we are not forgiving, we remain chained to the person and to the event of what happened. It still dictates our life, it still dictates who we are. So when we're able to get to the place of forgiving, of letting go the offense and the hurt, the person finds that they themselves find freedom. Which isn't in any way to say that the events didn't matter. Or that the person doesn't need to be held to account. And I'll have people say at times, well, does that mean if I forgive that my pain meant nothing? And I'll say if your pain meant nothing, forgiveness wouldn't be needed. It's because what you went through was so huge and momentous, that forgiveness is actually required.
J: I hear what you're saying. Rita, it seems like there's a big difference between saying, oh, forgive someone that dinged your car, versus forgive someone that systematically abused you through your childhood. How do you do that?
RW: Interesting you've asked that. Because working in a secular setting for mental health, we had a workshop. And I remember saying to them, what about forgiveness? And they said to me, that's not a term we use when we're working through someone's abuse and trauma. And I just couldn't understand that. But for them it seemed unjustified to forgive someone. It felt like it was minimizing the cost of that abuse.
RB: I often find that it's what we think forgiveness is, that makes forgiveness a whole lot harder. And as I work with people, one of the the question they'll ask is, look, if it was as simple as flicking a switch and you were able to let go of all the hurt and pain, tell me what objection would rise up in you. And people will often say, well, then it makes a mockery out of justice, or it makes a mockery out of my pain. Or it means I have to trust the person again, because you're supposed to forgive and forget. Whereas forgiveness is none of those things. And when you recognise that forgiveness is about letting go of my hurt and anger, so you no longer define me, what happened to me no longer defines me, then they can often find it's easier to forgive.
J: Wes, Mala made this comment in her story where she said, "God loves me just the way I am." Tell me you've been in ministry for over 30 years. You've had a lot of conversations with God. You've had a lot of conversations with people about God. Is He as good as Mala makes Him out to be?
WC: Better. I'll tell you why. The goodness and the kindness and the love of God is... For a human being in this current experience, it's so massive, it's so deep, it's so wide, it's so huge. I don't know of anybody who's journeyed to the fullness of the experience of all that God is and His goodness. So what we do get, is we get the privilege of experiencing His love coming toward us. And when that love comes toward us and impacts our heart, that changes our ability to... Well, put it this way. it liberates us to forgive. It really does liberate us. And so, to try and rationalise forgiveness, can be very difficult. But when you start to encounter something in the love of God like Mala did, then that starts to change the perspectives of the heart. And it actually brings a liberty to the heart that then she just finds herself forgiving. It's just a beautiful thing I've seen happen.
J: Richard, would it be true to say, and again, Mala made the comment in her story about essentially like, I know who I am and you've alluded to it. in this conversation, that abuse is not something that defines who you are. It's happened to you, but it's not who you are. Let me ask it like this. Is it possible to truly understand who you are independent of God?
RB: That I have to say no, because God is the one who's created you. God is the one who shaped you. So to try to work out who you are from the person who is your source, that makes no sense. I think people discover a true sense of who they really are, of who they've been always been. of the love that they deserve when they encounter God. And they encounter His delight. He dreamed them up, He created them on purpose. They're here because He wants them in His world and in this world. And so to try to find out who you are apart from God, you just can't do it.
WC: Not to the depths of who you really are. Your identity can end up being attached to external things or temporal things, temporary things. Rather than a deep eternal forever identity which is can't be taken away from you once you discover it.
J: Rita, you said at the very start that even before you heard Mala's story, just knowing that a story like that existed just broke your heart. So, what would you say to somebody watching who says, I've got a very similar story to that but I'm in the middle of it. What would your message of hope to them be?
RW: Well, first of all, you don't deserve that. Nobody deserves to go through that level of hurt and pain, or to be exposed to that. Even the scenes they showed you felt that. And yeah, but I just love how God He knew how to restore her. His hand was on her life that whole time that even though Richard was saying before, He watches on and He grieves, He knew how to restore her. To position her in that early childhood setting and have those kids speak love over her and to her. And it's not just Mala that God can do that for. It's anybody listening. It doesn't matter your past or your background, but He can restore you to greater than what you can ever imagine. He has got an amazing call for you on your life. And He's the healer. He's the one who knows how to restore and what we need.
J: Hey, well, I wanna thank my panel for coming in today. Richard Black, Rita Williams and pastor Wes Chambers, thank you guys so much.
And thank you so much for watching. We trust that you found this encouraging and filled with hope. If you've got any questions about today's episode or you'd like to know more, then just head to fantailstudios.com.