The following testimony appeared in ON MISSION, May-June Issue. It is printed here with special permission from Lauren Traer.
When I read this testimony I remembered several people who had been physically and emotionally and totally healed by our Lord, Jesus.
Lauren has a special testimony which covers many years of "put-downs" by other people, and self-inflicted emotional trauma.
The GOOD NEWS IS: JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY! But we must SURRENDER all we are to Him, and let Him make us what HE wants us to be!
TESTIMONY OF LAUREN TRAER
As my husband and I held hands and said grace before dinner, my heart was flooded with feelings of thankfulness, admiration, and love. I am eternally grateful to the Lord for taking a hurting, lost woman and healing her mind, body, and soul. The words "thank you" will never be adequate, yet they are part of every prayer. At that moment, my thoughts were centered on the man who had successfully broken through my wall of shame, humiliation, and despair and led me to Christ. The magnitude of this task will become evident as I share my story with you. I hold a very special place in my heart for Tony, for accomplishing what others could not. All were Christians with pure intentions and aggressive approaches, causing me to run further from God. The years of addiction, illness, and self-abuse had left deep wounds that I thought would never heal. Every failed attempt at recovery re-affirmed that I was bad. I was mentally and physically fragile, and had to be approached with unconditional love, reassurance and, above all, patience.
My health problems began with a childhood misdiagnosis of Graves’ disease, also known as Hyperthyroidism. At the age of eight, I developed nervous habits of rapidly blinking and frowning, and making a chewing, twitching motion with my lips. By age twelve, I was a nervous child with frequent nightmares. The pediatrician referred me to a child psychologist, beginning my first of thousands of psychiatric sessions.
At age fourteen, I was hyperactive, suffered painful, throbbing headaches, and could not climb a flight of steps without gasping for breath. My hair thinned, my menstrual periods ceased, and my eyeballs protruded. I ate large quantities of food yet never gained weight. I heard painful remarks from people who observed my food consumption. I was eventually diagnosed accurately and underwent successful treatment. However, my health problems had just begun.
I was enrolled in modeling school, and told to lose five pounds. I began to idolize thin, bony women. During gymnastics training, most of the girls in my classes were younger and their bodies had not begun to mature. It angered me that I was developing curves and breasts, because I wanted to have a little girl’s body.
My first hospitalization was in a children’s psychiatric ward at age 15. I watched in fear as patients were placed in restraints and locked in the quiet room for misbehaving. Family therapy taught me that my mother was overprotective, my father didn’t love me enough, and I was a selfish little brat.
As I matured into a young woman, my strict eating schedules placed numerous restrictions on me. I became bulimic, and began the binge and purge cycle. This was my only escape from the starvation bondage of anorexia, the “beast.” My obsessive/compulsive feelings and addiction worsened. By the time I had graduated from college and was living on my own in Florida, I was spending $75-$100 dollars a day on food to eat and vomit.
As an eating disorder progresses, feelings of shame, humiliation, and self-disgust intensify. I was convinced that God was disgusted with me. My self-esteem was further destroyed after I was date-raped in college. I punished myself for allowing it to happen by binging and purging, trying also to cleanse myself of the horrific act. How could I ever have a lasting, meaningful relationship with a man?
These feelings affected my future relationship with my husband. He had many unresolved issues to deal with, including a problem with anger. I deserved punishment, either self-inflicted or inflicted by others, for my eating disorder. We worked ourselves into a vicious cycle…I binged and purged and confessed this to him. He became angry with me, and I felt guilty for what I had done to him. I punished myself for this by throwing up more. He became even angrier, and retaliated against me. He lost his job right after we were married, and remained unemployed for eighteen months. I took a second job, hoping that working more might make the illness stop. The long hours and extra income could help me to like and be proud of myself. I knew that my husband was unhappy with my appearance, and thought that my increased income could make him love and accept me.
I was approached about becoming a Christian during these tumultuous times. I tried to believe that God loved me, but was unable to give control of my life to God. When I still relapsed, I felt rejected and ostracized by the very people who had led me to Christ, and these relationships soon ended. They did not want to be around me if I was still struggling. After experiences like these, I became skeptical and hesitant to open my heart to God.
My body deteriorated and the addiction overtook me. Every secular treatment I had tried had failed. With each critical, life-threatening relapse, my death became more imminent. I weighed 64 pounds, my marriage was practically over, and I was empty. I had met Tony at work. He befriended me and, ever so gently and cautiously, began witnessing to me. He did not pressure me to join a church or immediately stop my behavior, but convinced me that God was the only one who could help me. He told me that God still performs miracles today, and asked me to believe and trust Jesus. I was broken and scared, and gave my life to Christ through Tony. I was water-baptized, and began reading my bible.
I felt too dirty and ashamed of myself to attend church, so I received God’s teachings through Christian television. As my faith grew, my heart began to soften and change.
I discovered that becoming a Christian would not erase all my problems. I was appalled that I could still have urges to abuse my body and live in bondage to the beast. Sadly enough, I had to lose everything before completely surrendering to Christ. As my emaciated body crumbled, I lost my job. At that point of total despair, I gave the control of my life over to God, and he began to do a powerful work in me. Tony was always available to talk and pray with me. When he asked me to come to church and receive hands-on prayer, my response was an immediate yes. During one of these prayer sessions, I felt the chains of bondage and addiction breaking off of me, and I knew that my true and final recovery had begun.
One year after observing the changes God was doing in me, my husband gave his life to Christ. God has healed our marriage. I wish I had the time to fully elaborate on my spiritual growth, but I can only emphasize that none of it would have happened without Tony’s kindness, compassion, and encouragement.
It has been more than 3 years since my last relapse. I am working part-time as a Respiratory Therapist, have written and published my book, and am now sharing my testimony to other hurting individuals. I take nothing for granted anymore, and start each day with the prayer, "Lord, may your will be done in my life today and always, and please do not let me try to control my own life again."
How do I successfully witness to someone struggling with the bondage of addiction and despair?
Reach out with unconditional love. In the midst of the darkness surrounding my life, my self-esteem and hopes of surviving had been distinguished. I needed someone who could be non-judgemental of my self-destructive behavior, someone who could open their heart and arms to an empty shell of a person. It was not mandatory that they understand my illness, just that they be willing to stand by me.
Have an unending amount of patience. I had been losing the battle with my life-threatening illness for more than half of my life, and had exhausted every therapy and treatment option. If all of them had failed, how could something as simple as my faith in the Son of God work? Was I not just setting myself up for another failure and emotional downslide? The wall of defense I had built around my heart had taken years to construct, and had to be torn down brick by brick. I needed someone who would not be discouraged if my healing was not immediate and complete.
Repeatedly teach that Christ loves them, even while they are lost and sinful. It was a huge relief to me when I learned that God hates sin, but not the sinner. I wasted many years erroneously believing that God was disappointed and disgusted with me as a person. I was unable to separate my sinful behavior from who I was in Christ. I felt that I was too dirty and evil to enter a place of worship and to pray to God. Surely he would not have anything to do with me until I cleaned up my act.
Be aware of the control issue. In every addiction, there is a battle for control of the sufferer’s mind and body. This is especially evident and dangerous with eating disorders, and has to be addressed slowly and cautiously. An anorexic/bulimic is unable to handle the changes and developments in her life that are beyond her control, and is frightened and overwhelmed by them. By strictly controlling what, when, and how she eats, she feels that she is succeeding in managing a portion of her life. My immediate reaction to learning that God needed to be in control of my life was one of great fear and trepidation. How could I possibly let go and let God? I thought I had to be in control, or everything would fall apart. How could I trust an unknown entity, something that I could not even see or touch, to help me? I fought against this fiercely during the first year after I was saved. I had to surrender my life to God each and every day, and let go a little at a time.
Be available to listen. I never expected anyone to understand my illness, and only wanted someone to listen to me and allow me to cry on their shoulder. Most people, as did my husband, feel that if someone is sharing their pain, that they are coming to them for advice and answers. The most frustrating moments for my husband were when he was unable to solve my problems and prevent a relapse. Anorexia demands strict, regulated eating schedules. I could only eat specific foods at certain times of the day, and had to incorporate my work and social activities around these times. Therefore, I would only be ready and feel comfortable talking at definite times in the day, which were mostly before I had eaten. I needed someone who would be able to work around my schedule, someone who would understand that departing even a few minutes from the schedule might trigger a bulimic relapse. For me, it was the strict schedule or binging and purging…there was no moderation or room for variance.
Do not be forceful in your approach. I already lived in bondage to the illness, and felt like an outcast. I knew that my self-destructive behavior had to stop or it would kill me, yet was unable to control the urges. I needed to be told that God loved me because I was his child, and accepted me because I believed in Jesus. There was nothing I could do, good or bad, to jeopardize God’s love for me. God would bring me the sense of peace that I never had, and he would change my life.
NOTE FROM BRO. BRUCE
After reading Lauren's testimony, perhaps you are in a similar situation. Her book "BUT I'M NOT A BAD PERSON" may help you in your daily walk with Jesus.
Clik here to order her book.