When I think about my story, I think of my life before Jesus and my life now. Before, my life was empty and chaotic, and I needed Jesus desperately. Now, it is complete in Him and full of love, happiness, and peace. It’s a life spent walking daily in God’s plan and shining His light so others can find the new, abundant life that only Jesus Christ offers.
That’s pretty deep stuff, I know. Trust me, if I’d read those words six years ago, I would’ve laughed at them. They would have sounded like crazy talk. The things of God had no meaning to me. Jesus was nothing more than a figure hanging on a cross at the center of a Catholic church. God was like a big puppet master in the sky, doling out events and circumstances with little care or concern for the recipient. I gave Him credit (or blame) for everything that happened in my life, good or bad. It was a messed-up theology.
Before I share about my new life, however, I want to tell you a little about my old one. I’ll start with a late spring day in May 2013. I had gone to my doctor to discuss some female issues, and I unexpectedly found myself in an isolated room in a thin, mauve, paper gown, waiting for a mammogram. I was 29 years old, alone, and completely unsure of what was happening. After several tests, the radiologist told me he was “concerned” and sent me home. And that was the start of the process. I say process, because how else do you describe a journey with cancer?
Oddly enough, cancer wasn’t my biggest problem. The miserable, abusive marriage that I was hiding from the world was killing me faster than any cancer ever could. It was my bigger problem and probably the reason I had cancer in the first place. Toxic emotional environments have a way of adversely affecting our physical health.
My high school sweetheart and I had been married for eight years. We’d started out well, but over time, he became mentally, physically, and emotionally abusive. I lived a double life, dealing with him but making sure everyone thought we were a perfect, happy family. His behavior affected me and our children in so many ways.
Night after night, I asked God to save me from my abusive marriage. “Help me and my children, please,” I would cry. And I wondered where God was in all our mess. But no matter how many Hail Marys, Our Fathers, or other prayers I said, there I was, still trapped—and now I was facing a possible cancer diagnosis too.
Thanks a lot, God!
When I got home that day from the radiologist and told my now ex-husband that I might have cancer, he belittled me for even being concerned. Something snapped inside me. I’d had enough. I called my parents and within minutes, they were at the door. They’d had some knowledge of the abuse and were glad I was finally willing to leave that situation. They took me and the kids to safety.
A week later, my doctor called me at work to tell me that, yes, I had cancer. We made an appointment to discuss the next part of the process. I left work, and as I walked to my car, I cried harder than I ever had before.
Over the next year, I underwent a double mastectomy, 7 rounds of chemo that left me as bald as can be, 34 radiation treatments, 3 reconstructive surgeries, and a divorce. It was an unbelievable year that stretched me in ways I never dreamed possible. But I made it.
Just about the time my bald head began growing peach fuzz, a friend set me up on a blind date. Some guy she knew wanted to take me out on his boat. Um, was she crazy? I had no hair, a freshly marred body, and was just out of a horrible relationship. Not to mention, I hated boats!
With some heavy convincing, I went. If nothing else, I’d at least get a much-needed night out and a free meal. I was unprepared for the man I was about to meet. One glance at Jason Adams—tall, ridiculously handsome, unbelievably sweet—and I was in love. He swept me off my feet and took me to a place of happiness I’d never known before.
“Oh, God,” I prayed, “I guess You aren’t so bad after all. I knew You’d have to bless me with something amazing after all You’ve put me through. Thank You!”
There was that blame-game theology again.
For two years, Jason and I enjoyed a beautiful relationship fueled by a make-your-heart-skip-a-beat kind of love. But then, he started acting strange. Subtle changes in his behavior and personality made me think he might be seeing someone else or that he no longer wanted me. Stronger changes came, and before long, I hardly knew him anymore. Something was very wrong.
I was unequipped to handle the new world I was facing—the world of addiction. Drugs, alcohol, and bad influences were changing him dramatically. Some days he was still the Jason I knew and loved, but the very next day he’d seem more like a devil than a man.
I kept thinking, “He’s got this. We’ve got this. We’ll be okay. Jason is strong; I’m strong. We can control this thing!” How wrong I was.
His parents had been down this road before, and now they took the hard line of tough love. They warned me how bad and ugly things could become. I refused to turn my back on him. I would remain bravely by his side. I would save him.
But I couldn’t save him. His addiction was an uncontrollable beast, and it dragged us both away into a deep, dark place.
All I could ask God was, why? I considered myself a good person—a good mother, daughter, sister, friend. I loved well and aimed to make everyone happy. Yet I kept encountering these hardships. Was God punishing me? Why? Hadn’t I suffered enough? I mean, really?! Abuse. Cancer. Treatments. Surgeries. Divorce. And now, Jason’s addiction. Why was I losing the man I loved so deeply to drugs? I couldn’t understand it.
It was during this dark season that God, in His grace, began to turn my story into His story. In May 2016, Jason’s family invited us to visit their church, Christ Fellowship, in Boynton Beach, Florida. Jason had entered a detox facility and was staying sober. He and his family were communicating again. So we decided to go to church with them. What could it hurt?
The decision changed our lives forever. That morning, God used a couple named Joe and Grace Taylor to deliver a message straight to me from the heart of Father God. Joe and Grace were just visiting Christ Fellowship that Sunday. They lived 300 miles away!
They approached me after the service ended. The pastor had preached a powerful sermon, and Jason had gone to the altar to pray. I was alone at the back of the church when I saw this older couple walking deliberately toward me. I half expected them to scold me for wearing silk coral shorts to church. That certainly would have happened at my childhood church. But Joe had another message, one he said God had impressed on his heart to give to me, and there wasn’t an ounce of judgment in it.
Through tears, he told me that God wanted me to know that He loved me and that He loved the man I had been standing beside. Then Joe told me that God said we would be okay.
Joe had no idea the fear I was living in because of Jason’s addiction. Nor could he have known how much I needed those words of encouragement. I thanked him, and before they left, Joe gave me his email. He said if I ever needed prayer, to let him know, and he and his beautiful wife would pray for me.
The next day I emailed Joe, thanking him for his encouraging message. He responded with a simple but kind reply. A few weeks later, I received another email from Joe. It was 3:00 a.m., and Joe said the Lord had awakened him and put me on his mind. He’d been praying for me and decided to send me an email with some Scripture he’d read. I didn’t understand how Joe could know I needed those words at that moment, but they spoke directly to my situation. I now understand that it was the Holy Spirit speaking to Joe’s heart on my behalf. Thankfully, Joe listened and obeyed.
As that early-morning email arrived, I was on my knees crying out to the Lord, begging Him to save Jason and our relationship, to bring him back to me. Jason had relapsed, and I was in a darker place than I had been before I met him. I was surrounded by fear, hurt, denial, and abandonment. Joe’s email was a ray of light in my darkness. In the weeks that followed, I clung to Joe’s words, as Jason’s addiction progressed from horrible to worse, and then to near death. He lost everything—his house, boat, money, business, as well as his son, health, and family.
“Dear God,” I cried. “Why would You give me such an unbelievable man and then tortuously take him away from me like this? What have I done to deserve this? Why can’t I help him?”
There I was, always blaming God.
Joe and I continued to exchange emails. I would tell him the happenings of my life. He would reply with loving encouragement, Scripture, and even lyrics from songs. In every message, he shared his and Grace’s love for God and His Son, Jesus. Over the next three years, our emails numbered more than a thousand. It’s amazing to look back now and see how God used Joe as a spiritual mentor in my life, teaching me about the love, grace, and ways of God.
To be honest, at first all the faith talk seemed weird to me. I had no knowledge of the Bible, so I was completely lost as to what the verses he sent me meant. But even in my ignorance, I knew they were from God. They were just so timely. Eventually, with the help of the Holy Spirit, my heart and mind opened to their meaning.
One of Joe’s emails contained the best advice I’ve ever received, advice that changed my life. He said, “Nicole, you have to give it all to God— Jason and his addiction. Lay it all at His feet and say to Him, ‘Thy will be done.’ Trust Him and be obedient to whatever He is telling you to do. If you keep holding on to Jason and this situation, then God doesn’t have it. You do.”
These words finally got through, and I got on my knees and surrendered everything to God, realizing for the first time that my life wasn’t my own. “Please, God,” I cried. “Take it all. Take my relationship with Jason, his addiction, and the anxiety I am carrying. I trust You.”
That simple prayer brought real change to my heart and life. Unbelievably, Jason was on his knees at the same time, surrendering His life to Jesus too. The next day, he reentered rehab and, with Christ, found true freedom from the cycle of addiction.
I found freedom, too. In faith, I was released from the fearful, anxious thoughts caused by my desire to control my situations. When I gave my life to God, when I began to trust His love for me and my loved ones, my life changed. Everything was better once I placed it in God’s hands. And it keeps getting better, especially sharing it with friends like Joe and Grace. I praise God for them.
It’s been three years since that night Jason and I separately surrendered our lives to Christ. Jason has remained clean and sober. He serves God daily and helps others find freedom in Christ by sharing his story and leading men’s groups at our church, including Celebrate Recovery, a biblical program of recovery based on Jesus’s teachings.
My surrender to God has also brought healing between me and my ex-husband. My relationship with Jesus gave me the strength I needed to pray for my ex, even after the torment he put us through. Sometimes it was hard to pray for him, to ask God to give him the love, peace, and light I now possess in Jesus, but I prayed anyway. The harder it got, the harder I prayed. Today, I see those prayers being answered. My ex and I are now cordial, and he encourages our children’s relationship with Jason. There is no longer strife. Only God could have done such a thing.
What was the difference between my prayer the night I surrendered and all the others? It was the condition of my heart. Before that moment, my prayers had consisted of my telling God what I wanted Him to do for me. I begged Him for good things and blamed Him for the bad. But that night, I wasn’t concerned with all those other wants anymore. I wanted only God’s will, whatever that might be. I had finally come to a place of trusting God and His love for me.
Today, Jason and I are happily married and live with our three beautiful children who are growing not only in stature but in faith as well. In July, I’ll celebrate six years of being cancer free and six years of being abuse free. Life with Jesus has been unbelievable—but that doesn’t mean it has been or will be free of trials. Trouble comes to all of us (John 16:33), but Jesus continues to show Himself faithful through every situation. As we draw closer to Him through the study of His Word, He continually shines His light into our lives.
I’ve learned that God doesn’t send pain into our lives to punish us. He wasn’t punishing me with all the troubles I experienced. No—He used the pain that Satan meant for my destruction to bring me to the amazing, life-giving power of Jesus Christ. I am a witness to what God can do with a surrendered life. Because of Him, I am thankful for my past. It’s part of my testimony. It’s my story. It’s who I am. It’s given me a unique perspective to help others. Maybe even you.
I used to blame God for all the bad things that happened to me. Now, with Jesus at the center of my life, I know those things weren’t His fault. They weren’t punishment, and the good things weren’t reward. They were all a part of making me who I am in Him. Now I ask, “God, what have I done to deserve love like this?”
Are there circumstances in your life that you’ve been begging God to change? Maybe for years, you’ve tried to control or manipulate your situation, to no avail. What is it—a diagnosis or chronic illness, abuse or addiction, finances? Your weight? Regardless of your challenge, I encourage you to give it to God. Put it in His hands and be free of your burden. Then follow His lead. You’ll find freedom and peace as you watch God do what only He can do.
Surrender is the key to life. It’s the key to freedom. Give God every concern you have—big and small—right now. He will take them. He’ll lighten your load if you let Him. He can handle anything. Your part is to trust God, follow Jesus, and listen to the Holy Spirit. When you do, the door to the abundant life Jesus died to give you will be opened for you. He offers that to everyone, regardless of their situation.
Let God’s light take you out of your darkness. Let it bring you to new life in Him.