I and my siblings grew up in poverty. Being the strategist that I am, I came up with a plan—I would be the one child who didn’t need anything from my parents. As the oldest daughter, I helped take care of my siblings, and I did my homework and chores without being asked. I was determined not to be a burden so my parents could focus on more important things. (I was also hoping that being independent and helping around the house would get me the attention I so desperately wanted.) It didn’t work.
My strategy led my parents to believe that I was shy, but I wasn’t. I just didn’t think there was enough value in my life to deserve their attention. Certainly, neither my parents nor anyone else for that matter cared about what I had to say or think. I was pretty sure no one even noticed me. The day my father pushed me aside to hold my younger sister convinced me that he didn’t love me as much as he did her.
Unworthy. Unloved. Unimportant. That’s how I felt growing up. And Satan worked hard to cement these lies into my belief system.
My parents divorced when I was 15, and I ended up with an even larger parenting role for my younger sisters. We lived in a town full of crime, drugs, and violence, and I had to learn how to survive, fast. So I came up with another strategy—I would protect myself by hanging out and becoming friends with the people who did those things.
Those people soon became my family. We all came from similar situations, so I never had to feel bad about not having food or wearing a coat inside the house because there wasn’t any heat. I felt accepted; I had found the attention I had longed for my whole life.
Since I was often home alone, my new family came to my house, and they taught me how to sell drugs and make money. They also taught me how to carry myself on the streets. When I got a car, I discovered that my friends needed me even more. And that felt good. Maybe if they needed me, they wouldn’t leave me.
And then I met a boy, and I was flattered that he wanted to be with me all the time. The attention made me feel even better about myself. But the relationship quickly became abusive—verbally, mentally, and physically. He was lacing his joints with crack and often became violent. He would hit me or push me out of the car on dark roads in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes he would drive to the projects, lock me inside the car, and have other addicts watch me while he went into someone’s apartment to get high.
Eventually, my mom told me I had to break up with him or move out. I picked him, of course. As far as I knew, she just wanted me there to babysit so she could go out to the bars. I didn’t believe she cared about me at all. A phone call one night cemented this belief in me.
I was home, babysitting, when a man called the house, looking for my mom. I told him that she was out with her friend. He asked my name, and when I told him, his response was, “Oh, you’re the babysitter.” I told him several times that I was her oldest daughter, to which he replied, “What? She told me she only had little kids.” Then he proceeded to proclaim how messed up it was that she had lied about me.
I figured my mother must be ashamed of me. Why else would she have lied? I felt so rejected. Satan quickly used this man’s comments to confirm that I was unworthy, unloved, and unwanted—and I made many horrible choices based on the lies I believed about myself. It wasn’t until years later that I learned she hadn’t been ashamed of me at all. She had lied to hide her age.
When my boyfriend began putting out his matches on my body, I reasoned, “At least he wants to be with me.” I was so deceived. I had listened to Satan’s whispers so often that I easily settled for much less than I deserved.
I became pregnant, but my boyfriend continued to abuse me. That’s when I finally drew a line in the sand. I knew if I stayed, I could lose my baby to the hands of his father. I left that relationship, but not because I felt my life was worth protecting. Just the baby’s.
After my son’s birth, I worked hard to provide for our needs. But I also partied hard on the weekends, as I continued to live under a spirit of rejection. I went through a sexual assault, another abusive relationship, and encountered a sickness that sometimes left me paralyzed. I was a mess, and my heart was hard.
During this time, my mom surrendered her life to God. She began praying for me and talking to me about Him, but that both annoyed and angered me. I had tried that Christian thing, and I felt God had let me down by giving me such a crappy life.
But God wouldn’t leave me alone. It was obvious He was hearing the prayers of my mother. And I could feel Him poking at me, trying to get my attention.
Poke. Poke. Poke.
One day, I was lying on the couch after being laid off from a fantastic job that had had me traveling to England. Rejected and dejected once again, I decided to tell God a thing or two. “God. You cannot have me!” I yelled. I imagine He must have been rolling His eyes at me that day.
Weeks later, I picked up a book my mom had given me, called I Lived to Tell about It, by Joey Perez. It was about a former gang leader and drug lord who was now preaching in the ghetto. I read it, then I got on his website and watched videos of him preaching. I witnessed crowds of people rushing to the stage to accept Jesus. Watching those people respond to the invitation to know Jesus made me remember something that happened when I was a kid.
At the age of six, I professed faith in Jesus. I told my mother, “I’m a lost sheep, and I need Jesus. And I want to be a missionary.” Way back then, I’d had a strong desire to lead other lost sheep to Jesus. But then I lost my way.
It all came rushing back to my mind. My body began to tremble, and all my desires for the things of the world left me. It was a supernatural experience. I was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit—something I had not known about before then.
That was ten years ago, and since then, I’ve not once considered going back to my old lifestyle. Instead, I’ve sought to know Jesus more and more.
Now that doesn’t mean life has been easy. In many ways, it has been more trying. It seems all I do is encounter one difficult problem after another. And there seems to be no end in sight.
Recently, I was crying out to God about this very thing. Between sobs, I asked Him, “Why, God? Why do I have to live this way? Why does it seem like every time I get close to something good, I get pulled back into a situation that hurts more than the last one?”
As I wept, the Lord began to show me all the ways He had used my trials to increase my strength and confidence. He showed me how each one had increased my ability to help others. He did this by revealing the meaning of a dream I’d had the night before.
In my dream, I arrived in an unfamiliar place that seemed designed for team-building. Many people were there, including friends and coworkers. We were all standing on the edge of a ravine overlooking a deep, narrow gorge.
The ravine was beautiful and peaceful, yet full of unknowns. The grass on either side was lush and green, and the river at the bottom had a long, peaceful flow. It seemed to go on forever.
On both sides of the ravine, there were platforms with swings on a pulley system. I and the others were to grab a swing and then push off the side of the ravine with our feet to get to the other side. Once there, we were to climb up a ladder to the platform and repeat the exercise.
Now, in real life, I am terrified of heights. But in my dream, I wasn’t afraid. I grabbed the swing, and off I went. At first, I was barely able to hang on, and I thought I might fall. But the more effort I put forth, the more firm and secure my grip became. With each swing, my confidence grew. I had proof of my ability to make it to the other side. I began using that confidence to teach others how to swing across. My successful swings were proof that they could make it too.
As I cried out to Him, God showed me that each time I’d grabbed hold of the swing and pushed off the side of the ravine, I had gained new strength. I’d also gained momentum and confidence. Each push gave me the power I needed for the next push. My fear was absent because I was focused on swinging instead of the depth of the ravine.
God revealed that, in life, each time I refused to look at my problems and chose instead to persevere in Him, I learned invaluable lessons. When I refused to give up or slump over in weakness or pain, I gained new strength and confidence. And I gained experience to help others get to the other side of their ravines.
Because of what I’ve experienced, I can now bring comfort to others and say, “You know that thing you’re going through? That deep valley you’re facing? Well, you’re going to make it!” And then I can tell them my story. I am living proof that there is no ravine too big for God. He never fails His children.
I know that now, but I spent many decades thinking that God had abandoned me, just like everyone else in my life had done. He hadn’t.
All along, God was helping me. He was always there, on the edge of every ravine, giving me the courage to grab hold and swing one more time. His strength is what carried me to the other side. And it is His strength that will help you too.
I know life is hard, but I want to encourage you to not grow angry or bitter about the trials you are facing. Bitterness will leave you powerless. God knows what you are going through, and He will help you. Just keep swinging. Keep taking that leap of faith and push forward with Him.
Psalm 121 promises that God watches over you. He keeps your feet from slipping and keeps you from all harm. Isaiah 40:29–31 promises that He will uphold you and give you new strength as you trust Him.
When you’re facing a trial, don’t quit. Instead, say, “Okay, God. We’re going to have to swing across another ravine. I need Your strength and wisdom. Would You please show me what I need to learn? And Lord, let me use my experiences to help others get to the other side of their ravines, too.” And then push off that ledge with confidence.
You might not feel like you can do it again. If so, I suggest you look for some godly counseling. It took years of intentional work for me to discover my true worth and identity in Christ. I attended Christ-centered counseling, read many books on rejection, and spent much time alone with God. But it was all worth it because today, I am finally free of the enemy’s bondage. And I am determined to stay free.
Want to know what motivates me? It’s the fact that Satan has already robbed me of so much. I refuse to give him one more moment of victory in my life. I refuse to provide him any more space in my heart or mind. I am done listening to his lies.
Let that be your motivation, too, and then commit to trusting God, living for Him, and representing Him well in every situation—no matter how difficult.
Only you can choose to keep persevering with God.
JENNIFER MUNSON is the owner of Munson Media and the author of two published books. Less Than tells her prodigal story, and Hope in the Midst of Suffering is a 30-day devotional helping people overcome the enemy’s lies. Visit JenniferMunson.org for more details.