I was 30 years old when I hit rock bottom. And in that low place, I didn’t want to hear anything about God, let alone walk in His ways. I blamed Him for everything terrible that had ever happened to me—from being molested and gang-raped to losing my children.
I had one question for God: “Where were You?!”
Many people tried to tell me about God’s love and goodness, but how dare they? What kind of God allows such horrible things to happen? I didn’t want anything to do with Him—He’d never been there for me.
Outwardly, I had become an angry, skeptical, and downright mean woman. But beneath all that anger and skepticism were the real reasons I had walled off my heart from God: I didn’t feel worthy of His love or His time.
I had lived carelessly—I knew that. I’d done incredibly vile things and hurt countless people during my years of active addiction. I couldn’t imagine that God would want anything to do with a woman like me; people sure didn’t.
I was insecure and doubted God’s ability to heal my heart. I figured not even He could deliver me from my deep-rooted addiction to drugs and alcohol, nor could He restore the many things that I’d destroyed in my life—including my relationship with my children. I felt too shattered to be repaired.
I was eight years old when my neighbor began to abuse me sexually, but I told no one. As most abusers do, he threatened to harm me or, worse, my family if I told anyone what he was doing. No one would believe me anyway, he said.
So I bore the shame, pain, and confusion of my secret alone. By the age of 12, I could take it no longer, and I began reaching for people and substances to bring comfort. No one can work through that kind of trauma independently, especially a child.
First, I started hanging out with older boys and became sexually active. I imagined that if I gave myself to a boy, he would fall in love with me, and I would have a beautiful relationship like my mother and father did at home. But with every sexual encounter, I experienced more shame, pain, and confusion.
By 20, I was consumed by alcoholism and addicted to drugs. I stopped at nothing to feed my addiction. I made poor choices that yielded painful consequences—the hardest being losing custody of my three boys.
I tried to convince myself that my choices weren’t hurting anyone other than myself. Talk about denial. I sold myself that lie over and over again as I lay at the bottom of many a dark, hopeless pit.
Any one of those pits should have been my rock bottom—the place where I decided to change—but they weren’t. I was too stubborn to stop, look in the mirror, and initiate change. I preferred playing the blame game and wallowing in the mud of self-pity. It’s where I was comfortable.
That all changed, though, the day I learned I could lose custody of my boys. That painful realization became my rock-bottom moment in which I was ready and willing to say, “Enough! I don’t want to live like this anymore. I’ve got to get clean for my boys!”
I began attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and got serious about doing the programs. I disciplined myself to change my behavior, and soon I was clean and sober. Outwardly, everyone could see the change—I was living better, and I looked great. But inwardly, I was an empty shell of a person. I hung on with sheer willpower, but I knew I couldn’t continue the charade much longer. I was about to crash.
Many of the ladies at AA and NA talked to me about Jesus and how He had not only helped them change their behavior but had also healed their pain and filled their emptiness. According to them, He was the answer to everything that ailed me.
Those women got on my last nerve, and I rejected them in the unkindest ways. But they kept pursuing me and telling me how Jesus could heal my broken life. Eventually, their courageous and persistent faith broke through the walls of my hardened heart.
It happened one afternoon after an AA meeting. A lady from the group invited me to join her at a local café for coffee. I was reluctant at first but finally agreed to go.
We sipped our coffees and talked for a while. I was enjoying myself until Kim redirected the conversation with, “Why don’t you go with me to a prayer meeting tonight? Several of the girls from our meetings go each week. I think you’ll like it.”
Internal walls shot up. I was furious! Kim hadn’t invited me to coffee for friendly conversation; she was on a quest to save my soul. What was it with these %*#* Jesus people?!
I declined her invitation, but Kim persisted. She recognized that I was on the fence about following God and got straight to her point. “Tracy, if you don’t commit to following the Lord now, where will you go?” Before I could respond, she answered matter-of-factly, “I’ll tell you! You’ll go straight into the arms of another bad man and enter another failing relationship. You’ll get some drugs and overdose; you’ll go right to…” She continued giving me a list of the negative outcomes I was sure to face.
For some reason, I didn’t grab my coffee and run. Kim’s words were direct, but I wasn’t sensing condemnation from her, only compassion and an urgent knowledge that if I didn’t choose Jesus, I was headed for disaster.
I finally relented and told Kim I’d go, but I was driving separately. The minute things got uncomfortable, I was out of there! Well, that was my plan.
The meeting was at a tiny apartment owned by a lady the girls called Momma. Each week, this 80-year-old woman opened her heart and home to 30 women who, like me, didn’t feel welcome or comfortable in a church setting. She prayed with them and taught them God’s Word.
I entered her cramped apartment, my heart surrounded by thick, sturdy walls. No one was going to get me to change my mind about God. But my determination was no match for God’s Spirit. He was about to break down those walls and enter in.
I stood in a corner, contemplating my escape. But then, the meeting started, and someone asked if anyone had anything to share. Suddenly, it was like someone else had taken over my body.
My hand shot up, my mouth flew open, and I told everyone I hated God and didn’t want to be there. There was silence. Then, I started to cry and shared intimate details of my life. I couldn’t control myself.
Momma put a chair in the center of the room and asked me to sit down so she could pray over me. The older, more experienced, prayer-warrior women circled my chair, placed their hands on me, and began to pray. The other girls who were still learning and healing looked on. I’ll never forget the sight and sound of those women crying out to heaven on my behalf.
Powerful emotions rushed to the surface of my heart as they prayed, and then suddenly, like a river dam, things broke loose within me. God’s Spirit took down the walls and released the pain I’d carried since childhood.
Momma knew there had been a breakthrough. The women stopped praying, and Momma gently held my face in her hands. “Tracy,” she said, “God has a plan for your life. Trust the process.” I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I would learn soon enough.
From that day forward, Kim prayed with me, taught me God’s Word, and answered my many questions. She refused to leave me alone to figure out what it meant to be a follower of Christ on my own. Instead, she helped me develop a solid foundation of faith by discipling me so that I wouldn’t return to my destructive ways.
The only thing Kim asked me to do in return was to call her every morning at 9:00 sharp. This check-in call was to keep me accountable and prove my commitment. “Tracy, the key is desiring God above everything else. Make your relationship with Him the priority of your life. There’s a real enemy out there who seeks your destruction. You must be willing to fight for the life God has planned for you.”
Kim knew I still harbored anger and doubt toward God, but she encouraged me to press through those emotions, embrace my faith, and discover more about Jesus for myself. I did, and God faithfully revealed Himself to me along the way.
Over the next year, God filled the empty places of my heart with His peace, joy, and hope. He was working in my life, and I was sure He was about to grant me custody of my kids.
I searched the scriptures for God’s promises and boldly declared them over my life. “You’ve got this, God. All things are possible for You. You are a restorer of lost things and a rebuilder of broken things. You are the One who brings dead things back to life. There is nothing too hard for You.”
I can’t even describe how devastated and confused I was when things didn’t turn out as I had hoped. I’d done everything I was supposed to do, and yet, I lost custody of my three boys to my ex-husband. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare. Where was God?
“Aren’t You supposed to be making everything right in my life?” I cried. My sorrow quickly turned to anger. The blame game reignited in my heart, and I blamed God for the consequences I was facing—even though they were the result of my own actions.
I had given God my everything for the past year. I’d turned from my old ways, followed Him, and often looked the fool. I’d taken my boys to church and started teaching them about the Lord. And now He was taking them away? I didn’t understand. How could He?
I know now that the hard truth is that this was my doing, not God’s. These were my consequences, not God’s will. I have learned that you can choose your sin, but you can’t choose your consequences or how long they will last. And this one—being estranged from my kids—would last for many years to come.
Old feelings of betrayal flooded my heart and mind. I was sure God had abandoned me again and had purposely brought this pain into my life. I wrestled with my faith for months. But then, one day, I remembered Momma’s words, “Tracy, God has a plan for your life. Trust the process.”
Was this part of God’s process? Could He still have a plan? And could He be working that plan out for my good as Romans 8:28 promised?
I stood at a crossroads of faith. Either I could trust God’s plan, process, and His Word, or I could turn back. I thought back to the painful pits of the past. Did I want to return to the devil’s den? It was a hopeless pit of death and destruction (Hebrews 10:39). There was nothing for me there.
No, I decided. I would press on with God. But I knew that this time, I’d have to completely surrender my life to His love and care. My faith could no longer be based on earthly evidence of what I saw God doing or not doing in my life. I resolved to become the mom my kids deserved, whether I ever got them back or not.
That decision was a hard blow to Satan’s plan. His greatest goal was to lead me to question God and be angry with Him so I’d turn away from my faith. Satan wanted me back in the pit, where I was no threat to him. He lost in a big way that day.
Still, God’s process was not easy and quick. Some days my heart was so heavy with grief and frustration, I couldn’t breathe.
“Oh God,” I’d cry. “Where’s my breakthrough? When will I be made whole? When will I get to where I want to be?” I couldn’t see a victorious end. I couldn’t see how I’d ever be a mom again to my boys. But God could see my freedom, wholeness, and restoration; He sees the end of our lives from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
Often my heart grew heavy, but God would whisper, “I’ve got you, Tracy. Keep going.” He beckoned me to draw ever closer to Him, to enter His throne room of grace where I’d find the mercy, strength, and help I needed (Hebrews 4:16). His presence and words were compressions to my heart and breath to my lungs. God’s grace was there for me, even in the darkest days and toughest consequences.
In the throne room, I asked the Lord to shed His light into the dark parts of my life and uncover truths that would help me build a future (Psalm 139:23–24). I didn’t want anything to hinder my victory.
Day by day, God gently led me back to my past. Together, we faced my sin and the traumas other people’s sins had caused in my life. And in the process, I discovered healing and hope.
Today, on the other side of that long and often painful process, I am thankful. God’s plan and His process gave me the time and avenue to healing. His way enabled me to vanquish the sin that had repeatedly conquered me. Had I gotten my way, I would have brought the same broken mom back into my kids’ lives. They and I deserved better.
Because I trusted the Lord, I now have a beautiful relationship with my boys, I’m married to a mighty man of God, and I am a minister of the hope of Jesus Christ. To God be the glory.
Friend, even if you can’t imagine it, God has a victorious end planned for your life too. Trust His love for you and His process, no matter how painful or long. You must know, living apart from God will never soothe your soul or bring lasting change to your life.
Be willing to make difficult choices, take practical steps, stay God’s course even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, and fight for the freedom you and your family deserve. Your victory will only be as good as your participation with God.
No, it won’t be easy. But it will be worth it. You are worth it!
Dr. Tracy Strawberry is an international speaker, published author, CEO, ordained minister, and wife of baseball legend, Darryl Strawberry. She is passionate about equipping individuals to live a life of freedom and purpose in Christ. She is the author of several publications including Clean, Sober & Saved, a globally established, Christ-centered recovery curriculum. For more information, visit findingyourway.com.