"If you're real God, why did you leave me?" the terrified little girl sobbed, as she lay hidden behind the clothes closet door. "Why did you leave us behind, Daddy?"
Seven year old Cheryl (not her real name) had gone through so much fear and torment ever since her father abandoned her mother and 2 sisters just 3 years before. To make matters worse, her mother, suffering from mental illness and therefore not able to handle the pressures of raising her daughters on her own, resorted to using much physical abuse.
"I remember hiding in the clothes closet with my sister to get away from my mom and her 'moods'," Cheryl relates. Oftentimes though, her mother's manic-depressive state would come on unexpectantly in the middle of the night. "If she (her mother) saw that the floor was not washed, she would wake us up in the middle of the night to beat on us."
On one particular night, Cheryl woke up to see her mother beating her sister with an extension cord. Fear would grip Cheryl as she would hear her mother say that "God was out to get her" for all the things she and her sisters had done. Yet, on the other hand, her mother would tell her daughters that this same God loved them. In a young child's mind, this was very confusing indeed, and served only to drive Cheryl further and further away into the realms of tormenting fear.
"I was afraid of absolutely everything and everyone - especially those in authority," Cheryl states, "and that same fear that gripped me drove me to become violent so I could protect myself."
Cheryl would take out her anguish on her school classmates, turning physically abusive herself if someone so much as made a loud noise around her, igniting the fear. It got so bad, that by the time she was 8, Cheryl was prescribed pills to calm her down and even told to start smoking so she would be more relaxed.
Yet, despite all these efforts, Cheryl's life continued to be one of hopelessness and ongoing abuse. By the time she was 13, Cheryl and her sisters were back and forth out of the psychiatric hospital, and in and out of various relatives homes because of her mother's inability to cope with her own problems. This instability only served to increase Cheryl's fears of being left alone, although she was determined to leave her mother's home for good. Therefore, when opportunity came to live with the family she babysat for, she gladly took it, only to find herself pregnant by the man in the house some months later. Feeling alone once again, Cheryl went back home to have her child, leaving a few months later for good when a man came along that wanted to marry her.
"He wanted to marry me so he could stay out of jail and I wanted to marry him to get away from my mother," Cheryl says.
However, despite the fact that she now had a husband and child, Cheryl was still plagued with a gripping fear that just never wanted to leave. Two more children followed, and Cheryl remembers oftentimes standing over their beds at night just watching them sleep, so afraid something was going to happen to them.
"The fear ruled my life - everything I did was because of it," Cheryl recalls.
After her marriage ended 7 years later, Cheryl was in and out of relationships simply because she never wanted to be alone. She became alcohol dependent trying to drown all the hurt and torment she lived from day to day. Then one day, some years later, a man came knocking on Cheryl's door.
"He wanted to introduce me to God," Cheryl recalls, "yet I didn't want to hear him - I thought I could do just fine on my own!" Because she had heard so many mixed messages about a God that loved her, yet would punish her if she did something wrong, Cheryl had become hardened to ever believing that she needed someone stronger than herself. After all, where was this God when she was growing up?
Yet, the seeds of truth were planted in Cheryl's life and a year and a half later, while she was walking to the bar, Cheryl heard some music coming from a building she had never noticed before. It was a local church having a worship service, and out of curiosity, Cheryl walked through the door.
"I walked in and looked around and saw the people worshipping God," Cheryl relates, "yet I didn't understand it and thought they all must be drunk!"
Cheryl recalls talking with the pastor's wife and then staying to listen. She never did make it to the bar that night. Instead, week after week Cheryl found herself being drawn back to this same church and six months later, gave her heart to Jesus Christ.
"When I gave my life to the Lord, I felt such a burden lift from me," Cheryl says. "And, the biggest thing was that finally, for the first time in my life, I knew there was someone there for me - God was there and would be my help!"
Security at last! Throughout her entire life Cheryl had never known what it was like to have something "sure" she could really count on. Now, with Jesus, she had the assurance that He would never "leave her nor forsake her" no matter what! For Cheryl this was good news!
In her new found relationship with the Lord, Cheryl did indeed find someone she could count on. However, she discovered that her life was still ridden with the fears she had grown up with as a child. As she explains, "Even though I knew God was with me, I still had to learn how to trust Him. It was through building an actual relationship with God that I learnt that I had nothing to fear."
Learning and hearing the Word of God was life changing for Cheryl. Yet, it was being filled with the Holy Spirit two years ago that turned her life around.
"Before that time (being filled with the Holy Spirit), I only knew God was with me," she says. "But now I know that not only is He with me, He's living inside of me! I don't have to live in fear anymore - I can feel His presence."
Fear could no longer hold it's grip over Cheryl. As she read and studied the bible, she learnt that God has not given her "a spirit of fear", but instead, one of "power, love and a sound mind" (II Ti 1:7). And she's found out that the more she talks to God, casting every care upon Him, freedom from the bondage of fear has become a reality in her life.
"I know now that even though fear may try to overtake me, I have a way out. I don't have to live in it anymore," Cheryl says excitedly.
So as she continues to walk with God each day, Cheryl notices she is becoming stronger, for the fears that once held her captive, no longer have control. She's now come to know without a doubt, that God is bigger than the "torment" called fear. And every day of her life, the love of God becomes more and more real.