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When I was a child, my family attended a First Church of God congregation. But from the age of nine through my late teen years I suffered sexual, emotional, and mental abuse. During this time, church became a comfort zone for me; I knew that whenever I was in church I was safe.
I was baptized at the age of 12, but only because that’s what everyone else was doing. Through my teenage years I tried drinking and doing drugs. But every time I would drink it would leave a bitter taste in my mouth , and drugs did absolutely nothing for me. I realize now that it was only because of the grace of God!
At the age of 21 I got married just to get out of the house. In 1984 our son was born and in 1989 our daughter was born. But in 1995 I was struck by the painful blow of my husband leaving me. Before I had fully recovered from that, my son rebelled and left to live with his father.
After my son left, I made a bad choice and got in trouble with the law. I tried committing suicide nine times. Finally a friend urged me to go to the hospital. I spent 14 days in the psychiatric unit and was treated with anti-depression medicine. Meanwhile, my daughter was taken away from me. My entire family was gone. I felt unloved, abandoned, and utterly alone. Everything I had worked for was gone, and depression choked hope from my heart.
But one night my neighbors, a couple who attended Carlisle Christian Fellowship, invited me to a home friendship group. I had never experienced the genuine love and compassion that I felt in that meeting. From that very first moment on, my life began to turn around. I had found a new family.
In July 1998 I was born again, just as the Bible describes. After I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, I felt so much lighter. My burdens were lifted! It felt as if every drop of water that rolled off my back was every sin that Jesus had taken away. My home group leaders took me under their wing and counseled me through many phone conversations and late-night talks. I am so grateful for their commitment to me. But I still had a long road ahead of me.
Because of a very bad incident that happened the year before, in 1999 I was sent to state prison. My sentence was for 5-10 years. Once again I fell to the bottom of the barrel. But this time it was different: I had Jesus Christ on my side! I had so many ups and downs, but Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And He hasn’t.
Jesus told me to stand on the truth and the truth would set me free. That’s exactly what I did, and I spent the whole 10 years in prison.
After I came home I went to my new home friendship group where I found the fellowship I had missed so much in prison. That particular night there was as interpretation of tongues in which Jesus said, “What was taken from you I will restore and give you back more.” Peace and comfort came over me that night.
If God could scoop me out of “the bottom of the barrel,” He can and will do it for you. He loves you just as much as He loves me, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. When David was discouraged, he wrote these words that I now find so encouraging: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
If you are discouraged about life, there is a trustworthy God who will give you encouragement and strength to go on. Even though the road ahead of me may not be perfectly smooth, my Lord Jesus Christ will never leave me. With Him I can get through anything life tosses my way, and you can too.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me” (Psalm 138:7).
My Testimony by Sharlene Hockenberry