Mary Joy, 77, lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety and struggled with depression and anger. It was only when God healed her of the trauma of childhood abuse, and she learned to practice forgiveness and walk in step with his promises, that she was set free
I was brought up in Surbiton, Surrey. My mother was a secretary and my father worked for the gas board in the accounts department. I had two brothers, one older, one younger, and we all got on well.
However, when I was five years old my father sexually abused me. I remember going to tell Mum, but she didn’t believe me. Now I think it was because she was frightened. My father would sometimes beat me with a wooden coat hanger; I found out later my brothers also had a terrible time.
My father was not a bad man, but he had so much anger inside of him. I don’t know what happened to him as a child that might have explained his actions. He was the eldest of three boys and seven girls, and had responsibility to look after the younger ones. None of his family attended his wedding to my mother.
I didn’t realise at the time how the abuse affected me, as I pushed it down and forgot the memory, but I developed a deep anxiety and fear as I grew up. I never told anyone else, as I felt that would be shameful. In our family you didn’t show emotions.
When I was at school I struggled to learn and failed all my exams except for three. I was able to get a job, thankfully, and started work as a shorthand typist in a bank. During this time, I had a good relationship with my dad. I was outgoing, and would laugh and joke. I covered things up by laughing.
Married life and parenthood
My parents were church-goers, and started going to St Mary’s in West Kensington. It was at St Mary’s that I met John Joy. He was living with some friends in Notting Hill. We got on well from the start, and married in 1972. John and I went on to have three children, Debbie, now 48, John, now 46 and Peter, now 39.
We moved to Maidstone and then to Trowbridge as the insurance firm John was working for moved to Bristol. Debbie was six months old and I remember there was one day when she would not stop crying. I could feel anger rising up in me, and it scared me. I took her upstairs and put her in her cot where she would be safe, and called a friend.
I had given up work to look after my baby, as that was what was expected, and I felt very lonely, stuck at home. I suffered from postnatal depression. My friend said she and her husband could pray with me.
They were Christian counsellors. It was the best thing I did, and was the start of receiving deep healing from God for all my childhood trauma.
Releasing my anger
I had a rash on my hands and any other place where I itched and scratched. I didn’t realise then that the rash was a symptom of the unease within me. Over several years I went to see my friends for prayer.
It would start with me getting restless and uneasy as things began to surface to my conscious mind and then I would go for prayer. We would talk first about what I was feeling then we would ask God to show me what was wrong.
When the problem was seen I had to be willing to face it and acknowledge it. In the safety and security of my friends’ company I was able, over a period of time, to let out the anger trapped inside of me.
How did I do that? Well, I felt I needed to hold something and squeeze the life out of it. They gave me a pillow, which I used in the sessions, until the final session when the last vestiges of anger came out.
The poor pillow – when we looked we saw feathers flying around the room and the pillow case was finely shredded! But think of the damage that anger could have caused if it had not been dealt with.
My husband noticed a difference when I went home, commenting that I was a lot calmer. But, although God had set me free from the anger, I still suffered from fear and anxiety.
Facing the painful memories
In 1996 I went for counselling in Harnhill Centre of Christian Healing. In the last session, the prayer counsellor asked if I had ever been abused. “Oh no! Certainly not!” I replied, as the memory was still buried so deep. But her question triggered something in me.
When I went home, I turned on the TV, and there was someone talking about abuse. I felt uneasy, so I asked the Lord: “Have I been abused?” and I believe he said yes I had.
I went to talk to my counsellor friends, and told them that I thought I might have been abused. As we prayed, the Lord gradually brought back the incident to mind. I had to face it, it was very difficult but I knew it was the only way.
As I shared the memory, the couple prayed for me, and prayed in God’s healing. It was not just for healing from the trauma of being abused, there was something else. I also learned that I had to forgive my father for what he had done to me. I wasn’t sure about that!
As a Christian, forgiveness is the key to a life with God. I had become quite hard-hearted over the years; my pride wouldn’t let me forgive. I wanted to hold on to unforgiveness. “Why should I let my father off the hook?” I thought. I wanted to punish him.
But the only person I was punishing was myself. By not being willing to forgive my father I was keeping myself in a prison. My unforgiveness was not affecting him, only me.
I knew I did not have the ability to forgive my father. What God wanted was for me to be willing to forgive and then he would give me the ability to do so.
Walking out my freedom
In 2016 the anxiety and fear I had carried since childhood was healed by God. It had been such a part of me; I just assumed it was how I was. But I would get in such a state about things, so I prayed: “Lord this is ridiculous, why is this happening?”
I felt him prompting me to look at my anxiety, and ask: “What does it achieve?” I realised it doesn’t achieve anything, but wore me out.
After that revelation I knew God wanted me to ask for prayer, so I approached a curate at our church. During the prayer time, I received God’s peace. I asked him to help me walk free from the anxiety and fear. As time has gone on I have come into more times of freedom and have very few occasions of being anxious now.
The devil doesn’t want us to be healed, so he tries to drag us back into what we have been freed from. I refuse to let him by claiming and thanking God for my healing whenever the devil tries to do this.
It can take time to change our way of thinking, especially when it has been a habit since childhood. However I know I am not alone and, with God’s help, I am the strongest I have ever been. Praise be to God!