Finding healing through forgiveness

I first shared my story on Sunday, May 20, 2018—the Feast of Pentecost. That moment came after God sent a number of holy people into my life to help me find the courage and words to not only tell my story, but to work through the psychological, emotional and spiritual pieces of it. My hope is that God will use me and my story as an instrument to help others heal from their own deep wounds.

Just five days before I opened up about my own story, I wrote this note in adoration:

“I knew I needed to stop at adoration today, and as I sat down to spend time with our Lord and grabbed the diary of St. Faustina as I often like to do while in the chapel this is where the Lord took me to: Page 179…Jesus says to Saint Faustina, ‘My chosen one, I will give you even greater graces that you may be the witness of my infinite mercy.’ I took it as a special consolation as if Jesus was telling me that even though this would be hard for me to do, the graces that would come from me sharing my story would be more than worth it.”

That hour gave me complete peace, knowing that God would provide for all that I needed to go through with everything on Pentecost. I also prayed for all the victims of sexual abuse everywhere and that God would use my story to heal  others the way he has me.

I’m sure you’ve heard that there’s no healing without forgiveness, and I am living proof of that. What is forgiveness if not Divine Mercy? We mirror God’s mercy to us when we bestow mercy on those who have hurt us.

I grew up in a big family with seven brothers, three sisters and two loving parents in Brazil. My childhood was just like any other until the age of 8 when someone posing as a family friend took advantage of me and hurt me deeply. So from the tender age of 8, I started believing in the lies that the evil one instilled in me through this trauma. Lying is Satan’s primary weapon against God’s children. He uses this tactic to separate us from our heavenly Father. And he was having a field day with me back then.

First Lie: It must have been my fault. For crying out loud, I was 8 years old. How could that have been my fault?

Second Lie: I should be forever ashamed. This one probably hurt me the most because shame is what kept me from talking about what happened and finding the help that I so desperately needed.

Third Lie: I’ll never find happiness. This lie made me believe that God didn’t really love me since he allowed this to happen to me.

I believed in those lies so much that in my early 20s, I realized that I was sabotaging my own happiness by being drawn to people that would hurt me. I was in a bad and dark place then and was crying out to God for help. And in my cry for help, he led me to the Holocaust. I had this thirst and desire to understand human suffering better and found myself reading everything I could get my hands on about the terrible evils of the Holocaust. Looking back now, I see God was leading me on my own journey to freedom through forgiveness even then. You see, after I read and watched everything I thought I could stand about the Holocaust, God started leading me towards the stories from the survivors. And that’s when I realized a common theme among them was that the ones who were able to go on and live lives with purpose, joy and, most importantly, love were those who understood that they needed to forgive all the people responsible for the unspeakable evil done to them—their families, their countries. And then something happened that changed my life forever.

My mom called to tell me that my favorite aunt Ilsa had just lost her only daughter, her daughter’s husband and their 5-yearold son, who were all killed by a drunk driver as they were walking home one evening. I was devastated. My cousin Claudenice and I were very close growing up, and I struggled to understand why God would allow such terrible things to happen to good people.

After hanging up with my mom, I called my aunt, and after lots of tears, I asked her how she felt about the man who was responsible for killing not one but three of her family members. Her response was so immediate and shocking that I had to ask a second time. “I have forgiven him already,” she said. She was a devout Catholic and told me that “her faith demands it” that she forgive.

Immediately, two things came to my mind: First, oh God, how I wish I could have that kind of faith; and Second, if my aunt could forgive the man that just devastated her family, there must be a way for me to forgive the man that did those horrible things to me when I was a child!

Romans 8:28 says that, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” Looking back now and knowing how good God is and just how much he loves each and everyone of us, I realize that was his way of using a horribly painful situation for the good of somebody, and that somebody was me; the very broken me. Wow…that is Divine Mercy! So from that day on, I made a conscious decision to forgive and move on from victim to survivor with a purpose. And as I did that, I began to experience more peace, and most importantly, I was ready to get close to God. I trusted him more, I looked for him more and was also curious to see what he meant when, so many times through my darkest nights, I heard him say to me: “If you only knew the wonderful plans I have for you.” I began to dream about God’s plans for me and asked myself: What do those plans look like? Is he going to bring me a good man for a husband? Am I ever going to be truly healed from this? Is he going to bless me with children?

And now I come to one of my favorite parts of my life story! You see, when I made that conscious decision to forgive, I was able to start believing and receiving all of God’s blessings, and one of them is my wonderful husband David! God knew my wounds, and he was extremely good to me by giving me someone like David. David patiently loved me through my brokeness, even in our first few years of marriage when I was still trying to sabotage my own happiness by believing in those lies Satan had been telling me since childhood. And then God showed his goodness and mercy to me again by blessing us with three beautiful and kind children whom I adore. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Only when we forgive can we can begin to hope for a future full of God’s blessings. Forgiveness helps us to get unstuck from the chains that prevent us from living life to its fullness and claiming what’s rightfully ours, which is freedom through Christ.

Even after all of God’s blessings in David and our children, he had more healing in store for me. Just before Lent of 2017, I approached my pastor to ask for help. He and another priest walked with me through one of the most painful healing experiences I have ever had. They used a method found in the book “Unbound” by Neal Lozano. As a teacher of deliverance, Neal shows how to find and close those doors that may have been open to evil influences. In my case, that door was my childhood trauma, and consequently, Satan’s underhanded strategies. Had I known how hard that process was going to be, I probably would have said, “No thanks.” But again our Lord with his abundant mercies and the Blessed Mother carried me through those excruciating days to bring me to where I am today.

Just when I thought my healing process was finished and everything was behind me, God whispered to me in my quiet prayer time that now that I was truly healed and had found a place of freedom, he wanted me to share my story to glorify him. I hope that my story inspires you to let God heal you also! Jesus’ fountain of mercy is endless! He wants to free each of us from all the lies that keep us from being the best version of ourselves and receiving all the blessings he has already planned for us since before we were born. I know that not everyone who has been abused will be called to witness to others, but I do hope that every victim will find the courage and strength to share their story with their loved ones, their priest or a trusted friend. The Evil One loves everything that’s in the dark because he knows he can manipulate us into believing that God doesn’t love us, and by doing that, he can cause great havoc in our lives. On the contrary, our good Lord wants us to bring those dark, hurting places of our hearts to him so he can show us just how much he loves us by healing us. As we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:5, “For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness.” I lived in that darkness for so long, and now there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to help others come out of their dark place.

So I ask you:
Who do you need to forgive?
Do you truly desire God’s healing and freedom in Christ?
Do you want to get unstuck?
Please let God come into that wound that you have been holding onto for so long and let this be the beginning of your healing.

Please let God come into that wound that you have been holding onto for so long and let this be the beginning of your healing.

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