Victory Stories after Abuse

A Broken View of Fatherhood

 I recently heard part of Josh McDowell’s testimony and realized it fit in very well with my blog theme of hope for wounded hearts.  I have copied this story from  This is his story. If you would like to listen to this rather than read it you can following the link to and search for it by date: June 13 & 14th of 2013. You can also watch the movie on youtube by following this link: 
This is such a great story of God’s redemption from awful pain that many experience in their lives.  It isn’t impossible to move on from such hurt, God wants to draw near and redeem your life for your good and God’s Glory.
Leslie Basham: Josh McDowell is known as an apologist, someone who intellectually defends the faith. But behind the intellect was a hurting, abused child who had an inaccurate view of God.

Josh McDowell: I could not perceive or understand a heavenly Father any different than my earthly father. I grew up believing fathers hurt.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, June 13.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I was delighted to learn, several weeks ago, that Josh McDowell was going to be in our neck of the woods, speaking at a banquet for our local pregnancy care center. When I heard that news, I said, “We’ve got to get Josh into our studio and give him a chance to connect with our Revive Our Hearts listeners.”

Thankfully, Josh—who’s just gotten off the road from a, did you say, twenty-four nation speaking tour?

Josh: Yes, a speaking tour in South America . . .

Nancy: . . . lasting several months, and now has made his way to southwestern Michigan. Josh, you’re from southern California, so to be in our thirty-four degree Michigan weather this morning was probably a little daunting for you.

Josh: Well, I took my Vitamin C this morning to make sure I won’t get sick.

Nancy: No South American weather up here.

Josh: Boy, that’s sure. It was hot and humid down there with no air conditioning.

Nancy: We’ve got natural “air conditioning” outdoors! Thank you so much for coming by to visit with our Revive Our Hearts listeners. I know that this conversation is going to be a great blessing to those who are listening!

Josh: I’d come all the way here just to see you again, Nancy, apart from radio.

Nancy: Thank you so much. You and Dottie have been long time friends of our family, the DeMoss family. We go back a long, long way. I know you knew and loved my dad, who’s been with the Lord now many years.

Josh: And your brother came to live with us for three months.

Nancy: That’s right. My brother, David, who is also now with the Lord, was so impacted by your life when he was a teenager. Thank you for the many, many ways that you’ve served the body of Christ over these years. I just want to say for those few of our listeners who may not be familiar with the name, Josh McDowell (I know most are) . . . I read somewhere that you’ve written over 130 books. That exhausts me just thinking about it.

Josh: It exhausts me, too, but I’m just grateful. I never dreamed I’d have one book out, let alone now I’ve written 148—a number of them still to be released. We all have our gifts.

Nancy: I can remember back when I was in late high school and during my college years, you came out with Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Now there’s a new re-release of that book.  I can remember, as a teenager, being so helped in how to defend my faith by that volume.

You’ve been known for making a reasonable defense for the faith, and you’ve helped a whole generation—a couple generations—be able to do that.

Josh: The whole background of Evidence That Demands a Verdict was to write a book against Christianity. I really believed at that time that Christians had two brains—one was lost and the other was out looking for it. I thought Christians were walking idiots, and so I set out to write that book to refute those students and professors in universities, intellectually, and I ended up trusting Christ as Savior and Lord. I spent thirteen years documenting why.

Nancy: And what a great resource that has been for those of us who want to be able to share our faith with others. As you think back to your early years (in fact, I learned last night that you grew up just about thirty minutes from where we’re sitting in this studio today—just down the road), as I think back to your childhood and teenage years, it was unthinkable that you would be writing books defending the faith, that you would be ministering as you have to millions of people around the world, preaching the gospel of Christ.

Because as you roll back the tape to those years ago, when you were growing up in Union City, Michigan, it wasn’t a pretty picture at all. There was a dysfunctional family, and life was chaos for you back in those years.

Josh: I’m a walking example that all things have become new, and old things will pass away. Growing up right near here, my father was the town alcoholic, the town drunk. I hardly knew my father sober until I was twenty years old. I’d go to high school and see my dad downtown in the gutter making a fool of himself. All my friends would make jokes about it, and they didn’t think it bothered me because I would laugh on the outside—but I was crying on the inside.

We lived on a farm—in fact the city limits went right up our driveway. I’d go out to the barn and I’d see my mother (whom I loved very much) lying in the gutter behind the cows. My father would yank a milk hose—the air pipe—off the milking machine to beat my mother to a bloody pulp until she was so weak and bloody she couldn’t stand and was just lying in the manure in the gutter behind the cows. I’d be kicking, beating my dad, and screaming, “When I’m strong enough I’ll kill you.”

We’d have guests come over . . . If anyone has an alcoholic parent, they know what I’m talking abou. You carry shame with you every day of your life, especially when friends would come over and your dad would be drunk (or, today, on drugs).

I used to go out to the barn, and he would be passed out there. I’d grab him around the neck or by the feet, and I’d drag him into a pen where the cows would have their calves and just drop him on the straw. I’d park the car up around behind the barn when friends would arrive, and say, “Well, he had to go away on an important call,” or something, to keep from being ashamed.

I’d go back out to the barn—it would take a while. He was a small man, I was just a little kid. I’d get him up against the boards in the pen. I’d put his arms through the boards, tie a rope around one wrist, put his other arm around the board and then tie a rope to his other wrist. Then I’d take another rope. I’d go around outside of the pen, and then I’d make a hangman’s noose around his neck. Then I would tighten it and put the rope around his feet.

As a little kid, I’d pull that rope I tight as I could until his head went backwards over that top board. Then I’d tighten it up and knot it. The first time I did that, I did it about six-thirty at night. I went back out about five-thirty the next morning . . . and I was so discouraged, Nancy, I was so disappointed. He was still alive. All I ever wanted as a kid was for my dad to quit hurting my mother, and I grew up with that guilt that it was my fault.

Now, it wasn’t. I had nothing to do with it, but I thought, If only I was strong enough, he couldn’t hurt my mother. So it placed a lot of bitterness, resentment, hatred into my life, which can literally destroy anyone. It destroyed much of my family. My older brother took my parents to a court of law and sued them for everything they had.

Can you imagine a son doing that to his parents, no matter what the parents did? One thing he got in the settlement of the lawsuit was a home my folks had built for workers on the farm. He announced to my parents he was going to move it. And for two weeks from that Saturday, I could not sleep. How are you going to move a big house like that?

I was eleven years old. All week I was so excited. That morning I got up and did my chores early, and I ran out the back of the house and looked up. The house was up on a knoll away from the main farmhouse. There were about thirty or forty people up there. I thought, Wow, this is going to be quite a party.

They were going to move this house, and they came up to see it. There were farmers and merchants. But you know what was key, Nancy? Many of them were parents of my friends, people’s houses where I stayed. So I ran up that hill. I was so excited, my adrenaline was pumping. I think sometimes my shoes didn’t even touch the grass. I got to the top, Nancy, and my world came crashing down.

I heard these farmers and merchants from Union City, Michigan, many parents of my friends, yelling the dirtiest, filthiest names at my parents and just laughing at them. I snapped. I can consciously remember running down the other side of the knoll just crying and screaming. I ran into the barn where there was a pretty good-sized room with three bins in it for shelled corn, oats, and wheat to grind up for cattle feed.

I ran up the six steps, turned around, closed the big door, put the arm latch down, knocked down the two boards holding up the blinders in the windows until it was pitch black. Then at eleven years old, I climbed up in that shelled corn bin and I buried myself in that corn up to my neck.

Nancy, that’s when I prayed to die. I felt like it wouldn’t matter to anyone if I lived or died. I was there for three hours and my parents never came looking for me. Here, in front of half the city and everything else, I ran away screaming and crying, and they never came looking for me.

Nancy: It was just the chaos and the conflict that you’d seen.

Josh: The way my brother and all of them were treating my parents, publicly . . .

Nancy: . . . was just humiliating.

Josh: Yes. About one o’clock that afternoon, I was so hungry and thirsty—eleven years old—I dug myself out of that corn, jumped out of the bin, and when I undid that iron latch and stood the door open, the sunlight hit me in the face and shocked me into reality.

At that moment, I damned my father, I cursed him. I damned God, and I cursed God for abandoning me in that corn bin. That left a profound impact on my life, to where in my adult life I became a rescuer. Most adult children of alcoholics become rescuers. I couldn’t say “no.”

Dottie, my wife, thought I was one of the most compassionate people in the world, when really, I was one of the most compulsive people in the world. I had to say “yes” to everyone, or I wasn’t a loving person. If I didn’t say “yes” to my sister who was being hurt, everything else, then I wasn’t a loving person.

And then, add on top of that, Nancy, up until four-and-a-half years ago, I never shared this publicly. I believe I dealt with it, but I didn’t think it was anyone’s business, until the Lord showed me I needed to share it. I flew home and shared it with Dottie. From six to thirteen years of age, for seven years, every week, I was homosexually raped three to four times a week, and my parents wouldn’t stop it.

Nancy: And it was someone whom your family trusted.

Josh: When I was six years old, he was hired to be a cook and a housekeeper. It started at six years old. Whenever my mother would go downtown or they’d go away for the weekend, my mother would always make me stand in front of him, and then in front of him say, “Now you obey Wayne. You do everything he tells you to do. If you’re disobedient, you’re going to get a thrashing when I get home.”

He would always throw that up to me. So what do you do at six years old? You do what Wayne Bailey tells you. At nine years old, I got up the courage to tell my mom, and she wouldn’t believe me. She made me go out in the backyard where we had a big willow tree, break off a willow branch, take my shirt off, and then she whipped me for lying.

Nancy, that was probably the most terrifying, fearful day in my life. I had enough sense to know that what was being done to me was evil—and there was nothing I could do about it. My parents wouldn’t do anything about it. I still have that—not just the memory—I still have the emotion of the fear of that day.

Finally, thank God, at thirteen years of age, I was tossing hay bales on the farm, and I was playing football, and I became fairly strong. My mother had gone downtown. This man approached me. I spun around, put my hands around his throat, pushed him against the wall and said, “If you ever touch me again, I’ll kill you.”  And I would have. I would have been sent up for life (today you wouldn’t be).

He never touched me again. I’ll never forget when he left, my mom and dad were saying, “Why did he leave? I wonder why he left?” I was just sitting there saying, “Why don’t you believe me?” Two attitudes came out of that before I ever trusted Christ. I found out later they were so healthy and very unusual for someone who’s been sexually abused or homosexually raped.

One, I never looked at myself as a victim. I think you can only become a victim if you allow somebody to make you a victim. I was determined—I would not allow him to make me a victim.

Nancy: Even at that age . . .

Josh: I was fifteen years old, and I wasn’t a believer. Secondly, I made the decision to never look at myself as damaged goods. Now, it had to be the Holy Spirit, before I even came to Christ, because those two decisions are two of the biggest decisions you can make when you’ve been sexually abused.

Most people believe they’re a victim, and as a result they’ll never get healthy. Secondly, they believe they’re damaged goods, so they become very, very promiscuous sexually, because, “Why wait? There’s nothing here. I’m ruined.” I’m so thankful someone introduced me to Jesus Christ.

Nancy: Even with not considering yourself a victim and not considering yourself damaged goods, had you not come to faith in Christ, there still would have been that deep-rooted hatred and anger and that would have destroyed your life.

Josh: Yes, and the resentment. I grew up so hating my dad, and then having been sexually abused. I had a lot of resentment, bitterness, and hate in my life. Most people think that the biggest barrier I had was intellectual, because of all the books I’ve written. I did have an intellectual problem, but that wasn’t my greatest problem.

I’m sure, Nancy, you can understand this. My greatest problem was the image of my dad. In the Scriptures God says, “You look at me altogether as you look at yourselves.” If there’s any one thing I’ve portrayed upon the image of my heavenly Father, it’s the image of my earthly father.

When Christians would say to me, “You’ve got a Father in heaven who loves you,” (because they knew my earthly father), that didn’t bring joy to me. That caused pain. The reason is, I did not have the emotional maturity, the faith, the experience to understand that my heavenly Father can be different from my earthly father. I could not understand a heavenly Father any different than my earthly father. I grew up believing that fathers hurt.

Nancy: And so many women listening to this discussion can relate to those feelings. We do project the view we’ve had of men on to God and feel like He can’t be trusted.

Josh: And men do that. That was my greatest barrier. Now, the intellectual aspect . . . when I set out to refute Christianity, I think I did it out of anger toward God. I believed God abandoned me in that corn bin. But, if I hadn’t have done that, I’m not sure I would have come to Christ with the way I think and the mind that God has given me.

If I hadn’t come to the conclusion that the Bible is true, intellectually, and that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, I don’t think I would have ever been able to see beyond the earthly father to the heavenly Father. So I had an intellectual issue with the Scriptures and Christ, and I had an emotional issue with the fatherhood of God and my own personal father.

Nancy: This is when you were a college student. You actually met some Christian students who God used to challenge you to investigate the claims of Christ.

Josh: That is so key, Nancy. During this whole struggle, I saw a small group—maybe eight students and two professors at Kellogg College in Battle Creek, Michigan—and their lives were different. They seemed to have a genuine love and concern for each other. What I noticed was, they seemed to have that same love and concern for those outside their group.

Nancy: And you were one of the ones who were mocking them, right?

Josh: That’s right. Oh, I mocked them. I put them down, but I wanted what they had. So finally, one day we were sitting in the student union—six of the students and two of the professors—and the conversation got to God. I looked over at this young lady and I said, “What changed your lives? Why are you so different from the other students and professors on campus?”

She looked back at me with a little smile—which was irritating—and just said two words that I never thought I’d ever hear at a university, “Jesus Christ.”

I said, “Oh, for God’s sake, don’t give me that garbage. I’m fed up with religion, the church, the Bible, Christianity, and Christians.” I wanted nothing to do with it.

All I knew, she either had a lot of courage or a lot of convictions. She shot back at me, with everyone sitting around, (she didn’t smile this time), and said, “Mister, we didn’t say God, the Bible, Christianity or church or Christians. We said, the person of Jesus Christ.”

I apologized to her, because my mother had not raised me to be rude, and I’d really been rude. But as soon as I apologized, Nancy, I added a disclaimer. I said, “I want you to understand something. I want nothing to do with the church or with Christianity or Christians and all.” And that’s when they challenged me to intellectually examine it, which I thought was an absolute joke.

I thought if a Christian had a brain, they’d die in isolation. I just figured they were intellectual morons. You know why? Every Christian I talked to could tell me what they believed, but they couldn’t give me any intelligent reason why they believed it.

That’s like a lot of Christians today. They can tell me what they believe, but they can’t give me any intelligent reasons why they believe it. So I just mocked and laughed at them. And they kept irritating me. Now, what they were doing was totally appropriate. I was the problem.

Nancy, when I walked out of that corn bin, I stuffed that anger and bitterness down into my life. I know people seventy years old who have done that and not dealt with it. You never respond right. It robs you of the joy in your life. So when they said, “Jesus Christ,” it was like a volcano had erupted in my life. All that bitter hatred came to the forefront.

They made me so mad. Now, understand, what they were doing was totally acceptable. I was the problem. So I said, “Okay, I’ll accept your challenge.” But I didn’t do it to prove anything, I did it to refute them—to write Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

In the process, I traveled throughout the United States, took time off from the university, traveled through England, Germany, France, Switzerland, gathering evidence to refute those students and professors at the university. I returned to London, England for three days before coming home.

I was in a small museum library, and I leaned back in my chair, cupped my hands behind my head, and right in front of everyone—which was probably only about three people—I said, “It’s true! It’s true! It’s true!”

What I was referencing was the New Testament . . . nothing about God . . . I had not arrived at that position. But intellectually, what I concluded was that I could hold the New Testament in my hands and say there are two things true about it: “What I have is what was written down, and what was written down was true . . . Jesus had said this and done this.”

I hadn’t concluded that what Jesus had said was true, I had concluded it was true that He said it, and true that He had done it. And in that process, I returned to the university. Finally, one night I couldn’t sleep. I just said, “God, if you’re God and Christ is Your Son, and if He died on the cross for me, and if You can come into my life and change me from the inside out, then I accept you as my Savior and Lord. Forgive me.”

Nothing happened overnight, but Nancy, within about six months to a year-and-a-half, my entire life was changed.

Nancy: We’re going to pick up with what some of those changes were when we come back tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts, because you really were a new creation in Christ, and the whole course of your life was about to change. God was going to set you free from the bitterness, the anger, the busted relationships, the dysfunction that had become so much a part of the fabric of your life.

It was truly Jesus Christ who was the one who was going to make that difference.

Leslie: Josh McDowell has been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We’ve seen how a bitter, angry, hurt child can be transformed through a relationship with Jesus. Josh’s story is dramatic, and I hope you’ll get a fuller treatment of it. We’d like to send you the book he wrote about his childhood called Undaunted.

Nancy, why should our listeners read this book?

Nancy: Well, for one thing, Leslie, it’s a riveting story. Even more importantly, I think this book and Josh’s story help to put painful, difficult, uncomfortable situations in our life into perspective. When we’re tempted to complain about some of the issues we’re walking through, I think it helps to think about someone like Josh McDowell and the intense pain and suffering he went through as a child and young man, and then how God has redeemed that situation.

So it’s a book that gives hope that God is in control; that He’s a redeeming God; that He can take the broken pieces of our lives and turn them into something beautiful—something that reflects God’s glory. God surely has done that with Josh McDowell, as you think about the millions of people who have been reached around the world through this man’s ministry. What Satan intended for evil has actually been turned into something of great beauty and great good, for God’s glory.


Maybe you were listening to Josh tell this incredible story, and you’ve been thinking, Someone should make a movie about this. Well, they have. It’s a dramatic story, and it’s really well done. The central theme of Josh’s life comes through in this movie . . . the theme of forgiveness and healing that are available through the gospel of Jesus Christ.


When Josh came to Christ, he still carried a lot of the hurt from the horrible abuse that he had suffered. As a new believer in Jesus, he had to make a decision: “Am I going to forgive those who’ve sinned against me, in the way that Jesus had forgiven me?”

He tells that story tomorrow, so please be sure to be back with us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


Leslie Basham: After coming to faith in Christ, Josh McDowell was challenged by a mentor to forgive someone who had abused him as a child for years.

Josh McDowell: When you fail to forgive, you burn the bridge over which some day you must walk.

Every one of us needs forgiveness. We hurt people; we hurt, but we need forgiveness, and when we fail to give, we burn the bridge for receiving that forgiveness ourselves.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, June 14.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re back today with my long-time friend and long-time friend of our family, Josh McDowell. Josh, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Josh: Thanks. I’m so glad we could do another program together.

Nancy: We’re finding out there are more connections that we realized that go way back in our background. You’ve been a member of the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Cru, for a half century. Do I have that right?

Josh: Fifty-one years. I interviewed Bill Bright when he joined.

Nancy: Oh, my goodness. Wow! And, of course, our family goes way back with the Bright family.

God has used your life in such a significant way as an author, as a speaker, in so many areas of apologetics. Many of our listeners will be familiar with the “Why Wait?” campaign and other efforts that you’ve made to get the gospel into the hearts and minds of people around the world.

But as I think of the conversation we had yesterday, it’s a miracle that you are doing today what you are doing when you think about the background that you came out of, the dysfunction, the abuse, the broken relationship with your dad, with this farmhand who sexually abused you for years as a child.

I want to say to our listeners, if you didn’t hear yesterday’s program, please go back to, pull up that program, listen to it or read the transcript so that you can catch up with the part of the story that we talked about yesterday.

Now, we kind of left with a cliff hanger on the last program because you had just come to faith in Christ as a college student, and yet you had all this baggage and pain and hatred and anger and broken family relationships in your heart. So you were a new creature in Christ, but things didn’t all change overnight. God started you into a process of dealing with those issues. How did that unfold?

Josh: Well, given some of the dysfunction . . . I had one sister who had killed herself. My other sister volunteered for the frontlines in World War II, just to get away from home, as a nurse. Another brother ran away from home. Another brother sued my parents for everything they had. So you were right. It wasn’t a very functional family.

Nancy: You told us yesterday that your dad was known as the town drunk?

Josh: Oh, he was always drinking. He probably drank two to three bottles of wine every day for thirty years.

After I trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, the first thing that happened was with my dad. I went to a diner in Battle Creek, Michigan, to actually tell him what I really thought of him. I’m sitting there and here was a man that even as a new Christian, I chose to hate by an act of my will because I grew up believing he had killed my mother and destroyed my family.

I sat there, and I said, “Dad, I’ve got something to say to you.” And what came out of my mouth was, “Dad, I love you.” I don’t know who was most surprised: him or me.

Nancy: Because it was not at all what you were intending to say.

Josh: Oh, not at all. That’s when I knew it was true. I wasn’t used to that. I was used to loving those I wanted to love and hating those I wanted to hate. I never had the capacity to love those I chose to hate. That’s when I knew it was real.

Nancy: Had someone told you that you needed to love your dad?

Josh: No, but I knew the Scriptures commanded that. But, look, I was a brand new believer, and my emotions overruled the Scriptures, but the Holy Spirit overrode my emotions.

It shocked him, and our relationship changed. He only lived fourteen months because three-quarters of his stomach had to be removed. His entire liver had been destroyed because of his drinking.

I transferred to Wheaton College, and I was in a very serious car accident. After two weeks in intensive care in the hospital, they drove me home. Before they drove me 100 and some miles home in the ambulance, they called my dad. Well, he was drunk, so he thought I was dying. I wasn’t. I was just hurting a lot. They took me home and secured me in bed where I couldn’t move because they were afraid of damage to my neck and lower back, and I could hear the ambulance leave.

In a few minutes, my father walked into that room. He paced back and forth, and then he just blurted out, “Son, how could you love a father such as I?” after I told him I loved him.

I said, “Dad, six months ago, I hated you. I despised everything that you stood for.”

Nancy: And he knew that there was good reason for that, humanly speaking.

Josh: Oh, yes. He totally understood it, and that’s why he was crying some. You could see it.

I said, “But Dad, I’ve learned one thing: That God became man. His name is Jesus, and He is passionate about a relationship with you.”

He got up and walked out, and I thought, Boy, I sure blew that one.

About forty-five minutes later he came back in, and he said, “Son, if God can do in my life what I’ve seen Him do in yours, I want to give Him the opportunity.”

Nancy, you talk about joy . . . most people don’t have this much joy in a lifetime. Right there, my dad prayed with me. It was a very simple prayer, something like . . . as best as I can recall . . . “God, if You’re God and Christ is Your Son, and if He died on the cross for me and can forgive me for what I’ve done to my family, and if You can do in my life what I’ve seen You do in the life of my son, then I trust You as Savior and Lord.”

All I know is my life was changed, Nancy, six months, to a year, year-and-a-half, and it was still being changed. The life of my father changed right before my eyes. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like somebody reached down and turned on a light bulb.

He only touched alcohol once after that, as far as I recall. Now, I don’t know if he went through withdrawal—he must have—but I have no recollection of it. But he only touched alcohol once. Got it to his lips, and that was it. Then fourteen months later he died.

Nancy: But in the meantime, he really had developed a vibrant testimony of his faith in Christ in that community. Am I right?

Josh: Going out about 100-150 miles, I would say upwards of 100 people came to Christ because of his testimony.

Nancy: In those fourteen months?

Josh: He would go into the prisons in the State, and he would share his testimony in the jails and everything—my dad! He would go downtown, where before the town doctor, lawyer, engineer, everything would cross the street to ignore him, and they would go in and sit down in the same booth with him in a restaurant. I was very proud of him at that point.

But I would tell my kids, in that fourteen months, I learned what it meant to have a father, even though it was brief. I said to the kids, “You are the beneficiaries of that fourteen months I had in a closer relationship with my dad where I wanted to love him and not kill him.”

But after all that drinking, three quarters of his stomach had to be removed; his entire liver was destroyed, Nancy, and he died. Even that hurt. I felt like I was being rejected again. I felt he always drank because I wasn’t a good enough son having a relationship with. Then I felt he died because it wasn’t worth staying alive to be a father to me. Now, none of that was true, but that’s how I processed because of the hurt.

But in that fourteen months, about 100 people came to Christ as a result of it. After he died, I was thankful that he was my father. I was able to say, “Lord, thank You for my dad”—not that I want to be like him but to be thankful for him. I think that act of thankfulness and gratitude played a powerful healing role in my life.

Nancy: Well, forgiveness had to be a huge part of that process for you, to be able to come to that place.

Josh: Oh, a big process. When I told him that I loved him, it was in the same context I told him that I forgave him.

Nancy: Was that something you felt? Or was that just active obedience? I mean, you had all those years of the pain and the anger. How did that just go away?

Josh: I would say, with my father, I felt it.

Nancy: God just put that in your heart?

Josh: It was produced by the Holy Spirit, yes. But here’s what I didn’t feel. With Wayne Bailey who homosexually raped me for seven years in my own house . . .

Nancy: This was the farmhand?

Josh: Yes. He was a cook and a housekeeper. For seven years, every week, three to four times a week, he would abuse me, and my parents wouldn’t stop it. I’d go to my parents, and they wouldn’t believe me.

After I trusted Christ as Savior and Lord . . . Nancy, you probably had this, something in your life where you just had to tell someone . . .

Nancy: . . . what had happened to you?

Josh: Yes, but I don’t think I was looking for answers. I don’t think I was looking for healing or anything. I just wanted someone to believe me. So I called up the man who led me to Christ, Rev. Faye Logan of Factoryville Bible Church here in Michigan, and I said, “Can I come over and see you?”

I drove over forty-five minutes to see him from college. I sat there forty-five minutes to an hour, and I couldn’t tell him. Finally I just blurted it out, Nancy, and he believed me. Oh, Nancy, that was like being born again, again. It scares me now to think what if he hadn’t believed me. I don’t think I ever would have gone to anyone again.

Nancy: And this was back in the days when people didn’t talk about that kind of thing.

Josh: Oh nobody even knew about it. I mean, you didn’t talk about it. You never saw it on television—which was black and white TV then­­. You never heard it on radio, never read it in magazines or newspapers. It was just as prominent then as it is today, but nobody talked about it.

And so my parents, who never went beyond the second grade, I can understand how they wouldn’t believe me.

Nancy: But this pastor did.

Josh: Yes. What Faye Logan did is he for six months mentored me on the Scriptures. People say, “Josh, why do you have such a deep conviction that the Bible is true?”

I say, “One thing is that I know why I believe it is true. The second thing is, I’ve experienced it.”

I mean, he literally ministered the Word of God to me, and I saw changes in my attitude, behavior, everything, over those six months from the Word of God being placed in my heart and mind. Then at the end of that six months, I knew he was going to say it, Nancy. I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew he was going to say it, and he did say it. He said, “Josh, you need to forgive him.” 

Nancy: This Wayne Bailey.

Josh: Yes, who abused me, and I said, “Absolutely not. I want him to burn in hell, and I will escort him there.”

But here was the issue: I knew the Bible was true, and I knew God commanded me to forgive. So I did it. But, Nancy, I want you to understand: I had no good feeling. Nothing. I did it by faith. And the Bible says, “Except by faith we can’t please God.” And I knew God commanded it. I knew He desired that I do it, and if I did it, He would bless me out of it, and He would be blessed. So I did it without any feeling. I wanted the man to burn in hell.

I was in Battle Creek, Michigan. I drove up to Jackson, about forty-five miles away, and knocked on the door. When Wayne Bailey answered it I said, “Wayne, what you did to me was evil. It was very evil. But I’ve come to know Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, and I’ve come here to tell you . . .” What I told him I knew it was true, but, Nancy, I really emotionally did not want it to be true. I told him, “Wayne, I’ve come here to tell you that Jesus died as much for you as He did for me. I forgive you.”

If I hadn’t done that, Nancy, I would have destroyed my marriage, my family, everything, because that bitterness would have eaten away at me. But I think it’s important that people understand that I had no good emotional feeling about it. I did it out of obedience, and God blessed it. God changed my life through the act of forgiveness.

Nancy: How did he respond?

Josh: He just stood there, and I never saw him again after that. Eight years later he died.

Nancy: Okay, for some people I know this is touching a real raw nerve. A lot of listeners right now have a Wayne Bailey in their life, and there is no emotion in them saying, “Forgive,” much less go to that person and engage with them in any way. In fact, there is maybe this sense that by you going to that Wayne Bailey and saying what you said that justice wasn’t served or that you’re letting them off the hook or that you’re saying, “What they did was okay.”

All these thoughts have got to be flooding in. How do you put all that together?

Josh: Well, I think it was through that six months of mentoring. When I get up to speak to any group of young people, no matter the finest church in America, I have to have in my mind: One-third of them have been abused, and that could be low.

Nancy: And that’s probably true of our audience right now.

Josh: And they say, “What do I do?” My first comment is this: “Don’t go it alone. You won’t make it. You won’t make it. It’s too deep, especially over a period of time where it builds in you. It doesn’t go away. You actually stuff it down further, and it controls your very being.

Nancy: So when you say, “Don’t go it alone . . .”

Josh: Find someone you can share it with, someone you respect. If you’re a young lady, if you’re a woman, find a woman. If you’re a man, find a man. Go to them. Share it with them. Ask if they will mentor you—not for long, maybe three months—not a long time, not a year, no. Just a short period of time.

Nancy: You mean mentor you in the Word of God.

Josh: That’s right. It has to be in the Word of God.

Second, the attitude that probably freed me up more than anything and has brought me through so many hard times is the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and not just believing that, but knowing why I believe it. That’s why I’ve written so many books on it.

That brought me through so many tough situations. For example: Knowing the Bible was true, I concluded this, and, Nancy, this is the most freeing thought I’ve ever had in my life. It changed my life. It brought about tremendous healing. I get chills thinking of this. There’s nothing too great in my life for God’s power to deal with, nor anything too small or insignificant for His love to be concerned about.

Nancy: Okay, say that again.

Josh: There’s nothing too great in my life for His power to deal with, nor anything too small for His love to be concerned about.

That set me free to be vulnerable, to trust God for my emotions, my hurts, my bitterness, my hatred, that His Son went through all that. And that phrase: Nothing too great in my life for His power to deal with, and nothing too small or insignificant for His love to be concerned about, set me free.

Nancy: I know we have some listeners right now who are thinking about that humongous situation in their childhood or their past or their present. Some are living in that kind of situation right now where there is pain, there is dysfunction, there is brokenness, there may be abuse, and this is just too big for God’s power to deal with. You’re saying, “Not so.”

Josh: Oh, absolutely not so. This is where anyone who will mentor you, you will come to that conclusion from the Scriptures.

Nancy: If you’ll get into the Word.

Josh: Absolutely.

Nancy: And what I love, Josh, as I listen to this story is how God has rewritten, rerouted your family line. He’s given you a new family line, so unlike the one that you came from. And who but God could do that?

Josh: You know, Nancy, that’s something that I’ve said over and over again in all the years. One of the greatest motivations in my life was I wanted to change the McDowell family tree.

Nancy: Josh, I know there are people listening to this story right now who are thinking, who have been thinking, “My family line could never be anything but really, really messed up.”

Josh: And that’s wrong. God is greater than that, but if you try to go it alone, it will probably be messed up. You’ve got to allow people in the Body of Christ to step into your life and minister Jesus and the Word of God to you.

Here is something I’ve learned over the years: When you fail to forgive, you burn the bridge over which someday you must walk.

Every one of us needs forgiveness. We hurt people. We hurt, but we need forgiveness. When we fail to forgive, we burn the bridge for receiving that forgiveness ourselves. And when we fail to forgive, it doesn’t hurt the other person. It does not hurt the other person.

Nancy: As much as we’d like it to.

Josh: That’s right. But it hurts us. I know so many people. They come up to me.  They’re sixty, sixty-five, seventy years old, and they’ve allowed somebody else to control their life. When you don’t forgive, that other person controls your life. I know many people, their fathers still control their lives from the grave because they haven’t forgiven them. This is where the Bible is so strong on forgiveness.

Nancy: Josh, I wonder if you would just, right now, pray for listeners who are grappling with this whole issue of forgiveness, who need God to intervene, give them a new family line, and they’ve been hanging on every word of your story, and maybe there’s just this glimmer of hope that, “God could do something to change my life, to set me free from the bitterness, from the anger.”

I just want us to pray for those listeners right now and ask if you would lead us in that prayer.

Josh: Well, let’s pray.

Father God, I just thank You for Your Scriptures, and I thank You for how Your Word has played such a major role in my own life, in my thinking, my emotions, my whole being.

And Father, I pray for that sister, that brother who’s listening right now that has maybe has been through some of what I’ve been through and maybe other areas. I pray, Lord, that first of all, as a result of this program, You will give them hope.

I pray, if nothing else, You will use this program to give them the conviction that they can’t go it alone. Father, bring someone into their life that can minister Christ to them because we’re so blinded emotionally to our own needs and to the solution because the hurt is so great.

And Father, I pray that every person listening will come to the day where they can say, “Oh God, You are good. You have met my emotional needs. You have dealt with my fears. You’ve dealt with the guilt. And You’ve dealt with the lack of forgiveness.” In Jesus’ name, amen.


I often meet women who have experienced the horrendous marks and wounds of sexual abuse and other kinds of abuse. I know from listening to those stories that the path of least resistance is to hold on to that hurt and to let bitterness and unforgiveness rule our lives.

Well, the thing I love about Josh McDowell’s story is that it shows what it looks like to trust God even when it feels like everyone else has let you down. Josh’s story also illustrates and demonstrates how you can trust God with those who have wronged you and offer forgiveness in the name of Jesus.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.




A victory story from First5 App




2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Paul was a man well-acquainted with suffering. A quick glance ahead at 2 Corinthians 11:23-27reveals just how much suffering he endured over his years of ministry.

Shipwrecks. Beatings. Stoning. Hunger. Thirst. Sleeplessness.

All for the sake of Christ.

But the very things that could have shut him down and shut him up only served to fuel him all the more. And the hope and comfort he found from God, over and over in the midst of his troubles, made him even more resolute to make Christ known.

Paul calls for us to do the same in our key verse. Challenging us to remember that God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comfort-ABLE … able to help others.

I realize most of us have never faced struggles like Paul’s. But we all have stories of difficulty and pain in our past. Some involve hurt brought into our lives by other’s words and actions. Other stories involve pain from our own choices.

Thankfully, God is able to bring hope and healing out of any and all of our struggles. I know this because it is exactly what God has done for me with a decision that haunted me for years.

Many, many years ago, I made the excruciating choice to have an abortion.

It seemed like the only answer at the time. And the abortion clinic workers assured me that they could take care of this “problem” quickly and easily, so I would never have to think about it again.

What a lie.

I walked around in a zombie-like state in the months following that decision with a growing hatred for myself at the root of my pain and confusion.

I kept my secret buried deep within my heart. I was so ashamed, so horrified, so convinced that if anyone ever found out I’d had an abortion, I’d be rejected by all my church friends and deemed a woman unfit to serve God.

My complete healing began when I was finally able to turn my thoughts past my own healing to helping others in the same situation. It was terrifying to think about sharing my story with another person. But then I heard of a young girl who worked for my husband who found out she was unexpectedly pregnant. She’d asked for a few days off to have an abortion.

I was faced with a fierce tug of war in my spirit. I knew if she heard my story, she might make a different choice. But what would she think of me? What would others think if they found out? I knew God wanted me to talk to her; so would I trust Him, or would I retreat back into my shame?

With a cracking voice and tear-filled eyes, I decided to care more about her situation than keeping my secret hidden. I told her the truth of what I’d experienced and prayed she’d make a different choice than I had.

A year after that first meeting, I sat across from her once again. She choked out a whispered, “Thank you,” as she turned and kissed the chubby-cheeked boy in the baby carrier beside her. As soon as she spoke those two life-defining words, tears fell from both of our eyes.

Hers were tears of relief.

Mine were tears of redemption.

Both were wrapped in the hope that God truly can take even our worst mistakes and somehow bring good from them.

Sweet friend, there are people in your sphere of influence who need to hear your story. I realize an abortion may not be the pain you’re dealing with, but I also know few of us have escaped very deep hurts.

Will you go? Will you share? Will you allow God to comfort you and then take that comfort to others? This step could help you start your own healing process.

And I believe you’ll find that you are the one who winds up doubly blessed as you walk out the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Prayer: Dear Lord, only You can heal my deepest hurts and use the bad in my life for good. I need You more and more each day. Please continue to work in my life and use me as a light to help those You have entrusted to me. In Jesus’ name, amen


The following story is from the Mending the Soul book, and I wanted to share it so you can see there is hope and there is healing even for the very difficult stories that many experience. I hope to share more of these stories as time goes on.

1. Mary sobbed uncontrollably on the bathroom floor. Her mother stroked her hair and held her until she could finally speak. Mary’s first day of high school had been a parent’s worst nightmare. She had gotten into a fight with a classmate, had threatened the principal, and was on the verge of being expelled from school. Mary’s parents, missionaries with a Christian organization in the inner city of San Francisco, were beside themselves. Ever since she entered adolescence, Mary had grown increasingly rebellious and withdrawn. The precocious little girl who wore fairy dresses and drew pictures of puppies now wore black and drew pictures of corpses. Mary attempted suicide twice in junior high. In fits of rage she would curse her parents for not aborting her before she was born. Her parents sought help from counselors, their youth pastor, and even the family doctor, but nothing seemed to help. It felt as though they were in a losing battle with an invisible demon that was consuming their daughter’s very soul. Finally Mary began to speak to her mother in barely audible whispers. She told about a boy at school who had threatened her friend. As her mother began to question the depth of her rage at the boy, the long-invisible dragon began to take shape. Her cruel classmate had triggered dark memories she had spent years trying to escape. Finally she could no longer hold back the terrible images. She shamefully recounted that five years earlier, her cousin had sexually molested her over a period of two years while he was babysitting her. The molesting stopped once her family moved to San Francisco, but her cousin continued to make sexually suggestive comments whenever she came to visit. Mary’s parents immediately contacted the authorities and the rest of the family. The authorities chose not to prosecute the case, since there was no physical evidence. The extended family turned on Mary and her parents with a vengeance. They accused Mary of trying to destroy the family by making up lies. They accused Mary’s parents of using the cousin as a scapegoat for their poor parenting. They threatened to report Mary’s parents to the mission board to get them removed from their ministry. Even when three other children came forward and reported that the cousin had fondled them, the entire extended family refused to believe or support Mary. They argued that if the cousin had done something inappropriate to Mary, it was in the past, and she was obligated to forgive and forget. To add insult to injury, they rebuked Mary for her anger toward her cousin and said it showed how sinful and unchristian she really was. Two years after disclosing the abuse, Mary still wasn’t sure she could believe in a God who watched her cousin molest her but did nothing to stop it.

2. Mary, the missionary daughter abused by her cousin, is now a young woman. She is an eloquent testimony to God’s power to heal a shattered soul from the ravages of evil. Mary still bears scars on her body from the many times she cut herself with a razor. For years after the abuse, the cutting was the only thing that made her feel better. Now the most noticeable features on Mary’s body are not the scars on her arms and legs but the light in her eyes and the impish smile on her lips. Mary has devoted her professional career to working with abused children. She is still growing and healing, but she recently told me that, for the first time in her life, she truly believes God has redeemed her abuse. This book is dedicated to all the Marys in this world who have suffered the evil of abuse and who need to experience the healing redemption that only the crucified Christ can bring.


1. Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 117-137). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

2. Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 344-350). Zondervan. Kindle Edition


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