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Through her special ministry of restoration and reconciliation, her gift of biblical teaching, and her numerous appearances on radio, television, the Internet, and in churches worldwide, Debra Evans has been able to help thousands of listeners experience God’s mercy, healing, and grace. Her ministry as a speaker and Bible teacher has also guided audiences worldwide to begin to integrate the truths of His Word into their lives. Via her and her husband’s ministry, Living In Faith, she purposely seeks out those who have been consumed by life’s unrelenting circumstances in a quest to see their darkest moments turned into victorious celebration through God’s Word and His healing power.


Through the years Rick Evans has been a guest on many national and international platforms including Billy Graham, Promise Keepers, the Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie, and ten years as a featured member of the Franklin Graham Crusade team. He is also the lead singer and General Manager of The Classic Imperials, and has filled many pulpits as a speaker. Rick’s valuable experience has enabled him to navigate across denominational lines and bring a clear message of hope and truth to those from any background who are eager to be restored from the devastation life has leveled at them. In addition to his earned degree in human development, he is also the president of his own company—Impact, Inc.--a church consulting and counseling organization whose mission is to help bring people and organizations to complete mental, spiritual, and systemic health.


Living In Faith was launched in 2000 and has grown to a worldwide ministry that has brought healing, restoration, and reconciliation to tens of thousands of seekers and believers alike. Debra Evans’s powerful teaching, combined with her husband Rick’s counseling and administrative gifts, has helped broken lives damaged by the devastation of unfulfilled expectations to experience the power that comes only through God’s Word and His unfailing love. For more information or to join our mailing list, contact Living In Faith at: 695 Nashville Pike #185 • Gallatin, TN 37066-5417 Phone: 615-449-8383 www.livinginfaith.com


When the once-upon-a-time of little-girl dreams gives way to “real life ever after,” where do you turn? Debra Evans knows, and she shares the way out of the faded fairy tale for every woman in this inspirational new book But for God: Through Broken Windowpanes (Living in Faith, ISBN: 978-0-615-39811-2, October 12th, $14.99). While But for God: Through Broken Windowpanes is the personal account of a woman who has humbly risen from the ashes of poverty, abuse, and abandonment to become an international speaker and teacher, it is also much more. This book shows readers through Debra’s story that even when it seems God is nowhere to be found, He is always intervening very personally on our behalf to accomplish His beautiful best for us. Using the tale of Cinderella as a fundamental touchpoint that most women grow up aspiring to (and that Debra herself sought), Debra shares her very personal story of overcoming great adversity through the healing power and miraculous grace of a loving God. It is a story that includes the heartbreaks of: • being conceived in the backseat of a car at a drive-in by a teenage mother and young father • being emotionally abandoned by her father as a little girl and treated as a pawn in her parents’ bitter divorce • being left in the care of an abusive grandmother and abusive mother-turnedexotic-dancer • enduring the stigmas of poverty, learning difficulties, and a broken engagement • being denied her dream to enter medical school • marrying a man who she knew she shouldn’t marry—a man who deceived her, emotionally abused her, and ended up incarcerated, leaving her to raise two sons on her own • raising a son through the challenges and stigma of learning disabilities and having to find him help as a “virtual” single parent • suffering the wounds of a divorce after enduring 23 years of marriage • But even more, it is the uplifting story of a faithful God who took those heartbreaks and turned them into His calling, His healing, and His beautiful purpose.


• A God who spoke His dream to her as a five-year-old as she stood staring at a church altar—a dream that she would see fulfilled in a very unexpected way as an adult • A God who met her where she was in her anger at men, her self-destruction, and her personal turmoil and put her on a journey to His wholeness • A God who breathed life into her dead son upon the delivery table and healed her of physical illnesses • A God who made the promises of His Word come alive as she learned to follow and trust His ways • A God who delivered her from her emotional torment through the provision of spiritual parents and His healing power • A God who powerfully used His Word to rescue her from being victimized by her circumstances • A God who empowered her to forgive herself and those who had hurt her and step out in faith to begin an international ministry of healing and restoration • A God who gave her a second chance at love—and fulfilled His dreams for her As Debra so poignantly reminds readers throughout the book, But for God, we would all live under the consequences of every choice we have made, are making, or will ever make. But for God, we would forever be condemned to look at life through fantasies and broken windowpanes rather than through the clarity of His dreams and purposes for us. This page-turner of a book gives hope that every woman can find the rainbow of redemption even after a lifetime of defeat, despair, and destruction—all because of God. “The results of my story—the good, the bad, and the ugly—are all shared here, all for the glory of God,” says the author. “Because I know that what He did for me, He stands ready to do for you. Especially when life’s hardships come knocking.” DEBRA EVANS has helped thousands of listeners experience God’s gifts of mercy, healing, grace and truth through frequent appearances on radio, television and internet outlets, and in churches worldwide. She and her husband, Rick, have established Living In Faith (www.livinginfaith.com), a multifaceted ministry that guides people from darkness into victory through the Word of God and His healing power.


Introduction It wasn’t the happy life we hear preached from TV pulpits or read about in romance novels. Mine wasn’t even remotely the fairy tale we imagine as little girls. You know the one . . . • where we play house with our dolls and wait for our Prince Charming to come and sweep us off our feet; • where all our needs are met and our longings satisfied by a knight in shining armor; • where the quaint little cottage with the white-picket fence and the perfect little family are in our future. I believed it all, held out for it all, sought it all—the total, make-believe package. But no matter how hard I tried to fashion the fairy-tale life, my reality never approached the dream. In fact, it was the exact opposite. So instead of enjoying a perfectly beautiful existence in a pristine world, I suffered in the storybook equivalent of a ramshackle hut with broken windowpanes. In fact, the pains of life were breaking me every day. No wonder I was always adding another chapter to my imaginary tale. It’s not really surprising once you know the actual details of my story. I did like many of us do: created a dream world to counteract real life—and tried to keep the dream alive for far too many years. Such fantasies are especially tempting if you’ve grown up 1

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without a father (whether he’s physically or emotionally absent) or, for that matter, grown up without anyone taking care of you. Both realities were at the root of my story—and they might have been the end of my story as well. But for God. When I finally gave up my fairy tale for God’s better, God broke through the chains of my past and delivered me once and for all. I was raised in a non-churched home where I experienced abuse and abandonment. My life had been consumed with rejection, which created ongoing feelings of despair, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness as an adult. (I’ve observed the same symptoms in churched families, with the main difference being that, as Christians, they have learned to conceal their reality with denial and “religion.”) God healed me for a purpose: there are many other women like me, who have grown up believing that their only hope is in a fairy tale, and God has led me to share the struggles of my life—to bring my story of restoration and emotional and physical healing to the Body of Christ—in hopes of offering some clarity to whatever situation you may be facing today. I would not presume to know what your situation was growing up, or what it may be at this moment, but I can tell you that even though my looking glass was shattered beyond human repair, God was there to restore all that I lost—and all that others took from me—so that I could clearly see His truths and live His promises. The results of my story—the good, the bad, and the ugly—are shared here, all for the glory of God. Because I know that what He did for me, He stands ready to do for you. Especially when life’s hardships come knocking. As you read my story, allow the Holy Spirit to begin your restoration with the same love and grace that Jesus offered me. Let my story guide you out of condemnation and spare you 2

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Introduction

the heartache of a defeated, destructive life. Let the true tale of this ordinary girl, and her extraordinary God, testify to the hope and healing that await you in the arms of One who loves you in every success and every failure. He truly is no respecter of persons! The Great I AM is sufficient for you, just as He was (and is) for me. I am living proof that, in Him, there is hope in a seemingly hopeless past, and that your future is safe in your heavenly Father’s arms. Amid the ups and downs of my early faith, I found it easy to embrace the mountaintop experiences as God’s blessings— and just as natural to list all the valleys of life in the category of God’s punishment. It took time for me to learn that while God does abundantly bless us, He also allows certain defining moments in our lives to mold us for His glory. Dearest child of the Lord, if you’re experiencing one of those defining moments, if you’ve had a past that seems impossible to overcome, don’t lose hope. The enemy would condemn you to lifelong bondage and emotional baggage . . . but for God. Because of God, your restoration is only a prayer away; your heavenly Father is standing closer than you think; and he is waiting for the perfect moment to rescue you from the depths of your despair. That is the truth of my story with Him, the truth of the journey we will take with this book, and the truth of His intervention in the lives of all of us who are willing. Know that I have been praying for you, dear sister. And my hope is that as you read this, you will allow the Lord Jesus Christ to move in your heart, heal your past and your emotions with His grace and truth, and restore to you every good gift from above that the enemy has stolen. It all begins with our first step out of the fairy tale … 3

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1 BUt FoR God

Bad beginnings produce bad endings The enemy tells us, “If you’re born into hardship, you’re done. The script is written—the end. Don’t even bother to hope for a different ending. And certainly don’t look for a happy one; that only happens in fiction.” He laughs. “That’s why it’s called fiction.” But God says to each of us: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To her who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. She who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be her God and she will be my daughter” (from Revelation 21:6-7).*

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*Authors’ note: Here and throughout the book, Scripture text that has been adapted with personalized language is designated with the word “from” in front of the reference. Scripture quotes that have not been adapted are simply listed with their reference.

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Cinderella and I know all about bad beginnings. (Perhaps you do too.) Though some of the details are different, we both lost a parent early on—one way or another; endured poverty, despair, neglect; fell under the care of a controlling, abusive woman; and were unwanted stepdaughters. Cinderella’s story doesn’t reveal whether she ever believed she was doomed, but I have to think she did. I certainly thought I was. One difference between us is that by about page 17 of Cinderella’s story—while she is still young—her fairy godmother has already arrived at her rescue, and by page 22, her dreams have come true: she’s been found by a prince, gotten married, escaped poverty, and is living happily ever after. She’s even managed to forgive her wicked stepsisters! But whereas she had a fairy godmother who in short order ensured her happy ending, I spent most of my life wondering if my beginning was my ending too. Wondering if my heavenly Father was going to deliver me. I would still be living Satan’s lie about beginnings . . . but for God.

A r o c k y s ta r t Every story has a beginning and this is mine . . . I was conceived in the backseat of a car at a drive-in theater. At the time, my mother was sixteen years old and my father twenty-one. Though both my parents were raised in the Catholic Church, neither of them had a personal relationship with God. Not long after my mother found out she was pregnant, they were married. Only months later, on November 21, 1956, I was born in a small town in Massachusetts. Growing up, I was told of their incredible love for each other, but unfortunately I never 6

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saw that side of their relationship. They separated only six months after my birth, and were divorced shortly after that. By the time the divorce was final, my mother, my aunt, and I were living with my grandmother, “Nana,” in the projects of Boston. Mom soon began working as a belly dancer to make money. We called Center Street, Jamaica Plain home off and on for the next several years, until Mom remarried. Surrounded by poverty and violence in mid-1900s Boston, the only daughter of a divorced teenage mother and distanced father, the stage was set for my story to play out, and play out it did. It would prove to be a far cry from the quick, happy ending that my fictional heroine had.

F r o m t h e b e gi n n i n g My dad remarried when I was two. It’s been said that our earliest memories say something significant about us even into adulthood, and in my life it’s true: I don’t remember much from my first few years except that, from the age of three on, my father’s absence— and his transition away from my mother and me into a new life— left me feeling lost, alone, and rejected. Looking back, I can say without hesitation that the greatest consequence of my unfortunate beginning is that I never really bonded with my father. Although Dad would visit on Sundays and holidays, I’d feel abandoned again every time I watched him leave—which influenced my decisions for the next thirty years. Left alone with a mother too young to understand the responsibility of raising a child, I was forced to work out my feelings in a world colored by anger, poverty, and mistrust. And in that world my little-girl hopes for a happy ending began crumbling from the start, piece by bitter piece. 7

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My parents, like so many couples, traded away the bonds of love and passion, never even thinking about the hurricane of destruction they were creating in the lives of those around them. This was never more visible than in my first memories of my father’s weekend visits. His presence incited nothing but tension and arguments between him and Mom. Their unbearable hatred was all I saw between the two of them, and from the start it consumed my emotions and began to mold my thinking about myself and the world I lived in. I can still remember the fear that would overwhelm my little heart as they would verbally abuse each other and then drag me into their fight and force me to choose sides. And always, always, always confusion and panic gripped me as I watched the people I loved the most in the world tear each other apart. Like any little girl in such sorrowful circumstances, I wanted so badly to close my eyes and believe that if I could just click my ruby slippers together three times, I could have my fairy-tale family restored. Just like any normal child, I longed for my mom and dad to be together, and dreamed of how much they both would love me when they were reconciled. But unfortunately, this was only a fantasy. When I opened my eyes from wishing, my reality was a mother and father who hated each other, with me as their only connection. Putting two and two together in my young mind, I concluded I was the reason my father would come to the house . . . and the reason my mother would scream and yell at him. I was the reason my mom had to become a dancer. I was the reason we lived in the projects in Boston. And, it seemed, I was the reason for their pain. How could one little girl, who just wanted to love and be 8

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loved, create so much trouble? What I didn’t know then, nor did I discover until much later— long after years of secular therapy had droned on and on and left me unchanged—was that the only true Healer and Restorer of broken dreams is Jesus Christ. Only He could and would bring joy from the decades of pain and despair. But until then, the fear and insecurity that hung over my spirit in childhood would continue to choke out trust, aided by the absence of a loving male role model and the ever-threatening presence of abuse. •••

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Making It Pe r s o na l : L o o k i n g t h r o u g h L i f e ’ s W i n d owpa n e s It doesn’t take an expert to confirm that our personality, character, and core values are greatly shaped by the first few years of our lives—we can see this truth unfold in our lives, especially when we look back as adults. The precious, formative years of childhood are like clay on the potter’s wheel, being spun by life into the shape of our destiny. The experiences of our childhood aren’t the only factor in determining our future, but they do have an impact. And the negative experiences will have to be reckoned with if we are to find health and wholeness as adults. If you were blessed to grow up in a home full of acceptance and love, your heart was probably carefully spun with tools of tenderness and consistency, and the vessel of your life has been shaped sturdy and strong—strong enough that it should be able to hold all that life will bring you. For those of us who have not been as fortunate, our jars have been forever altered by the tools of abandonment and rejection that frustrated hands carved into the 9

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core of our being. The finished product is damaged goods—lives streaked by insecurity and fear, malformed and misshaped without a secure base to stand on. But for God. Though abandonment and rejection may have caused you, dear sister, to lose your expectation of love, don’t think for one second that you are the only one. This is the condition of all who are brokenhearted: “I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 69:20). Simply put, the aching heart turns itself off. But let me share some truth with you that I hope you will let sink into your soul: Your life is not a clay pot that, once fired in the kiln, can never be made right. You are a daughter of the living God, the Master Potter who breathes life into clay and makes it beautiful. You were not in control of the life or the choices you made in your earliest years, and God knows that. Rather, you innocently and unknowingly accepted a lie cultivated by those closest to you and mirrored that image. But you are older now, and by God’s grace, you don’t have to keep mirroring that first glimpse of the world as you knew it. If your experiences resembled mine, you probably grew up believing that you couldn’t trust anyone, including God—all because your world was so carelessly shaped by the adults who were supposed to be nurturing you. If you’re like I was, you also grew to accept a standard far below God’s best for you—all because you felt you couldn’t be anything more than the past you were given. But for God, these beginnings would be your destiny. Your family origins in dysfunction, turmoil, and chaos would be your emotional death sentence. You would spend your life punishing yourself in the belief that your parents’ hatred for each other was 10

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somehow your fault, or that something was wrong with you. This is exactly the beginning of the enemy’s lie for many of us, and in my case, that one falsehood affected all of my life choices until I began the quest for wholeness. A quest that eventually led me straight to God. Psalm 34:18 says that God is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” If your story begins with a broken heart, take heart. Because through Christ your Deliverer, a better ending awaits. My story is living proof . . . •••

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But For God  

New Book from Debra Evans

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