Joyce Meyer - My Story - Part 1
I'm gonna sit here and just tell you my story. And I believe that there's some people here today that this is gonna really help you and really be life-changing for you. Obviously, to get from where I started to where I am, there had to be a lot of pressing in and pressing on and pressing through. And so, let's pray:
Father, I pray that since I don't have any plan at all about what's gonna come out of my mouth that you said in your word to open your mouth and you would fill it. So, I'm gonna step out of here and try to walk on water and open my mouth and trust you to fill it and bring the things out that the people need to hear. My story's too long to tell it in an hour, but I trust you to bring out the parts that are gonna help people the most. And I pray that when we're done here today, that everybody will understand that there's nothing that they cannot overcome if they will let you lead them and guide them. In Jesus' name, amen.
So, you know, we all have a story, and it's not that my story is any better than anybody else's. Everybody's story is important to them. And we've all been hurt. So, I don't tell you this in any kind of self-pity feeling mode. Actually, I can sit here today and tell you that, and I know this sound, it even sounds stupid to me, but I'm glad now that I went through what I went through, because I know it has made me the person that I am today. And it's what has enabled me to be able to help many people around the world. Because there are so many people, especially women, that have been abused. There's probably no telling how many people in this room today that have been sexually abused and maybe you've told somebody, maybe you've never told anybody.
But if not that kind of abuse, some kind of abandonment, or parents that didn't love you, or people that talked down to you, or compared you to another sibling, or whatever the case might be, we've all been hurt. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones that was raised by great parents who told you, they loved you and told you that you could do anything, you are blessed beyond measure because what people do to kids in their early life sometimes is pretty pathetic. I know a lot of times they don't really realize what they're doing. Most people are just acting out of their own hurt. That's why it really doesn't do any good to hate people that hurt you.
That's the first thing you wanna get a hold of, because you can never get well if you're full of hate. You can't do it. You just, you cannot get well unless you forgive. That's one of the first things, and it seems like the most unfair thing to ask anybody to do. But anything that God asks us to do, he asks, it's for our benefit. You have to realize that. Even though it seems hard and unfair, it's always for your benefit. And you see, hating someone that hurt you is like taking poison, hoping your enemy will die. It's like you really just poison yourself.
So, I wanted to kind of divide this up in two parts a little bit about the abuse, but then I want to talk to you about the early days of the ministry and the things that we had to press through to get from where we started to where we are. Because you see, Dave and I, we didn't have any idea what we were doing. None whatsoever. It's not like God calls people that are qualified. So, don't try to use the excuse, "I'm not qualified". Because it just seems like he doesn't call people that are qualified. He just calls people that are available and are goofy enough to step out and... Be willing to be a fool for Christ. You know, you just, I mean, I honestly, really did not know what I was doing. I mean, I came close to failing English in school. And I always disliked my voice because I have a very deep voice for a woman. And so now God blasts it all over the earth. And he's got quite a sense of humor, really, if you think about it.
So, I was born in 1943, right in the middle of World War II, and my dad was shipped off to boot camp the day I was born. And so, I only saw him one time between then and the time I was three years old. And so, it was just me, and my mom, and my aunt, and my uncle. My uncle had flat feet and they wouldn't take men with flat feet into the army, at that time. And so, my earliest memory is of just being afraid of my dad. I was always, I was just rooted in fear from as far back as I can remember. He just, my mom said when he came home from the army that he was just different than he was when he went in. And I think a lot of men experienced that, a lot of the things that they saw and went through. And he wasn't really even in combat, but he was just different. And he was just mean.
And sometimes I think just him being mean was even worse than the abuse. But he had something wrong with him. He grew up in a family that had incest and he brought it with him. And so, from the earliest time I can remember, he was molesting me and then went to pretty much making me his mistress by the time I was about 13 years old. And he didn't control me with force, but he controlled me with fear. And it's hard to explain how you can be that afraid of somebody, that you will do whatever they tell you to do. But that kind of fear is, it's just sickening. It's like, he worked nights and I thank God for that because at least I didn't have to be around him at night. And my mom was also afraid of him.
I had one brother that my dad pretty much left alone. And I remember when my mom was pregnant with him, praying he'd be a girl, hoping my dad would like her better than me and leave me alone. Wasn't very nice thing to pray, but I prayed it. And I reached out to a couple of relatives, tried to get them to help me, and nobody wanted to get involved. You see, back then, in the '50s, you never heard of anything like what we're talking about here. You never heard anything about sexual abuse or, it's just not anything that you heard of. It happened. But women were different then, too. Very few women left their husbands, very few women divorced.
And so, when I was about nine, I told my mother what my dad was doing to me. And I remember she examined me to see if she could find any damage. And of course, he told her I was lying, and she chose to believe him. I don't know if she really believed him, but she chose to believe him. When I was 14, she walked in the house and caught him. And she turned around, walked out of the house, stayed gone two hours, came back and never said a word about it. Never said anything about it. But there was always a wedge between me and her after that. And she kind of turned toward my brother and she babied him. And poor guy, he never had a dad.
When he was 17, he went in the marines, and they shipped him off to Vietnam. And long story short, he got addicted to drugs when he was over there, out in those jungles. And I'll just make a long story short, he ended up committing suicide because he never could get off of the drugs. He tried, but, we tried to help him. He was a good guy and I honestly believe that he went to heaven. He did believe. He just had so many problems that he just couldn't get straight, you know, and sometimes people are just like that. They just, it's just more than what they can handle or overcome. Actually, the last place he was, was a dream center in L.A. I called pastor Tommy. And he lived with us for four years, and we thought he got pretty straightened out. We felt like it was time for him to move out on his own. But he was okay as long as he had somebody telling him what to do and watching him all the time.
But as soon as you, he got out on his own, he never had any discipline or self-control. He'd always go back to the way he was before. And he had a son, which he didn't take care of. He never paid child support, never took care of him. He was just extremely irresponsible. And so, between the alcohol and the drugs and then he actually also was, I realize now, was schizophrenic. And my mother was, too. My mother's, I think, was from guilt. She had so much guilt. And when I was, I guess, about 18, she had a complete mental breakdown and had to take shock treatments for two years. And so, there's just a whole mess, mess, mess, mess, mess.
Thank God, when I was nine years old, I snuck off to church with my aunt and uncle when we were in what we called, "The country". They lived about 300 miles from us in southeast Missouri. And I went to church with the intention of being saved. Now, I knew I needed to be saved, I don't know. I mean, I don't even know where I learned the term. But that night, of all nights, the pastor forgot to have an altar call. Well, I guess I had a little bit of determination then, because I had two cousins with me and I took each one of them by the hand and I said, "We are going to go get saved"! So, I guess there were some symptoms of an evangelist already. And so, we went down to the front, and I remember, I was crying, and I looked at the pastor and I said, "Can you save me"? And he prayed with us.
And I remember, oh, I felt such a cleansing inside. It was just, was beautiful. But the next day I cheated in a game of hide-and-go-seek. I had my head against the house, and I peeked. And the devil told me I lost my salvation and I never had anybody to tell me any different. And so, from then until I was about 18, that was it, I just thought whatever it was I got, I lost. But I didn't realize until later in life that, I always used to say, "When I was about nine years old, this determination came into me that I was gonna overcome". I just got this determination. "This is not gonna defeat me. Nobody's gonna help me. So, I'm just gonna have to make it through this and I will survive". And I remember I used to lay in bed when I was in my teens at night, and I would think, "Someday, I'm gonna do something great".
Now, I don't know if that was just destiny talking or if it was just my bullheadedness. But my dad always told me I would never amount to anything. And so, I was just determined that I was gonna do something with my life. I always had a gift to write. And my teachers wanted me to apply for a journalism scholarship, but I knew that I needed to just get out of school and go to work and take care of myself. And so, I didn't even try to go to college. And I think it's kind of funny that I've written 142, or 153 books and never had any education to do it. And so, don't ever think that you don't have enough education to do something. You can do anything God wants you to do. Amen? And there's nothing that you go through that you cannot overcome with God's help. Nothing. Nothing at all.
So, you can imagine what my life was like for those 18 years. I mean, I look back and really, I don't even really like to use the word, but in affect what my father did was rape me. He didn't forcibly do it, but he still did it. And the best I can imagine, probably about 200 times during those 18 years. So, I grew up pretty lonely. He had such a problem: I couldn't even really bring a girlfriend home because he would try to get after them. And he wouldn't let me do anything, he would let me go anywhere. I couldn't have any friends. So, my whole first 18 years was just, "I'm gonna survive and I'm gonna get out of here". And he worked nights and so as soon as I got out of school, I packed up my stuff in two or three little boxes and I rented myself a furnished apartment and I left.
And I thought that I got away from my problem, but I didn't realize I took it with me in my soul. I really honestly didn't realize that I had a problem. And that's the first problem, is when you have a problem and don't realize you have a problem. Because what you do is you blame it on everybody else. Amen? And so, I thought nobody would ever want me because I'd been abused. So, I married the first guy that showed any interest in me. And I was 18, he was 19, and he had more problems than me, if that was possible. And problemed people usually marry other problemed people and then they give each other problems. And then if they have kids, they give those kids problems. But the first time I got pregnant: I had a miscarriage. And then my oldest son that I named "David," was the result of that marriage.
Now, that was a five-year nightmare. I mean, he just was, he wouldn't work. Well, he sold used cars. But most of the time he didn't work. And he was a petty thief. And right after I divorced him, he ended up going to prison for writing bad checks. And when I was 18, he took me to Albuquerque. Back then they used to pay people to drive cars across the country. And so, we drove a car to Albuquerque, and he got paid for that. And we were there a couple of weeks and one day he just didn't come home. And so, I got abandoned in Albuquerque: didn't have a car. Had a job, I walked to work, didn't have any money. Finally found somebody in St. Louis, the brother of a girl I knew, and he sent me enough money for a bus ticket to come home. He did the same thing again to me, one time, in Oakland, California. And he ran around with other women all the time.
Finally, when I got pregnant, with the boy that now runs our world missions, I left him. And he told everybody that the baby wasn't his. And he lived about two blocks from me with another woman. Oh, I've had lots of fun in my life. And so, when I had the baby, he came to the hospital. You couldn't deny that the baby was his 'cause he looked just like him. We left the hospital and had nowhere to go. So, for all intents and purposes, I was homeless. It's really rather funny when I think about it now, here I am today, and at one time I didn't, I was homeless. I didn't have a place to go.
And so, I'm telling you, whatever has gone on in your life or whatever is going on, don't ever think that you can't overcome it and that God can still do something great in your life. Because I am telling you, you can have a lousy start and a great finish. Amen. So, he called one of his brothers' ex-wife, who was a Christian, and asked if she would take us in for a while, and she said, "Yes". And I had no idea what I was doing. I had this baby. And I must have had an infection, I got two or three big boils on my body and didn't even have enough sense to try to go to the doctor and so, as soon as I could, I got a job and got an apartment, and he was off living with his girlfriend, and he came back one more time. And I just, I finally got to the point where I couldn't take anymore and I said, "I'm getting a divorce".
Well, I really couldn't take care of myself and the baby. And with nobody to help me, so, it was a last resort, but I knew that I was gonna have to call my dad and see if I could come back home. Well, I knew what that meant. I knew that meant I was gonna have to spend all my time trying to dodge him. Well, into the picture comes Dave Meyer. And my mom and dad had a four-family flat. Do you know what that is? It's like, they used to be real popular. You'd buy a house, but it had a, well, it was a two-family flat. And they were in the city, and you'd have a house on top of a house, and they rented the apartment upstairs.
And so, the young man that lived upstairs worked with Dave. And Dave came one night to pick him up to go somewhere. And I was out in front washing my mother's car and I had on short shorts... And he thought I looked pretty good. So, he decided to flirt with me. Well, I didn't like men, I didn't trust men, and I was a smart aleck. And he said, "When you wash that car, would you like to wash mine"? And I said, "Buddy, if you want your car washed, wash it yourself". Now, what I'm getting ready to tell you is the honest to God's truth, Dave was a born-again, spirit-filled Christian, who'd been praying for a wife. He told God he was ready to get married and he said, "Make it somebody that needs help".
So, he could never say he didn't ask for what he got. It was, when I look back, it was such a divine set up. I used to lay in bed with my first husband and pray that someday God would give me somebody that would really love me. And I always said, "Make it somebody that'll take me to church". I wanted to go to church. I wanted to serve God, but I didn't know how to do it by myself. And I always prayed from the time I was nine years old, I prayed. And, you know, I prayed that God would get me out of that situation, and he didn't. But he did get me through it. And sometimes we pray for God to get us out of things and he doesn't, and we don't understand. And you can ask me, "Do I understand God not delivering a little girl from a situation like that"? And no, I don't, but it's all turned out great.
And God has reasons for things that we don't understand and all I know is there's nothing in your life that will be wasted. No amount of pain, no amount of injustice will be wasted if you'll give it to God. He will make something beautiful out of it, amen? And so, Dave said the thing that went off on the inside of him as soon as I said that was, "That's the girl for me". So, it either had to be God or he had to be crazy, one of the two. And I guess, it was God because we're 56 years down the road and we're still together, amen. We had three dates or four, maybe five, I forget. And he asked me to marry him. And the night he asked me to marry him, I kept trying to get home because I wanted to get home before my dad did. He always went out and got drunk on Saturday night. So, you always wanted to be in bed, pretend like you were asleep when he came home.
And Dave kept saying, like, "There's something I wanna talk to you about". Well, I thought he was gonna break up with me because I always looked at the negative of everything. I always expected the worst because that's what I had had. And maybe some of you are still doing that today. You're still expecting the worst because that's what you've had. Well, I'm asking you to make a fresh start and start believing that something good is going to happen to you at any moment. Can you do that? And I wanna encourage you to even say every morning, "Something good is gonna happen to me today". Not because you're good, but because God's good. Amen? "Something good is going to happen to me today. Amen".
And so, we got married. Didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing. I didn't even know what love was. I had a baby, almost one year old. And we were married about three weeks and Dave looked at me and he said, "What's wrong with you"? I was so negative. He said, "Why are you so negative"? And I said, "Well, if you don't expect anything good to happen, then you're not disappointed when it doesn't". So, don't ever tell me you cannot overcome negativity because I could not think two positive thoughts in a row without my brain getting in a cramp.