Beauty for Ashes

Receiving Emotional Healing


By Joyce Meyer

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Learn how God’s grace can help you heal from emotional wounds and abuse in this spiritually uplifting guide to living a beautiful, healing, and fulfilling life.

Many people seem to have it all together outwardly, but inside they are a wreck. Their past has broken, crushed, and wounded them inwardly. They can be healed. God has a plan, and Isaiah 61 reveals that the Lord came to heal the brokenhearted. He wants to heal victims of abuse and emotional wounding.

Joyce Meyer is a victim of the physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Yet today she has a nationwide ministry of emotional healing to others like herself. In Beauty for Ashes she outlines major truths that brought healing in her life and describes how other victims of abuse can also experience God’s healing in their lives. You will learn:
  • How to Deal with the Emotional Pain of Abuse
  • How to Understand Your Responsibility to God for Overcoming Abuse
  • Why Victims of Abuse Often Suffer from Other Addictive Behaviors
  • How to Grab Hold of God’s Unconditional Love
  • The Importance of God’s Timing in Working Through Painful Memories.


Copyright © 1994, 2003 by Joyce Meyer

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are taken from the Amplified® Bible. Copyright© 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations noted KJV are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

Charts in Chapter 4 are used with permission of the author, Debbie Holley, St. Louis, Missouri.

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First eBook Edition: November 2003

ISBN: 978-0-446-54882-3


Trophies of Grace

MANY PEOPLE APPEAR to have their lives together outwardly, but inside they are emotional wrecks because they have been traumatized by abuse. A victim of trauma is someone who has been wounded physically or emotionally by some sudden or substantial shock that created severe and lasting damage to the psychological development of that individual.

I believe there are many traumatized people in the world who have been so abused in the past that they are psychologically deficient; they are unable to function normally in everyday life. There are people who have been through such trauma that it severely jarred their emotions, because they endured something that was so awful it was unspeakable.

Surviving the trauma of abuse can throw people into a state of psychological damage that prohibits them from functioning properly in relationships with others. Such victims do not understand what is wrong with them, or how to get out of their destructive behavior patterns so they can live a normal life. That was my situation before I learned how to gain the victory over the trauma in my life.

Through seeking God and reading His Word, I found that the Lord's main concern is our inner life, because that is where we enjoy His presence. Jesus said, "For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you]" (Luke 17:21, emphasis mine).

This book is a summation of how God taught me to triumph through Christ over the tragedy of abuse in my life. After I had spent many years preaching His Word, God led me to 2 Corinthians 2:14: "But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ's victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere."

One Thanksgiving morning, a spirit of thankfulness began to rise up within me as I considered all that God had done for me. He spoke to my heart that day and said to me, "Joyce, you are a trophy of My grace, and you are helping Me get other trophies." Then I had a vision of a display case in heaven, filled with trophies. I understood that when someone wins trophies, it is because that person is a champion at what he or she does. If people have baseball, golf, or bowling trophies displayed in their homes, it is obvious that they have spent a lot of time developing their skill in that particular area.

God is the Champion at bringing people from a place of destruction to a place of total victory. As they reach that place of victory they become trophies of His grace, and they are set on display as a fragrant reminder of God's goodness. I share my testimony in this book to help those who are still in the process of becoming a trophy for God.

Through both tragedies and triumphs, I have learned that Jesus is my King, and He wants to be yours, too. The kingdom He desires to reign over is our inner life—our mind, will, emotions, desires, and thoughts. The Word teaches clearly that "the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. He who serves Christ in this way is acceptable and pleasing to God and is approved by men" (Romans 14:17-18).

In other words, if God's kingdom rules within us, we will enjoy righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. We will also be acceptable to God and approved by men. Jesus said that we should not worry about external things, such as food and clothes, but that we should "seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given [us] besides" (Matthew 6:33).

Before all else, we are to seek the kingdom of God, which is within us, and then all of our external concerns will be taken care of. When we accept Jesus as our Lord, He rules our inner life and brings with Him righteousness, peace, and joy. No matter what difficulties or trials we may experience in our outward life, if we are whole inside, we will not only survive, we will enjoy our lives.

Our inner life with God is much more important than our outer life. Therefore, emotional healing, which I also refer to as inner healing, is a subject that needs to be discussed in a scriptural, balanced way that produces godly results. The apostle Paul said that we can be "assured that He Who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise us up also with Jesus and bring us . . . into His presence" (2 Corinthians 4:14). In verses 16-18 he continued:

Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.

For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!],

Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting.

Everyone is subject to what Paul called, "momentary afflictions," and some of us have suffered what seemed at the time to be unbearable, emotional pain. But Jesus came "to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]" (Luke 4:18-19).

The King James Version of verse 18 says that Jesus said He came "to heal the brokenhearted." According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the word translated brokenhearted in this verse is a combination of two Greek words, kardia, meaning simply "heart,"1 and suntribo (soon-tree'-bo), which means "to crush completely, i.e. to shatter . . . break (in pieces), broken to shivers . . . , bruise."2 I believe Jesus came to heal those who are broken inside—those who are crushed and wounded inwardly.

If you have been traumatized by abuse, it is my hope that this book will serve as a road map to get from the ashes of devastation to the beauty of health and wholeness in your inner self. I pray that you will find this message to be simple, clear, and powerful, and that the Holy Spirit will enable you to follow Him to your destination of peace and joy.

My prayer for you is paraphrased from Ephesians 3:16:

I pray that you will be strengthened in the inner man through the power of the Holy Spirit and that He will indwell your innermost being and personality.

I also encourage you to always remember God's promise, found in Hebrews 13:5-6:

For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?


The Ashes of Abuse

I BELIEVE THAT most people are abused in one way or another during their lifetime. Almost every person can remember a time when he felt mistreated. I also believe there are multitudes of people who have been severely traumatized by the abuse that has been inflicted upon them.

Some of the definitions of the verb abuse are: "to put to a wrong or improper use"; "DECEIVE"; "to use so as to injure or damage: MALTREAT"; "to attack in words: REVILE." Definitions for the noun abuse include: "a corrupt practice or custom"; "improper or excessive use or treatment: MISUSE"; "a deceitful act: DECEPTION"; "language that condemns or vilifies . . . unjustly, intemperately, and angrily"; "physical maltreatment."3

Some common forms of abuse are: physical, verbal, mental, emotional, and sexual. Any form of ongoing abuse can produce a root of rejection in the individual who has been mistreated, and this defensive sense of unworthiness can then cause major problems in the interpersonal relationships of that individual. Today we live in a society filled with people who do not know how to get along with other people; even though the abuse in their lives has stopped, the residue of trauma continues to affect their ability to relate to others.

God created us for love and acceptance, but the devil works hard to keep us feeling rejected because he knows that a lack of self-worth and root feelings of rejection injure individuals, families, and friendships.

The above-mentioned types of abuse—whether they take the form of broken relationships, abandonment, divorce, false accusations, exclusion from groups, dislike by teachers and other authority figures, ridicule by peers—or any one of hundreds of other such hurtful actions—can and do cause emotional wounds that can hinder people in their efforts to maintain healthy, lasting relationships.


If you have been treated wrongly or improperly, it can deeply affect your emotional state. But to be healed of the pain of abuse, you must want to get well.

One of my favorite passages of scriptures (but a startling one) is John, chapter 5. In verse 5, Jesus is described as seeing a man lying by the pool of Bethesda who had been sick with a deep-seated and lingering disease for thirty-eight years. Knowing how long this poor man had been in that terrible condition, Jesus asked him, "Do you want to become well? [Are you really in earnest about getting well?]" (v. 6).

What kind of a question is that to ask someone who has been hurting for that long? It is a proper question because not everyone wants to get well badly enough to do what is required. Wounded emotions can become a prison that locks self in and others out. But Jesus came to open prison doors and to set the captives free (see Luke 4:18-19).

This man at Bethesda, like so many people today, had a deep-seated and lingering disorder for a long, long time. I am sure that after thirty-eight years he had learned how to function with his disorder. People who are in prison function, but they are not free. However, sometimes prisoners, whether physical or emotional, become so accustomed to being in bondage that they settle in with their condition and learn to live with it.

Are you an "emotional prisoner"? If so, how long have you been in that condition? Is it a deep-seated and lingering disorder? Do you want to be free of it? Do you really want to be well? Jesus wants to heal you. He is willing, are you?


Gaining freedom from emotional bondage is not easy. I will be honest from the beginning and say, point blank, that for many, many people, getting free from the pain of the past will not be easy. This discussion may provoke feelings and emotions they have been trying to hide rather than facing them. You may be one of those people.

Perhaps you have experienced feelings and emotions in the past that have been too painful to deal with, so each time they have surfaced to your memory, you have said to God, "I am not ready yet, Lord! I will face that problem later!" This book will deal with the emotional pain caused by what others may have done to you, and also with your responsibility to God for overcoming those traumas in order to get well.

Some people (actually a great number of people) have a hard time accepting responsibility for their own emotional health. In these pages, we will deal in a practical way with forgiveness, repressed anger, self-pity, the chip-on-the-shoulder syndrome, the you-owe-me attitude, and many, many other poisonous attitudes that need cleansing if you are ever to be fully well.

You may think, But who will deal with the person who hurt me? We will get around to that issue too. You may also be wondering, What makes this woman think that she is such an authority on the subject of emotions—especially mine? You may have questions you would like to ask me, such as: "Do you have a degree in psychology? Where did you do your study? Have you been through any of the things I am going through? How do you know what it is like to be caught in an emotional prison?"

I have answers to all those questions, and if you are brave enough to face your situation and have determined that you really want to get well, then read on.


My schooling, degrees, experience, and qualifications to teach on this subject come from personal experience. I always say, "I graduated from the school of life." I claim the words of the prophet Isaiah as my diploma:

THE SPIRIT of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,

To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 emphasis mine)

God has exchanged my ashes for beauty and has called me to help others to learn to allow Him to do the same for them.

I was sexually, physically, verbally, mentally, and emotionally abused from the time I can remember until I finally left home at the age of eighteen. Actually, several men abused me in my childhood. I have been rejected, abandoned, betrayed, and divorced. I know what it is to be an "emotional prisoner."

My purpose in writing this book is not to give my full testimony in detail, but to give you enough of my own experience so that you will believe that I know what it means to hurt. I can show you how to recover from the pain and trauma of abuse. I want to help you, and I can do that better if you truly believe that I understand what you are going through.4

Before I begin discussing the details of my childhood and sharing some of the things I experienced, I wish to say that in no way do I mean any of these things to be degrading to my parents. Since the first release of this book, God has been faithful to restore my relationship with them.

But I have learned that hurting people hurt people; that most people who hurt others have been hurt themselves by someone else. God has enabled me by His grace to say, "Father, forgive them, for they really did not know what they were doing."

I tell this story only for the purpose of helping others who, like me, were abused.


The Fellowship of Fear

BECAUSE OF THE sexual and emotional abuse I received at home, my entire childhood was filled with fear. My father controlled me with his anger and intimidation. He never physically forced me to submit to him, but I was so afraid of his anger that I did whatever he told me to do. He did force me to pretend that I liked what he was doing to me, and that I wanted him to do it.

The few times I timidly attempted to speak out in honesty about my situation were devastating. My father's violent reaction—his ranting and raving—was so frightening to me that I soon learned just to do whatever he said without objection. I believe that my inability to express my true feelings about what was happening to me, and my being forced to act as though I enjoyed the perverse things he did to me, left me with many deep-seated emotional wounds.

My father worked evenings and would come home around eleven or twelve at night. I can remember how my entire body would fill with fear as soon as I heard his key turning the lock. I would get stiff all over, because I never knew if he was going to come in my room and try to put his hands on me, or if he would come in mad about something he did not like.

One of the hardest things for me was the lack of stability of ever knowing what to expect; I lived with the fear of never knowing what I could and could not do. I could do one thing one day, and my father would be fine with it, but I could do the exact same thing a few days later and get slapped across the room for it.

Fear was my constant companion: fear of my father, fear of his anger, fear of being exposed, fear of my mother finding out what was happening, and fear of having friends.

My fear of having friends stemmed from two factors: If they were female, I was afraid that my father would attempt to draw them into his trap also. If they were male, I was afraid that my father would harm them, or me. He violently accused me of being sexually active with male acquaintances from school. He would not permit anyone to come near me because I "belonged" to him.

While in high school, I was never allowed to go to a football game, a baseball game, a basketball game. I tried to develop acquaintances at school, but I never allowed the relationships to ripen to the extent that I would be expected to invite my new friends to my house. I did not let anyone feel free to contact me at home. If the phone rang, and the call was for me, I would panic thinking, What if it is someone from school?

All the time I was dealing with a fear of having friends and of being lonely, I was still unwilling to involve anyone else in what was potentially a disaster for them, and one that would certainly cause me more embarrassment and shame.


My father drank heavily every weekend, often taking me with him on his drinking bouts and physically using me at his will. Many times, he would come home angry and beat up my mother. One time he beat her because he said her nose was big. He did not hit me very often, but I believe that watching him senselessly beating my mother was just as damaging as if he had been hitting me.

My father controlled everything that went on around him. He decided what time we got up and when we went to bed; what we ate, wore, and spent; with whom we associated; what we watched on television—in short, everything in our lives. He was verbally abusive both to my mother and to me, and eventually to my only brother, who was born when I was nine years old. I remember wanting so desperately for the new baby to be a girl. I thought that maybe if there was another female child in the family I might be left alone, at least part of the time.

My father cursed almost constantly, using extremely vulgar and filthy language. He was critical of everything and everybody. It was his opinion that none of us ever did anything right, or that we would ever amount to anything worthwhile. Most of the time, we were reminded that we were "just no good."

At times my father would be just the opposite. He would give us money and tell us to go shopping; sometimes he even bought us presents. He was manipulative and coercive. He did whatever he needed to do in order to get what he wanted. Other people had no value to him at all except to use for his own selfish purposes.

There was no peace in our home. I actually did not know what real peace was until I was grown and had been immersed in the Word of God for many years.

I was born-again at the age of nine while visiting relatives out of town. One night I went with them to attend a church service, intent on finding salvation. I do not even know how I knew I needed to be saved, except that God must have placed that desire within my heart. I did receive Jesus Christ as my Savior that evening and experienced a glorious cleansing. Before that moment I had always felt dirty because of the incest. Now, for the first time, I felt clean, as though I had received an inner bath. However, since the problem did not go away, once I returned home my old feelings returned. I thought that I had lost Jesus, so I never knew any real inner peace and joy.


What about my mother? Where did she fit into all this? Why didn't she help me? I was about eight or nine years old when I told my mother what was going on between my father and me. She examined me and confronted my dad, but he claimed that I was lying—and she chose to believe him rather than me. What woman would not want to believe her husband in such a situation? I think that way down deep inside, my mother knew the truth. She just hoped against hope that she was wrong.

When I was fourteen years old, she walked into the house one day, having returned earlier than expected from grocery shopping, and actually caught my father in the act of sexually abusing me. She looked, walked out, and came back two hours later, acting as if she had never been there.

My mother betrayed me.

She did not help me, and she should have.

Many, many years later (actually thirty years later), she confessed to me that she just could not bring herself to face the scandal. She had never mentioned it for thirty years! During that time period she had suffered a nervous breakdown. Everyone who knew her blamed it on "the change of life."

For two years she underwent shock treatments, which temporarily erased portions of her memory. None of the doctors knew what they were helping her forget, but they all agreed that she needed to forget something. It was obvious there was something on her mind that was eating away at her mental health.

My mother claimed that her problem was caused by her physical condition. She had an exceptionally hard time during that period of her life due to severe female problems at an earlier age. Following a complete hysterectomy at age thirty-six, she was thrown into premature menopause. At the time, most doctors did not believe in giving hormones to women, so this was a very difficult time for her. It seems that everything in her life was more than she was able to handle.

Personally, I will always believe that my mother's emotional collapse was the result of the years of abuse she had endured, and the truth that she refused to face and deal with. Remember, in John 8:32 our Lord told us: "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free."

God's Word is truth, and, if applied, has inherent power to set a captive free. God's Word also brings us face to face with the issues of our lives. If we choose to turn and run away when the Lord says to stand and confront, we will stay in bondage.


At age eighteen, I moved away from home while my father was at work. Shortly thereafter, I married the first young man who showed an interest in me.

Like me, my new husband had lots of problems. He was a manipulator, a thief, and a con man. Most of the time, he did not even work. We moved around a lot, and once he abandoned me in California with nothing but one dime and a carton of soda pop bottles. I was afraid, but since I was accustomed to fear and trauma, I was probably not as affected as someone with less "experience" would have been.

My husband also abandoned me several times simply by leaving during the day while I was at work. Each time he left, he would be gone anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Then he would suddenly reappear, and I would listen to his sweet talk and apologies and take him back—only to have the same thing happen all over again. When he was with me, he drank constantly and had relationships with other women regularly.

For five years we played at what we called a marriage. We were both so young, only eighteen, and neither of us had had proper parenting. We were completely ill-equipped to help one another. My problems were only complicated more following a miscarriage at the age of twenty-one and the birth of my oldest son when I was twenty-two. This event took place during the final year of our marriage. My husband left me and moved in with another woman who lived two blocks from our place, telling anyone who would listen that the child I was carrying was not his.

I remember coming dangerously close to losing my mind during that summer of 1965. Throughout my pregnancy, I lost weight because I could not eat. Without friends, money, or insurance, I went through a hospital clinic, seeing a different doctor each time I had a checkup. Actually, the doctors I saw were interns in training. I was unable to sleep, so I began taking over-the-counter sleeping pills. Thank God, they did not harm my unborn child or me.

The temperature that summer rose to more than a hundred degrees, and there was no fan or air-conditioning in my third-floor, attic apartment. My only material possession was an old Studebaker automobile that got vapor locked on a regular basis. Since my father had always insisted that some day I would need his help and come crawling back to him, I was determined to do anything but that—even though I did not know what it would be.

I can remember being under such mental strain that I would sit and stare at the walls or out the window for hours, not even realizing what I was doing. I worked until my baby was due. When I had to quit my job, my hairdresser and her mother took me in.

My baby was four and a half weeks late. I had no idea what to expect, and no notion of how to care for him when he was born. When the baby did come, my husband showed up at the hospital. Since the baby looked so much like him, there was no way he could deny that it was his. Once again he said he was sorry and that he was going to change.

When it was time for me to be discharged from the hospital, we had no place to live, so my husband contacted his brother's ex-wife, who was a wonderful Christian woman, and she let us live with her for a while until I was able to go back to work.


On Sale
Nov 16, 2008
Page Count
272 pages

Joyce Meyer

About the Author

JOYCE MEYER is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers. Her broadcast, Enjoying Everyday Life, airs daily on hundreds of television networks and radio stations worldwide. Joyce has written nearly 100 inspirational books. Bestsellers include God Is Not Mad at You; Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits; Living Beyond Your Feelings; Power Thoughts; Battlefield of the Mind; and The Confident Woman. Joyce holds conferences throughout the year, speaking to thousands around the world.

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