Interview: Joyce Meyer, Bible teacher and author

28 April 2017

‘Somehow God always makes us better after a struggle than we were before’

It seems that stress is the disease of our culture today. Stress manage­ment is a multi-billion-dollar in­­­dustry, with people going to counsellors, taking medicine to fight symptoms of stress, or going to stress-management classes. I believe most people would say they get stressed out with life; so [my book] Overload would be a good message for a lot of people.

 

I know what it’s like to live under pressure and stress all the time, and it’s not God’s will for us to live this way. Jesus said in John 14.27 that we can have his peace, and we don’t have to let our hearts be troubled or afraid. The Amplified Bible says: “Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated . . . and unsettled.” So we can learn how to live with God’s peace.

 

I want to help others learn what I’ve discovered, and how to walk it out. It comes down to this: the world is probably not going to change; so I have to change my approach to the world.

 

Enjoying Everyday Life is the name of our TV and radio programmes, and also our free magazine. We chose this name because John 10.10 is a foundational scripture for our ministry. It says that Jesus came so we can “have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance”. The first part of that verse says the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus made it clear that we don’t have to live under his control. We can have abundant life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

This message is very personal for me, because I was a miserable Christian for many years before I really saw what this verse says. It was a long, hard journey getting to the place where I now enjoy my everyday life, but it was worth the pain and struggle to get here. It’s so wonderful to live with God’s peace and joy — to really enjoy my life. And I want to see others take back what the enemy has stolen from them so they can have the life Jesus died to give them.

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There are all kinds of people who listen to the programme, all over the world. They are people who are searching for more meaning in their lives, who need to know that Jesus wants to have a personal relation­ship with them, and Christianity is not about following religious rules and regulations. It’s always amazing to me when we hear testimonies from people who have experienced great changes in their lives through the teaching they hear. And God is the one who is doing this: he’s using our ministry to reach people’s hearts and give them the life he has for them.

 

I grew up in the area of St Louis, Missouri, with my parents and brother. Our home was a difficult place because my father was a mean, controlling, and manipulative per­­son for most of his life. He was also unpredictable and unstable. So the atmosphere was usually unstable and super-charged with fear, be­­­cause you never knew if what you did would make him angry or not. As far back as I can remember in my childhood, I never knew what it was like to feel safe and secure.

 

The sexual abuse started when I was very young, and continued on a regular basis until I was 18. It was so painful because my father, the one I was supposed to be able to trust and look to for protection, was the one I feared the most.

 

The abuse caused me to feel ashamed and guilty all the time. I was con­vinced it was happening because some­thing was wrong with me, and somehow it was my fault. I re­­member feeling afraid all the time, and there was no place I ever felt safe when I was growing up. I don’t think we can even begin to imagine what kind of damage this does to a child.

 

I share my testimony now because I know there are so many who have experienced something similar to, or even worse than, what I went through, and they need to know God loves them and wants to restore their life. I can honestly say that, in spite of all the horrible things that happened to me, God has done an amazing work in my soul: he’s healed me of the pain, and given me the ability to completely forgive my father and others who hurt me.

 

There is so much hope when you have a relationship with Jesus, be­­cause he can heal us everywhere we hurt. I’m a living, breathing testi­mony of how someone who lived in fear, insecurity, and anger, and was absolutely miserable, came to be healed, whole, and able to really enjoy life in Christ. With God, all things are possible.

 

Dave and I have been married for 50 years, and we have a great rela­tionship. It wasn’t always like that. The first few years were really hard, because I was a mess from all the abuse I’d experienced. But, over time, after I started seriously seeking God and growing in my relation­ship with him, things changed drastically.

 

I’m so thankful for Dave. From the beginning of our relationship, he was sincerely committed to God, and wanted to be a godly man. God gave him the grace to put up with me for a long time, before I started to grow spiritually and receive the healing I desperately needed. God used Dave to help me see that it is possible to have real joy and peace in life, and he showed me what love really is.

 

We have four grown-up children who are married and have their own families now. I have good relation­ships with all of them, and love spending time with family when we have the chance. It’s fun being a grandmother, too.

 

When I’m not working, I like to be at home and relax, especially after a conference weekend. I enjoy watch­­ing a good movie sometimes, and just having quiet time alone. I also like to spend time with my daugh­ters or a good friend, shopping and eating out. It’s a treat when I have time to do this.

 

The Bible says that those who believe in Christ, and live for him, are “prisoners of hope”. Zechariah 9.12 says: “Return to the strong­-hold [of security and prosperity], you prisoners of hope; even today do I declare that I will restore double your former prosperity to you.” I love this verse because it shows us that we can live “bound up in hope”, trusting God to be our deliverer, defender, and provider.

 

You know, this world is always changing, and can be very unstable. We can’t put our hope in people, or things like money and a high social status to ensure the future will be safe and sound. But we can always trust in God, who never changes, and who always has our best inter­est at heart. When we go through hard times, we can count on him to give us the grace to get through them. And, somehow, he always makes us better after the struggle than we were before we went through it.

 

God is awesome, and he has good plans and purposes for his children. We need to put our hope in him.

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I pray every day, because my faith is based on a personal relationship with Christ. To have a relationship, you have to have communication. God wants us to talk to him, and to also spend time listening to him. He will speak to our hearts if we will keep them open to him.

 

It’s important to me to have time alone with God each morning be­­fore I start my day, because he prepares me to face whatever comes my way, and gives me direction in what I should do.

 

I pray for many things, and there are seasons of time when I focus on one thing more than others. But I always take time to thank God for who he is and what he’s done for me; and I ask him to make me a blessing to others.

 

One goal I have each day is to do something that makes someone else’s life better in some way. I believe that’s the heart of Christ work­­ing in me and through me.

 

Joyce Meyer was talking to Terence Handley MacMath. Overload: How to unplug, un­wind and free yourself from the pressure of stress is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£13.99 (CT Bookshop £12.60)).

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