“If you don’t want your life, give it to Me”: Abused and broken, she was about to end it all when God spoke

TRIGGER WARNING: This story mentions sexual abuse, eating disorders and suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

Jolene Ng // May 17, 2024, 3:03 pm

Melinda Lim was at the end of her rope when the Lord took her abused, broken life and gave her a new purpose to live. She is now a missionary in Cambodia. All photos courtesy of Melinda Lim unless otherwise stated.

Melinda Lim was at the end of her rope when the Lord took her abused, broken life and gave her a new purpose to live. She is now a missionary in Cambodia. All photos courtesy of Melinda Lim unless otherwise stated.

In her 20s, Melinda Lim was living a life that most young people would envy.

Living her dream job as a Singapore Airlines air stewardess, she was travelling around the world. She adorned herself in designer clothes and brands, and often wined and dined at fine-dining restaurants.

Yet beneath the facade of grandeur and earthly success, she felt broken and empty. Lost and purposeless, she resolved to take her own life.

When a friend invited her for a humanitarian trip to Cambodia, she decided to do some “good deeds” before leaving the world. She hoped that it would make up for the bad things she had done before.

But on the trip, she heard the gentle voice of God that would change the course of her life forever.

He said: “Daughter, if you don’t want your life, give it to Me.”

Sexually abused, bullied in primary school

Melinda could not remember a time she did not feel dirty, broken and ashamed.

She was just seven years old when she was sexually abused by her grandfather. 

“My grandfather would come into the room and touch me inappropriately,” she told Salt&Light. “He made me promise not to tell anyone, if not he would stop loving me.”

Melinda as a young child.

While she did not fully understand what he was doing to her, deep down she knew that it was wrong.

However, she dared not tell her parents as she feared that they would stop loving her, just as her grandfather had said.

Struggling to cope with the abuse, young Melinda turned to eating for comfort.

“I would gorge myself with a lot of food. I was constantly binging. It came to a point where I put on so much weight. At a young age of 12 years old, I was over 80kg,” she recalled.

Melinda (right) at about 12 years old.

Melinda in her primary school years.

Schoolmates bullied her for her size, calling her names like “roly poly” and “fatty bom bom”. Those harsh words left a deep wound in her heart and triggered what would become an 18-year battle with eating disorders.

“I would binge eat and stuff my face until I felt like I was going to vomit. Then I would drink a lot of water and go to the toilet to throw up,” she recounted.

“I would feel very guilty if I could not get the food out. Sometimes I would dig until I bled in my knuckles and at the back of my throat.”

Melinda (far right), during the period where she started turning to food for comfort.

She lost 30kg within six months. Her extreme weight loss led her to develop several health complications – weakened bones, slipped discs, a kidney infection – that would plague her for years down the road.

“Anorexia and bulimia were deep, dark secrets that I kept to myself for a long time. On the outside I looked fine and normal. But inside, I felt so broken. I was in a lot of pain,” she said.

A desperate search for love

With her new figure came newfound attention and friendships from her peers. Finally, she was receiving the love she had always craved.

However, most of her friends were bad company. “I learnt how to drink, smoke and do drugs at a very young age. I even got my first tattoo at 16.” Melinda told Salt&Light.

Melinda at around the age of 18 with a cigarette in her hand.

By the time she was 17, she was chain-smoking, drinking heavily to the point of blackout, and hopping in and out of all kinds of romantic relationships. It was her way of avoiding the pain that she was grappling with inside.

“I was struggling a lot with my emotions and I didn’t know how to process it. The only way out was to suppress it. It was a temporal way of escape for me,” she said.

Though she had been attending church with her parents since she was six years old, she eventually distanced herself from God and the church. “God is not going to accept me anyway,” she thought to herself.

Melinda during her partying days.

Over the next decade, she desperately searched for acceptance and meaning in life.

As a Singapore Airlines air stewardess, she flew around the world, wore “really fancy” clothes, carried branded bags and dined at fancy restaurants. She also continued her wild, partying lifestyle.

Melinda (left) as an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines. She is pictured with a Japanese passenger who asked to take individual pictures with the crew.

“I tried everything the world could offer me, but there was still this inner emptiness that nothing could fill. I still felt so empty and broken,” she said.

While out partying overseas after one of her flights, Melinda was sexually violated when she was unconscious.

“Right after that incident, I was in the shower for hours trying to scrub and wash myself. I hated myself and the choices that I had made. I really wanted to die,” she said.

Divorced at 30

She thought that marriage would fill the hole in her heart. So, at 29, she got married to a man she had met in the partying scene.

But after a year into their marriage, the relationship dissolved and they legally separated. “The divorce was very painful for me,” said Melinda.

“There was no purpose to life. I dreaded living everyday.”

“I thought to myself, ‘What more can life throw at me? My flying career is coming to an end. My health is in a really bad state. My marriage also failed.’ At this point, I had already attempted suicide multiple times, but those failed as well.”

Though she was at the peak of her new career as an insurance agent, the gnawing emptiness she felt inside was relentless. “There was no purpose to life. I dreaded living everyday.”

At her lowest point, a former colleague invited her to a visit an orphanage and the poor in Cambodia.

Despite being resolved to end her life, Melinda thought to herself: “Before I take my life, maybe I should go and make myself useful for once.”

The sight that broke her heart

In 2011, Melinda set foot into Cambodia for the first time. 

“Children were running around naked, while their parents were scavenging for food,” she recalled. The sight of that broke something in her heart. She could not help but weep.

The living conditions in Cambodia that broke Melinda’s heart.

Melinda with some Cambodian children at her first trip to the country in 2011.

“I cried to myself thinking, ‘How come they are so brave to fight for one more day of life when life is so difficult for them? Whereas for me, I have everything I need in Singapore, but here I am wanting to throw my life away.'”

And through her tears, she heard the Lord’s gentle voice: “Daughter, if you don’t want your life, give it to Me. I’ll show you what purpose is.”

Defiantly, she replied: “God, you can take my life because I don’t want it. I hate it and I wish I had never existed!”

Melinda had responded out of spite and anger, but God would take her at her word.

The road to restoration

After her encounter with God in Cambodia, Melinda found her heart strangely softened toward Him.

She returned to church, where she heard anew the truths about Jesus’ love for her and what He had done for her on the cross. 

“I tried everything the world could offer me, but there was still this inner emptiness that nothing could fill.”

Even though she was sick and tired of her lifestyle, she struggled to break free from her addictions. But she began to pour her heart out to God about these struggles.

Despite her ongoing addictions, she kept attending church. “The more I was going to church and listening to sermons, I felt like I was being slowly washed (by God’s Word) and sanctified from within,” she said.

She was reminded that her old self has passed away and that she is a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). She clung to the truth that she is not condemned (Romans 8:1). And she started to believe that God is a loving Father who had forgiven her and loves her unconditionally.

“I had sinned against my Father. But He still welcomed me with open arms,” she said.

Change did not happen instantaneously, but as God’s truths washed over her, she found herself transformed in a way she could not explain.

“It took at least a few years, but one day I just did not have the desire (for my old lifestyle) anymore,” she said. Cigarettes and alcohol made her feel sick. Drugs lost their appeal. The profanities that used to roll off her tongue felt bitter in her mouth.

“I felt like a new person, and I know it could only be God”, she said. 

An avalanche of healing

That was just the beginning of the restoration that God would bring to her life.

Following her first visit to Cambodia, Melinda felt drawn to go back the the country again and again. God eventually led Melinda to become a full-time missionary there in 2014 – a call she readily accepted.

Melinda while serving with One-2-One Cambodia. She helped to lead mission trips from Singapore churches.

During her years in Cambodia, the Lord brought her even more healing of her past emotional wounds.

“There were times where I would be in the presence of God and He would bring me back to certain memories. He’d remind me that even in my darkest of times, He had never once left me nor forsaken me. He was always there,” she said.

Melinda now runs Brave Ministry Cambodia, which she founded in 2017 after the Lord put a vision in her heart.

“There was a time when I almost died because of an overdose. He said, ‘Daughter, do you remember this? You cried out ‘Help!’ I was right there with you.’”

God also restored her physical health and helped her to overcome her eating disorders, even though it was a process that took several years. 

“I started to see my body as a temple of God and that I cannot keep ruining it. I stopped seeing food as my enemy, but something that the Lord has blessed me with to enjoy,” said Melinda, now 44.

After an 18-year battle with eating disorders, Melinda, pictured here in Cambodia with friends, now has a healthy relationship with food. She has also found friends who love and support her.

As her relationship with God deepened, Melinda also found the strength to forgive her late grandfather for what he had done to her as a child.

“I know I am a sinner saved by grace, and if God has so freely forgiven me when I deserved death, how can I also not freely forgive?” she said.

“Forgiveness does not negate what happened to me, but it gives me the freedom to embrace life and to fully walk in God’s plans and purposes for me. Forgiveness is a choice and conscious decision that I make regardless of how I feel.”

Melinda (back row, right) with her parents, sister and brother-in-law. When her mum found out later on about the sexual abuse Melinda had endured, the older woman wept and apologised for not protecting her daughter well enough. Melinda told her: “Mum, this is not your fault. I already went through a healing process.”

Even broken trees bear fruit 

Even though she was content being single and serving God in Cambodia, God gave her an unexpected blessing.

Last November, after a year and a half of dating, Melinda married a man who shares her heart for Christ.

Melinda is grateful for a second chance at marriage – this time to a man who shares her deep love for Jesus.

“Never would I have imagined that I’d get married again. I am thankful for a second chance, not just in life but also in marriage,” she said.

Once purposeless in life, Melinda today finds great meaning even in the mundanity of everyday life.

“My life’s purpose is to be an extension of God’s love. I think many people live life hopeless. But when you encounter the Living Hope Himself, you can’t help but see the beauty of a redeemed and transformed life,” she said.

Melinda Lim (third from the right) now finds purpose in being an extension of God’s love to those around her. Her NGO serves the disadvantaged in Cambodia.

“God rewrote His story into mine, and it is really one of grace and redemption. I’m thankful for a second chance in life and a purpose to live.”

Sharing one of her favourite quotes by Pastor Rick Warren, she added: “In God’s Garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruits.”


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About the author

Jolene Ng

A creative at heart with a penchant for all things aesthetic, Jolene revels in the idea of turning ashes into beauty. She graduated with a degree in theology, and her heart is tenderly drawn to stories of God's restoration and redemption.