The suffering of Christ gives new
meaning to a suffering man.
by Douglas Hainer as told to Marguerite Tustan
My earliest memory is being struck in the head with the butt of a rifle. It was my fourth birthday. My older sister, jealous of the attention I was receiving, hit me so hard that I tasted my own blood.
I assumed she would receive the beating of her life. Instead, mother just said, “Don’t do things like that to your little brother.” My young heart felt the sting of injustice. Would no one pay for my pain?
I grew up in a rough home. For recreation, my three siblings and I played a game in the basement. We turned off the lights and stumbled around in the darkness until we bumped into someone. Whomever we bumped, we would beat up on with all our might.
My mother used a one-inch-by-two-inch board to keep us in line. During summer months, I had to wait until the red marks on my body faded before I could go swimming.
Sadly, school offered little relief. Once I confided in a teacher about the abuse I suffered at home, and the teacher spoke to my mother about it. The thrashing I received because of this plea for help taught me to keep my mouth shut.
In first grade my face was smashed into the ground during a scuffle on the playground. It would be the first of many schoolyard beatings, taken and given, because I learned to fight back. I was angry at the cruel, abusive people in my household and school. I could not accept the fact that kids thought I was a loser.
When the teacher would leave the room, the whole class would mock me and shove me around. The only way I could deal with this was by plotting revenge — the one thing that brought consolation. Someday, someone would pay for the pain and abuse I suffered.
Revenge grew into an obsession. I spent hours plotting how I could hurt others. It no longer mattered who I hurt. In my mind, everyone was bad. I felt there was no love, nothing good in this world.
Eventually my thoughts of hurting others grew into plans of how to commit random killings without being caught. What method would I use? Where would I hide the bodies? I even sought the power of evil to help me in these schemes.
Throughout my childhood, I suffered from nightmares with strange beings in them. Because I was a lonely child, I sought the company and assistance of these beings. They seemed to compete for my attention.
Seven demons would visit me in my bedroom, each one with a different contorted face. They tricked me into believing they were my friends. I would ask them to kill people for me. Though I knew enough about Satan to fear being possessed by his demons, I was still attracted to his power.
My violent thoughts began erupting into violent acts. I killed small animals. I started fires. When I was just nine years old, I threatened my father by holding a knife to his chest. Not long after that, I took a swing at a teacher.
These incidents made me decide to improve my behavior. Instead of getting in trouble, I needed to keep a low profile. When people begin disappearing, I thought, I don’t want someone tracking a trail of blood back to me. I wanted to be the perfect serpent boy: Slither in, kill, and slither away without getting caught.
So I changed my behavior. No one would suspect such a heinous crime from a well-behaved young man.
A positive aspect of my life was my family attended church. I knew all the Bible stories but considered them just that — stories.
My view changed during the summer after fifth grade when I spent a week at a Christian camp. One evening a pastor spoke on the crucifixion of Jesus. He described it in vivid detail, telling how Jesus was whipped, beaten, and abused until blood poured from His wounds.
Why did Jesus suffer so? Because He loved us so deeply and was willing to die in our place, to suffer for our sins. I was attracted to the violent depiction.
Suddenly, as the man was speaking, I saw a vision of the cross before me. I had been so intent on bloodshed; God allowed me to see actual bloodshed. Jesus had been beaten so badly that His face looked like raw meat. I saw His blood dripping down.
For the first time, I understood. Jesus took my place. He took my punishment. Though I had never actually killed anyone, I had committed murder many times in my heart. Jesus died the death I should have died — a murderer’s death.
Healing through pain
That night I prayed, “Jesus, I accept Your sacrifice for me. Thank You for taking my place.” This time pain — Jesus’ pain — brought healing, just as the Bible says: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).
That night at camp, the direction of my life began to radically shift. I no longer sought revenge. I no longer planned murders. Instead I sought to please the One who died for me.
I made peace with my family. I attended the youth group at church and worked at memorizing Bible verses. The pure truth of the Bible cleansed and renewed my mind from all the evil that had once filled my thoughts.
Occasionally I still struggled. One day when a schoolmate attacked me, I reverted to my old ways and fought back furiously. Afterward I determined to begin each day praying and reading the Bible. It was my daily reminder that I now belonged to God.
As I continued on this new path, I learned that God wanted me to try my best in everything I did. I had been a poor student. Now I purposed to study hard in preparation for whatever God had planned for my future.
God did have plans for me. After high school, I attended a Bible College for a year to seek God’s direction. I was interested in radio broadcasting and studied to be a broadcast engineer. I graduated at the top of my class.
Soon I was working in Guam broadcasting the love of Jesus to the world. After a three-year tour, I returned to the States and was hired by a Christian radio station in Pennsylvania. There I met and married my wife, Penny. When the station was sold, I was offered a job with another Christian station in Cleveland, Ohio. Penny and I moved to Cleveland and have raised a family there.
Call to communicate
Broadcast engineering is communications. Ironically, I am not a gifted communicator, and I am rarely in front of a microphone. Despite these facts, God directed me to speak to groups about my faith.
I resisted. “Lord, I’ll do anything You want. Just don’t ask me to stand in front of people and speak.” But this was precisely what He wanted me to do.
Again, God used pain to redirect my path. In 2005 I was injured in a motorcycle accident. Surgery intended to heal instead resulted in chronic pain.
Pain is my companion all day; it robs me of sleep at night. After two years of suffering, I was too exhausted to enjoy anything in life. At the end of my strength, I prayed, “Lord, my life is no longer of any value to me. If You can do anything with it, please do.”
The Lord replied, “Doug, that’s the point I’ve wanted you to come to all along.” I had finally surrendered to God’s call.
Message of hope
Now in church meetings, rescue missions, detention facilities, and on the radio I tell the story of how God transformed my life. I share it whenever and wherever I am given the opportunity.
I’ve learned that it isn’t a polished messenger but rather the message that brings hope. You really can begin again by the power of Jesus. My life is living proof.
About the Author
Marguerite Tustan, among other duties, works alongside Douglas Hainer at a Christian radio station. She has served as an editor and has written numerous articles for local publications. Marguerite participated as a ghost writer for a chapter in Live Big, and has been published in FullFill. She lives in Cleveland, OH.