Growing up, Jinger Duggar Zuolo was surrounded by television cameras. For 17 years, Zuolo was part of TLC's reality television shows, 19 Kids and Counting and Counting On.
"All those years people saw me grow up on TV, my life seemed to be totally fine," said Vuolo. "I did have a happy childhood in some sense. Relationally, I had a very happy childhood. My parents sacrificed so much for me."
However, behind the scenes, Jinger was struggling.
"What people didn't see was the fears I was wrestling with, and the anxiety and the perspective of God that I feel was a harmful perspective of God," Jinger explained. "That came from a teacher that I followed named Bill Gothard."
Gothard was a man who would be accused of allegedly running a cult and using his religious authority to take advantage of young women. He was never convicted.
"The theology of Bill Gothard and this surrounding area, I guess, was based on fear manipulation, superstition and control. And so I would view everything through that lens," said Jinger. "I thought God was either pleased with me or not, based on my performance."
"It was like, I don't know what God expects of me. It was a scary feeling to walk through life all those years trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I was so uncertain."
In her early twenties, Jinger’s perspective of Gothard’s teachings began to change when a new family member, a brother-in-law who didn't grow up in the same tight-knit conservative circle as the Duggars, caused her to examine her beliefs. He was committed to the Bible, but he didn't believe many of the things Jinger had always assumed were true. His influence, along with the help of her future husband, Jeremy Vuolo, caused Jinger to see that her life was built on rules, not God's Word.
"It took me so many years of walking through those teachings to figure out I want to move away from this because I see it's not based in the Bible, and it's a distorted view of who God actually is."
Jinger writes about this in her new book, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear.
“Writing this book is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The process has been far more emotionally exhausting than I thought it would be. At times, I’ve wondered if I should even write it. But I know it’s necessary.”
Today on Connections, Jinger shares her powerful story of how she was able to disentangle faith from fear.