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The Aftermath of Abuse

 

Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

Everything that is happening is ultimately for the good if we’re willing to face it head-on and use our adversities for soul growth.

—Joan Borysenko

 

Shortly after a person has been wounded by religious abuse, friends of the victim invariably say, “It will be okay. You just have to trust the Lord; that’s all.” With that, they are finished with the issue. No further practical help is offered. After a while, the victim doesn’t even receive a word of comfort from their fellow congregants because people tend to withdraw from someone who has been pushed aside. They simply don’t want to deal with all of the negativity. Who can blame them?

To the victim, however, such advice is meaningless. Instead of helping, platitudes like the one above tend to make a difficult situation even worse. As people withdraw, the abused person is left to deal with the problem by himself or herself. This is when many turn to self-defeating behavior. It provides relief from the pain—a one-day reprieve from reality. It’s also how people become “hooked” on alcohol, prescriptions, or inappropriate relationships—none of which work long-term.

When a person reaches his or her bottom, and there are no other options, that’s when they are finally willing to take the advise of their friends and “trust the Lord.” By this point, their emotional isolation has taken a substantial toll, and the person doubts that their life will ever be worthwhile again. When a person reaches this point, that’s when God’s presence and help become more real than ever. It’s when He touches the places that hurt, providing illumination, insight, understanding, and healing.

All that’s necessary for this to happen is one thing: the person must realize that the responsibility for getting back on tract is theirs and no one else’s. When they reach this point, when they become willing to admit this, their lives can begin to change for the better.

 

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

Jack Watts


Christianity is brimming with people who want to do great and noble things for God. If you ask them, they’ll tell you how much they are capable of accomplishing. Their aspirations are usually altruistic, noble, and grand. The problem is, more often than not, God doesn’t usually want what they do.

What He wants is for people to do simple, mundane things for others—nothing ostentatious or glamorous. The goal of Christians, who are grandiose, might be to “speak about God’s love to the multitudes,” but that same person might not be willing to run an errand for an indigent person.

That’s the problem. God has far too many men and women who are willing to be exalted, but few who are willing to be menial servants. Many are willing to do grand things, but few are willing to be simple, living their lives unaffectedly just doing the “next right thing” day by day.

In twenty-first century Christian culture, we have a worldly attitude toward service, routinely calculating:

—What’s in it for me?
—How will this further my ambitions?
—How will this enhance my image with others?

After having been abused, however, where the spiritual wind has been knocked out of our sails, our perspective undergoes a radical change. We begin to learn the simple truth that an act of kindness performed at the right time, for the right reason, may be more meaningful from God’s perspective than something calculated to bring us notoriety, fame, or fortune. We begin to recognize that God values small things—where nothing is expected in return—more than grand things well publicized. A small thing is a small thing, but faithfulness in doing a small thing is a big thing.

If your desire is to be simple, doing the next right thing, join me in this prayer:

Father,

When I came to You in my distress,

I wanted You to “make everything better,”

To nurse my bruises like my mother once did

When I was a little boy and hurt myself—

To tell me that I would be okay and

My pain would vanish and soon be forgotten.

But that’s not what You did nor what You intended.

Instead, You made it crystal clear that

I could not nurse my wounds in solitude,

Nor take pleasure in the bitter fruit of self-pity.

Instead, You insisted that I “suck it up” and be an adult,

Stretching me far beyond my comfort zone,

Insisting that I be more open, honest, and vulnerable

Than I have ever been in my entire life.

You guided me, leading me to do

The next right thing, regardless of what

The consequences might be, regardless of the outcome.

Despite my fears and my desire to hide my circumstances,

Which I mask with a disingenuous smile,

I obeyed, doing the next right thing, one day at a time.

Knowing that following Your will was my only option,

Even when being obedient looked like

A weak and foolish thing to do,

I sucked it up and did what I knew to be right,

Time after time, until doing so became natural and easy.

Father, You know Your plans for me, and I do not.

I cannot see the future nor understand it—not even a little,

But I know that by following my conscience,

Even when it would have been easier to walk away,

Something of value has been created within me,

Which has never been part of my character.

Now, I feel whole and enjoy the simplicity of doing

Nothing more than the next right thing, amen.

Jack Watts


Father,

Allow me to serve others with gladness,

Without keeping score or being resentful.

With gratitude in my heart for all that

You have given me so freely, allow me to be

Always giving, never expecting to receive.

Allow me to give of myself,

To give of my talents and of my goods,

To give of my time and of my energy,

To give of my heart and of my soul.

Help me understand the needs of others,

Never criticizing,

Never demeaning,

Never scolding,

Never condemning.

You have been so gracious to me,

Always Loving,

Always forgiving,

Always restoring—

Never chastising me for failing,

Even though my actions have been misguided

More times than I can remember.

Father, keep a condemning spirit

Far from my heart and further from my lips.

Allow me to serve others with gentleness,

With compassion and tenderness,

Never diminishing the value of another.

Let me extend mercy to the brokenhearted,

Just as You have done for me.

Jack Watts


Refining Your Character

 

 

Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He wishes, and I ask Him to heal my pain. Because God forgives us as we forgive others, I forgive my abusers.

 

A spiritually optimistic point of view holds that the universe is woven out of a fabric of love. Everything that is happening is ultimately for the good, if we’re willing to face it head-on and use our adversities for soul growth.

—Joan Borysenko

 

If you ask someone if they want to be a better person, the answer will always be yes. Nearly everybody wants to be a new and improved version of himself or herself. The problem is people generally lack the tools to get from point A to point B. Consequently, most muddle through life in a languid state of mediocrity.

Some try positive thinking, meditation, or a myriad of other ways to improve themselves, occasionally going to great expenditures of time and resources to do so. Some of it is helpful, but little of it gets to the core of what really changes a person—at least not fundamental character change.

To achieve that, you have to go before the Lord and allow Him to reveal you to yourself. If you don’t go willingly, He will do it for you. Trust me about that; I know from experience.

When that happens, you become undone. It’s like you are standing naked, with the essence of your being exposed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. He understands your thoughts and can discern the intentions of your heart, taking your vulnerability far past your comfort zone, revealing the huge gap between Himself and the wretch you recognize yourself to be.

In the aftermath of such an experience, at first it’s difficult to regain your equilibrium. Seeing yourself as you really are—instead of who you project yourself to be—is unnerving, humbling, and ultimately transformational. You start to ask yourself questions, and often you don’t like the answers. Having had such an experience, I asked myself the following:

  • What do I need to do to become the person I was created to be?
  • How can I put the needs of others before my own—and not just say that I do?
  • What areas of my thinking need to change?
  • What beliefs do I have that hold me back?
  • What grandiose expectations hinder my personal growth?
  • What attitudes do I hold that are self-serving?
  • What specific behavior needs to change to get me from point A to point B?

As I moved forward, with my mind and heart renewed, I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to become a better person.

 

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Jack Watts


Taking Ownership of Your Problems

 

 

Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

 

Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: there is no one to blame.

—Erica Jong

 

In the many years I have been a Christian—some walking with the Lord and some not—I’ve noticed that a large number of believers have an incorrect perspective on life. They attribute their difficulties, especially their interpersonal conflicts, to the Devil. They will say something like, “Satan really has a hold on that person’s life,” or “The Enemy has really been coming against me in this situation.”

Because the Scriptures teach that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of wickedness, conflicts assume a cosmic significance, which often isn’t there. Occasionally, there may be some truth to it, but my experience tells me that most of the problems come from the people themselves and not from forces of darkness. It’s easy to blame the Devil for everything. It absolves the person of taking responsibility for his or her own actions.

For your recovery to work the way it should, you must accept the responsibility for your actions and not take the easy way out of blaming Satan for them. It simply doesn’t work, and in most cases, it isn’t true. When a problem manifests itself, you must always look for your part in it, and the sooner the better. If you’re being honest, you’ll usually find it.

If you’ve been foolish, admit it. Don’t deflect; don’t rationalize; and don’t project your problems onto another. Repudiate the darkness immediately and come to the light. Finally, do whatever is necessary to make amends to the one you’ve offended.

It’s natural to want to avoid the responsibility for your actions, but as a child of God, your behavior must be different. If you’re to become as useful as you desire, looking to the Lord first has to become your engrained response. When difficulties come, as they always do, your reaction is what determines your growth and how valuable your recovery will be.

 

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (I John 1:8-10)


In spite of what anyone might tell you, God is not a blessing machine, ready to dispense material favors for all who ask, without qualification or hesitation. When you review the “Fruits of the Spirit,” materialism is not mentioned. What is declared are estimable character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Each of these character qualities is highly valued by God, and if you want to be a person after “God’s own heart,” you will seek them above the pleasures of life.

Too often, most of us complain to God because we want material blessings without the slightest consideration of whether or not receiving them is actually good for us or not. What we want is for God to spare us from the natural consequences of our actions. We’ve come to learn that government bailouts are counter-productive, but we never seem to understand that asking God to bail us out may also be counter-productive. We are like children who demand candy from a reluctant parent, never considering what harm it might do.

Because we don’t recognize or understand the bigger picture, we demand that God make our will be His will. Then, we become critical of His treatment toward us when He doesn’t comply. Consequently, to us it seems like our prayers have gone unanswered. When we don’t get what we want, it’s usually because God is working on other, more important, things.

If your desire purpose to be restored to your life, along with deep, estimable character qualities, join me in this prayer:

Father,

Sometimes, life can be so complicated.

Doing the right thing seems easy enough,

Until it comes time to do it,

When the dread of adverse consequences

Becomes an overwhelming nightmare.

My heart’s desire is for my life to become easier.

Tell me, why am I so special that my journey

Is constantly filled with so many difficulties?

Why can’t things go smoothly—just for a while?

Why me, Lord? Why me? Why? Why? Why?

I don’t want to sound like I’m whining,

But I know that I am. I’m complaining because

My shoes are too tight, while others go barefoot.

I know I should be more grateful,

But I want a respite from my travail and anguish.

I want to be far from despair and sorrow.

I want to serve You with gladness and joy,

But I have no sense of hope within me—

Nothing that can sustain me for more

Than a few moments at a time.

I don’t want to be a robotic automaton,

Pretending everything is fine and joyous,

When I know things are dreadfully wrong.

My days, which are numbered by You,

Are passing before me, and it all seems

Like a terrible, meaningless waste.

Intervene, Lord, and allow me to know

Joy and gladness once again.

Fill my days with peace and purpose,

So that I can tell other of Your fidelity.

Rebuild me into the person you want me to be—

Strong and resourceful, and ready to do

The next right thing with gladness in my heart.

I ask this in Christ’s Name, amen.

Jack Watts


Refer to Step 2: I commit to stop living my life in pursuit of self-defeating behavior.

 

Many of us prefer to stay at the threshold of the Christian life instead of going on to construct a soul in accordance with the new life God has put within. We fail because we are ignorant of the way we are made. We put things down to the devil instead of our own undisciplined natures. Think what we can be when we are roused!

—Oswald Chambers

 

The single greatest enemy to our recovery is the state of our minds. Because we have been abused, typically we feel defeated and worthless, which is exactly the message our abusers want us to receive. It’s probably one of the reasons why they abused us in the first place. Although it’s normal to have feelings of worthlessness as a result of these experiences, it’s self-defeating to internalize them and make them part of who you are.

If you want to be a whole person—valuable to yourself and to others—you must renew your mind and reject what your abuser has said about you. Don’t internalize it. If you already have, make a commitment to renew your mind immediately. The way to do this is simple: accept that God loves you and desires your recovery.

The solution is easy, but summoning the courage and the will to transform your mind may be the most difficult thing you ever do. Plus, it’s not a one-time decision. You have to do it every day—sometimes every hour. It’s hard, but the value of making the effort is incalculable.

If you make the commitment and persevere, over time and slowly, you’ll change and become everything God ever intended you to be. If you don’t, you’ll wallow in mediocrity and self-pity for years, perhaps decades. The choice is yours. Renew your mind, or continue to internalize the lies that others have said about you as the truth.

 

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God. (I Corinthians 2:12)

Jack Watts

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