Archive for October, 2010


For those who wait patiently for You,

For those who come to You for help,

Rather than taking matters into their own hands,

You promise that they will mount up with wings like an eagle,

That they will run and not grow tired,

That they will walk and never become weary.

In the depth of my despair, and in my heartache and rejection,

Your promises seemed so remote, so obscure, and so meaningless.

I was so certain that they were  beyond my reach,

That I never even considered them to be real or tangible.

To me, they were nothing more than sappy, poetic words.

In my pain and my heartache, all I wanted was relief,

Which at times was so intense I thought it would never end.

I begged You to answer my prayers and my demands,

Which You never seemed to do, adding to my anguish.

I felt to unloved and abandoned—even by You

That my hurt was magnified tenfold, maybe twenty.

But that’s not what was happening at all,

Which I can now see clearly, as I pause and reflect.

You did answer my prayers—all of them, but You just said, “No.”

You loved me enough to not allow me to gain things,

Which were clearly not in my best interest to have.

In my disquietude and short-sightedness,

I couldn’t understand or fathom Your will, but now I do.

Because I chose Your way instead of a self-destructive path,

You have brought me to higher plateau than I’ve ever experienced—

To a place where I am now capable

Of mounting up with wings like an eagle—

And able to achieve fulfillment beyond my wildest dreams.

Because You restore the years the locust have eaten away,

I feel invigorated and filled with resolve,

Far younger and more energetic than I have felt in decades.

I know I am capable of being

Everything You ever intended for me to be.

As my strength and faith grow daily, I feel

Empowered to run and not grow weary—to walk and never faint.

In Your faithfulness, You have lifted me up,

Even when I was certain that You had abandoned me,

Caring little about me and less about my plight.

Now, with my vision and joy restored,

I willingly bow my knee and say,

“Thank You, Father, for being such

A loving, gracious, and compassionate God.”

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Your Life Has Purpose

Refer to Step 1: I acknowledge that my life is shipwrecked and not where I want it to be.

The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune’s spite; revive from ashes and rise.

—Miguel De Cervantes

When you experience religious abuse, it shatters your world. Your confidence in God is replaced by confusion and apprehension about the future. Nothing seems right, and you loose your bearings. No longer self-assured, you become fearful and timid.

Because those in spiritual authority over you have made a pronouncement that you are unworthy, whether stated or implied, you accept their assessment as valid—at least on the inside, in your soul, at the core of your being. For you, all is lost or at least seriously diminished, and you doubt anything will ever be right again. The future, which once seemed bright, now seems bleak, as you grind out each day with little purpose. You feel like a balloon the day after the party, no longer buoyant and energetic.

Sadly, nearly everyone who experiences religious abuse feels this way. For some, it debilitates them completely. For others, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as their life assumes a shallow, irresolute quality.

That’s the bad news, but there is good news as well.

Your life doesn’t need to be this way. There’s a way out that works—a way filled hope. God has not given up on you—not for a minute. There’s a future waiting for you—a future filled with noble, worthwhile endeavors. It’s available, but you have to work for it. It will not come easily. Nothing of value ever does. All you have to do is want it and be willing to work for it—not just some of the time, but each and every day.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the suffferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:16-18)

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Seeing New Possibilities

Refer to STEP 2: I refused to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

The greatest concern of our lives is not the Kingdom of God, but how we are to fit ourselves to live. Jesus reverses the order: Get rightly related to God first, maintain that as the great care of your life, and never put the concern of your care on the other things.

–Oswald Chambers—

Putting the Kingdom of God first can be the most difficult thing in the world to do, especially for materialistically minded Americans. For us, Christianity is fine, just as long as we can be affluent and comfortable. If that’s threatened, we never consider it God’s will.

“He would never do that to me,” each of us reason. For us, prosperity and a strong portfolio are synonymous, and if our commitment to this is challenged, we shop around for another church, which will validate our consumptive inclinations.

Because we think this way, being spiritually abused can end up being a positive experience. Once it has happened to you, you feel shattered and believe your world will never be the same again. You’re right. It won’t, which means you have to look at things differently.

You have to renew your mind and see new possibilities, which is precisely what the Lord wants you to do anyway. Shattered people cease to be self-centered and develop the capability of seeking God’s purposes first. Until this happens, however, it never occurs to most believers that God wants them to have depth, which has more value to Him than a pleasant, carefree lifestyle.

So, the next time you see someone going through a horrific situation, especially an abusive one, pay careful attention. The Lord is probably at work in that person’s life—big time.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34)

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Refer to STEP 10: I believed that God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

We are not, however, a species that can choose the baggage with which we must travel. In spite of our best intentions, we always find that we have brought along a suitcase or two of darkness and despair.

—Dean Koontz

When a person is verbally abused, feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem are inevitable. It just comes with the territory. These feelings are even more pronounced when the abuse originates from a spiritual leader. That’s because the abused person’s relationship with God invariably comes into question. Essentially, the abuser either states or implies, “You’re ‘not okay,’ and your relationship with God is ‘not okay’ either.”

The devastation caused by the internalization of a message like this is incalculable. After receiving such an assault, the most difficult thing in the world is for the abused person to believe that God still loves them, which produces feelings of hopelessness that are inevitable. In the back of their minds, they accept what the abusive person has said about them as the truth, which makes them emotionally unable to believe the positive, validating message God has to say about them through Scriptural promises.

The role of a spiritual leader is to lead but, when someone uses that power destructively, that person still leads—just in a dysfunctional, destructive direction.

This is why abused people need to work the 11 Steps to recovery from religious abuse. Step 10 is specifically about renewing the mind to believe that God still has a plan for an abusee’s life—a plan for good things and not evil. No matter how devastated and defeated you may feel, the power to be a dynamic worthwhile person is still there, available for the asking. One promise says, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is either true or it isn’t. If you can accept what God has said as true, you are on your way to renewing your mind and to recovery. If you haven’t begun the renewal process, start today.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)

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The Fruits of Bitterness

Refer to STEP 6: I abandon my desire to spread malice because of my pain and anger, and I chose to relinquish my right to be self-absorbed.

Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.

—Charlotte Bronte

Having established a relationship with God through faith, you already have everything you need to facilitate your recovery. It’s inside you. Because you are His child, possessing all the rights that entails, you can recover just as soon as you make the decision to do so.

This isn’t just the power of positive thinking or putting a constructive spin on your situation. It’s real, and you can count on it.

You may feel lost, detached, helpless, and defeated, but you are not. You may feel like you are in the world—without God, forlorn, and beyond help—but you are not. You may feel like nothing good will ever happen to you again, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All is not lost—not even close, regardless of how you might feel about your circumstances.

As is so often the case, your recovery depends on how you choose to proceed. If you want to nurse your wounds and continue to blame those who have abused you, you can certainly do that. It’s your right, and it’s the path most people choose to follow, especially immediately after their painful experience.

Being angry is normal but, by becoming stuck in your anger, it will only lead to one thing—bitterness. When bitterness clutches your soul, it diminishes the quality of your life, insuring that you will never become the person God intended you to be. Bitterness can go so deeply into you that it’s as addictive as a controlled substance—a habit nearly impossible to break. Once it takes hold, it becomes part of you, diminishing your capacity for every positive character quality you’ve ever possessed. It can even alter how you look, producing a sour, defeated countenance, which is certainly not what you want for yourself.

Nothing good comes from it—nothing. If you’ve become bitter, it’s imperative that you make a conscious choice to break its hold upon you. Until that happens, no substantive recovery is possible.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:30-31)

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Refer to STEP 2: I refused to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

A fellow is more afraid of the trouble he might have than he ever is of the trouble he’s already got. He’ll cling to trouble he’s used to before he’ll risk a change.

—William Faulkner

I love that commercial about V-8. It says you had the opportunity to make a good choice about what you put in your body and chose instead to eat something that wasn’t nutritious. Because Americans make poor dietary choices every day, we have weight and health issues galore.

The same is true spiritually. In the aftermath of spiritual abuse, nearly every abused person makes poor choices. We feel defeated, so we act as if we have been defeated—as if our value to the Lord has ceased to exist. In essence, we accept as true what has been said about us and behave accordingly. We eat candy instead of having a V-8.

If you want your life to count—to have meaning and purpose, you have to change this pattern of self-defeating behavior, and it begins by changing your mind about what happened. You need to start believing that what your abuser meant for evil; God meant for good.

It’s not all over for you. Your life is not ruined. You just think it is. Although your vision of what you wanted to be may have passed, God’s vision for what He wants of you certainly has not. He still loves you; He still has a plan for your life; and, He definitely wants you to be everything you are capable of being.

So, as an act of your will, stop wallowing in discontent. Stop thinking and behaving like a failure. Rouse yourself, get on your knees, and turn your heart to the Lord. It’s like having a V-8. It will nourish every part of you—body, soul, and spirit.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ (I Peter 1:14-16)

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Refer to STEP 11: I made a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

Be entirely tolerant or not at all; follow the good path or the evil one. To stand at the crossroads requires more strength than you possess.

—Heinrich Heine

Although Christian doctrine repeatedly states that man’s nature is sinful and separated from God, we seem to be surprised when someone acts sinfully. We’ve sanitized our churches so thoroughly that sinners don’t feel comfortable attending church. They don’t believe they are good enough to come because the church has become the home for the self-righteous—not for sinners.

With no place else to go, hurting people by the millions turn to alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity to relieve their pain. It seems to work for a while, but then the negative consequences set in, destroying the person’s self-worth, and ultimately the person’s life.

When people like these hit rock bottom and need help, they should be welcomed with open arms by churches but, more often than not, self-righteous Christians make it too uncomfortable for them to feel welcome. So where do these people go? They go to AA, ALANON, and dozens of other 12 Step groups where they are accepted just as they are by the “God of their understanding,” which, more often than not, isn’t the God of the Scriptures.

Could you imagine bringing fifty recovering alcoholics to your church next Sunday—not two or three, but fifty? What would the reception be like? Would they be accepted with open arms? It’s highly unlikely, but they would be accepted at AA, where they don’t have to fear being judged by self-righteous people.

You can even see the influence of the self-righteous in Christian bookstores, which are monuments to irrelevancy. They are filled with:

1. Sappy books about Christian platitudes

2. Positive thinking books with a Christian slant

3. Prosperity books, which distort biblical principles

4. Non-sexual romantic novels

5. And thousands of Bibles translated hundreds of ways.

Christian publishers stay away from anything controversial—anything edgy, anything relevant. They are afraid of offending the self-righteous. A culture of fear exists in Christian publishing companies just as it does in Christian churches. Both are fearful of offending the self-righteous.

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. (Romans 14:1)

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