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Archive for March, 2011


When Fear Becomes Overwhelming

Father,

You know my troubles like no other,

And You understand my adversities.

You know that sometimes I’m so afraid

That my skin grows cold,

And it feels like I can hardly breathe.

I feel so helpless.

I’m afraid of so many things.

I’m afraid of people and of being alone,

Of never experiencing happiness again,

Of not having enough money.

Father, it seems like the list never ends,

And I lack motivating strength.

I need Your help—now, more than ever.

Be my strength, when I am weak.

Be my fortress, when my life crumbles around me.

Father, I can rely on no one but You,

And sometimes I’m afraid You don’t really care—

That You are not really there to help me.

I want to be strong and confidant,

But I am not, and I know that I’m not.

Father, give me Your strength and Your confidence.

Help me put one foot in front of the other—one day at a time,

With nothing sustaining me but my confidence in You,

Which I admit is tenuous and very fragile.

For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin. But my enemies are vigorous and strong; and many are those who hate me wrongfully, and those who repay evil for good. Do not forsake me, O Lord, O my God, do not be far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation. (Psalm 38:17-22

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Father,

As I grit my teeth defiantly,

My anger is so consuming that

Toxic emotions rule my soul.

My fury clouds my judgment,

And my smile is far from my face.

Dark clouds diminish my countenance,

Warning others to stay clear.

I have vivid thoughts of revenge,

Of making my abusers pay a terrible price

For the injustice they’ve exacted upon me.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t like

The person I see—the person I have become.

I spend my days feeding my anger,

Consuming myself with hostile thoughts,

Which race repeatedly through my mind.

I’m consumed by hateful thoughts of retribution.

I know that I’m not ready to forgive—not yet.

While I’m in this hostile state,

I need Your help more than ever.

Father, move me through this period quickly,

And help me to forgive—just like I’ve been forgiven.

While my anger dominates my consciousness,

Keep me from four things, from which there is no return:

From saying harsh words that can never be retrieved;

From wasting hours, fantasizing about vengeful reprisals;

From self-defeating behavior to assuage my pain;

And from wishing evil upon my adversaries.

This you know, my beloved brethren. But let every one be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

I want to control the outcome

Of events that impact my life.

You know that the desire of my heart

Is for You to orchestrate circumstances,

Which will allow me to have my own way.

When that doesn’t happen,

Which seems to be far too often,

I become sulky, peevish, and petulant.

I resent that You will not make Your will mine,

Even though that might not be the best thing for me.

When I behave like a child, I think like one as well,

But I don’t realize how juvenile I’ve become.

It never occurs to me until after my fretful emotions

Have run the gambit and I am spent—

Emotionally exhausted from dictating to You.

At the end of it all, like always,

I become sorrowful, realizing that

You are God, and I am not.

Forgive me for my waywardness, and restore

A sense of humility and equilibrium to me.

Teach me to focus on my role,

Which are the things I can control—

Rather than what I cannot.

I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but with justice; not with Thy anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:23-24)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

It is so easy to live my life each day,

Never taking the time to pay attention

To You or to all that You have done for me.

I haven’t disregarded You purposefully,

But I don’t make You a priority either.

Then, when everything seems to unravel,

When nothing works and everything

That can go wrong definitely does,

My focus becomes instantaneous,

And I regret my capriciousness instantly.

I become panicked, wanting You to “fix” everything,

Fearful that my world will completely collapse.

Calling upon You from the depth of my being,

I hear Your voice, which gently but firmly tells me,

To be still and know that You are Almighty God.

I know that this should give me confidence,

And that I should cease from my fretful worrying,

But that’s not what happens at all—

That has never been my experience.

Instead, I become more intense and insistent than ever,

Begging, whining, moaning, and carping—

Anything to get Your attention and demand relief.

But no matter what I do or how I flail about,

Your answer never changes—not even a little.

As I sit in my solitude, in moments when all is quiet,

Your voice becomes even clearer, reminding me,

To be still and know that You are God.

If I were stronger, I would cease from all my striving,

But it’s not in my nature to trust so easily.

I wish that was my way, but I know that it isn’t.

I want to learn to rest, but that doesn’t happen

Until I’ve exhausted myself with distress, fear, and worry.

Finally, when I am completely spent and can no longer

Muster a complaint, I bow my knee, as I should have earlier,

And submit to the small quiet voice that never ceases to say,

Be still and know that I am there for you—

That I am Almighty God.

They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wit’s end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet; So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! (Psalm 107:27-31)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

As the years progress,

I often hear people talk

About how much they trust You,

But their pronouncements seem no deeper

Than those of a fickle lover.

Lacking tangibility and depth,

Their affirmations, which flow mellifluously

From their self-serving mouths,

Have selfish and egotistical motives

That seem devoid of worthwhile substance.

Such loyalty to You has not been forged

By adversity and weathered by hardship.

Their trust seems shallow and juvenile,

Rather than strong, resilient, and steadfast.

Believing that whining and demanding

Will gain favor rather than genuine humility,

They come before You with hearts

That are petulant and peevish, lacking gratitude.

I understand this perspective completely,

Having spent decades of my life

Coming before You in precisely

The same self-serving, self-centered way—

Never understanding, never acknowledging

That You know what is best for me.

I concede my effrontery and selfishness.

I have foolishly thought that my way

Was better than Yours, but I have been wrong.

I have wanted my way, believing that

When You have refused to grant it,

That You were distant and detached—

Unloving, uncaring, and rigid.

I was wrong about that, too.

You do know what’s best for me,

Regardless of what that might be.

After years of perusing frivolity,

I understand the error of my ways.

I wish I had understood it sooner,

But I lacked the maturity to do so.

Now, as wisdom has settled within me,

I bow me knee and acknowledge willingly,

You give and take away;

You give and take away;

You give and take away;

Blessed be Your name.

Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are you ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-9)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

I know You want me to trust You completely,

And I do—at least, much of the time.

Because of what has hurt me so much

And my feelings of worthlessness,

I still struggle to believe that You love me—

That You accept me just as I am,

Regardless of how awful that might be.

I don’t see how You could—not really.

Perhaps that’s why I whine and remain timid,

Even though You desire for me

To be resilient, joyful, and self-assured.

I desire inner strength, but that’s rarely an option.

Father, how can You love somebody like me?

That You do is something I cannot fathom.

Such love and acceptance is beyond my grasp.

You say that you love me despite everything,

Even when self-defeating ways overwhelms me,

Which seems to happen far too often.

As You display Your faithfulness,

My trust in You increases, ever building,

But it still isn’t where it should be.

I pretend to be strong—to be supremely confident,

But I’m not nearly the person on the inside

That I appear to be on the outside.

I pretend to be what I am not—

To be far more secure than I really am.

I even try to fool myself, but You know

My frailties, which I attempt to mask.

I don’t know why You care so much,

When I don’t even care about myself.

This is a great mystery to me.

In my quiet moments, which I attempt to avoid,

I try to fathom such love and caring,

But I simply cannot.

O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou does know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all. Thou hast enclosed me behind and before, and laid Thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is to high, I cannot attain to it. (Psalm 139:1-6)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

I feel like a wounded gazelle,

Unable to fend for myself,

As hungry beasts surround me.

My demise seems certain,

And there is no place to hide.

My friends—those who call upon Your name—

Are nowhere to be found,

Just when I need them the most.

My love has abandoned me for another,

Without ever looking back.

I am undone and badly crushed,

And those who seek what little is left,

Fight over scraps of my being—

Over pieces of my shattered life.

How long will You leave me exposed

And vulnerable to ravenous predators—

To those who seek to destroy me?

Tell me, Lord, when will it be enough?

When will You protect Your wounded child?

When will You move Your mighty hand to help?

If You don’t rescue me soon, nothing will remain.

My head, which once was proud, hangs in despair,

And my countenance is greatly diminished.

Terrifying dread and apprehension overwhelm me.

I fear that it will never end—not unless

You provide me with a way through the thorny maze,

To a place that is safe and secure.

How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord, my God; Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. Let my enemy say, “I have overcome him,” lest my adversaries rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Thy lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

Now that I’ve opened myself up completely,

Being as honest and forthright

As I know how to be,

Having also admitted my faults to another,

I want to humbly ask You

To change anything in me You desire.

You are Almighty God; and I am not.

I am weary of trying to walk a path,

Which has not been intended by You.

As I continue to purge my soul

Of all the toxins that remain,

I know I need to go one step further.

I need to forgive those who have been abusive,

Relieving them totally and completely of culpability.

I have nursed my anger and bitterness

For far too long, and I have paid

A heavy emotional price for doing so.

Believing I was punishing them by being unforgiving,

I have only punished myself instead.

I no longer want to live like that—

Having to pay a huge price for being remorseless.

I forgive them—just as You have forgiven me.

I release them completely—just as You have released me.

Give me the strength to put my pain and anger away;

Which will allow me to walk into the future

Free from these debilitating encumbrances.

Pursue after peace with all men, and after the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by it many be defiled. (Hebrews 12:14-15)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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The following was a comment I just received on my blog. What this person has written is why I wrote Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom, which has just been published by Simon & Schuster. These are his words, with minor grammatical correction. There are millions of people out there like this man, and I’m going to help as many as I can.

Jack,

I stumbled across your hghly encouraging and enlightening article this morning, and I was very greatful that some one else had come up with the idea of Christian ‘narcissism’ long before I did—from a christian perspective. I have been guilty of becoming like the ones who abused me also and find your steps of recovery very helpful.

I not only see leaders who are caught up in the idea of, “I have more Jesus than you;” I find that it is all too easy to get caught up in ”spiritual pride” and to compare ourselves with the unholiness or lower spirituality of some one else. The sad result of all this ego centricism is that it does virtually nothing to really help people in real need. In fact, it makes people anesthatised to meeting the needs of others.

The reason why there is so much “Christian” narcissism in America is because we have been correctly identified as a culture of narcissism. Historian Christopher Lasch wrote the book in 1979, The culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations,  in which he outlined how America “normalized’ pathological narcissism.” From a biblical perspective, this is prophetic. In II Timothy 3, “In the last days men shall be…lovers of thier own selves, heady, hgh minded ….” The Bible says a lot about humility and the fear of the Lord being the cure for this narcissism.

I realise that without the grace of God I would be in hell for starters and that I am a sinner saved by grace alone. I am no better than anyone else, and God can change anyone. I know many so-called christian people who have given up on me and written me off as some how not good enough for them, and I realise that there are times I have exhibited this horrible attitude. The sad thing I see is that people get so caught up—my self at times—in bickering about whose better, while the poor and needy often get neglected. Real needs and the real gospel of the cross and salvation seldom gets preached.

I believe the single biggest creator of atheists and Christian antgonists are Christians who act so holier than thou that they are incapable of admitting thier sins or faults and feeling true empathy for those in need. These type of people often point out to ther external charitable contributions, church work, or love they have for family and friends. This reminds me of what Jesus said, “If you love only those who love you, what do you do more than others? Don’t the heathens do the same?”

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

Having been used, abused, and discarded,

By those who insisted they spoke in Your name,

But most certainly did not,

My self-worth has suffered accordingly.

Having accepted their shaming castigation,

Which was cruelly inflicted upon me,

I have acted in ways contrary to my beliefs,

Which You have set forth in Your Word,

Having established them long ago in my soul.

Having tried to run from You for so long,

I now see how flawed my judgment has been.

Returning to You has required me to renew my mind,

Learning to look at life in a different way.

Thank You, Lord, for enlightening me—

For revealing that You have good things

Planned for me and not for calamity to reign.

At times, I still have trouble believing

That You really love me—just as I am.

The stinging indictment of my abusers

Has found fertile ground in my soul,

And continues to resonate, telling me that

I am a person without worth—without value.

But, when that happens, all I need to do

Is come before You and listen to You tell me,

You are my child—worthwhile, loved, and valued;

And I most assuredly have a purpose for your life.

The seers will be ashamed and the diviners will be embarrassed. Indeed, they will all cover their mouths because there is no answer from God. On the other hand I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord—and with justice and courage to make know to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:7-8)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

I come to you broken,

With a continuous heartache

That I’m certain will never mend.

At times, it’s even hard to breathe,

As cold chills race through me.

My loss is so great that

I’m certain I will never be whole again.

At night, I awaken, knowing something is amiss,

And then grim reality floods my consciousness,

Awakening me. When fully alert,

And aware of my circumstance,

My entire countenance seems to shrink.

I am diminished and bowed down.

That’s when I come to You;

That’s when I seek Your face;

That’s when I weep and mourn,

Consumed by the pain of my loss.

I want my grief to go away;

I want You to kiss my wound,

Like I was still a small child.

I want You to “make it all better,”

So that my suffering will end.

That’s when You say to me,

You need to feel this pain for a season,

But only for a season.

For I know the plans I have for you—

Plans for a future and a hope.

I understand your pain, my child.

I, too, have grieved a loss.

I, too, have felt such deep pain.

But what was gained through My loss was you,

And you are worth the price that was paid.

Knowing that God understands helps,

At least a little, so like a dutiful child,

I bend my knee and say,

“You give and take away,

You give and take away,

You give and take away,

Blessed be Your name.”

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

In my pain and anguish,

When my heart was broken,

And I thought darkness would overwhelm me,

I felt lost and all alone, but I wasn’t.

Despite how I felt, You were there with me,

Diligently working in my heart,

Stripping me of my pretense,

Stripping me of my arrogance,

Stripping me of my self-serving ways,

Each of which had made a wasteland of my life.

Although Your child, I had no concern or awareness

Of the direction You intended for me.

My only concern was relief from my discomfort,

But Your purpose was far greater than mine.

I thought my anguish would never end

And that I would not smile at the future again,

But I was wrong about that, as well.

I knew the desire of my heart

And asked You repeatedly to grant it,

But You never did, which still saddens me.

What I have gained through my loss, however,

Has had more value than I ever imagined.

Out of the abyss, You have raised me up,

Placed my feet on solid, immovable rock,

And strengthened me with power in

The inner man—at the center of my being.

No longer fearful or timid, I’m resolute and confident.

Instead of apprehension, I am calm, strong, and sane.

And it’s all because You have changed my heart—

Transforming my perspective about what has value.

Without Your loving, consistent care,

I would never have learned my lessons

And would have been destined to repeat my mistakes

Over and over again, like an unreasoning animal

And not like a man—not like a child of the King.

To redeem what I had completely wasted,

You reached into the pit—into the mire

And emotional carnage of my life—

Redeeming my future, providing me with hope.

Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou are my God; Let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground. For the sake of Thy name, O Lord, revive me. In Thy righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. (Psalm 143:10-11)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

I feel so broken and beaten,

So abused, rejected, and abandoned.

I never thought my life would be like this,

But I was wrong—dead wrong.

In spite of it all,

You’ve been right there beside me,

Even in my darkest hours,

Even when I wanted You to leave me alone.

Things have been tough for a long time,

But I’m tired of rehashing my angst.

I want more for my life than being a perpetual victim.

Help me learn my lessons, which have caused such pain,

So that I don’t have to duplicate them endlessly.

I don’t want to waste my years replicating foolishness.

Let my imprudence be turned to wisdom

So that others can benefit—not just myself.

In all of my broken places, heal me

With Your tender, loving hand.

I’m ready to move forward,

Without shutting the door on the past,

Along with the valuable lessons learned from it.

If the Lord had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul. (Psalm 94:17-19)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

My spirit has been rejuvenated.

Even my steps feel lighter,

As the burden of my past has been

Lifted from my shoulders.

Now free to walk into the future,

Unencumbered by guilt, shame,

And my self-defeating behavior,

I want life to have more meaning

Than the mediocrity that had become my lot.

The pursuit of valueless materialism

No longer has the appeal it once had.

My spirit has been reawakened,

And I want to spend my days,

Doing what You would have me do—

What You have prepared for me to do.

I’ve learned that I can understand

Your leading by looking back,

Far better than by looking forward.

Whatever You have in store,

Regardless of what that might be,

That is how I want to spend my days.

Having wandered so far from You,

I know what I am capable of doing—

Of who I am capable of being,

Which is not what I want for my future.

Guard my heart so that I do not

Wander away from You again,

Pursuing fruitless, meaningless endeavors.

Let my heart rejoice in Your ways

And give me peace and a purposeful future.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

The wounds from my abuse run deep,

Creating shame, anger, and

An Overwhelming sense of worthlessness

That enervates every area of my life.

With my mouth, I deny that

This is how I see myself,

But in the recesses of my mind,

I wonder if my abusers were correct about me.

Maybe my life has little value, after all,

Precisely like I have been told.

When it happened, I was as angry

With You as I was with them.

Being in a position of spiritual authority,

I assumed that they spoke for You,

Which they clearly indicated was true.

Feeling such pain and humiliation form my rebuke,

It never occurred to me

That Your Son was also abused—

Just like I have been—

By those who were hateful and self-serving.

You allowed Christ’s abuse—just like you allowed mine.

But what His abusers meant for evil,

You meant for good, redeeming Mankind.

Without His suffering, all would be lost.

Please redeem my life in the same way,

And use it for something of value—

Whatever that might be.

Turn my weakness into strength,

And my broken spirit into something

That is strong, substantive, and purposeful.

Be gracious to me and raise me up, that I may repay them. By this I know that Thou art pleased with me, because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me. As for me, Thou dost uphold me in my integrity, and Thou dost set me in Thy presence forever. (Psalm 41:10-12)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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