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Archive for May, 2012



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 of putting a constructive spin on your situation. It’s real; 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, rejected, 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 desperate your circumstances appear.

As is so often the case, your recovery depends on how you choose to proceed. If you nurse your wounds and continue to blame your abuser, 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, you will only experience one thing—bitterness. When bitterness clutches your soul, it diminishes the quality of your life, insuring you will never become the person God intended you to be. Bitterness can run so deep it becomes as addictive as a controlled substance—a habit nearly impossible to break. Once it takes grip, it becomes part of you, diminishing 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 will be 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)

Jack Watts

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Refer to STEP4: I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

One’s cruelty is one’s power and, when one parts with one’s cruelty, one parts with one’s power. When one has parted with that, I fancy one’s old and ugly.

 —William Congreve

 

For religious abuse to occur, an attitude of arrogance, entitlement, and pride is required by a religious leader. If such an attitude doesn’t exist, then most abuse is accidental—not malicious. To be certain what’s really happening, it’s always wise to take a good, hard look at every pastor and ministry leader. Try to discern telltale signs of spiritual superiority. If you spot any self-serving or narcissistic characteristics, move on. It doesn’t matter how profound the person’s teaching may be or how loving he or she appears to be, it’s an illusion. Those who recognize the problem and make a stand for what is right are the ones who will be abused.

Here’s the way it works. Although people have differences of opinion, when one person’s opinion is routinely elevated above others and positioned as “God’s will,” then abusiveness often follows. The person who doesn’t buy into the program is not only rebuked; but by holding his or her ground in opposition, that person’s relationship with God is inevitably called into question. To criticize the minister—”the anointed one”— is perceived as criticizing God, making the person who disagrees have flawed, “sinful” character qualities.

Routinely, those who are in opposition are depicted as “carnal”—as purposefully going against God’s will. This makes the questioning person’s walk with the Lord appear to be defective, which is exactly how it is positioned by the abusive leader. When the abuser says, “I’ll pray for you, brother,” it is usually accompanied by a syrupy smile. When this happens, you can be certain that no prayers will be forthcoming—only character assassination.

The person asking hard questions becomes an “untouchable”—rejected by those who were co-laborers just a short time earlier. This kind of treatment happens routinely in ministries and churches, wounding people beyond their capacity to cope with life afterwords. When the process is complete, there is another person added to the ranks of the religiously abused.

Your boasting is not good. Do you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6-8)

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

Troubles come to us like mire and filth; but, when mingled with the soil, they change to flower and fruit.

—Henry Ward Beecher

When you come to the end of yourself—when you’ve bottomed out and feel certain your future will remain forever bleak—that’s when God becomes more real than ever. It’s also the time when He is freest to change you in ways that count. Until a person reaches the end of himself or herself—until someone hits absolute rock bottom—then their self-will, which is always ambitious, has ends of its own to serve.

People can’t help themselves. It is just part of human nature. At the same time, it’s only when a person has bottomed out that God has full sway in that person’s life.

It’s also the place where real, fundamental change in character can be achieved. It’s not an enjoyable place but, more often than not, it’s a necessary place. Being broken is always difficult but, when a person reaches that point, God is always there to meet them. It’s the place where a person is willing to admit his or her faults readily—the place where self-seeking ends and reality begins.

When a person is broken—crushed by abuse and the vicissitudes of life—then change may be just around the corner. For transformation to occur, however, the person needs to embrace humility, while at the same time, repudiating self-pity. The former leads to growth; the latter to resentment, self-defeating behavior, and a wasted life.

Has this ever happened to you? If so, what you do with your situation is your choice. When you hit the bottom, you can do the work necessary for recovery, which is choosing a life of value—bearing worthwhile fruit, or you can wallow in your resentment, which produces the fruit of bitterness—wallowing in self-pity.

For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)

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Because it’s Blog-Radio, people can listen to it all over the world. Since there have been people following Pushing Jesus from sixty-one countries in the last three months alone, it is the best way to get this recovery message out.

I’m broadcasting from Atlanta, GA, every Tuesday from 5:30-to-6:00 p.m. (EDT). You can listen at http://tobtr.com/s/3286251. #BlogTalkRadio. You can also listen to the archived programs whenever you want. To call in: ((347) 326-9949).

Today, I will be go through the 11 steps to spiritual freedom.

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Father,

I feel so broken and despondent.

My body writhes with hopelessness,

Consumed with pain and anguish,

And I have a sense of despair

That I fear will overwhelm me.

When will it end?

I go about purposeless,

Without understanding—devoid of joy,

Which once was mine in abundance.

My grief is ever before me,

Reminding me of my loss,

Robbing me of sleep,

Diminishing my countenance,

Telling me I have failed.

I’m admonished, “It’s all for a purpose,”

By friends who want to “fix me”

And lift the sorrow from my heart.

But it doesn’t help—

Nor does it ease my pain, not even a little.

I can pretend to comprehend my plight—

To know the lessons I am being taught,

But I don’t understand—not really.

My heart is broken, perhaps beyond repair.

I fear my plight will not change,

And I will never laugh as before.

In my languishing despair,

I cry to You, begging for relief.

You hear, but You do not answer.

I beseech, moan, cry and carp,

But You allow my pain to continue,

Each day—long into the night.

Rescue me my Lord, quickly.

Put Your healing hand upon me,

And make me whole once again.

Teach me my lessons so that

I need never repeat them.

Take that which is broken

And mend it so that I will be whole,

Stronger and more resilient than ever.

Empower me so that I may bless

Your name with gladness and allow

My sadness to become a distant memory.

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I haven’t disregarded You purposefully,

But I don’t make You a priority either.

Then, when everything in my life unravels,

When nothing works and everything

That can go wrong does go wrong,

My focus upon You becomes instantaneous,

And I immediately regret my capriciousness.

Question: Has this been your experience? Have you disregarded God, except for times when you needed Him? If so, take as much time as needed to tell Him exactly how you feel.

Although, you may want Him to leave you alone, He will not—not for long anyway. Perhaps you’re smiling as you read this. You know it’s true, don’t you? You’ve experienced God’s subtle presence when you’ve deliberately rebelled against Him. Am I right? When you want Him to “just go away,” why do you think He doesn’t?

Journal: Take as much time as you need with these questions, writing down your answers.

Before their world came crashing down, most of these people thought they had something significant to offer God. They were important; they brought substance to the table. Although they would never admit it publicly, many probably thought they were better than others.

Journal: Before your abusive experience, what was your level of arrogance? Be as candid and forthright as possible, and write down your answer.

Sitting on the bench as a spectator isn’t what the Coach wants from you. For your recovery to have lasting value, you need to put it to good use. God needs you, and He wants you back in the game.

Question: Do you remember when your life had positive purpose and vision? Wouldn’t you like it to be like that again? If so, take a few minutes and tell your Heavenly Father exactly how you feel. Tell Him exactly what you would like your life to be like.

If you care for your fellow man; if you have compassion for those caught in addiction, despair, or any acting-out behavior; if you routinely display love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness; you are walking the walk every day of your life—whether you say anything or not. You just don’t realize it most of the time.

 

Question: Are you “walking the walk” or just “talking the talk?” In your heart, you know the answer. Be honest with yourself and with God, telling Him what you would like for the future.

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Refer to Step 10: I choose to believe God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

—Victor Frankl

How can you tell when someone is “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk?” In recovery, as well as in every aspect of life, it’s an important question—one that requires answering each day of your life.

What you say is important, but what you do is far more important. If you care for your fellow man; if you have compassion for those caught in addiction, despair, or other acting-out behavior; if you routinely display love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness; you are walking the walk—even if you are silent about it. You just don’t realize it most of the time.

If your walk with God is shallow, if your beliefs are simplistic, and if you are unwilling to have your faith challenged or questioned, your recovery will be weak, fruitless, and easily derailed. To become everything you want to be and are capable of being, you must develop a strong relationship with the Lord. There’s simply no other way. You have to own it yourself for your recovery to have value.

Therefore, instead of proclaiming that which is not strong in your life with bumper stickers, tee shirts, Facebook posts, and canned answers, wouldn’t it be wise to strengthen your faith, rather than just drift along aimlessly, nursing grudges and acting like a victim?

Intellectually and philosophically, Christianity is time-weathered, profound, and enduring. At the same time, most Christians in America are unable to handle legitimate questions—questions that recovery demands.

Most of Christ’s disciples were ignorant men, but they changed the world. You can change your world, too. Before that can happen, however, you must strengthen your inner man by spending quality time with God. Without it, you’re destined to have thoughts no deeper than a bumper sticker slogan or a Facebook affirmation.

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27)

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

Religion is for people who are afraid they’ll go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.

—Anonymous

One of the characteristics of someone who has experienced religious abuse is a blithe, disconnected attitude, making him or her unwilling to take a firm stand about anything. Having experienced shame and rejection from those whom they once loved and trusted, being strong and committed to anything is the furthest thing from the wounded person’s minds.

Although they may have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong, they have stopped being active participant, unwilling to act upon their convictions. Except for whining, complaining, and faultfinding, their prayers would be virtually non-existent. Having been wounded, they embrace a life of anonymity and obscurity. Pursuing a course that requires taking a firm stand about right versus wrong is for others—not for them.

There’s only one problem with this strategy. It is never God’s will for His people to remain stagnant, nursing their wounds for the remainder of their lives. That’s why recovery is so important.

If this describes you, God is calling you—right this minute. He wants you to be a loyal son or daughter and stand firm for His purposes.

Obviously, anybody who has been wounded needs time to heal, but a convalescence of years—perhaps decades—is too long. You need to rouse yourself and get back into the fray. That doesn’t mean you should re-submit to an abusive religious leader, which you should never do, but it does mean you need to bow your knee to God and ask Him what He wants you to do next.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to get to work. You have more to offer than you realize, and there are millions of desperate people who can benefit from the wisdom you’ve obtained through your abusive experience.

Sitting on the bench as a spectator isn’t what the Coach wants from you. For your recovery to have lasting value, you need to put it to good use. God needs you, and He wants you back in the game.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:17)

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

Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.

—Emily Bronte

In recovery—any kind of recovery—people learn to embrace their brokenness rather than resent it. If they don’t, they develop an attitude of self-pity, which nearly always leads to relapse. Resentment doesn’t work; acceptance does.

Before acceptance, however, when you are in the depths of despair, you have a choice to make. You can learn to be at peace with your circumstances, or you can nurture self-pity. Although nobody likes being down, it’s where you can learn about life and about who you really are.

When a person has been shattered, broken, and discarded, all pretentiousness leaves them. They cease being puffed up and arrogant. When you look at them, you can tell they have been reduced to practically nothing emotionally. Such broken-heartedness is difficult to miss. The person’s countenance seems to even diminish—like a deflated balloon.

Before their world came crashing down, most of these people thought they had something significant to offer God. They were important; they brought substance to the table. Although they would never admit it publicly, they thought they were better than others. You can picture someone like this, can’t you?

The world is full of people with a perspective like this. Have you ever been one of them? If you’re being completely honest, are you still one of them?

If so, you can understand how an abused person could become resentful, can’t you? After all that you’ve experienced, do you still have grandiose thoughts? Or, has that stage of your life passed? Do you feel defeated, without purpose, and hopeless? Has your self-esteem taken a big hit? Do people feel sorry for you because of all that you’ve been through?

If this has been your experience, what should your reaction be? How do you think you should proceed? Your answer will tell you how far you have come on the road to recovery.

When my heart was embittered, and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. (Psalm 73:21-24)

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

Through the clouds of midnight,

This bright promise shone,

I will never leave thee,

Never leave thee alone.

—Anonymous

It’s comforting to know God is always with you—no matter what. When you’re wounded, however, especially by a Christian leader you once trusted, there are times you wish God would just leave you alone. You’ve had it, and all you want to do is run away from anything that has to do with God. The thought of anything religious makes you sick, doesn’t it? Have you ever felt this way?

I certainly have—many times. When I did, all I wanted was for God to go away and leave me alone.

Fortunately, He doesn’t go away, even when you wish He would. When He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” it wasn’t an empty promise. He meant it. You can count on it when you want to and also when you don’t.

Although, you may want Him to leave you alone, He will not—not for long anyway. Perhaps you’re smiling as you read this. You know it’s true, don’t you? You’ve experienced God’s subtle presence when you’ve deliberately rebelled against Him. Am I right?

In your heart, when you say; “Just leave me alone,” why do you think He doesn’t?

It’s because He loves —exactly the way you are. You have value to Him, and He has a purpose for your life. There are times when you may not believe it, but it’s true nonetheless.

The Lord paid a high price for you and, because you belong to Him, He’s not about to give up on you. Remember this the next time you decide to “go off the deep end.” You can take all of your anger and hostility out on God, if that’s what you want. You can even engage in self-destructive behavior if you like. But that’s the problem with being a Christian. Sin just isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Because you know too much to enjoy dissipation for long, it leaves you with a feeling of emptiness and worthlessness, and you know it.

O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thoughts from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1-3)

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Father,

It so easy to live my life each day,

Never taking the time to pay attention

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 unravels, when nothing works

And everything that can go wrong consistently does,

My focus toward You becomes instantaneous,

And I immediately regret my wandering attention.

I become panicked, as I beg You to “fix” my problems,

Fearful my world will completely collapse.

As I call 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 God, Almighty.

I know this should give me confidence—

That I should cease from my fretting and worry—

But that’s not what happens at all.

Such self-confidence has never been my experience.

Instead, I become more insistent and demanding than ever,

Begging, whining, moaning, and beseeching—

Anything to get Your attention, as I demand insist relief.

But no matter what I do or how animated my flailing becomes,

Your answer never changes—not even a little.

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

Your voice becomes clear, always reminding me,

To be still and know that You are God, and I am not.

If I were stronger, I would cease from striving,

But it isn’t in my nature to trust so easily.

I wish that was my way, but I know it is not.

I want to learn patience, but that isn’t achieved

Until I’ve exhausted myself with worry and hand wringing.

Finally, when I am completely spent and can no longer

Muster fretful complaints, I bow my knee, as I should have earlier

And submit to the small quiet voice that has never ceased to say,

Be still and know that I am here for you—

That I am God, Almighty.

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Hey Jack,

This was an excellent read and very helpful. Having lived as a pastor’s daughter my 23 years I’ve known quite a few leaders which exhibit these EXACT behaviours.

Being taught to love, sympathise, and sacrifice for others, my character is, consequently, a gentle one and it has been a source of deep guilt and shame to me when my integrity and motives have been condemned by these ‘great men’ whom I trusted, and for many years I’ve punished myself for constantly not measuring up. Ignorance is not bliss and, having lived a subservient life, I couldn’t comprehend that they could be anything but divinely inspired & myself vainly selfish. I became insecure, developed a stutter, and hated my own weakness.

I have know the very best sort of men and not ALL Christian leaders are narcissistic, nor am I in any way faultless, but some people cannot be pleased. When we view them as God’s representatives, their disapproval carries a heavier weight.
Understanding narcissism has lifted a weight of confusion, shame, and pain from my shoulders, and every day is brighter in the knowledge that not everything is my fault. My heart breaks for those who unknowingly cause such pain to those around them .

Thank you and I wish you every success!

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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, and of the unknown.

Father, it seems like the list never ends,

And I lack the strength to help myself.

Question: What frightens you the most? Name at least two or three things.

After being abused, the most important thing is take care of yourself emotionally. This is especially true when the abuse has been recent. The importance of self-care is essential in the healing process. Often, the hurt and pain are so severe just making it through the day is all a person can do.

Question: What are some specific things you can do today to take care of your emotional needs? Try to think of something you know you should be doing but haven’t. Now, do it today and for the following week.

But why didn’t God rescue you? He could have, but He chose not to. Instead, He treated you like a son or a daughter and allowed you to suffer at the hands of a ruthless, self-serving religious leader—just like He allowed His Son to suffer at the hands of the Pharisees. God could have rescued Jesus, but He didn’t.

Question: Have you ever considered that during your abuse God treated you like a son or a daughter and didn’t abandon you, as you were certain He has done?

It’s normal to go through a myriad of emotions after abuse, including all the stages of grief; but at the other end, we have to come to the place where we are willing to risk everything again. We have to believe God still has us in the palm of His Hand and nothing can separate us from His love and purpose. It doesn’t mean we have to put ourselves back in an abusive situation, but it does mean we have to be willing to take another chance.

Question: Are you willing to take a chance on God again? Be honest. Write down exactly how you feel and keep your answer. It will be interesting to see if you feel the same way this time next year.

Because of failures in the past, most recovering Christians believe their future should be limited as well, which seems appropriate to them. Having already acknowledged their wrongdoing, most cannot accept the fact they have been forgiven. They have been restored completely, and there is nothing that can hold them back other than themselves.

Question: Is this you? Because of your experience, do you feel so worthless and ashamed that you believe your future should be limited? Which is it—yes or no?

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Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

Christianity at any given time is strong or weak depending upon your concept of God. 

—A.W. Tozer

For any type of recovery program to be effective, the person working it needs to develop a relationship with God. In most recovery programs, God is referred to as a Higher Power, which can be anything, including group consciousness. For many, this is as good as it gets.

For Christians recovering from religious abuse, however, it’s a little different. We acknowledge the Trinity, narrowing our focus to a biblical perspective of God, which spares us from the dead-end street of following pantheism. As recovering people spend time nurturing their relationship with God, they come to Him as Friend, as Comforter, as Sounding Board, and as a Helper. But they rarely come to Him as God, Almighty.

The difference is significant. People limit God’s power in their lives, which also limits the level of their recovery. The reason is because most don’t feel worthy to ask Him for what they really want and need. They believe He is either unwilling or incapable of answering significant prayers for someone who has been so unworthy of blessing.

Because of past failures, most recovering Christians believe their future should be limited as well, which seems appropriate to them. Although they acknowledge their wrongdoing, many refuse to believe they have been forgiven, reasoning they don’t deserve any better. They don’t accept that they have been restored completely, and that there is nothing that can hold them back other than themselves. In essence, their sense of fairness becomes self-limiting.

Think of it this way: If God has forgiven you, what right do you have to withhold self-forgiveness? If you think of it this way, the very thought of not forgiving yourself seems audacious, doesn’t it? Don’t allow your emotional self-punishment to minimize God’s ability to restore you completely. Today, make a commitment to stop beating yourself up because of your past. Come to God—not as Comforter and Friend—but as Almighty. If you do, you will not be disappointed.

Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is His name, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:2-3)

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

If a man is going to do anything worthwhile, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what He says, and immediately you do, you find that what He says fits on as solidly as common sense.

–Oswald Chambers

Going through an abusive situation is never something a person plans for. Obviously, it’s an unwanted experience. When it occurs, it’s generally considered to be a detour—an unwanted bump in the road—unexpected and undesired.

At the same time, there are no accidents with God. Everything has a purpose, including many unpleasant circumstances, including abuse. If you learn to go with the flow—to believe God still loves you and has a constructive plan for your life—you are definitely on the right track.

It’s normal to go through a myriad of emotions after abuse, including all the stages of grief but, when the process is complete, you must come to the place where you are willing to risk everything again. You have to trust that God still has you in the palm of His Hand and nothing can separate you from His love and purpose. This doesn’t mean you have to return to an abusive situation, but it does mean you have to be willing to take another leap of faith, depending on God as you do.

God is committed to developing your character, making you into everything He ever intended for you to be. His goal is for you to be rich in character qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. This is always His goal, never for anything less. Knowing God is with you and for you, regardless of the circumstance, makes trusting Him your wisest option, even after a trusted religious leader has been abusive.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-31)

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