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Archive for January, 2014


Your Abuse Had a Purpose

Refer to Step 6: I make a commitment to turn away from my pride and refuse to become like those who have abused me. I abandon my desire to spread malice because of my pain and anger, and I chose to relinquish my right to be self-absorbed.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here is a question for you: to whom does the Kingdom of God belong? This isn’t rhetorical. Understanding the answer is the key to your recovery, and you’ll flounder until you grasp the answer.

It belongs to the poor in spirit—to people who don’t think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. It belongs to paupers. The politically correct term for this would probably be “the homeless.”

God’s Kingdom—the only place that really matters—does not belong to those who are beautiful, successful, or wealthy. It belongs to those who are broken—to those who have been crushed, discarded, and cast aside. It belongs to those whom the more affluent consider to be expendable and useless.

When you first experienced your abuse, isn’t that how you felt—broken, humiliated, and discarded? Even if your abusive experience was some time ago, isn’t this description still occasionally accurate?

If so, then the Kingdom of God belongs to you. Or, more accurately, it can belong to you. Your experience has probably left you spiritually bankrupt, which can be helpful. It means you’re half way there, but that’s all—just half way. In some ways, it’s the most difficult half. Having been abused and shattered, you know what it’s like to have your spirit broken. The difficult part is realizing that this was a good for you and not bad.

It allowed you to recognize suffering in others and allows you to be less self-centered. It makes you more interested in your fellow human beingss. By having experienced abuse, you can develop empathy and compassion for others, which are character qualities woefully lacking in most modern day Christians.

The righteous cry and the Lord hears, and delivers him out of all his troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18)

Jack Watts

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Refer to Step 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

I do not want to die . . . until I have faithfully made the most of my talent and cultivated the seed that was placed in me until the last small twig has grown.

—Kathe Kollwitz

For most people, after being subjected to a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse and—occasionally physical, sexual or financial abuse—life never really returns to health and normalcy. Deep emotional scars cripple the abused person to the point that his or her life never regains the richness, fullness, or contentment it once exhibited.

It doesn’t have to be this way, however, and this type of outcome is most definitely not God’s will. God loves you exactly the way you are—in your brokenness, in your despair, and in your uncertainty. He has not given you a spirit of fear. That comes from being abused and not from Him.

He has given you a spirit of love, power, and of a disciplined, sound mind. It resides just below the surface of your troubled heart, waiting for you to do the work necessary to appropriate the inner power that rightfully belongs to you—just as it does with all of God’s children.

It’s not easy regaining your composure after experiencing deep wounds from being abused; but if you do the work necessary to heal, you will not be as good as you once were. You will be better—perhaps much better.

Joy will return to you but in a different, far more meaningful way. It will be tempered with humility, discernment, and wisdom. This is not an idealistic outcome. It can be your experience, if you allow God’s healing touch to restore you. You’ll be more valuable than you ever imagined.

I’m not guessing about the outcome. I’ve seen it happen repeatedly. The choice is yours. You can go through life crippled by your debilitating abusive experience, or you can allow God to use it to become everything He ever intended you to be.

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (I Timothy 1:7)

Jack Watts

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A Plea for Restoration

Father,

Sometimes, life is so hard.

Doing the right thing seems easy enough,

Until it comes time to do it,

When dread of the consequences

Becomes an overwhelming concern.

Why can’t life be easier?

Why am I “so special” to You that

My life is constantly filled with difficulties?

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

Why me, Lord? Why me?

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 have no legs.

I know I should be more grateful,

But I need a respite from my pain,

From my despair, and from my sorrow.

There is nobody who can help but You.

The “Be warmed and be filled crowd”

Smile and offer meaningless platitudes,

As I nurse the emotional wounds

I fear will destroy me.

I want to serve You with gladness,

But there is no joy in me—

Nothing that could sustain me for more

Than a few moments at a time.

I don’t want to be a plastic automaton,

Pretending that everything is okay,

When I know things are dreadfully wrong.

My future is in Your hands,

My days, which are numbered by You,

Are passing before me, and it all

Seems like a terrible waste.

Intervene, Lord. Allow me to know

Joy and gladness once more.

Fill my days with peace and prosperity,

So that I can tell other of Your faithfulness.

Jack Watts

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Father:

In my pain, I have acted in ways I’m ashamed to admit.

I want to keep them secret—to hide them

From You and from everybody else.

I didn’t intend to be like this—

To become the person I know I am,

But my sins have exceeded my coping capacity,

And I am unable to control myself,

Which I foolishly believed I could.

Journal: Take a few minutes and write down the actions you have hidden and want to remain secret. Be thorough and honest. Once you’ve written it, thank God for His forgiveness, and rip up the paper, knowing that you have been forgiven.

Like most infomercials, people’s testimonies are over-sold and under delivered. Because authenticity is missing, many dismiss these testimonies as being overstated, while others reject Christianity because they recognize the hypocrisy of believer. Here’s the question that needs to be answered: Wouldn’t it be better to tell the truth scrupulously, and allow the chips fall where they may, rather than live a life that’s essentially a fraud?

Journal: Write about your Christian testimony, being scrupulously honest.

The mindset behind prayers that ask to be spared from the natural consequences of actions isn’t something that God will answer in the way you want. He simply doesn’t operate this way. God doesn’t deliver you from trouble; He delivers you through trouble.

Journal: Can you think of a time when God walked you through a crisis rather than saving you from it? If so, write about that experience.

This is why the 11-step approach is singular and not plural—I and not we. There is no way for a group to heal your relationship with God. You have to do it that yourself, in the quietness of your own heart. Although each person’s experience may be different, the road back to God isn’t. It’s the same for everybody.

Question: What does the road back to God look like for you? Think about at least three things it entails.

 

After having been abused, 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, and fortune. We begin to recognize that God values small things—where nothing is expected in return—more than grand things well publicized.

Journal: Think of a time when you performed a selfless act—a kindness performed for no reason other than to help someone else. How did that make you feel? Were you able to keep it to yourself? Were there any long-term ramifications from it?

Jack Watts

 

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Sometimes, a Little Can Be a Lot

 

Refer to Step 11: I make 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.

 

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves—Amelia Earhart

 

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 abuse, however, where the spiritual wind has been knocked out of us, 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, and 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.

He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44)

Jack Watts

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One Trusted Friend

 

 

Refer to Step 8: I will share my experience and my own wrongdoing with a trusted friend, confessing the exact state of my heart.

 

 

Go often to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.

—Recovery Slogan

 

When you read the steps for Alcoholics Anonymous or any other 12-step group, you’ll notice that they are plural and not singular. In step 1, it says, “We came to believe” and not “I came to believe.” In recovery from substance abuse, the shared experience of the group is often the most powerful component for achieving sobriety.

In recovery from religious abuse, however, it’s a little different. Although the wounding comes from a religious leader, God is nearly always blamed for the abuse as well. This means the person’s relationship with God becomes the primary problem and the relationship that needs to be mended first. Without getting straight with God, nothing else will work well—that’s for certain.

This is why the 11-step approach is singular and not plural—I and not we. There is no way for a group to heal your relationship with God. You have to do it that yourself, in the quietness of your own heart. Although each person’s experience may be different, the road back to God isn’t. It’s the same for everybody.

At the same time, you will need at least one trusted friend to act as your confidant along the way. Learning to trust God again is essential—so is learning to trust another human being. Both, working together synergistically, will make your journey much less burdensome—and with fewer detours.

Until you’ve accomplished both, nothing else will work very well. When you bring your situation before God, you can be assured He will always be available and accepting. Bringing it before another human is not as easy, but if the person is in tune with God’s will, the end result will definitely be empowering.

 

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12:13)

Jack Watts

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Learning How to Pray

Refer to Step 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted.

If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.

—Meister Eckhart

When an insurmountable problem or difficult circumstance comes into your life, what do you do?

You pray, but what do you pray for? If you’re like most, you pray for God to spare you from what is about to happen—from the consequences of your actions. That’s the agenda most follow. You want God to rescue you from whatever unpleasantness is about to transpire. Initially, you ask. Then, you beg. Finally, you abandon all of your pretentiousness and plead your case, insisting that God intervene on your behalf.

Then, when your prayer isn’t answered in the way you want, which it usually isn’t, you question God, entertaining all sorts of negative thoughts.

  • Does He really care?
  • Does He think you’re not worth the effort?
  • Is He really active in your life?
  • Why didn’t He come through for you?

But you probably never took a hard look at what you were praying about.

Here’s the problem. The thinking behind prayers that ask to be spared from natural consequences isn’t the type of prayer that God answers in the way you want. He simply doesn’t operate that way. God doesn’t deliver you from trouble; He delivers you through trouble. This isn’t parsing words.

There’s a big difference between the two. If God delivered you from your problems, you would never grow up, and that’s not what He wants for you.

He wants you to be mature, stable, and resilient. He wants you to have childlike faith, but He doesn’t want you to be a perpetual child. Almighty God is not a rescuer—not in a codependent way, and when that’s what you are praying for. When you pray like this, don’t be surprised when your requests are not answered in the way you want.

Because God wants you to be an adult—to attain your full stature as one of His children—He is more intent on having you learn your lessons from self-defeating behavior than anything else. That can only be accomplished by going through troubles, heartaches, disappointments, and suffering.

While you are going through your difficulties, however, He never leaves you, and He never forsakes you. That’s a promise He always keeps. That’s where you learn to trust Him, and it’s also where you learn to grow up.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Jack Watts

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