I’m getting a little bit closer on my quest to find a puppy. I hope to be able to bring one home mid-to-late March, but we’ll see what God does. Thanks for your prayers. I’ll post a picture
I’m going to answer two questions today, well actually one question and one suggestion. A reader wrote me and asked me to develop a system on my website for vetting counselors who specialize in abuse so that if a person needs one, he or she might be able to find one in their own local area.
The answer to that is I do have a referral list on my website of counselors that Chris Moles and I have personally trained over the past two to three years, but it’s hardly enough to cover every part of the US and Canada.
If you know of an exceptionally good counselor that you have worked with in this area, please make them aware of my EQUIP group, so that we can vet them and add them to the list.
A counselor referral list would be a great asset for those of you looking for more one-on-one help but finding the right counselor who understands abuse is the huge challenge. That’s why I have a team of coaches that Chris Moles and I have trained so that we can help you long distance with competent care.
This week’s question:How does one recover from spiritual abuse in the church and have a healthy relationship with God?
Answer: I thought this was a timely question because abuse doesn’t just happen in the home, it happens in some churches. Fundamentally all abuse stems from misuse or abuse of one’s power in order to gain control over an individual, group, organization, or country. There are a lot of ways one does this.
But intimidation isn’t only physical. It can also be verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, and spiritual. And studies show that physical intimidation alone is usually not sufficient to keep control over others. In her book, Getting Free, author Ginny Nicarthy comments about a report on torture from Amnesty International. She writes,
Most people who brainwash…use methods similar to those of prison guards, who recognize that physical control is never easily accomplished without the cooperation of the prisoner. The most effective way to gain that cooperation is through subversive manipulation of the mind and feelings of the victim, who then becomes a psychological, as well as a physical prisoner.
This is what happens in a spiritually oppressive and abusive church. They use God and the Bible to bully, threaten, intimidate, scare, shame, guilt-trip, manipulate, and brainwash their congregants into compliance and submission. They want control over them so that the people in their congregation will do what they want or what they define as what “God wants.” We see this occur in all different religions and denominations and it is especially obvious in cults.
The saddest part about spiritual abuse is that Jesus called his church to reflect God’s heart and character to lost and hurting people. That’s why Jesus was so unpopular with the religious leaders of his day. They had no idea what God was really like but they tried to control people by legalistically requiring adherence to their Jewish system of laws. Jesus tried to show them a different way but they wouldn’t listen and became so threatened by him that they killed him.
The Bible tells us that Jesus showed us what God was like so that there would be no confusion (Read John 1). The Bible also says that Jesus perfectly and exactly represented God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3).
The apostle Paul exhorts the church in Ephesians when he says, “Be imitators of God and live a life of love” (Ephesians 5:1). And in one of the oldest books of the Old Testament, Job describes the character of our God this way. It says, “He rescues the poor from the cutting words of the strong and rescues them from the clutches of the powerful. And so
God does not force obedience, compliance, relationship or love from his people. He invites, He woos, He rescues, and He welcomes sinful, hurting, and broken people back into a loving relationship with Him. Click To Tweet
However, when you are raised or attend a spiritually oppressive/abusive church, your picture of God becomes distorted and therefore your relationship with him becomes damaged. This is not your fault. This is the fault of the church that has failed to show you who God is and what He is like.
But your question is how do you heal from all of this? You’ve already taken the first two steps. The first step is to leave your oppressor whenever possible. You’ve done that. You’re out of that church. You’ve recognized it for what it was, oppressive and abusive and you left.
The second step is to recognize your need for healing. I hear you want to start this new phase of healing. I sense your desire for a new relationship with the true God of the Bible, the God who says that he is the God of love, not fear and remember, He tells that His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). This is good news because you and I don’t even desire God unless He draws us to him.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus came to seek and save lost people (Luke 19:10). But who are the lost? All of us. The word lost in the original language of the Bible means more than being disoriented or unable to find one’s way home. To be lost Biblically means to be ruined or destroyed. To be lost means to be desperate for help and that’s exactly who Jesus came to help, to rescue and to save.
God knows what you’ve been through. He’s drawing you into a new and healthy relationship with Him. He knows that you’ve believed lies about who He is.
It’s the oldest trick Satan uses to keep us from loving and trusting God.
Remember in Genesis, Satan maligned God’s goodness and his character to Adam and Eve. Even though they had known Him and walked in that beautiful, perfect, peaceful setting with Him, Satan was able to trick Eve and brainwash her with lies. We are all vulnerable to lies and that’s why it’s so important to renew our mind again and again with the truth.
So, friend, I’d encourage you to be patient with yourself. You are on the right track. Trust that God is patient with you too. As you get to know who He is, you will fall in love, not with a dictator, but with a loving God who tenderly cares for you.
One of the problems all of us struggle with is that we believe IN God but our hearts struggle to actually believe Him. To believe what he tells us.
To heal, you will need to take some time to meditate on what God says both about who He is and also who you are. The psalmist writes, “He sent forth his WORD and healed them” (Psalm 107:20). Therefore after you read or listen to what God says, ask yourself, “Do I believe Him?”
Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with doubt or unbelief. You’re like everyone else who says, “I do believe but help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). But own it. Ask God to help you to believe Him above all the other voices in your head and in the world. And as you practice this, you will grow stronger and more secure in your awareness and knowledge of who God is and how much He loves you.
Friends, share how you found healing with God after spiritual oppression and/or abuse?