We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
I’ve often heard it said when discussing the bad things that have happened in our lives:
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I’m a better person, because this terrible thing happened.
God works everything for the good.
But can I just say, that evil sucks and the terrible, evil things that have happened to us are just that – terrible and evil?
I’m so sorry if you have suffered as a result of spiritual abuse.
Pastors are not supposed to lead their members astray.
And on a side note, I sympathize that pastors are under a tremendous amount of pressure leading their churches. Certainly, I wouldn’t want all of that to think about at night while trying to go to sleep. But it’s still no excuse to rationalize abusing God’s flock.
God used strong words to address abuse in the church.
Then this message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord : What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? Ezekiel 34:2 NLT
God grieves whenever this terrible thing happens to His childen. God holds the shepherds responsible for this terrible, evil thing and promises to make it right.
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord . This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey. Ezekiel 34:9-10 NLT
Spiritual abuse is not supposed to happen.
Often victims of spiritual abuse are left severely traumatized. Many have lost their families, friends, their faith, and some even their will to live.
We wander about in confusion wondering if anything will ever make sense again. The hope we once held onto has been severely trampled.
We wonder if we will ever be able to trust anyone or anything again.
A tremendous loss has occurred. A loss that we must grieve in order to heal.
And one of the worst things about spiritual abuse, is that most people just don’t understand.
So it is critical that those who have suffered as a result of spiritual abuse find a place where they can be understood and heard. The great pain they are carrying around inside has to come out so that they may heal.
I thank God that He provided our family with our counselor, Sharon Hersh. She has walked with us through our darkest hours and as Steve Brown likes to say, has tasted the salt of our tears. Sharon has understood the damage caused by abuse. She’s reassured us over and over again that we are not alone. She’s also reminded us that God will bring about good in our lives as a result of all the evil that has occurred.
I’ve needed to remember this promise that God would take what the enemy meant for evil and bring about good as a result.
Early on after I exposed my former pastor’s abuse, God whispered this promise to me over and over again as I listened to the Michael W.Smith song Sovereign. It was a hope that I clung to for dear life.
But often when others have made statements like the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that communicate to me that I should be thankful it happened, I walk away confused.
It seems harmless enough when others remind us of the good that has resulted despite all the evil. I suspect many would take it as encouragement and be thankful.
But I didn’t.
There were just too many times that my former pastor told me that God was using “our sin” to bring about good – to make us more humble and compassionate to others, and less judgemental.
He also stated in his “apology” letter to my husband that God was sovereign over all that had happened.
It was a crock of shit.
Speaking of manure, my husband has used this natural byproduct of chickens to fertilize his garden. As a result, we’ve had healthy green plants that produced many good and tasty things.
But according to Wikipedia, chicken manure in and of itself can be destructive.
In December 2011, the environmental group Environment Maryland asserted that water runoff from agricultural land fertilized with chicken manure was increasing the pollution levels of Chesapeake Bay. The group asserted that excessive phosphorus from the runoff was contributing to the increase of dead zones in the bay.
Chicken manure not only stinks, but it can also lead to death.
And so does abuse.
The chicken manure does not get the glory for the things that the garden produces, rather the gardener does, who takes this stinky stuff and uses it to fertilize the plants.
And we have got to be careful when addressing the evil things that happen, that we do not give them glory.
It is God who works to take the evil and terrible things that happen in this world and through a process brings about good in the lives of those who have suffered.
But make no mistake, God never leads us into sin. He abhors what is evil.
And He calls us to weep with one another over the pain that has occurred. He hated evil and the sin that resulted so much that He died to rescue us from it. We cannot miss this. Nor should we ever minimize the destruction that evil has brought to our lives.
Brain scans and studies clearly reveal that trauma does damage to our brains. One of many great books on the subject is Healing the Wounded Heart by Dan Allender. The evil that has happened is never a good thing. But our brains can heal, and they do so by dealing with the trauma and the great pain it has caused and through finding others who are equipped to help us. Also, healing comes through those who allow us to be honest and who will love and grieve with us through this process. These steps cannot be skipped. And if we offer pat answers before we listen to another’s pain and grieve with them, we can retraumatize them. And perhaps the safest thing to do isn’t to give a pat answer at all, but rather pray for the Holy Spirit to bring the promises He wants us to know when the time is right. He is the great gardner and healer of our souls.
Certainly, none of us will help one another perfectly, but it’s time that we as the body of Christ be willing to walk through the darkness together and lament over the damage that has been done.
It’s also time that we in the church learn from modern psychology. We do not just go to the Bible when we need to have open heart surgery, rather we find a doctor whom God has given the knowledge to perform this surgery. We also should not just go to the Bible when we’ve suffered as a result of abuse. There are trained professionals who understand trauma and the damage it does.
I’ll never forget a conversation my husband had with the leader who was placed in a position to help our church deal with the spiritual abuse. My husband asked this leader had he consulted with any professionals who were experienced in dealing with it. The leader spat back at him that they didn’t need professionals, they only needed the Bible. This was the leader who shared my edited letter with the congregation, leaving out crucial information about the process of abuse, and allowing me to believe he’d read it all. Obviously, he didn’t consult the Bible about lying.
Yes, I’m still angry and saddened about what happened. I would never, ever want to go through that again, nor will I ever say that I am glad that I did.
But what I do desperately hope and pray for is that we who are a part of God’s church family will learn from stories like mine and others.
That we would see the damage that has been done.
That we would weep and not pretend like it didn’t happen.
That we would see it happen and report it rather than cover it up.
That we would train pastors on how to truly help those who’ve suffered trauma in their lives, and that they’d work alongside, rather than against those in mental health.
That we would weep with the victims and protect them at all costs.
That we would be wise to the schemes of the evil one, and stop pretending everything is fine.
That we would stop putting the pastor on a pedestal and expecting him to have all the answers.
That we would stop making men the only leaders in the church who are gifted to help others.
That we would stop giving pat answers and grieve our own pain, so that we can truly listen and grieve with others.
That we would love one another truly with His love and that others would see this love and want to be a part and find help and healing for their souls.
That we would be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem and be the salt that preserves and makes this world a better place.
…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.