Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Since beginning again in a church environment, the gates of hell feel as if they have opened in adversity against us.
It is clear that the enemy of our souls does not want us to move forward. If evil can keep us stuck, feeling isolated and alone with our hearts closed, then it can kill us slowly. If it can convince us to see only the damage that abuse has caused, it can steal our hope and destroy our ability to do the good God created us for.
But greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.
Reading what I wrote seems so dramatic, so paranoid, maybe even ridiculous, and that’s exactly what our enemy wants me to believe.
I heard Dan Allender say in his podcast last week on spiritual warfare that evil has a dossier on our lives and knows our weaknesses and exactly when to attack. So much of the time in the distractions of life I forget this. Even the distractions are an attack to prevent us from living the life that God intended for us to live.
When one has been a victim of any kind of abuse, evil has a place where it can reside and wreak havoc, especially if we have not recognized the damage that abuse has caused. In my own journey of healing from sexual abuse, this has been a huge challenge. Recognizing the damage of abuse has caused me to feel weak, vulnerable, and unprotected;the most terrifying place for any victim to be. For most of my life I’ve worn an emotionless mask to cover my pain. But this mask has been ineffective in protecting me, rather it has only isolated me to the place where I was desperate and abused more. I’ve come to understand that there is only one way to heal my wounded heart and that’s through a connection with God and with other Christ followers.
But understanding what I need to do to continue to heal and attempting to do it are two different things. For going on three years now we’ve processed so much information about the damage that abuse has caused. I’ve read numerous books, done workbooks, and talked with my counselor weekly. She told me early on that God had us in a protective bubble for a time, allowing us to heal, but at some point that God would remove that bubble and the struggles to apply all that we’d learned would begin. I say we, because my husband has been processing the damage with me. Although he didn’t suffer sexual abuse, he’s suffered emotional and physical abuse ever since he was a child, and I’ve learned that the effects of all kinds of abuse are pretty much the same. And in some ways, the spiritual abuse from our former pastor has been harder on him than on me, because he was betrayed by two people close to him. Even though he’s continually recognized that the pastor was the one who caused the abuse to occur, he’s had to struggle with the damage my destructive bond with him brought to our marriage.
Now that we’ve been back in church consistently for going on close to six months, we are beginning to get to know some of the people who attend and have decided it might be a place that we can put down some roots. The pastor has preached the Bible accurately and from a position brokenness and humility, pointing us consistently to Jesus and not to himself. Others in the church have been welcoming and kind but not pushy giving us space to determine if this is where God has called us to be. A few weeks ago we made the decision to attend a small group – which for us was a HUGE step.
This past Wednesday at small group we became more than observers in the small group and my husband took a brave step to share some of his pain. The other five in the group listened to him with compassion, shared similar stories,cried tears with him and offered condolences. It was yet another beautiful example of what God called the church to be.
We are connected and, as such, must look out for one another and be kind. I should taste the salt of your tears and you should taste mine.
Steve Brown Three Free Sins
However, being vulnerable with others involves taking off our self-protective masks which brings forth feelings of weakness and fear of more abuse, which is why it’s so important that we share in a group of safe people.
I heard Dan Allender say that connecting with others who offer empathy and compassion brings healing, but connecting with those who reject our stories will bring more damage, so take all the time you need to determine who is safe to tell. Is it any wonder that God gives us so much direction in scripture of how to relate to one another? Listening to one another without judgement brings about healing and the opportunity to truly love each other and point others to God.
I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
Our enemy is out to steal, kill, and destroy us. This past week after sharing he’s come against us in malicious ways through mental attacks using our vulnerability to others against us. I replayed potential negative reactions to an email I sent to the pastor and his wife before I received their kind response. My husband has awakened with panic attacks. Evil knows better than I do the fear that removing a mask brings and uses the opportunity to torture our souls.
We are inveterately made for love, and at the same time we are terrified and defiant against receiving and giving love for the sake of God’s glory. We want love on our terms—which, of course, is never love. We want love but not the deep humility, openness, curiosity, and vulnerability that it requires. Dan Allender Healing the Wounded Heart
I’ve attempted to love on my own terms, but it didn’t produce the real connection God created us for, rather it brought about betrayal. Real love and connection comes through trust and trust requires honesty and the ability to be oneself. Real love is risky, especially if you’ve grown up with abuse.
We learn to trust in our early relationships with our family. We learn what it means to trust ourselves and others. We learn how to fall and get back up. We learn what yes and no means. We learn what’s safe and what’s dangerous. But in an abusive environment what we learn is distorted, because the boundaries lines have been removed. When the nuture and affection we were created for gets replaced with abuse, violation rather than trust occurs. And we disconnect from even our true selves.
Abuse severs the natural attachment bond of trust.
The damage of abuse in my life has made it very difficult for me to trust. Every time I attempt to trust another human being I am attacked by thoughts of being in dangerous territory. Because I didn’t learn to trust as a child, the only stability I found was in control. Control meant I learned to blame myself for the abuse, because if it was my fault that I was being harmed, then I could work at changing myself to try to stop it. But taking the responsibility for everyone’s actions around me has only resulted in overwhelming pressure that gradually suffocates my life. I am learning slowly that this isn’t the way God intended for any of us to live.
Satan’s attempts to keep me in a state of fear have appeared overwhelmingly successful at times. My self contempt and need to control kept me locked in a pattern of sin and shame that almost killed me. But thank God He called me out before it was too late. Thank God He’s giving me the faith to trust Him despite my fear. And thank God, He has also placed others in my life who continue to teach me what I couldn’t learn as a child – to trust and love.
And evil is losing because of this.
I love that Don Miller reminds us in Scary Close that in life there are more lifeguards than sharks. Though there have been times in my life when the bloody mess of a shark attack have been all that I could see, God has faithfully carried me to the shore where the lifeguards have come to bring healing and they haven’t left. And they continue to come. And over time I’m beginning to see something we all have in common; we all bear the scars of attack from the sharks. And we all find help and healing pointing each other to the One who bears the same scars as us, who suffered the ultimate shark attack for us.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.