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The Fellowship of Suffering 

In the fellowship of our sufferings with Jesus and each other, we bring true relief to our pain through hope. 

​While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:7‭-‬10 NLT

Last night after watching a recent episode of This is Us, I found myself wondering why we work so hard to avoid pain?  One of the main characters, Jack, in the show is an alcoholic. He shares with his wife in a scene what he is learning in AA. He tells her the only way to get to the other side of his struggle with alcoholism is to learn how to sit in the pain of his childhood, and it is clear how difficult it is for Jack to do this. Opening up our hearts to feel pains we have worked so hard to avoid in our lives, can feel like an overwhelming flood in which we will drown. The reality is pain, especially the pain of our past is excruciatingly painful and causes us to feel weak and out of control. It is understandable that we’d want to avoid this feeling as much as possible, but Jack has gotten to the place in life where he knows he could lose everything if he does not. 

I will never forget the tsunami of crushing emotions that hit me with such force when I began to open up to my former pastor about the childhood sexual abuse my mind had suppressed for over thirty years.  When the memories began to resurface, I wanted to do anything I could to get relief from the pain. 

I believed I had found my relief clinging to the pastor who said he was trying to help me, but who I later discovered was actually helping himself.  But being with him gave me moments that made me feel safe and in control of my emotions, which is the reason I stayed in the abusive situation for so long. 

I realize as I write this that probably the worst part of feeling pain is how out of control it causes me to feel. In these moments,  I become a little girl who was being forced to do things she never wanted to do. And she would give anything to escape. It was not the life she was intended to live. It was a nightmare she could not wake up from. And who does not want to escape that? But as a child, the incidious evil done to me was inescapable, and I had to cling to whatever control I had, which meant I blamed myself somehow.  As an adult, I do not live in the nightmare of my childhood anymore, but when I haven’t reconciled the truth that the pain of the horrible things that were done to me were not my fault, I continue to be stuck in believing this lie. The only way to see the truth is to allow myself to experience the pain of what someone else did to me. 

The reality is the things we cling to to escape our pain only bring about more abuse.  I know because I stayed stuck in this cycle for almost ten years.  I am grateful to be on the other side of the abusive relationship with my former pastor pastor. Grateful to have escaped the lies that were suffocating me. However, I still find myself wanting to escape the pain of it all. But just like Jack, I have come to the place in my life where I know that I cannot do it anymore.

The biggest question of all is what can I do with my pain? Where can I process it and be safe? How can I grieve without drowning in the tsunami of it all? Especially when the person who I believe was safe to process it with was not safe? 

A friend in ministry messaged me a couple of days ago offering to process some of the things I’m struggling with about the church with me.  I don’t know if anyone, especially those in ministry, can understand how painful church can be for those who were abused in the church.  As Christa Brown describes in her book This Little Light, trusting the church again feels like you are going to fall on the same sword that you were cut with.  Even working with people in a therapeutic environment every day who have given their lives to helping others does not feel safe at times, because a man who I thought was going to help me actually harmed me even more. 

Suffering from spiritual abuse can feel very lonely at times. 

Reading the last paragraph I just wrote feels a little like a pity party to me. But I remind myself it’s not. It’s me recognizing the pain that I feel inside and allowing myself to feel it.  It is part of the process that I am learning to embrace with self-compassion, which plays a huge part in delivering me from the lie that the abuse I suffered was all my fault.  

If you were abused, it is not your fault either. 

I continue to be exceedingly grateful for others in my life who share stories so similar to mine. You have suffered in the same ways that I have, and some days you are the only ones who feel safe to me. We have shared in the fellowship of suffering together. We have felt stronger when we are together. 

Today, I am reminded of Someone Else who suffered from spiritual abuse. Religious leaders got Him nailed to the cross, and that puts those of us who suffer as a result of spiritual abuse in good company.  Jesus understands our sorrow more than anyone else can. 

He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death.

Jesus did not want to experience pain either. He prayed for relief. And His Father heard him. And Jesus became the source of our eternal salvation. He became our High Priest. 

Because of Christ’s sufferings, we are promised ultimate relief one day from our pain. However,  Jesus did not escape pain, rather He faced it for us.  And whenever we face our pain, we accomplish the same thing for each other. 

In the fellowship of our sufferings with Jesus and each other, we bring true relief to our pain through hope. 

Thank you to all who share their painful stories, who reenter your nightmares and share them with us.   Your pain has not been wasted.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10‭-‬11 ESV

Forgiving the Church 

But if we want real forgiveness and real healing, we must face the real injury.

This morning I came across a quote by Desmond Tutu, and it struck me profoundly, because it helped me to really understand what I need to forgive the church for.

From The Book of Forgiving:  The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu:

Forgiveness is not some airy-fairy thing.  It has to do with the real world.  Healing and reconciliation are not magic spells.  They do not erase the reality of an injury.  To forgive is not to pretend that what happened did not happen.  Healing does not draw a veil over the hurt.  Rather, healing and reconciliation demand an honest reckoning.  For Christians, Jesus Christ sets the pattern for forgiveness and reconciliation.  He offered his betrayers forgiveness.  Jesus, the Son of God, could erase the signs of leprosy; heal those broken in body, mind, or spirit; and restore sight to the blind.  He must also have been able to obliterate the signs of the torture and death he endured.  But he chose not to erase that evidence.  After the resurrection, he appeared to his disciples.  In most instances, he showed them his wounds and his scars.  This is what healing demands.  Behavior that is hurtful, shameful, abusive, or demeaning must be brought into the fierce light of truth.  And truth can be brutal.  In fact, truth may exacerbate the hurt; it might make things worse.  But if we want real forgiveness and real healing, we must face the real injury.

Forgiveness is the core truth of Christianity. Jesus forgave us. Our sins separated us from God, but because of His death on the cross we have been forgiven and reconciled to Him. Totally undeserved. Total grace. And I am so thankful for this.

Jesus spoke strong words about forgiveness. He said if we did not forgive one another, He would not forgive us. I don’t think Jesus is laying out a requirement for salvation, but rather I think He is communicating that forgiveness is always the fruit of being forgiven.

So why must I forgive the church that has taught about forgiveness? What could there possibly be to forgive?

The fact that there is something to forgive communicates that a wrong was done. A wrong that has caused another to suffer a loss and pain.  A wrong that cries out for justice. Jesus gave His life as a payment for the sins of all Who trust Him. When we believe, we know that our sins have been paid for in full.  But forgiveness wasn’t cheap. It cost God His life.  Scripture does not hold back in giving us the details of the high price that was paid. One need only watch the film The Passion of the Christ to catch a glimpse of how expensive it was.

Desmond Tutu reminded me that Jesus showed His disciples His wounds and scars.  Certainly, God could have wiped every sign of them away, but He did not. There was a reason the scars stayed. Jesus wanted us to remember His pain.

Our pain is important to Jesus. He keeps our tears in a bottle, and He promises one day to wipe the tears from our eyes. He prays for us when our hurts are so deep that we do not know how to even speak what we need. Our pain matters very much to Him.

When I think back to the abusive relationship I had with my former pastor, the issue that stands out the most is how much in my own mind I minimized the damage to my family, his family and the church by keeping the abuse a secret. For almost a decade, my mind and heart were so twisted by the lies that I could not see the truth. But when the weight of the secrets became too heavy to carry any longer, God opened my eyes to the real injuries.

As Tutu said, bringing the truth out into the light often causes things to get worse before they get better. This was definitely the case when I confessed to the sins I had committed with the former pastor.  The church that had at least appeared peaceful felt the force of being hit by a F5 tornado.

The first reaction from the other church leaders was to do whatever they could to minimize the damage.  We all understood what exposing this truth could do to the church and it’s reputation in the community.  I certainly understood it because I had been keeping the abuse a secret for the very same reason.  However, in an effort to stop the damage,  I had come to understand that I needed to tell the truth.  I told the leaders everything I’d done, because I wanted to be free and begin the healing process. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The pastor who had taken over the church at that time acknowledged that the former pastor had abused me. He was committed to exposing the abuse so that anyone else who had been abused could come forward.  I reluctantly agreed to allow them to tell what I had told them to the entire church, in an effort to bring the truth into the light so others could heal.  But when the church held the meeting, I was told it best that I not be there, so I wrote a letter with my therapist explaining the process of abuse and confessing to what I’d done as a result of succumbing to the former pastor’s manipulation. However, the church leaders decided this truth was too much for the congregation to handle. They decided it best to make my letter more palatable by leaving out the abuse process and just sharing the confession.  As a result, the church determined that the pastor and I had had an affair.  A few days following the church meeting my husband and I attended a Sunday service at the church, believing that my entire letter had been read. However, when people came up to me telling me they forgave me rather than they were sorry about what happened to me, I was floored. I was thankful that they forgave my sin, but shocked that no one acknowledged that the pastor had abused me.  My husband and I went to the leaders to ask questions about the meeting only to discover that they had edited my letter.

But if we want real forgiveness and real healing, we must face the real injury.

Our family left the church, because when we asked our leaders to expose the injuries caused by the former pastor, they refused. Minimizing the abuse brought less damage to the church’s reputation. They could rebuild and move on putting the sin behind them. But our family could not heal in an environment that refused to acknowledge the real injuries that had occurred.  We could not simply forgive and move on until we understood all the damage that had been done to our souls.

We are three years past all of this, and are still very much in a process of being untangled from the lies that have been suffocating the life out of us. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but I can assure you it’s not. The confusion has been overwhelming, and the lack of support from the church has made it even more so, and that’s been one of the most difficult things to forgive.

I realize I’m still struggling with this, because any time conversations come up in Christian circles that appear to be skipping over the pain and going right to peace, I feel like I am in chaos. I realize today what I most need to forgive is the denial that has so saturated the church culture and causes many to not acknowledge the whole truth about just how broken we are.

I currently work in a mental health facility. Almost every day I hear horrific stories of abuse that people have grown up in. I see the aftermath and people who struggle to put one foot in front of the other and function in life.  It is heartbreaking. However, it is also hopeful when I hear stories of people who face the whole truth about the damage abuse has caused in their lives with therapists equipped to help them, and they don’t hold back from the truth and face it all and learn how to live despite it and beauty is discovered in the ashes.

Yesterday, I heard a terrible story of an innocent little girl forced to perform a sex act on an older man.  I wanted to crawl under my desk and weep for the damage that was done to her soul. I thought of my own little girl and what she’d been forced to do do as a five year old by an older teen. I thought about what I was forced to do as a little girl and what psychological manipulation by my pastor caused me to do as an adult. I wanted to scream at the painful horror of it all.

I do not know know what it’s going to take for many in the church to understand the damage that abuse causes and begin to acknowledge it so that people can heal, but I pray that they do not have to find out the way that I did. Because I do not want another soul to go through it.

So please just stop minimizing the damage. Please stop covering up the abuse.  Jesus’s death is sufficient to deal with the worst of the injuries. We can call it what it is and stop trying to pretend it isn’t there. Do you realize you are minimizing the very power of the Gospel that you proclaim by refusing to expose the very darkness that God has called us to bring our into the light? It’s not about us and our goodness that draws others to Christ. It’s about Him and His goodness and love that brings beauty from the ashes. It’s about His love that caused Him to be crushed by our transgressions so that we could be healed from those we have committed and others have committed against us.

I confess I still have a long way to go in forgiving the institution of the church in it’s refusal to call abuse what it is.  I don’t know that I will ever stop being angry about it, especially when I continue to read more stories of it happening again. How can I ever trust another church again? I love God’s people.  I really do.  How can I not love something that I am a part of?  I want to be a part of fellowship, but the triggers that come when I hear churchy language that communicate if we will just trust Jesus everything will be fine are just too much to bear. I need to trust in a Jesus Who is with us when everything has fallen apart and nothing makes sense anymore. I need to trust in a Jesus Who sits with us us in our pain caused from the ugliness of abuse no matter how long it takes to heal.

I realize that others who have not been where I have cannot understand. I also realize that it’s important that I love them where they are, too. However, I’m still very much in a process just like they are, so I need to know it’s ok to take a break from church gatherings that bring up painful reminders that cannot be processed with people who are not in the same place that I am.  Some conversations are best to be had with my therapist or others who have been through the same thing.   I believe that we heal best in community, but further damage can be done in a community that does not understand. I can only pray that one day I will be further along in the healing process that I won’t be so triggered by conversations, but that time is not now so I need to trust that God will be with me where I am in the healing process.  I recognize as well that communication with others is a key part in helping those who want to understand and help, which is one of the reasons that I am writing this.

I want to take the time to thank all of you out there online who have been a support to me by sharing your stories.  There are so many. Even though I don’t know you personally, we share in the fellowship of suffering and this has encouraged and strengthened my soul. We are the church, too whether we are able to enter a building together or not.  The similarities of God’s work in our lives reminds me that God is ever present with us.  And I’m so very thankful for you.

Beautiful Things

Helping Those Who Are Traumatized by the Church 

Traumatized people need to know first that God cares about their pain.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord ’s favor has come. ”

Luke 4:18‭-‬19 NLT

I watched a snippet of a sermon from a church in another town a couple of days ago.  My husband is considering a job change which could eventually cause us to move.  Even though church has been a source of great trauma for our family, we still very much want to be a part of a church. We believe that God created us for fellowship with one another. We agree with God that it is not good for us to be alone. But after listening to five minutes of the message from this church,  I turned it off. The pastor was doing what I have heard quite a few pastors do, and that’s criticize those who do not go to church. He actually called the person who had written an article about not going to church stupid.  I don’t know about you, but I do not believe criticizing someone who does not go to church, is an effective way to encourage people to attend church.  I believe the most effective way of getting people to come to church is providing an environment where they understand that Jesus meets them where they are.

I watched the video Hope Rising created by the  American Bible Society again last night. It addresses the issue of helping those who have suffered from trauma connect with God. The video points out that people who suffer from traumatic experiences struggle to connect with God until they have worked through their trauma. Traumatized people need to know first that God cares about their pain.

God does care about our pain. So much so that the Bible says He keeps our tears in a bottle. When I allow myself to think about this truth alone I am moved in the deepest part of my soul. The Bible also says God is near to the brokenhearted. A bruised reed He will not break. A smoking flax He will not put out. These truths are a healing balm to my hurting and traumatized soul.

I believe a lot of churches do a good job of teaching these truths to their members. The heart of the Gospel after all is Jesus loved us so much that He died to save us from the brokenness and sin in this world. However, for those of us who have been traumatized by religion attending church can be exceedingly difficult. And when pastors preach that those who do not go to church are stupid it definitely does not help!

I recognize that for those in ministry it is difficult to meet everyone just where they are, especially those who have been harmed by the church and find it difficult to attend.  How can a pastor help someone who struggles to come to the place where he has been called to teach? I think it is important to note that Jesus spent a lot of time talking about false teachers and the damage they cause. He warned that false teachers would continue to increase in the church.  The Apostle Paul also warned about the same thing.  So one way pastors can help those in their congregation who have suffered from abuse in a religious environment, is take the time to acknowledge that abuse does occur in the church and have a plan to deal with it when it does before it happens!  I am absolutely heartbroken over stories of abuse that I read about happening in the church today and the pastors who are covering it up or worse blaming the victim. This is an insidious thing. We in the church of Jesus Christ must acknowledge that abuse does occur in the church. We need to give those who have been abused in the church permission to talk about it and to grieve it.  We must bring it into the light where it can be talked about and heal. As long as we are more concerned about our reputation and not those who are hurting in our congregations, we will not be effective in carrying out the hope of the Gospel the way God has called us to.

Another thing that I believe that churches can do to help those who have suffered abuse in the church is remind them it is OK not to attend church. When someone you know has been abused by the church does not attend, let them know that you care, but also remind them it is OK to take time away, too. Send them a link for the sermon and ask them how you can pray for them.  Also, equip others in the church who are empathetic and willing to meet with those who are hurting one on one. In my own personal experience,  one on one is less intimidating than a group. We are all on different journeys and sometimes we can traumatize one another without meaning to.

The most important thing is be patient and don’t push. If a person who has been harmed by the church needs to sit on the back row every Sunday for five years or more, then let them.  Give them space, but also let them know you care by reaching out from time to time.  This will go a long way in helping with the healing process that will only come with time and gained trust.

I read a quote from Diane Langberg recently that trauma is the biggest mission field of the 21st century.   It is more important now more than ever that we in the church be equipped to serve in these areas. This includes ministering especially to those who have been harmed by religion.  I encourage you if you are in ministry, take the time to educate yourself about trauma and abuse in the church.  

Here are a couple of websites that are very helpful :

Global Trauma Recovery 

Trauma Healing Institution

Religion and Power 

Can I tell you what frightens me more than anything else these days? Men in power in ministry. Not only do I get frightened, but I get angry when I read yet another story of how religious leaders have banded together to misuse their power and bring great harm.

Two days ago I read a tragic story about a woman named Jane. Jane had her whole life in front of her, with a 4.0 grade average and a vision to serve others in ministry in her future. She goes off to Bible college with a promising future ahead.  However, before she can complete Bible college, one night a seminary student decides to violently steal from her what he wants without her permission. He drugs and rapes her, sending her life into a spiral of chaos and pain for years to come. My words fall short in describing what I’m sure Jane went through and is still going through, but it was an incidious evil.

But what’s even more unbelievable to me is how men in a position of power at this seminary hear about the issue and decide that they know what needs to be done about it. And what needs to be done has nothing to do with helping the victim or protecting others, rather it has to do with protecting their own reputation and control.  And they do it all in the name of God.

When I read stories like Jane’s, I don’t think I can ever join a church and submit to it’s elders. I never want men to have that kind of control in my life again. 

However, scripture makes it clear that churches need leaders to be a church. Leaders are ordained by God and we are told as members to submit to them.  

Just as Luther didn’t like the book of James being in the Bible because of it’s emphasis on works, I must confess that I  do not like the verses that refer to submission to church leaders after what I have experienced. Submission feels like giving someone the power to abuse and suffocate me. And I never want to experience that again. 

However, Peter sheds some light on the role of leaders in the church, and his words comfort my heart. 

And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t Lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:1‭-‬5 NLT

Care. Watch over. Lead by example. Not for selfish gain. With humility. 

The leaders Peter describe are not at all like the men that I am afraid of. They do not band together to protect their own agendas. They do not serve themselves. They do not bring further harm to the flock. These leaders care, protect and lead with humility.  These leaders come alongside those who are victims of sexual assault and see to it justice is served. If they aren’t doing this they aren’t the leaders God called them to be. They are following their own agenda and not His.  And God will judge them. 

And I realize I don’t have to be afraid, nor so I need to be quick to join a church or submit to it’s leadership. I can take my time and wait to see if a leader is worthy of following. If he isn’t leading me to Jesus and truly caring about the things Christ cared about then I can walk away.  And so can you.

My heart goes out to Jane and others like us who have suffered at the hands of those in religious power. God is no where near this kind of abuse! It is incidious evil!  May God continue to expose these evil deeds and bring grace, healing and justice. 

Belonging 

Shame disconnects us from others. Shame causes us to feel worse than anyone else and like we do not belong. When a parent’s behavior towards us communicates that we are not who they want us to be, that we are a disappointment, shame takes up residence in our hearts. 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Romans 8:14‭-‬17 NLT

When I was a young teen, I spilled an entire gallon container of sticky tea all over the kitchen table and it made a horrible mess. My father screamed at me words I cannot remember, but the shame of that moment I will never forget. 

Shame disconnects us from others. Shame causes us to feel worse than anyone else and like we do not belong. When a parent’s behavior towards us communicates that we are not who they want us to be, that we are a disappointment, shame takes up residence in our hearts. 

I wish that spilling the tea was the only thing I did that made me feel ashamed. At least that mess was something that I could take some blame for.  There were other things that happened in my childhood, dark and evil and dispicable things that my father did to me, that I know now I was not to blame for, but at the time I believed that they were my fault.  

Something happens to the heart of a child when they are abused rather than nurtured and brought up to be the person God created them to be.  Shame saturated my heart and made it grow hard and desperate for love and control and belonging. Desperate to receive what it was to created to receive so it could thrive and grow to be the person I was supposed to be. 

I did not know I was carrying around this kind of heart when I met my former pastor. I did not know how terribly desperate I was. When he hugged me and told me he loved me everything in my world began to feel like it was changing for the good. But the tiny sprouts of life that began to come up died when he told me he desired me in the same twisted sexual way that my own father had. My heart grew cold and desperate once again. But again, I did not know it was this way. I convinced myself that my twisted relationship with him and my adopted father who had abused me was the only love I deserved. 

Ten years later, as I was straightening up the church sanctuary on a Monday morning and listening to a sermon on my phone, God opened my ears to another kind of love. A love that was not disappointed in me no matter how many times I had made a mess. A love that called me back home to my Father. A love that said I have taken all of your shame on the cross. And the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ changed everything. 

Now when life happens and I make a mess of things, my loving Heavenly Father comes alongside to help me clean it up. He reminds me that it is OK, and that I am always forgiven. He invites me to sit down again at the table. He does not care if I spill the tea. He loves broken people and wants us to know we always belong at His table. And for the first time in my life, I want to please Him out of love and not fear. 

My heart still has a lot of healing that needs to take place. A lifetime of abuse I am sure will always cause me to have obstacles to overcome that others do not. But I am not alone. I have a loving Heavenly Father whose hope does not disappoint. Who tells me to not be afraid. He will never reject me. I belong to Him.  And that is everything. 

For more of my story, go to Caught

Resources:

The Heart Of Man: Overcoming Shame And Finding Identity

http://heartofmanmovie.com/
 

Photo Credit  

Salvation and Strength 

For thus said the Lord God , the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling… 

Isaiah 30:15 ESV

If you are a victim of childhood sexual abuse, you are probably all too familiar with the how difficult it is to find rest, be still and trust.  If you are a victim of clergy abuse, trusting God especially can seem like an impossibility.  As a victim of both, I am still very much on a journey of learning how to rest and trust God. It is a journey I have discovered that must be traveled slowly without putting myself under pressure and patiently one moment at a time. It is a journey where I have learned only to expect enough grace to get me through each day. It is a journey where my own struggle for control is constantly being challenged. It is a journey where I am learning through crushed expectations of the way I think things should work out that God is a good Father Who alone knows what is best for me.  

Yesterday, my husband and I took a ride through several miles of rural country a few miles from our house.  Getting away from the noise of town is something that brings him peace.  My husband has suffered from depression for most of his life.  He grew up with an alcoholic, narcissistic father who physically and emotionally abused him, his mother and his other two brothers.  Then, as an adult he was deceived in the worst possible ways by his pastor and the man who claimed to be his best friend with his wife. I struggle every single day with the shame of how my actions added more pain to my husband’s life. Even though we know the former pastor abused us, it’s still very difficult seeing my husband suffer as a result of my part in what happened. Probably the most difficult thing for me to do is be quiet and trust that God is a good Father who knows what my husband needs to get through this. 

Sometimes I am able to look back and thank God for all that He has saved us from, however when the pain of the past comes crashing in it can feel like we are still in need of salvation. And I realize that we are. 

God help us, God save us and help us to find rest in you. Help us to know that you are a good Father. Teach us not to chase after salvation apart from you. 

I want to be able to believe that somehow salvation and trusting in God will mean that I don’t struggle as much anymore, but I’ve come to realize that is not true.  As long as we live in this broken world we will always struggle and long to be saved. Acceptance brings quietness to my mind. Knowing it’s not up to me to figure out how everything should work out helps, too. Believing God isn’t at all like my abusive father or pastor is what I cling to the most. God is not a child abuser. He is a loving compassionate Father who promises to bring us only good. This is where my only strength lies. 

Although it seems like everything is out of control at times, He knows what I need and He knows what my husband needs and what you need as well. Take it one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time, be kind to yourself, find rest and quiet in whatever ways that you can and trust Him to lead. He loves us.  He’s got this. He is with us.  He will never leave. I’m preaching to myself today.  Hope it helps you, too! 

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Isaiah 30:18‭-‬21 ESV

God, PTSD and Choices 

And despite my PTSD, in the depths of my soul, I know that He is a safe place for me.  

Show me the right path, O Lord ; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

Psalms 25:4‭-‬5 NLT

I struggle with PTSD. I have for most of my life. I did not want to believe that this condition was something that I would have to learn to live with, but the more I’ve learned through counseling and reading about PTSD, I have had to accept that it is something I suffer from.  I read a New York Times article recently about PTSD and it’s causes, symptoms, and the new treatments that are proving to be successful. Bessel Van der Kolk, a psychiatrist whose whole life has been been spent learning about trauma, also author of The Body Keeps the Score, has made a lot of headway in helping people with PTSD live with trauma. I’ve come to understand from his work how being exposed to trauma can cause even the normal things in life to be exceedingly difficult at times for those who suffer with PTSD.  Those of us struggling with PTSD have to learn how to live with memories that sometimes play on an endless loop in our minds. Treatment often involves dealing with the traumatic memories in an environment that is safe until one becomes desensitized to the dedlbilitating effects of the memories.  I am still very much on a journey of learning how to live with PTSD. The more I’m learning to deal with the pain of the trauma from my past with my counselor and with safe people who understand, the more hope I have that I can function in life with PTSD.  I’ve also discovered the more I am able to remind myself of God’s presence constantly with me and keeping my soul safe, I also find the effects of PTSD are becoming more manageable in my life. But I have to be honest, living with PTSD is still difficult, and what makes it even harder is that others who are not struggling do not understand why simple choices can be so hard.  Please know if you are suffering with PTSD that God understands your struggles and He does not ever condemn you for what you are having to overcome.  He has compassion for you and grieves with you in your pain. I believe that knowing this is the most important truth that we can cling to when the effects of trauma feel overwhelming. 

I have discovered that a sure way to trigger my PTSD is to give me an important choice to make.  It’s about way more than choosing what flavor ice cream or what kind of K-cups I want for my coffee machine, even though sometimes I find these simple choices challenging, it’s about deciding about something that will totally disrupt my daily routine. Ultimately, the serious choices we are called to make at certain times in our lives remind us how really out of our control circumstances can be. And for those of us who desperately cling to control for security that is tough! 

Very little about our circumstances have been predictable since our family left the place we’d lived our whole lives.  I took it for granted how much the familiarity of the place I’d always called home gave me the comfort of predictability. I believed that moving would give our family the opportunity to start fresh, but I had no idea how difficult starting over would be. Just because we change location does not mean that we change who we really are and the obstacles we must overcome. As a matter of fact, changing location produces a whole new set of problems. 

I don’t mean to be discouraging if you are considering a move. Moving was the only choice I believe that our family had to keep ourselves together and sane. We desperately needed to get away from the people, places and things that triggered so much pain in our lives. God had not given us the grace to stay there, and He was compassionate to our cries to get out and opened the door quickly for us to move.  

However, so much has been unstable since we moved. Our children have struggled to make friends. We’ve drifted in and out of churches that we’d hoped would be where we belonged. We’ve felt like strangers in a strange land having lost the familiarity of the place we had always called home. Although our children have begun to make friends and we believe we’ve finally found a church where we belong, my husband is on his third job and has recently had to cut back on his hours due to recent back surgery and his continued struggles with depression and anxiety. I’m currently out of work after quitting a job in a work situation recently that triggered me terribly, and now I am faced with the dilemma of where to go to work again. 

I was asked to make a choice last week about going back to place I’d worked a year ago that I had grown to feel a part of, but due to budget cuts I was laid off quickly with little notice. It was a change that took me by surprise and yet another loss that I had to grieve.  The amount of hours I’ve been asked to work this time are not certain. I’ve also been warned that the things may still be unstable there. Although, I need the work I became overwhelmed by the possibility of going to work and things being unstable again. I’m so very tired of things changing. I long for some consistency and stability in my life. 

When one suffers from PTSD, triggers cause the warning system of our brains to override the thinking parts of our brains. This has been the case with making a decision about this job. My fear of change and losing control kicked my amygdala into overdrive, but finally after talking to my husband he was able to get my prefrontal cortex operating again. He encouraged me to take my time in making a decision and not to jump into anything I was not certain about.  I’ve applied for other jobs that have the potential to provide tasks more consistent with my talents and offer the potential for more stability and potential growth. This week is the last full week that our children are out of school.  It’s also the week that I have asked the Lord to open opportunities for another job that He may have for me or encourage me to go back to where I was and trust Him with the uncertainties. Change is coming whether I want it to or not! 

Trusting God with major choices is really difficult for me. There’s so much about His role as Father that I am still seeking to understand.  The traumatic relationship with my own adopted father is almost impossible not to project onto God at times. How can I learn to trust God as a good father when the man who raised me caused me to lose so much of who I was? Also, how can I trust Him as a good Father when a man in a position to teach me about Him also led me astray?  Sometimes it seems impossible. 

But yet for some reason God has given me the grace to hold onto my hope in Him. My faith, though miniscule it may be at times, continues to keep me moving forward believing that somehow He is directing me towards what He has for me. And despite my PTSD, in the depths of my soul, I know that He is a safe place for me.  

Surely God hasn’t brought me this far to leave me hanging in uncertainty. 

I love Daniel’s words in the closing season of Rectify.  Daniel is also a sufferer of PTSD as a result of trauma he suffered from being on death row for 19 years.  Daniel has struggled to adjust to so many changes in his life after being released from prison. Much is uncertain about his future, but he holds onto hope that something better is ahead. 

Daniel:  Somewhere in all of this I’ve managed to fight for myself for some reason – to fight for my life for some reason and I survived for some reason and here I am still for some reason and me not knowing that reason doesn’t diminish or invalidate it or disprove its existence and that’s what I’m going with today, Mr. Stern. No promises beyond that.

John: Words to live by, Mr. Holden, for today.

We are here for a reason, even though sometimes that reason isn’t clear. The pain we’ve suffered has not been in vain. We are still here despite what we have been through. Today, we can move forward trusting that God is with us and promises us a future and a hope. Today, we can rest in the fact that He is transforming what the enemy meant for evil into our ultimate good.  

And even though I still don’t know what choice I’m going to make, I know when the time comes God will direct me in the way that I should go. 

Who are those who fear the Lord ? He will show them the path they should choose.

Psalms 25:12 NLT

Finding Hope in Grief 

The painful process of dealing with our losses can result in hope when it reveals to us a loving Father who grieves with us and promises restoration. 

Grief crowds the heart, eats up all your energy and chronically imposes upon your peace.  But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need. 
Katherine Schafler, The One Thing No One Ever Says About Grieving 

Recently,  I started to read the book Recovering from the Losses in Life by H. Norman Wright. It’s a book my counselor suggested I read over a year ago, but at the time I just wasn’t ready to process at the time. I could not see any benefit of feeling more pain. It seemed to take all I could do to function with what I was dealing with at the time. But lately,  I’ve been seeing the need of continuing to work through the losses in my life, not because I look forward to feeling the pain, but rather because I know pain is a necessary part of healing. 

I mentioned the show Rectify in my last blog. It’s a beautiful, redemptive show that I highly recommend.  The main character, Daniel, has recently been released from being on death row. Daniel suffers from PTSD after spending almost twenty years in a prison where horrible things happened to him. The adjustment to life outside the prison walls is overwhelming to him, but the memories of the pain he suffered behind the prison walls is by far his biggest obstacle. Daniel is out of prison, but inside his mind he is still locked up.  When someone recommends to him that he seek treatment for his PTSD, Daniel has the same reaction that I did to the thought of more pain; resistance.  

When pain is all one can feel, the last thing we want to do is add more pain.  

Eventually, Daniel realizes the only way to heal is to go back to it’s source and grieve what was lost. 

I initially started to grieve the losses in my childhood with my former pastor. I believed that opening up to him about my pain was what I needed to do to be able to move forward in my life.  I had no idea at the time how deep my pain really went, how crippling it would be to just remember some of the traumas that I had suppressed. I was not at all prepared.  Because my former pastor did not keep appropriate boundaries and what resulted was an abusive relationship and even more trauma, I am sure that you can understand when my counselor suggested facing my past again that it would be the last thing I’d want to do. 

I think the most difficult thing about grieving is how weak it makes me feel. Ever since being abused as a child, control is the only thing I could rely on to keep me safe. But as I’ve gotten older I’m beginning to understand that control has not really kept me safe, rather it has caused life to become an even more frightening place. 

Scripture says that God’s perfect love casts out all fear. That God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind.  The only thing that can truly make us feel safe is knowing that God loves us and wants what’s best for us.  Our own fear and control keep us from experiencing this, and therefore keep us feeling unsafe. 

The painful process of dealing with our losses can result in hope when it reveals to us a loving Father who grieves with us and promises restoration

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:13‭-‬14 ESV

As children of God, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Because of Jesus, we have hope. Because of His resurrection, we can be assured that one day we will not ever have to grieve again. He has conquered death, sin, and the grave. And this hope has been the only thing that has kept keep me moving forward at times.   

But not only is the hope we have in the afterlife, but grief offers us clarity into what it is we really desire and need in life. Katherine Schafler states, 

But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need. 

More than anything else, grief has shown me what I really need and want. Growing up in fear, taught me to live a life of control. I didn’t know that children needed fathers and mothers to keep them safe. I believed I could do it all on my own. But the pain of grief revealed to me what a tremendous loss this really was in my life. 

I was never meant to live life alone. I was created to be loved not abused. 

Ultimately, the pain of these losses has let me know that I am alive. It’s been the breath of God into a soul that thought that it was dead.

“But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’ And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Your breasts became full, and your body hair grew, but you were still naked. And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord , and you became mine.

Ezekiel 16:6‭-‬8 NLT

Jesus, the Man of sorrows acquainted with our griefs, has not abandoned us in our pain.  He grieves with us in all that we have lost. Grief reminds us that we were not created to live in the broken world, but that we were created to have wholeness and life through Him. 

Even though I’ve been able to find hope in my grief, I still have to move forward through the process of experiencing the pain that grief causes and also the fears that more loss will occur, and it is difficult. I recognize that my  default mode is to do everything I can to control. Letting go of this need is a day by day,  moment by moment process in which I need the Holy Spirit to help me through. I will try and fail, but sometimes I will try and succeed. Reinvesting into life, moving forward towards the things I know that I really want and need are risky from a human perspective. Sometimes I find myself hiding in my room wishing I didn’t ever have to make another choice again. So much in life causes me to fear losing something else. However, my own control numbs me to the place where I feel nothing and that’s an awful place to be, so I recognize I must make one small investment after another towards the life I know God wants me to live.  One more step towards relationships. One more step towards change. One more step towards love. One more step towards hope reminding myself that He is a good Father who always keeps His promises. 

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”

John 14:1 NLT

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. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3‭-‬5 NLT

*Photo Credit Rectify, Sundance Channel 

Dear Pain

I know if I do not deal with my pain when it comes that sooner or later my pain will deal with me.

Yesterday,  I was given an assignment by my counselor to write about the painful emotions that I felt as a child that crop up as an adult at adult at times when I do not want them to.

Most of us avoid pain any way that we can. Some of us numb it through drugs, alcohol or sex. Some us talk ourselves out of believing that it’s really that bad. Some of us never slow down enough to feel it.

I’ve tried in every way possible to avoid pain, and I still do not want to deal with it now. I’d much rather binge watch Netflix with a large bowl of popcorn, however I know if I do not deal with my pain when it comes that sooner or later my pain will deal with me.I have learned from a lifetime of stuffing pain that the day always comes when I cannot do it anymore. 

Ten years ago, I had been strong for so long, pretending I had it together, that God was taking me to a happier place away from all of my childhood memories. That He had given me a new victorious Christian life. But I discovered I was wrong. I could not control my pain anymore. It controlled me. 

I started watching the show Rectify last night on Netflix.  It’s the story of a man, Daniel Holden,  who was on death row for 20 years. He is released on a technicality and to be retried for the murder. But while he is awaiting retrial,  he goes home. In one scene, the main character hugs his sister in law for a brief time. Daniel  becomes overwhelmed with emotion at the loving touch of another human being. He doesn’t want to let go. The desperation from not receiving touch for so many years is clear. He clings to her for dear life unleashing the powerful force of grief he felt from being untouched for so long.

My emotions were locked away for most of my life. I desperately longed to be heard as a little girl, but it was clear that my parents were not equipped to deal with my pain. I’ll never forget the night my parents were upset with me when they caught me talking to an ex boyfriend who they did not like. They jumped the gun believing that we were getting back together. My mom left the house devastated, leaving me alone with my adopted father. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to explain that I was just trying to keep a peaceful relationship with this boy, my adopted father would hear none of it.  He got angrier and angrier at me and my ex boyfriend. He eventually got a handgun out and put it down on the coffee table. He screamed that he would kill him if he came to our house.  I was so upset that I began screaming I wished I could die. My adopted father said he didn’t care and continued to rant about how he’d kill my ex boyfriend if he came.  It was clear that I was not being heard and that telling him my pain would only continue to escalate the situation. I called my cousin and asked her to come pick me up.  When she arrived at my house I stood out in the yard screaming into the darkness, but I knew if my adopted father heard that he did not care.

Even after I got married and had my first child, my adopted father was still letting me know that my pain was not safe with him. A week after having my first child, I was in the hospital with an infection.  He came to visit and I was crying. He actually got angry with me. He declared that I’d better hold it together or they might send a psychiatrist in for me.  He then said I should be grateful, because my mom was stuck at my house with my baby.  I was crushed. Not only had he made me afraid to cry but also guilted about my mother babysitting while I was in the hospital. When I look back on these times, it’s clear why I learned to bottle my emotions up.  It was the only thing that kept me safe. And it became a pattern of life into my adult years.   

But then I met a pastor who was a father figure to me.  He encouraged me to open up to him about my feelings and he responded with concern. When he hugged me for the first time I was like the character in Rectify and clung to him like a person who had been locked away for decades without love. His hug gave me life like I’d never experienced before.  But if you’ve read my story, you know it didn’t take long before the lack of boundaries turned my relationship with him into an abusive one that lasted 10 years. 

It’s clear looking back today on my life that my pain and finding a safe way to express it is crucial to my life.  The older I get the more I realize that I’m less able to stuff it anymore. It is more likely to come flooding out at time when I don’t want it to, and if I overreact around others I’m left feeling ashamed and responsible once again for not being in control of my emotions. 

My counselor told me yesterday that responsibility is the ability to respond. But when we feel ashamed we feel stuck and unable to respond well.  I realize for a large part of my life I’ve been ashamed of my emotions because of the way my parents reacted to them.  I learned at an early age that allowing myself to feel what I was created to feel produced negative results. Therefore, I learned to stuff emotions that would not be acceptable. I learned to behave in ways that kept others happy with me even if those ways were not a true reflection of how I felt. Therefore, I also took responsibility for their bad behavior, too! 

I’m still on a long journey of allowing myself to feel the emotions God intended for me to feel. Pain lets us know when something is wrong. Pain also motivates us to ask for help from God and others. I realize my relationship with God is also lacking because even with Him I try to express what I think He wants me to feel rather than what I really do, but God knows my heart. He looks past all of my trying to hold it all together and His Holy Spirit prays for me even when I don’t know how to pray for myself.  The thing that amazed me the most about God when I first felt His presence was that He heard my pain and He comforted me.  He was a safe place to release my pain, however my efforts to try to be a good religious person caused me to lose sight of that.  Also, painful circumstances in my life knocked me back into a self protective mode of trying to control things around me by not expressing what I really felt honestly to others. And it made me an easy target for a predator. 

Certainly, after all the painful circumstances our family has been through, my tendency is definitely to hold my feelings in and protect myself and others from them.  I saw how my desperate need for love took me to a very dark place. But I’m realizing these days that it wasn’t my feelings that were ever the problem. It was not being able to deal with my feelings in a healthy way that was. Of course as a child, I didn’t know another way to deal with my emotions. I could not help the situation I was born into. None of that was my fault.  As an adult who had not learned a better way to cope, there were also certain elements outside of my control. I have learned like many of us do through brokenness that my way does not work anymore and I need to try another way. I realize my fighting to escape my childhood emotions are not working anymore and it is time to give them space in my life to be expressed in a healthy way. 

I think the reason I have been so afraid of these emotions is that I think they will cripple me again. I fear that I won’t be able to function like I did when I first started to open up to my former pastor about them. But I’m beginning to see finally that these emotions can come out in healthy ways if I will allow myself to be honest about them with God and others who are safe to share them with.  

When we are able to be vulnerable with God and with others, we find that our powerful painful emotions begin to lose their power in our lives.  The shameful lies that we believe about how we should feel begin to die in the light with friends who understand and we learn to respond better. The shame we feel about our emotions  are transformed into truth when can share them honestly with those who know how to listen. My heart breaks to hear that so many leave the church because no one understood their pain, and tried to fix them without even listening.   When we do not know how to deal with our own pain, we can’t help others deal with theirs either. 

I’m learning slowly to share bits of my story with friends who are not afraid to share their story with me.  I cannot express enough how this has changed so much for the good for me. I no longer feel desperate like I did when I went to my pastor for help. I no longer feel so very alone. When others listen compassionately, it also helps to give me a glimpse of the compassion of God, and enables me to be honest with Him. 

Even with all in learning about my pain, there is still a lot that is there that I haven’t been able to release. There are still memories stuck in my subconscious mind that I am afraid of how they will make me feel.  So today I’m writing a letter to my pain (an assignment from my counselor), to give it permission to come out when it needs to, so that it won’t come out when it has to.  More than anything else I want to stop feeling crippled by overwhelming emotions that keep me stuck.

If you can relate to some of what I’m writing here, maybe you can consider writing one of these letters, too or reaching out to a safe friend who will really listen.

Pain isn’t meant to be stuffed. It’s meant to be felt and motivate us to pay attention and get the help we need.

Dear Pain, 

I know that you are there, because you come out at night when I’m trying to sleep and cause my mind to listen when things are finally quiet. I’m sorry that it takes this for me to actually listen. 

I know I avoid you when I’m craving another donut or yearning to numb out in front of the TV. I don’t know why it’s just so hard to feel what it is that you want me to. 

I am beginning to see lately that you really are not a bad thing. You help me see what I need. You help me understand the things that continue to hurt me. 

You shouted no when my adopted father touched me and let others bring me harm. You knew I was just a little girl and that this was not supposed to be happening. You were not something to be ashamed of when I felt really bad. What happened was a terrible thing and dear Pain you let me know that it was. 

I know I have allowed control to push you over and over back inside. It’s been bullying you around for too long. Control really is the adversary that I need to let go of because it’s what’s brought me harm. You have been the one who has consistently said that the harm happening in my life was wrong.  So I thank you for that. 

I also know I try to minimize what you make me feel as well. I tell myself that whatever it is it’s really not that bad, but you want me to see the reality of all that is going on before it gets any worse. Oh how I wish I’d listened to you when you tried to tell me things were really bad. 

I think I’m figuring out you are more of a friend than a foe.  I don’t like the way you make me feel but I know you are necessary for me to be healthy and whole. I invite you to continue to guide and direct me in the ways I need to go. And I will try to do a better job of cooperating with you. 

Liz

Broken Trust 

I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord , have spoken!

But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number. Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord , have spoken!

Jeremiah 23:3‭-‬4 NLT

Recently, I was asked by an author to review his book on spiritual abuse. I had never heard of F Remy Diederich before I received his email, so I did not know what to expect. However, after reading Broken Trust,  I found myself wishing I had been able to read this book several years ago. I believe his work to be one of the best and most practical that I have read on the subject. I highly recommend it if you or someone you know has been spiritually abused.  I also highly recommend it if you are in any kind of ministry.  I believe every church needs to understand spiritual abuse and the toxic system that produces it. We like to think that because it hasn’t happened to us that it won’t, but it’s closer than we think – in our hearts so prone to wander away from our God. 

It’s interesting to note,  that recently in a conversation with a friend, I was voicing my frustration over how hopeless hearing about spiritual abuse can make one feel. I struggle to read other victims accounts and even watch television shows about abuse involving the church, because it reminds so much of the pain of spiritual abuse.  It’s not that I don’t care about other’s stories, it’s that I care so much that I cannot bear to think that this kind of thing continues to happen in the one place on earth where we should be able to find safety in – the church of Jesus Christ.  I find myself feeling angry, powerless and overwhelmed at times, especially when I hear how the church wrongly handles abuse cases. Statistics show that the majority of churches when made aware of a victimization of a member by clergy, actually bring more pain and confusion to victims.  Victims who need their churches for support after suffering from spiritual abuse many times are misunderstood and are left to struggle alone.  In a Baylor study conducted in 2015 of 280 women who were victims of clergy sexual misconduct, 92% did not feel supported by their churches after the abuse was exposed.  When I read statistics like this, it’s almost impossible not to feel hopeless, alone and afraid to trust. I long for the church to reveal the love of Jesus Christ, to teach the truth, and bring healing to those who are broken, but in the abuse advocacy world many times all I can hear about are more painful stories of abuse in the church. They are stories that need to be told. The truth must be brought into the light to be healed. However, I long to hear more stories of evil being overcome with good.  I am encouraged to say after reading Broken Trust, I see this good at work. 

As a victim of spiritual abuse, my voice was taken from me. Not only by the pastor’s abuse, but by other leaders in the church when I revealed the spiritual abuse to them. As Remy points out in the book, once victims of abuse begin to understand that those placed in a position to lead them have brought them harm instead, they discover that they have a lot they need to say.  We long to be heard and understood. However, the church struggles to just listen without telling us to quickly forgive or attempt to minimize the damage in an effort to protect the institution.  However, Remy does not stifle the voices of those who are hurting because of spiritual abuse, he listens and brings comfort as a wounded healer who has suffered in the same ways as we have. He acknowledgedes the damage that has been done and the evil that has occurred. His loving compassion is a healing balm to the victim’s  soul and reveals the love of Jesus Christ.  

Not only is Broken Trust a source of encouragement and healing to victims, but it is also a great resource for pastors and churches.  Remy does not charge into the church with guns blazing. He does not harshly criticize or condemn. He tells the truth gently and lovingly from a pastor’s perspective about the spiritual abuse without excusing, minimizing, or normalizing it.  He causes his readers to dig deep to the root of the problem, and work towards true healing for all involved. It is rare to find such a balanced and unifying approach in today’s world that is quick to point fingers and polarize. The church desperately needs this approach towards so many issues today.  

Lastly, Broken Trust has been another step in the process of healing from my own shame.  This book has helped me to see clearly the importance of placing responsibility for spiritual abuse in the right place.  Spiritual abuse is not 50/50. When sexual abuse is involved, it is not an affair. It is always the responsibility of the pastor to guard and protect the flock. When pastors use their position of power to meet their own needs through abuse, when pastors take advantage rather than serve, it is never a victim’s fault. Healing can only come by recognizing this truth and not feeling ashamed for someone else’s offense. It can only come when we have grieved over the damage that has been done and all that we have lost.  It can only come when we let go and decide to trust our Heavenly Father to make things right. 

Finally, Broken Trust helps me to find what I was looking for so desperately when I went to an abusive pastor for help; hope and healing through a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

This book is a MUST READ! 

Liz