Jack Watts’ weekly column is aimed at helping those who have been wounded, including those who have been abused by the church. If you are in pain—or if someone you know is in pain—you will find real comfort, wisdom, and answers right here. Based on his book, Recovering from Religious Abuse, published by Simon & Schuster, Jack will teach you the value of working the “11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.” Remember, recovery is a process—not a destination. The answers are simple but not always easy. Look to the Lord and allow His Spirit heal you.
Our energy is in proportion to the resistance it meets. We attempt nothing great but from a sense of the difficulties we have to encounter, we persevere in nothing great but from a pride in overcoming them—William Hazlitt
You can’t work for your salvation; it’s free. There’s nothing you can do to save yourself, but you have to “work out” your relationship with God.
When I was first victimized by religious abuse, I was hurt, angry, confused, and purposeless for a long time. When I realized I was not getting any better by wallowing in self-pity, I knew I had to make some changes. I would never become who I was supposed to be by living in bitterness, and nobody was going to help me. I had to do it myself.
That’s when I started working on myself. Realizing Christ was not the problem but the solution, I looked to Him, and the words He spoke, as my source for courage, inspiration, and purpose. I had to rethink every aspect of my life, changing nearly everything. At first, I resented it but, after a while, I chose to embrace it instead. Purpose can beat out bitterness.
I had a vision for what my life would become, but God’s purpose was different. Turning out to be who He wanted me to be has taken a lot of work, and continues to require more. By looking to God for the future, rather than blaming Him for the past, I chose life over the debilitating half-life of bitterness. I worked out a new purpose—a rewarding, fulfilling one. Christ saved my soul, but I had to do the recovery work to forge a new life—a life of value.
To learn from the past, you must renew your mind. If you desire to do so, join me in the following prayer:
I feel like a wounded gazelle,
Unable to fend for myself,
As hungry beasts surround me.
My demise seems certain,
And there is no place to hide.
My friends—those who call upon Your name—
Are nowhere to be found,
Just when I need them the most.
My love has abandoned me for another,
Without ever looking back.
I am undone and badly crushed,
And those who seek what little is left,
Fight over scraps of my being—
Over pieces of my shattered life.
How long will You leave me exposed
And vulnerable to ravenous predators—
To those who seek to destroy me?
Tell me, Lord, when will it be enough?
When will You protect Your wounded child?
When will You move Your mighty hand to help?
If You don’t rescue me soon, nothing will remain.
My head, which once was proud, hangs in despair,
And my countenance is greatly diminished.
Terrifying dread and apprehension overwhelm me.
I fear that it will never end—not unless
You provide me with a way through the thorny maze,
To a place that is safe and secure.
Refer to Step 6: I refuse to become like those who have abused me and abandon my desire to spread malice because of my pain and my anger.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)