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.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved— Helen Keller
Often lines from a movie make a profound impression on people. In one obscure movie, I remember one depraved man’s comment, “It’s easier to maintain character than to recover it.” Obviously, this is true. It is easier to preserve character than to recover it.
When it’s lost, it’s lost and, trying to regain it is always an uphill battle.
But that’s only part of the problem. Once virtue has been abandoned, most lose hope and simply act out the role they believe they were destined to play. From a legalistic perspective, they’re done; their goose is cooked. They’ve fallen, and they can’t get up. Because they believe they are beyond hope, their lives are filled with despair, poor behavior, and low self-esteem. More often than not, this is what people who have fallen believe to be true about themselves.
From God’s perspective, it’s entirely different. He actively pursues those who desire recovery. Because of the severity of a person’s fall, recovering people know the value of restoration—the value of having their dignity reinstated.
Being forgiven much, they develop a deeper capacity to love, which is a highly valued character quality. If you’re in recovery—any kind of recovery—you know this as well. Those who have never fallen—who have never done anything seriously wrong—don’t understand this perspective. Their comprehension about such things is limited.
They don’t have a clue about recovery. Developing compassion and deep empathy doesn’t particularly interest them. They have far too many personal, self-serving goals to achieve. Although they don’t understand its value, we certainly do, don’t we?
If you want to get back on track, join me in this prayer:
The wounds from my abuse run deep,
Creating shame, anger, and
An overwhelming sense of worthlessness
That enervates every area of my life.
With my mouth, I deny that
This is how I see myself,
But in the recesses of my mind,
I wonder if my abusers were correct about me.
Maybe my life has little value, after all,
Precisely like I have been told.
When it happened, I was as angry
With You as I was with them.
Being in a position of spiritual authority,
I assumed that they spoke for You,
Which they clearly indicated was true.
Feeling such pain and humiliation from my rebuke,
It never occurred to me
That Your Son was also abused—
Just like I have been—
By those who were hateful and self-serving.
You allowed Christ’s abuse—just like you allowed mine.
But what His abusers meant for evil,
You meant for good, redeeming Mankind.
Without His suffering, all would be lost.
Please redeem my life in the same way,
And use it for something of value—
Whatever that might be.
Turn my weakness into strength,
And my broken spirit into something
That is strong, substantive, and purposeful.
Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.
Be gracious to me and raise me up, that I may repay them. By this I know that Thou art pleased with me, because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me. As for me, Thou dost uphold me in my integrity, and Thou dost set me in Thy presence forever. (Psalm 41:10-12)
But as for me, my prayer is to Thee, O Lord, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Thy lovingkindness, answer me with Thy saving truth. Deliver me from the mire, and do not let me sink; may I be delivered from my foes and from the deep waters (Psalm 69:13-14).