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 many 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 to heal you.
If you share your pain, you cut it in half; if you don’t, you double it—Recovery Slogan
There is nothing more difficult than hearing the voice of God, when you’ve been spiritually abused. Because someone you trusted used his or her position exploitatively, you recoiled. This is natural, especially since it was such a breach of confidence.
For most, the affront was so unexpected that the emotional damage caused by it was debilitating. As a result, not only did it make you angry but it also hampered your ability to trust other people—people you will need in your recovery.
Learning how to trust again—and actually doing it—is one of the most difficult aspects in regaining emotional health, but this is exactly what is required. Having strong men and women in your life is important. Recovery can be a lonely road, and a wise person chooses to share the burden with at least one other person.
Your loss of trust has probably extended to God as well, because in your mind, He should have intervened to prevent it. You may feel like God let you down more than your abuser. If you do, you are not alone. Most people feel this way—at least, for a while.
When you think about it rationally, you know it isn’t true, but you still feel this way. Because you do, it’s difficult to trust God again. It’s also much more difficult to follow His leading, which is definitely the road to emotional health. You must learn to trust again—both vertically and horizontally.
Trust God first because that’s your primary relationship in recovery. Then, find at least one friend to help you get back on your feet. It’s important. If you want to heal, here is what you have to do. You have to listen for God’s voice, trust it, and become open to His healing. You also have to be open and candid with another human being—one that has enough strength of character to tell you when you’re wrong. You can’t do one or the other; both are essential—just like two wheels on a bicycle.
Now, join me in praying for God to send you the right person to help:
Now that I have spelled out
The exact nature of my behavior,
And have written it down,
I feel so naked and completely vulnerable.
Just reviewing it gives me a feeling of relief,
But I also feel insecure and so ashamed.
Now that I have brought to light
My deepest, most intimate secrets,
I’m exposed and fear rejection or ridicule.
Perhaps I will even be mocked by my confidant—
By the person I’ve chosen to trust—
Just like I have been by those who abused me.
I know this is not a realistic fear,
But just the thought of it
Creates apprehension and foreboding.
I know You will forgive my self-defeating behavior,
But humans are rarely as generous as You.
Please prepare the heart of my friend—
The one I have chosen to be my confessor.
When I expose myself completely, hiding nothing,
I pray that Your love and acceptance will be
What I experience and not the condemnation
Of someone who is self-righteous—someone who
Cannot understand or accept me, just as I am.
Father, I have already worked so hard and come so far.
Help me continue to be vulnerable and forthright,
Which I know is Your will for me.
Stand with me, Lord, so that I can
Boldly state the exact nature of my heart,
With humility, casting aside any sense of timidity.
Heal me in all of the broken places, Father,
And relieve the burden of guilt I have been
Carrying with me for all these years.
Free me to walk into the future unshackled by the past,
Free to become the person You created me to be.
In Christ’s Name I pray,
Refer to Step 8: I will share my experience and my own wrongdoing with a trusted friend, confessing the exact state of my heart.
Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge in Thee, before the sons of men! Thou dost hide them in the secret place of Thy presence from the conspiracies of man; Thou dost keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. (Psalm 31:19-20)
To see more on recovery, check out The 11 Steps to Recover from Religious Abuse.