“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (KJV)
I asked the Holy Spirit to help me chose a devotion for our monthly meeting. Only God could have picked it.
In closing the devotional part of our meeting, I restated the main lesson. “Satan will create situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to escape except to sacrifice everything you hold dear.”
Her voice quaking, Cathy spoke softly, barely above a whisper.
“I know what that feels like. Even though I am not there anymore, unforgiving feelings are still there. At my previous church, I was verbally attacked. I felt it was better for me to leave than to stay. I try to forgive the people, but it is so hard.”
Wincing, I struggled with whether or not I should tell her my story. I didn’t want to jade her opinion of our church since she was a new member, but hopefully to encourage her. In my opinion, our church wasn’t any better than her old church.
“It sounds like you were a victim of spiritual abuse. I know. I have been subjected to some of the same. I just want you to know that I understand exactly what you are feeling.”
“Spiritual abuse. I haven’t heard that term before, but it fits.” Her voice started getting stronger, but still tentative, not sure if she could trust me with her secret, her hurt.
I prayed for guidance before I responded. “I don’t want to run you away from our church and I don’t want to gossip, so I won’t tell you my story, but..”
She cut me off. “I had a feeling about this church before I joined. I just felt like I needed to get away from the previous church. Please tell me about your experience.”
“I stuck it out here. I have struggled so long and hard about whether to go or to stay. It has been eight years since it started. It got so bad that my husband resigned as a deacon and started going to another church. But, I have decided to stay for now.”
We spent the next hour comparing horror stories of spiritual abuse and abuse of authority that happens in churches. We both were shocked that these horrible abuses could happen in our little family churches. That is something that happens at other churches in other towns, not in our little town.
“You are an inspiration to me, Cathy. You left after three rounds of abuse, even though you grew up in that church and have family still there; you had enough courage to leave.”
“No, you are an example to me. You stayed instead of running. I could never to that.”
Spiritual abuse comes when you least expect it. It knocks you to your knees. But it doesn’t stop there. The continued abuse chips away at your spiritual foundation. If your foundation isn’t solid, then it will crumple under this pressure. It usually happens to people who are very active in church, who questions authority and new standards of operation. The most insidious part of spiritual abuse is the victim rarely is as vigorous working for God after the abuse happens. .
We had different solutions to the same problem, but knowing now that we weren’t the only ones encouraged us to continue in our faith. God is unchangingly good, Satan is unchangingly evil.
Father, I pray for the people who are just beginning to realize something is wrong in their church. I pray that you give them direction and encouragement. I pray that this abuse will strengthen their faith, not cause them to turn away. Give them the ability to forgive. Amen.
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