Being a victim of spiritual abuse clouds the perception of the care that the Living God gives to his children because church leaders, who are supposed to represent him, have not! The whole ordeal of spiritual abuse is exhausting, to say the least, and devastating in ways that one could never imagine–unless it has happened to you.
When it comes to spiritual abuse in the church, God gets a bad rap. Somehow, he gets lumped in with the perpetrators. People reason that–if this is how church leaders treat them–then that kind of God is not the one that they are personally interested in. God gets trashed with the abusers.
There is a need to go back to first principles—that God loves you, that he is a worthy care giver, and that you can fully trust him in spite of the fact that human leaders have let you down, big time.
The Scriptures have numerous passages that affirm that Yahweh would be there for his people when they found themselves in the dry and barren desert places. Knowing that God is with his people through the tough times is one of the essential beliefs in the Christian faith.
Knowing that God’s arms are opened wide to those who are spiritually poor and needy and who may be experiencing a spiritual wilderness in their lives, brings much comfort when things are emotionally dismal.
The promise of refreshing after the heat and the desperation of the desert is not only a good thing, but it is a God-thing. Passages of Scripture give a glimpse into the nature of God during the bleak and hard times that the nation of Israel faced.
Since God is a Spirit, he pretty much inhabits everywhere. One can be assured that this God was with his people in the desert places so long ago and is with his people and are for them in the barren places of life today. God longs to give water to the thirsty and refresh the weary. It is just a matter of boldly coming to him–since he is the Fountain of Life.
The following are a number of Scripture passages which demonstrated that God was a Loving Shepherd who was with those who were alone in the desert of circumstances at that time and that he was there to strengthen them. People today can take comfort from these passages.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:11, 28-31
The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
When Moses conversed with Yahweh regarding the task of looking after the entire nation of Israel, Yahweh assured Moses that his Presence would go with him and the entire nation and they would experience his rest.
And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus knew what it was like to be opposed and harassed by religious leaders:
When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.
In the New Testament Book of Matthew, we read that Jesus, simply beckoned people to ‘come’ to him for true rest:
Jesus Gives True Rest
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus clarified that he would give those who came to him the rest that they needed. He assured them that they could learn from him since he was both gentle and humble in heart. This draw toward his gentle and humble heart would certainly be unique to any other standing invitation out there. No other appeal would even come close to this one. It was, and always has been, the best option.
Though we instinctively know that ‘in this life we shall have tribulations,’ most of us did not factor in that some of our troubles would be found in the place of worship, in the place of Christian community, and under the watch care of church leaders.
Now that you can identify with so many others who have been wounded in the church by church leadership, you realize that you are not alone. You can take comfort in this fact.
You can also take comfort in the fact that God is with you and that he will refresh you while you pass through the desert situation that you may now be facing.
Be assured that others have been through this barren place, that there is comfort in a Christian community that cares, and that you won’t always feel as low as you might be feeling right now.
Jesus is there with you and can carry you when your strength is weak. There are brothers and sisters of common faith who can help you and remind you that God gives rest to the weary and refreshment during the desert times of life.
* * * * *
For Further Reflection
While reading the Book of Isaiah recently, I came across a rather unknown passage that caught my attention. See what you think.
Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
Considering the fact that we understand God to dwell in incomparable light and that Jesus said: “I am the light of the world,” one could ponder what this passage about walking and trusting God in the darkness, with no light, might mean.
What it speaks to me is that even though someone may experience that they are walking in the dark, they should quietly continue to trust in God. The message seems to be that: it is far better to trust God in the dark when there is no visible light to guide them, than to be in danger of lighting a man-made torch in order to try to see things better.
This can be an encouraging message to those who feel devastated by spiritual abuse and seem to be in a very dark place spiritually. The encouragement is to trust in God even in the dark because he, alone, is reliable.
In Isaiah 42:15-16 in The Message, we find this encouraging passage for those who feel that they don’t know the way:
But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way,
who can’t see where they’re going.
I’ll be a personal guide to them,
directing them through unknown country.
I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them–
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.
Isaiah 42:15-16 The Message
* * * * *
I would love to have your feedback on this passage.
What does it mean to you?
How does it speak to you in your present situation?
If you have some thoughts, email me at:
* * * * *
© 2013 Barb Orlowski, D.Min.