How to Really Help the Spiritually Abused

Posted: October 9, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: , , , , ,

As I said in yesterday’s post, Mirror, Mirror, I have been looking around on the internet at the advice given to those who have suffered spiritual abuse. Most of what I have seen has been 1) examine yourself for any guilt or wrong-doing; 2) pray; 3) read scripture; 4) forgive; and 5) find a new church.

Rarely do I see the word “RUN!”

Perhaps people assume that those who have suffered spiritual abuse have left their church. I knew I was being abused for years, but I was going to be the better person by sticking it out. Jesus doesn’t let go of me, why should I let go of those who were killing me spiritually? And a few times, I took breaks. Once for almost six months. But I kept going back. Hoping for a better outcome.

If you are experiencing spiritual abuse, it’s probably in a place you love with people you love and (would like to) admire. Let me be blunt here.

“What you want to happen is never going to happen.”

I have never seen or heard of anyone who went through a spiritually abusive situation and there was a God-honoring conclusion in which the perpetrator(s) and the victim reached a point of healing and reconciliation. If that story is out there (and I so wanted it to be mine!), please let me know.

But, when you tell someone to “Run!” – be prepared to give them something to run to. Because they are going to be lonely. They are going to be gushing blood and trying to catch their breath and flailing about for something solid to hold on to. And that’s not just “find another church.”

That’s you. Whether it’s in person or in cyber-land. If you care enough to give them advice, care enough to be there for them.

I had a few friends – one from my church and only for a short time, another from my area, and a third I met at a weekend conference – who were willing to be there for me. They listened and shared. We laughed and cried. When I thought I was losing all of my friends, I discovered there were new ones right there. Good ones.

I also found folks online. Other survivors. I read their stories. Reached out. And they encouraged me. And I hope I have encouraged them.

When people have been abused and decide to run, they need somewhere to go. Are you willing to be that place?

And probably most important of all:

They need to know God loves them and what happened to them was not from God. He doesn’t act like that. God loves with an everlasting love. God never leaves us or forsakes us. God saves all of our tears in His bottle.

Don’t tell them to go look that up in their bible. Chances are the bible was used as a weapon and they have a hard time even looking at the cover, let alone opening it. And chances are, their bible has been marked up at all of those scriptures that were used to tell them they weren’t good enough.

BE their bible. Even from somewhere out in cyberspace. And I don’t mean give them chapter and verse references. YOU be their bible. “God loves you, Ellen.” “God will not, has not, turned His back on you.” “You are a beautiful, wonderful, child of God and He loves you.”

Don’t worry about whether the abused person has done anything wrong.
Don’t worry about whether they have forgiven.
Don’t worry about whether they are reading scripture.
Don’t worry about whether they have found a church to attend.

Just be there. With love and encouragement, patience and kindness.

That alone is a God-honoring conclusion.

  1. Bike Bubba says:

    Amen. When church leaders show that they are about power and circling the wagons and ignore very real spiritual issues, it’s time to run. My family just ran from a church where the leadership circled the wagons around a guy who was living in a two million dollar house, hiding his income from church leaders, playing high stakes poker, and playing theological footsie with T.D. Jakes–and despite all that, they wouldn’t believe the guy had a problem with love of money (and a number of other issues). People liked his teaching, so they’d go with it, even when I pointed out it was directly contrary to Scripture. Go figure.

  2. Michaela says:

    Hi Ellen,
    It would be helpful if you would put up a list of resources for folks to think about. Books, links, etc. A lot of people flail around and don’t know how to help someone who has been spiritually abused.
    Take care,

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