Groomed to Doubt through Spiritual Abuse

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“Are you sure?…”

As children we have a childlike faith. It just is. Faith that our parents are always right and acting in our best interest. Faith that we can take things at face value and learn to operate in this world based on the feedback we get from the prominent people in our lives. In my childhood, I also developed a very simple kind of faith in God. I grew up going to church every Sunday and my experiences there constructed another faulty corner of my belief system. In my last post I shared one of these experiences, and now I want to describe a recurring church experience that fueled the belief that I could not trust myself.

Every Sunday that I went to church, I took with me this simple and childlike faith in God. It was a natural, simple belief that just was. I didn’t try hard to make it happen. I sat in Sunday School and church and took in everything I was taught about what it meant to believe in and love this God and what it meant for him to love me. I believed everything they told me because as a child, I didn’t have much else to compare their teachings to and didn’t learn to question it.

In my early teenage years, a new pastor came to our church. He was charismatic at the pulpit and presented himself very humbly and earnest in person. In his sermons he went into deep detail about all the ins and outs of the Bible.  Our church esteemed him as our all-knowing leader who was very close to God. I pretty much took everything he said as golden truth.

Sunday after Sunday I listened intently to his sermons. By my teenage years, my depression was becoming more uncomfortable for me and I started hungering for comfort. Sitting in those services, I was the epitome of vulnerable… A hungering heart, a simple faith, an obedient listener. Sometimes I found comfort in the sermon. I would grasp at some words or phrase or Bible verse that assured me that I was loved and that I was accepted, that I was good enough. But this doubt about myself and my faith kept growing within me. It was a confusing, gradually consuming “merry-go-round” feeling. I would leave church feeling lighter and assured, but over the week more and more doubts would grow. I didn’t have the perspective at the time to understand why. But now I see the huge twist that was happening.

Every Sunday, at the end of almost every sermon, the pastor would challenge all of us. He would challenge us with this kind of question: “Now, you may have told God that you want to follow him. You may have prayed at various times throughout your life for his forgiveness. But, take some time now to look deep in your heart and ask yourself, are you sure? Have you really made the decision to follow God? You may think you have, but today, why don’t you be sure? Make that commitment anew. Show God, once again, that you are serious and genuine in your belief.”

It seemed like a good admonishment on the surface… It seemed like the pastor wanted us to know God and that’s why he challenged us. It seemed like a good thing when people would go to the front to pray, crying and contrite. It seemed like it was good because, well, of course it would be good to want to be sure that we were following God… Who could argue with that? But how come myself and the other people there weren’t jumping out of our pews joyful and alive every week? How come, for me, my depression grew worse and worse and I grew more and more anxious about my faith? My doubts about the genuineness of my faith grew so strong that at one point I went to talk to the pastor and asked him for help with it… I told him I was so doubtful about whether or not I really did love God. He took out a pamphlet of The Four Spiritual Laws and walked me through it. He assured me that if I had faith and believed, then I was okay. In his office he validated my faith; but from the pulpit he didn’t.

The twist worked away at my soul. It is the same twist at the heart of all kinds of abuse, the twist that teaches us to doubt ourselves through contradicting messages. There I sat in church, with my simple faith, along with hundreds of other people with their faith (why ELSE would they be at church if they didn’t have some level of desire to know God??) and Sunday after Sunday, the pastor shot arrows, challenging us to MAKE SURE that we were serious about following God. Our actions showed we were serious. But the faith that we were already demonstrating was ignored. Instead, we were admonished to be better, to believe better, to decide stronger, to commit more deeply.

The questioning started digging underneath my faith, slowly hollowing out a pit of self doubt and confusion which easily spread to every area of my life too. I was groomed to doubt all of my feelings, all of my “simple faiths” about anything else. It was one of the most powerful, churning lies at the root of my struggle with depression.

My next post, “Spiritual Abuse and Emotional Ravaging” will put a spotlight on the emotional damage that happened to me at church…


66 response to "Groomed to Doubt through Spiritual Abuse"

  1. By: Carrie G Posted: 28th June

    We love you and care for you Carla and we’re only trying to help you by sharing the truth. WE came to this blog to check it out in hopes of finding something spiritually encouraging but all we found was a bitter group of people against the church. Christ died for the church. JEsus layed down his very life to save us from death, there is no greater love then that. The church is not perfect because it is made up of people like us but it’s still Christ’s church and we should never encourage somebody to abandon it. There are faithful and loving people out there that are part of faithful and loving churches that glorify Christ. For a group that boasts about being loving and encouraging and empowering, then why are you so accepting of everything except God’s word and people that proclaim it?

    Do you think we get pleasure from being persecuted for telling the truth? do you think we just go looking from blog to blog, looking to attack people? Both my husband and I have suffered in life in many ways and I personally was sexual abused as a child and assualted 7 months ago so I know the pain that comes from being abused, but I also know the source of healing too and that is what I’m sharing, and it’s not my words that you claim but it’s the very words of God that anyone can personally read in the Bible. I would not be here if it wasn’t for JEsus Christ and his Word. He is my King and my God, my comforter and healer and you all may have stories about your terrible experiences too which I can relate with and sympathize with but we can’t blame God or people for what has happened to us we blame sin and satan because that is the root of all evil and the fallen world which we are a part of. We’re not trying to attack Carla and we’re sorry if it came across in that way but we love her very much and care for her that is why this message is mainly for her because I’ve known her growing up and she is a family friend.WE love God and people so much to stand for Him and ” one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that JEsus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father. Amen. ” Philippians 2:10-11

    God Bless, Carrie and Adam

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th June

      Carrie and Adam,
      You are missing the point completely. NO ONE is BLAMING GOD, and we are not even trying to blame other people but sometimes blame is a bit of a stepping stone to truth; on this blog we are simply sharing our experience (most of which is in the PAST ) in hope of helping others to find freedom from oppression. Personally, I love the Bible. I love God, I love Christ, but the point is that unfortunately, I was NOT taught that love in Church or by example. We get hundreds of comments thanking us for encouragement, most of them NOT from church haters! The way that I see it, this IS God’s work. This is about life, truth, love, and hope. This blog is about healing from bitterness and hate, it is not about bitterness and hate (except for hating abuse and the damage that it causes. )

      I have been saved from death; a death that I lived in most of my life. I could not do any good for anyone. I could not make a difference to God or anyone else when I lived there. I don’t live there anymore though; today I make a difference to thousands of people each month. I am not against God, I am against lies. I am against false teaching for the purpose of control. I am against abuse.

      I think that we are having a disagreement about “the truth.” It is fine with me if you disagree with me, but please don’t twist my words or my message.
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Manuel Jones Posted: 28th June

    I agree with “More Jesus less Religion”. Religion is almost like Politics. I’ll give you this if you give me that. I’ll have to settle for this because it’s not quite there but I need to get that from you or your Church/religion. I say.. why conform. Just because you agree with 80% of what your church does.. fine. But if you are confused or not really ok with the 20% then look for the answers yourself. Hopefully the 20% doesn’t offend you enough to find another church that only satifies 65% of your stipulations but doesn’t offend as much. What I’m saying is that you don’t have to buy into any religion 100% all of the time. It’s ok to have a different thought or thoughts on religious matters. I look at God in a relational view not as a religion. I see him as another person who just happens to have all the answers. He may not give them (the answers) all to me at once but in his time, I’ll have what I need to be healthy spiritually which in turn spills over into all matters of life.

  3. By: Sheila Ross Posted: 28th June

    Hi Carla and Darlene,

    I feel compelled to write my sadness to witness Carla being torn down for her honesty and open heart. Whether one agrees or not, should have no bearing on her right to express her view.

    To that end, here is mine. I grew up in the same church as she did. Not only is her story quite acurate, I find myself feeling as though it is a bit on the soft side. There is a generous section of people in Christiandom who have been taught just as she had. They feel that ‘perfect’ is the only way to measure up, and so believe that they never will. How sad that they completely miss the point. The overwhelming message of the new testament is love, not condemnation.
    That is the God I see, and the Jesus I embrace.

    Respectfully,
    Sheila

  4. By: Splinteredones Posted: 28th June

    Hey gals–I suppose this is more of a comment to most of your commenters. Carla, I read nothing of your post decrying God, only your relationship as being “worthy” or not. Which is exactly what abusers do, right? They put doubt in your mind regarding your relationship to whatever, in this case the Church in which you were raised. That was pu there by somebody else as you so oquently describe.

    Thanks to Darlene’s specific comments regards what I got from
    this. I am a Buddhist and thus am feeling tremendous sadness and compassion for so much talk about Christianity and God. So much judgement from so many. There are many ways to faith. Mine is a belief that I hold with me every moment of every day. I do not have a belief in a single Creator. I have gaps and doubts in my faith every day. This is because I have not achieved enlightenment, because I see so much lack of gratitude and compassion that we should have for one another, for life is suffering.

    I am rather personally offended at quite a few of these comments. However as I follow the boddhitsatva path, my perceptions are not what is of greatest importance.

    I am making a short story very long once again, sorry ;). It just gets under my skin that such a compassionate and loving post would be responded to with so much judgement and so much crap. Your eloquence shines thru. Your message is clear. Thank you for your courage! Om mane padme hom. Peace V.

  5. By: Shanyn Posted: 28th June

    I know I have a relationship with God, my Creator, the designer of my faith. I also know I’ve gotten, over the years, some significant ‘church burns’ from the humans and the doctrine and the social constructs that people mistakenly call religion and faith. The things people do in the name of God are not the same things God would have us do as His people, and I believe there will be a reckoning for those who abuse their power behind the pulpit or in the office of a church to hurt, abuse and drive people away from God. The youth pastor who abused me, the church leaders who never quite understood that one can be a Christian without being a drone to their human rules and interpretations. It hurts me badly that I still am seeking a church where I feel I can be myself, scars and all. It hurts me badly that I cannot trust a church leader because of those betrayals in the past. It hurts me to be so cynical. I really believe that you do not become a shepherd without actually spending time with your sheep in the fields. I feel for everyone who has had ‘church burn’ and pain at the hands of those in positions that assume a Godly authority over us but use their egos and human desires to create rules instead of listening with their hearts to God. Spiritual abuse is a reality as much as physical, emotional, verbal and social – and it is one that is hardly spoken of and it needs to be outed.

  6. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th June

    Carie and Adam
    Re: your second comment #14

    Listen to the judgment in this comment! It isn’t what you posted in your first comment from the Bible that is abusive, it is how YOU used it to tear someone else down… to make Carla wrong. And then you decide that Carla has a problem with God?? It isn’t about agreeing or disagreeing, it is about the truth. Your comments are exactly what Carla and others are talking about.. you are right, you understand the Bible and God and she doesn’t. And of course you put in the threat about standing before God on judgment day… that one is used on everyone all the time.

    I think God is going to say “well done my good and faithful servant” It isn’t us that are leading people away from God. One last thing, when you write “we will continue to pray for you”… that is one of the most well used statements that declares judgment on others. “I will pray that you come to the truth” ~ assuming that only YOU know the truth?

    I was in this same fog once. I was so lost in my own life and my kids were badly damaged in Christian School by all this same stuff. I am not suggesting anyone abandon faith, just that we understand what the truth is. In my case I abandoned the lies and the truth set me free. I personally have been re-born exactly in the way that the bible describes, but I had a long road out of hell first.

    P.S. just so you are aware, this blog has a huge following from all walks of life, but we also have many Christian readers who were raped and beaten by Pastors and leaders and in Christian boarding schools. Many were told to just forgive and they were never protected. That kind of advice does not work, it does not help and it certainly does not save. There is a dealing and healing time that has to take place first. That healing and dealing time is what this blog is all about.

    Thanks for your comments. Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th June

    Annette~
    I am not sure why you asked that question about if this is a Christian Only group.. I agree with what you say here and I assure you that everyone is welcome on this blog. We are not preaching anything but wholeness, freedom and recovery is possible no matter what happened or where you came from. =)It is devastating as you say, to be told that we are wrong all the time which is what people do when they tell us that only they know the truth. Thanks Annette for being here and contributing!

    And Vivian, yes, this is exactly what we are talking about too. Carla is writing about how people hurt her spiritually. Everything we write on this blog is in an attempt to be supportive to others who have dealt with some kind of abuse or control that held them back from growing up to be who they were meant to be. I have a deep passion to share with the world what finally set me free and it was getting all this abuse sorted out and getting to the bottom of the lies I had been fed all my life. INCLUDING the ones that preached at me through Church and bible study ~ and just for the record ~ I studied the bible for 12 years, 8 of which were Greek and Hebrew word origins and I am no stranger to the Bible. The truth never slams or shames anyone. Man does it and it is our teachers and leaders that do all the damage and they teach us to pass that on to others.

    Christina~ Thank you for your brilliant and truth filled comment too. After all those years of study I was still not free! I still felt unworthy, but when I got to the bottom of the abuse, I realized that the bible was not the problem, people were. Love the verse you quoted here.
    Love to everyone, Darlene

  8. By: Annette Gray Posted: 28th June

    I think it’s just as devastating and sad to hear someone say: “His truths are always found in the Bible and the Bible alone” – how about respecting the faiths of others? And how about respecting those who do not have a religion; I’ve met many good and ‘unsaved’ people who definitely were not ‘wicked’ in any way – and many socalled Christians who were in Church every Sunday – and definitely wicked. Is this a ‘saved and Christian’ only group? If not – then respect other people’s views aswell.

  9. By: Vivian Palmer Harvey Posted: 28th June

    I agree with the statement that the post from Carrie and Adam is abuse, side stepping the issues being addressed.

    While reiterating the stance of the Christian church, which we all know fairly well, harping on “you shoulds” does no one any good.

    It reflects the unwillingness of majority of Christian to acknowledge the existence of and the problems of spiritual abuse; to consider the plight of those who are victims, and to make the changes necessary.

    It is very much about saying “we are right! Get in line and shape up!”

  10. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 27th June

    My experience with church has been mostly bad. It’s like an enmeshed family where you are treated like crap if you don’t think, act and look like them. There are just certain rules that you don’t break like, “Don’t question what the pastor says.” The abundant life that Jesus came to gave us is replaced with coping mechanisms. We’re not encouraged to have real freedom or taught empowerment; it’s all dependence on church leaders. How many sermons have been based on this verse?:

    “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.” 1 John 2:26,27

    What? We don’t need anyone to teach us? We can hear from God and decide for ourselves? Most pastors I know (and I know plenty up close and personal since my husband is a pastor)would never encourage their congregation to come to their own conclusions about ANYTHING. They’re too worried aboout validating themselves through the use of power.

  11. By: Carrie G Posted: 27th June

    Hi Carla,

    I’m just wondering why you don’t talk to us personally like you have with everyone else? We understand that you are offended and your putting up a wall of protection to quiet your accusing concience but we now see that your problem is not with pastors or the church, it is with God. You may not realize it but you actually are dicrediting God and his truth and Christ’s true church. Your discrediting God and his church with your post-modern philosophies that actually completely go against the Bible. If you think what our post said is abusive then your basically saying that the whole Bible and God is abusive as well, because all we did was share God’s truth found in His Bible. If you want to label everything you don’t agree with as abusive or judgemental or unloving then go ahead but that’s not gonna help you when you stand before a Holy and Righteous God on Judgement Day. You can go ahead and put a caution on this post as well or even delete it, it doesn’t bother us because your problem is with God not us. So we will continue to pray for you that you will come to the truth and stop spreading lies to these other people. Do you realize how serious this is and that you are leading people away from God? Do you honestly believe that following your heart is the way to God? If you would like to discuss this we would be more then happy to talk to you, just send us a private message through facebook!

    God Bless!
    Carrie and Adam

  12. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 27th June

    Oh Marie, that is so sad. What an enslaving thing to teach a child… What you say about never having a pure enough mind, behaving well enough etc, struck me as so inhuman. To me it feels like putting a cinch in the very human “free flowing-ness” (of emotions and thoughts) going on inside of us. I still work through that mess too, knowing that it is not the truth. It is great to know you on this journey Marie. Thanks so much for sharing. ~ Carla

  13. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 27th June

    Brian, welcome here and thank you for sharing your experience! I agree about the tragedy you describe; that’s exactly what it is. It is encouraging to hear from a parent who made intentional choices about how to have their own faith but also give their children the choice for themselves. I think that is VERY powerful. It honors your children as individuals who have the ability to make their own choices and live their own lives- it gives them the gift of knowing their own hearts and minds. Thanks again- it is great to have you here! ~Carla

  14. By: Marie Posted: 27th June

    Hi, Carla –

    I, too, grew up in the environment of total immersion in an evangelical church. Whenever I didn’t follow my father’s orders to behave without argument, he would tell me that God didn’t let children into heaven unless they obeyed their parents. Since I was in trouble all the time, I knew that God would not accept such a bad girl. That messed with my mind!

    I can totally relate to feeling never good enough. I could never behave well enough, keep my mind pure enough, remember all the rules . . . I just knew I was unworthy of love.

    I’m still cleaning up the mess left by the church teachings . . . and I don’t blame God because I don’t think God had anything to do with it.

    Thank you for writing so honestly!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  15. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 27th June

    Vivian, these things you have shared from your life are heartbreaking. I do not believe in a God who would require children (or anyone) to be misused in this way. All I can say is, it is the essence of evil to practice devaluing, destruction and manipulation in the name of God and I am so sorry that you experienced it to such an extreme. My faith has become very simple again (no doctrines for me either) and it is enough for me. I also understand why so many have lost faith altogether and I have no judgment for them at all. Thank you for sharing your light here Vivian. Love, Carla

  16. By: Brian Posted: 27th June

    It is an absolute tragedy and travesty that the one religion that has love and acceptance at it’s very core should become such a source of pain for so many people. For many years, I felt it was an advantage to have become a Christian on my own rather than growing up in a Christian family because so many are dysfunctional in their faith. In fact, I even wondered whether I should teach my own kids about the Lord because most of the healthy Christians I knew came to Christ later in life. I eventually figured out that there must be a way to raise kids in the faith but also give them the freedom to make their own choices in life. If we don’t allow that freedom when they are young, then they will exercise it as adults. We simply cannot choose to love God unless we are free to not love Him.

    In my view, if we don’t give children the freedom to not choose Christ, they will never really be able to choose Him freely. That’s one reason why adults often need to set their faith aside, at least for a time, so that they make their own decision one way or another.

  17. By: Carrie G Posted: 27th June

    *IMPORTANT NOTE from Carla*
    Please be cautioned as you read the following comment. I have decided to publish it because it is important to Darlene and I to let people share their views (of any kind) here at Emerging from Broken. I also felt that this comment displays some of the very things I have been writing about in my posts on Spiritual Abuse (and I personally feel it is spiritually abusive). I want to say plainly that the heart of my writing is to encourage and empower others who have been devalued through their church experience. I am not writing to discredit the Bible or Christianity in general. Please read with your own well-being in mind and feel free to respond as you wish.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Hi Carla, I decided I needed to write you because I was exactly like you and my heart really feels for you and I know we’ve known each other since childhood and grew up a bit together even though we were in different towns but I just wanted to share with you the truth that God has revealed to me through His word. I see this confusion in your soul that I had at one time and I want to share with you that God says that he is not a God of confusion. 1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”

    I also want to say that When I read this post and all the comments beneath it, it made me sad, for one comment to say that Christianity is from the devil makes me very sick. The truth is that doubt and false doctrine are from the devil and true Biblical Christianity is from the Living God. Everyone’s searching for spirituality, everybody is searching for a god, but nobody is looking for the one True God. We’ve all been born with sin in our lives and nothing in us wants God. That’s why salvation is a miracle because God converts our wicked hearts and then we come to saving faith in Him through His gospel which is found in the word of God. God is always here and His truths are always found in the Bible and the Bible alone. The Bible says in the end times that people will look for teachers that will please their itching ears and they will abandon sound doctrine; 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

    The truth is, the only way to be saved is through the gospel found in the word of God. Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Although there are a lot of faithful pastors out there, there are alot of pastors that are controlled by the devil and it’s our responsibility to be like the Bereans in the Bible; to test everything against the true and Holy word of God. We’re not to put our faith in men or ideas and we’re definitely not to trust or follow our hearts because the Bible says “The heart is deceitfully wicked above all things, who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

    I understand and can sympathize with people who doubt if their saved or not because I think we all go through that sometime in our lives, we all kind of wonder and God understands that and that is why he gave us the Bible and specifically the book of 1 John; which was written to give his children assurance that they are saved. God says once your saved your always saved because salvation is a work of God, a miracle of God. John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus also said that “all my sheep come to me and know my voice and they will never depart from me.” John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Jesus also said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out”.

    All the questions we have about life and truth have answers and those answers are found in the Bible. For those who are saved and have the Holy Spirit within them and humble themselves before His word, are humbling ourselves before God. We can’t pick and choose what we want to obey in the Bible, that’s called idol worship. That is not worshiping God, that is your own god or in other words an idol. Another thing we should do is to listen to Godly pastors who have shown a history of accurately expositing the word of God. Men like John MacArthur, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon and many others. God hates a divided church and we need to come together as one and the way to do that is submitting to the truths that are found in God’s word. For it is God’s word that we unite as Christians. If one Church isn’t preaching the true word of God then we find another one that does.

    Also I wanted to mention God is not here to please us, he’s not here to make all our pain and suffering go away. His promise of abundant life and healing will not fully be fullfilled until we are in Heaven. When you become a Christian you do recieve God’s blessings but the reason we are on this earth is to serve Him, glorify Him and become more like Christ. Luke 9:23-24 “Then He said to them all, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

    We all have a choice to worship God or not and the consequence of not choosing God is eternal separation from God in hell. So you can see why it’s such a serious matter. We have this amazing hope in Christ because of what he has done for us on that cross. To save us if we would only submit to his authority and trust him and turn away from our sins and run to him. For he is a comforter, 2 Corinthians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”.

    “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

    Let us not follow our hearts for that will lead us to destruction.
    Proverbs 16:25 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

    I pray that everybody would understand this so they may be right before the eyes of God.

    God Bless and Take care,
    Carrie and Adam

  18. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 27th June

    Wow Mike. Those are powerful thoughts, and I you’ve got me thinking in new directions!! That is so true for me too- the church taught me to think about people the wrong way. They were “things” that needed to be taught, needed to be “converted”, couldn’t be trusted, should be feared. It makes me really sad to think about it right now… There were so many lies I learned about people (myself included) in the religious environments I experienced, especially what you said about doubting my own instincts. How I see it, the added component with spiritual abuse is that we learn to be fearful of what God himself thinks about us. In my own healing, I’ve realized how God became one of my abusers in my own mind because of what the church taught me about him. In my therapy, it was amazingly freeing to learn that God didn’t think about me the way I was told he did… that he actually wants me to trust my own instincts and follow my unique path. Thanks so much for sharing your thought-provoking perspective Mike. ~ Carla

  19. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 27th June

    SF, I really feel with you… For years I questioned myself constantly. All through my teenage years, at the Christian high school I went to, the Bible College I went to. It was so painful… always raking myself over the coals. And I really relate to that feeling of being afraid I was a fake because of my doubts. That is such a painful conundrum to be in. It has taken some years for me to rest and trust that I do have that simple faith, that it is very real and completely good enough, and that God accepts me exactly where I am at. He doesn’t need me to examine and analyze myself to death as proof that I believe in him. I haven’t been to church myself in a couple years now, and my faith is healing along with me. I send you warm encouragement on your path of healing, and YES- God is so much bigger than many people preach him to be. Thank you so much for sharing your journey here~ Carla

  20. By: Vivian Palmer Harvey Posted: 27th June

    Those who harm the child and destroy its faith and ability to believe God is, or that he really loves the child, have a harsh warning from Christ; I know too many now-grown missionary kids who have completely abandoned the “faith of their fathers.”The majority have a life long struggle with trust and faith issues..
    I guess I am one of them.

    I don’t do church any more; not because all the attendees are bad people. Many of them have good hearts, and are genuinely caring individuals.
    But many are enmeshed in churchianity, and it is those who, products of their own generation and the horrible abuses they suffered, perpetrate more and more suffering upon the next generation.

    How does a child deal with the juxtaposition of “God loves you; he wants you to be here (at boarding school)so you have to take your punishment. It’s Gods will.”

    “You have to be here so your folks can serve God; If you do something or tell them something that stops them from saving souls, then you are Satan’s helper..they will be so disappointed that they have to stop saving souls because you make them unhappy.”

    “God loves you; you have to be strong and fight Satan;(while we suffered corporal punishment and beatings, emotional, mental, spiritual abuse from our caretakers)God needs you to help your parents. You have to help them do their work saving souls. You have to forgive us for hurting you; it is Gods will for you to forgive. You have to love your auntie and uncle or God will be very angry with you. You have to…”

    It is/was much more about putting on the face so God would be pleased; about climbing the “Do-To-Be” tree…doing in order to please God, despite the fact he was a capricious and angry God, ready to send people to Hell even tho he supposedly wanted to “save” them.

    Then there was sexual abuse, molestation, in many cases, rape and sodomy for some, followed up with spiritual ostrich treatment from the church leadership…you know… ” we had to serve God; it really wasn’t that bad for you; get over it; you survived, didn’t you? You just have to be brave and tough it out..”

    On the odd year of furlough, we were ” the trophy children of the Great Mr and Mrs….Palmer” So we had a moment of fame; we also lived in LaLa land, because it was more about performance for the sake of all those “investors” of the Palmer missionary family missionary enterprise..

    it was a business investment that really killed the souls and eventually the bodies of our parents.

    I firmly believe that Jesus did not intend people to go to “serve” God buying the souls of the African tribes with the currency of their own children’s souls, bodies and minds..

    Doctrines? nah! I don’t buy any of them. I do try to use the two greatest commands as guidelines, but “church” and church doctrines can go take a flyin’ leap into the deep, stormy, blue sea (with a big boulder tied around their middles)

    Those who have worked hard to help children and grown survivors of any church are the blessed ones. Those people,who demonstrate love in practical ways and defend the helpless.. they are the Hands and Feet, Arms, Mouth of Jesus of Nazareth..
    My thoughts..

  21. By: Mike Haitch Posted: 27th June

    Been there done that got the T-shirt.

    In the end I think a church has been the most toxic environment that I’ve ever been in for mental health. I’ve spent longer undoing damange from church than I have from Trauma…..

    The church taught me to see people as things not people. It taught me to not trust my own instincts. It taught me that basically I was evil and needed to be forever onguard and forever checking against a rule book and forever looking to god for an answer.

    It made me weak, insecure fearful and unable to relate to people in healthy ways.

    I wonder if Christianity is something that the devil invented…..

  22. By: SF Posted: 26th June

    It is this same doubt that makes me question my faith all the time. It seems like every church I’ve been to makes me question whether I have REALLY devoted myself to God, which just reinforces the self-doubt that is already in full bloom. I grew up in a semi-religious household; my father didn’t attend church, but my mom and I would go to church sometimes. My mom grew up in a very traditional, religious household, and she always felt that her faith was originally forced upon her, and she didn’t want to force faith upon me. I’ve always considered myself a Christian, but I’ve never been particularly devout. I entered therapy last year, and I found a new church at around the same time. The pastor there is inspring to most, and the congregation loves him. In therapy, I started to see the layers and layers of self-doubt and at church I kept thinking of myself as fake, because I couldn’t guarantee to myself or anyone else that I had really devoted myself to God. Going to church each week just made me feel worse and worse about myself because I felt increasingly like a fraud before God. I stopped going because I didn’t feel worthy enough to attend church. It’s only fairly recently that I’ve decided that God has unending patience and that he will wait while I find myself. And it is true about some churches/pastors confining God to a “little box.” I have to believe that he’s so much more than that.

    By the way, especially through this whole therapy journey, my favorite scripture from the Bible is Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    🙂

  23. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 26th June

    Nikki, thanks for sharing so many good points! As an adult, I have learned the value in questioning what people are “preaching” to me (in more ways than church preaching). This is part of my recovery- learning to think and feel for myself. I’ve expressed many times on this blog how, like how you say, I “trusted others more than God or myself”- that was exactly what is was like for me as a child and teenager, and especially as a child- it was nearly impossible for it to be otherwise.

    I also couldn’t differentiate between who was preaching to me and Jesus was himself… To me, they were pretty much the same! And that’s why the lies I learned in my young years were so powerful. If the adults at church were displeased with me or kept challenging me to do better, wouldn’t God be that way too? This was another door to freedom that I found in my twenties- to know that who God really is is SO much bigger than what they preached to me. They had him all confined in this little box… but I don’t see him as being that small anymore.

    Thanks for sharing your freedom Nikki,
    Carla

  24. By: Nikki Posted: 26th June

    Wow this is another one that hit home in a major way.

    I have had to step away from the church for the last year .. now don’t get me wrong I love the fellowship and I love hearing a good message but I went through a difficult time the first of last year that has shook the very foundation of what I believe and what I thought I knew. There were many different incidents that lead up to this for me. One I was still not ready to face the reality of my health, two our good friend and preacher and his wife left the church to go preach elsewhere, three a dear beloved friend past away and four a person whom I considered family just totally shut me out of their life. And five there was already an under current in my own life with struggling with my faith because what I had realized is I was doing more to please others instead of pleasing God I was more concerned with what others thought of me than I was with what God thinks of me, and to be blunt honest I feared others more than I respected God..

    It was a very hard struggle so much so that in June of last I was grieving myself to death literally. I felt as though I had been dealt a blow right clean thru my very soul. What I know now that I didn’t or couldn’t see then is how much I depended on others to build my faith and in truth it is not left up to anyone to do that not even the preacher … Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith not any other. (hebrews 12:2)

    I now have come to the full realization that it is not left up to any other person to direct my path or tell me if I have faith or not this matter is more personal and should be between the Lord and myself not for any other to dictate because no one can read my mind nor my heart.. God does not look upon the outer appearance of a person but upon the heart. Preaching has its place of course but it should never be the mechanism of our faith … doubts are common and they can lead us to despair but doubts also can lead us to dig deeper to get to the real answers to the real source of truth ..

    My dad who is a retired minister often says “Read along in your bible as the preacher is preaching because it is human to err” what he means is that whether intentional or not a preacher can mess up. We fail to see and understand that a preacher, minister, evangelist, etc. is still a human being and often times they can make some big mistakes. and in truth we need to be sure that this individual has the right agenda of why they are ministering because many like to be self-made instead of God lead!

    Since all that happen last year the one bible verse that is cement in my life is in Psalm 118 .. verse 8 says “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” if what a person says to me causes me to doubt then I line it up with what God says in His word if what that individual has said lines up with that then I deal with it if it don’t line up with it then I discard it.. i now have that choice where as for a long while in my life I didn’t see that I had a choice because I “trusted” others more than God or myself..

    Just wished I could have come to that sooner than later but nevertheless I am glad that I am where I am at.

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