I have written a lot about the trauma that happens when we are spiritually abused. And I have written a good bit about churches that aren't healthy. But what does "healthy faith" look like? Toward the end of the book Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse, the authors devote an entire chapter to "Seventeen Characteristics of Healthy Faith."
The first one of the seventeen is "Focused on God." Instead of depending on the many and varied ways that our culture defines God, or on how anyone else tells us who God is (when their version is twisted around to something unloving), or depending on those who would "make it up as they go," -- instead of that, go back to the Bible. The Bible is our best link to knowing who God is.
In the Bible, God is always seeking for his people, wanting them to return to Him, wanting them to accept his great love for them. He wants a mutual and loving relationship with his people -- even when we've either sinned or think we have. We need his love especially when we believe that we're not worthy to be in his presence.
If only we could suddenly see that the Parable of the Prodigal Son is about us and the father. God the Father wants more than anything for us to return to him. He knows that our belief that we are unworthy is irrelevant in His sight. Let me say that again.
Our belief that we are unworthy is irrelevant in God's sight.
He embraces us in his total love and forgiveness anyway.
How does this apply to you and me -- who have suffered spiritual abuse by someone in our church? When we've been abused, it's extremely common to believe that somehow we were at fault, that we're to blame somehow. Most of the time, that is shame talking. We may feel like we're "damaged goods," unworthy to be in God's presence.
In the worst case scenarios, the way back to a loving God is to find a different church -- a healthy church that knows who God is, and who knows that no matter what our life events have been, He accepts us exactly like we are, in whatever our current state happens to be.
Find a church that has a focus on God, not on the dis-functionality of its leaders. Find a Bible Study that focuses on the love and forgiveness of God. Find a way to focus on God. And I believe you will truly find Him.
Leave me a comment.
And remember, you're awesome! God holds you in the palm of his hand.
Arterburn, S. & Felton, J. Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse. Colorado Springs, CO, 2001. pp 247-248.
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