First read this article by RickThomas, “Spiritual Abuse – When It Is Time To Leave.” I really like his stuff, his insights, his healing words.
I was spiritually abused, but not in the church at all, outside of it, by atheism. That probably sounds a bit odd, as if to say “atheists don’t have a religion so they can’t possibly spiritually abuse anyone.” I assure you, they have a “religion” and they can be horrifically abusive, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. I grew up with that abuse and it nearly destroyed me. I really am a, “but for the grace of God” survivor of some intense childhood emotional and spiritual abuse….at the hands of atheists.
The thing about physical abuse is that it just pales in comparison. By far, emotional and spiritual abuse is so much worse because you cannot see it, there are no obvious bruises on the outside, and often it is cloaked in a velvet glove of so called good intentions, allegedly for your own good. I only seek to completely annihilate your spirit, to murder your very soul, to take you hostage…..because I want what’s best for you……
Flat out, emotional and spiritual abuse is so serious that the outcome, the end result is often going to be murder or suicide. When you break someone down far enough and they truly hit bottom, survival kicks in and there’s only two options, fight or flight. Either I’m checking out of the Hotel California,…. or you are.
No need to feel sorry for me, God has had the last laugh, and those experiences have brought me to faith in way nothing else ever could. It’s also given me a heart for those who have been abused, but especially a heart for those who have been spiritually abused, which ironically happens outside of the church nearly as much as it happens within it.
With physical abuse we can patch you up, heal the body rather quickly, but emotional and spiritual abuse often require years of delicate heart and brain surgery, tiny thorns painfully dug out. Fortunately there is a Great Physician who specializes in the very thing and He does good work, the best I’ve ever seen, really.
I kind of pride myself on the resulting strength, the beauty of those scars, the healing work the Lord did. Not the unhealthy kind of pride, but just some delight and joy in that healing and some confidence that, never again will I be a victim of that kind of spiritual abuse, but I sure was.
I mention that because sometimes we have this idea that abuse only happens to those who are vulnerable, people who are weak in some way. In truth, sometimes it is the strong, independent ones who are in the most danger of being abused because we assume it could never happen to us, and we don’t know how to quit. Like, this is uncomfortable and feels a bit icky, I think I’ll just walk away now, said absolutely no spiritual warrior, ever.
So I did, about 15 yrs ago, I managed to get myself all spiritually abused, yoked by unbelievers, surrounded on all sides. The thing about abuse is that it’s usually not coming from strangers, but rather from people you love deeply, people you are invested in. Family, friends, spouses, employers, children. Or I suppose, a beloved church family, although that’s not my story at all.
Rick says, “The abused person is shell-shocked. Their energy is gone. The soul drains. They are the victims of a verbally pummeling that leads to spiritual defeat. In most situations like these, the abused does not know what happened until it has already happened.”
That is precisely what happened to me. The Lord just woke me up one day and pointed out, you’re in a lot of trouble here, “the abused does not know what happened until it has already happened.” Literally my energy was gone, I was shell-shocked, jumpy, prone to anxiety, often tearful, unable to think clearly. I had been eaten by so many little foxes, little foxes I loved dearly, nibbling away at me, that I was just a shell. Every insult, every eye roll, every “your faith is stupid, your faith is delusional, I hate your religion,” had taken its toll on me, it had worn me down.
I was quite surprised to discover, I had all the characteristics of a battered wife, something I was quite familiar with having seen it often enough, I just never thought to see it in myself.
The Lord said, okay you need to step away from every single spiritually abusive relationship right now. I of course did not promptly obey those instructions, because there just wasn’t enough energy left, but every one of those relationships was severed without me lifting a finger, something that makes me laugh today. A good lesson there, the Lord is not dependent on our obedience at all. If He wants something to happen, it will happen with or without our cooperation. You can just call me Jonah, there.
I sure wasn’t laughing at the time, however. It is no fun to hear, okay you’re done with this job, these childhood friends are now out of your life, these parts of the family are no longer a part of your reality, and once that is all done, now we take the time to repair the damage, to build you backup. I did manage to keep my eyes on the Lord however, I did trust in Him, and what He began, He did finish.
Spiritually abused by atheism, probably not quite what Rick intended when he wrote his post, but I assure you it’s quite real, as anyone who has encountered atheist abuse on the internet can probably attest to. When you are a child, or those people are people you are invested in, people you love, you have a potentially dangerous situation, one where it is very easy to empathize, when you should be standing tall, and standing tall when you should be surrendering to the truth, and speaking it out loud.
The bible speaks of this, it warns us, be careful about being unequally yoked to unbelievers, but like most things in life, apparently I have had to live it out in order to learn it. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14.
The cure for an unequal yoke of any kind, is to put more good Christians in your Body of Christ.