People are sitting on our church pews with a salvation experience, but feeling no joy. Some are full of anxiety, fear, feeling worthless, helpless and hopeless, yet they are saved. They pray and pray and receive spiritual touches from God, but when the glow of that experience dims they have no joy again. They cannot figure out why. They know the facts of their lives. They remember the abuse, but they tell themselves that was in the past that is not my problem now. Little do they know they are being deceived by the devil. (One out of every three women and one out of every four men have been victims of sexual abuse–defined: sexual exposure, fondling, sodomy, full intercourse). There are horrible shame and guilt feelings attached to these abusive experiences.
When there is any type of abuse, rejection, consistent criticism, neglect, lack of emotional bonding, lack of acceptance and love in childhood, the emotional damage it does to the thinking about self is powerfully negative. The child raised in a non-nurturing environment begins to believe that they are the cause of all their pain. The parent or caretaker is always much bigger looming over them. So if the parent is continuously abusive, impatient, non-accepting and emotionally battering, the child feels totally inadequate, unloved and rejected.
The emotional/physical abuse creates constant fear and anxiety in the heart of the child. There is no safety in this type of atmosphere. When this child becomes an adult, fear and anxiety rule their emotions in every area of their life. It affects relationships with parents, siblings, friends, spouses, children, education achievement, employment and they feel very distant from God even after a Holy Ghost salvation experience.
The devil seems to ‘brand the soul’ with what I call ‘stinkin thinkin.’ The root meaning of psychology comes from ‘psyche-logos’ interpreted the study of the soul. I can teach from Genesis to Revelations about the study of the soul. God breathed into Adam the breath of life and man became a living soul. We become who we are as adults by the greatest influences in our childhood positive or negative. We can see this as we read the stories of the people in the Old Testament. How they were raised and the things that happened to them influenced their decisions as to whether they would serve God, be controlled by their abuse or their selfishness.
I want to insert here that when a child is raised in a godly, loving, caring home with parents who love each other, love God and love their children as I was, that child is able to connect with God in a healthy way because their first exposure to authority (god with skin on) was surrounded by unconditional love and acceptance. My father was my hero as a child growing up. He loved us and we felt safe and secure in our relationship with him. Therefore, it was easy for me to feel and accept God’s love as a young child and build an intimate relationship with Him to this day.
Let’s return to the adult child who was abused in their childhood. Their inner voice that is coached by the devil tells them they are unlovable, unworthy, guilty, inadequate, unclean, shameful, will never measure up, unacceptable to others and God. Some of them will become over-achievers and perfectionists. On the outside, they will appear successful, but on the inside, they still are controlled by their fear and anxiety that creates depression. Others will struggle to accomplish anything in life because of the inner negative ‘voice’ that they allow to rule their emotions. David Seamands in his book, Healing for Damaged Emotions, says Satan’s deadliest weapon is low self-worth because it paralyzes one’s potential.
I’m not ‘talking’ psycho-babel. I’m talking about people who have received the salvation experience of Acts and yet feel hopeless and helpless. This abusive pain is not a respecter of persons. I’ve been counseling 25 years with laypersons and people in ministry fighting this same emotional dysfunction. When God forgives our sins, He forgets them and washes them clean by the blood of the Lamb. But God does not erase our experiences, emotions or memories from us.
Now to explain the distorted God-concept: If our earthly parents/caretakers were abusive in any way in our lives, it can be very difficult after salvation to grasp the truth of God’s unconditional love and acceptance as our heavenly Father. I didn’t just learn this through my Bible-based counseling education. I have had it confirmed with the thousands of people I have counseled in 25 years. They share their anxieties and fears and most of them do not have a clue that they are rooted in their dysfunctional childhood.
This is not to blame all of one’s problems on one’s parents. Parents usually parent the way they were parented. It is generational dysfunction. When the counselee starts searching through the family tree emotionally, they see generations of people have suffered the same treatment. Now they start understanding the facts of their lives. It is not about blaming; it is gaining an understanding of the root cause for the painful thoughts and emotions.
Healing takes place when we look at our lives through God’s interpretation. One must not allow a dysfunctional abusive childhood to define who they are today in Christ Jesus. God’s Word – THE TRUTH – is what brings healing:
Romans 12: 1 & 2(NLT)
12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
King James says, “be transformed by renewing your mind.” All of the toxic thinking must be replaced with God’s truth. God is love. God’s love is not based on our performance. Our worth and value do not come from what we do. Our worth and value come from God alone. God is my creator and He is my Savior. He designed me when I was in my mother’s womb – PSM 139. He made me unique according to His perfect plan for me. God came to earth in flesh to die on a cross to purchase me to Himself through His own blood. I am now God’s special treasure. I’m His royal priesthood and a holy nation.
My body belongs to Him and I’m to glorify God in my body and spirit – 1 Cor. 6:20. God is not abusive or belittling. He loves me with His everlasting love and acceptance. God fully loves me, fully forgives me and fully accepts me. God is not a taskmaster with a whip ready to scourge me for not pleasing Him! God as my heavenly Father is always loving, caring, kind, encouraging, merciful and compassionate. Yes, He admonishes me, but He does it gently through His Word, prayer, and unction of the Holy Ghost. When I am able to completely grasp the depth of this truth from head knowledge into my heart, I will be set free of anxiety and fear. I will stop trying to ‘please’ everyone in my life. I will focus on Micah 6:8 – what does God require of me: to do justly – what is right, love mercy – have mercy and compassion on others because God has mercy on me, and walk humbly with God – giving Him all the glory for anything I do, say, or own. It all belongs to Him for His glory!
Wow! What a relief!!! I can stop feeling that God is a distant taskmaster. I can bask in His love. I can do my best – not what I think others demand from me. I can stop comparing myself to others. If I do, God says I’m foolish. When I love and serve God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength, I’m doing my best and that is all God requires. I surrender all to Him!! I give Him all the glory!!
The church must understand that emotional healing takes time. People have to be willing to endure the greater pain of change than to remain in the same pain of dysfunction. I walk people through ‘cleaning out the VAT’ (that is another article). They must do the ‘work’ of replacing their negative self-talk with God’s truth.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” – Proverbs 12:25. This is what I call a ‘counseling’ scripture. My counseling is based on the Word of God. I help the hurting heart to examine itself through God’s truth. When you know the truth, the truth shall make you free! Knowing is a process and an attainment of understanding. With all wisdom, get understanding.
When you clearly see and understand that God is not like a human abusive father, you will be able to open your heart completely to Him and know deep in your soul that God fully loves, forgives and accepts you. You do not need to be afraid of God. You can begin to trust Him and know that because you are doing your best in loving and serving Him, there is no need for anxiety and fear to control you because He proved His love to you on the cross! There is no reason now for that distorted God-concept. God is not dysfunctional or abusive.
The ‘love’ chapter (1 Cor. 13 & Gals. 5 – Fruit of the Spirit) defines the character of God. Do not fear. God says come unto me those that are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Relax in God’s unconditional love!
© Carol Clemans – April 2017, Certified Pastoral Counselor, Certified Christian Life Coach, Certified Sexual Addiction Recovery Facilitator – www.carolclemans.org, 375+ articles, call (636) 448-0121 to schedule speaking for churches/conferences or counseling nationwide by phone/Skype.
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