PTSD


After I experienced spiritual abuse I questioned everything.

I did not know who to trust, what to believe, or what was true. I doubted my own judgment about everything.

For over four years I wanted to know what was true, but I did not know where to find it.

Thankfully, someone did. It took over four years of searching, trying Christian counseling, talking to pastors and ministry leaders, sharing with family and friends. It took over four years of searching, digging, striving, working, pleading, fighting, and finally surrendering before God said, “look here”.

I knew the answers lay with God, I just didn’t know how to find it and live it.

A door opened for biblical counseling/discipleship. This was completely different from the Christian counseling I had received because it was all about God and scripture and not about us. I was shown what the Bible said about each subject. I was taught that the Bible was not an instruction manual given to guide me, but was the revelation and presentation of God. I was shown once and for all that truth exists, and exactly where to find it. When God said, “look here”, he wasn’t referring to the discipleship, but to himself and his revelation in scripture.

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)

If we do not believe that Christ is truth, and that he is the source of all truth then we are not believing in who he is.

I no longer believe in a man, believe in a religion, or believe in teachings. I live by truth.

Today I listened to an amazing sermon that clearly presents how we can be deceived and misled. It is based upon Colossians 2:6-8. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

If you have struggled to know what truth is or have felt as if you are mixed up, confused, and living under confusion I have three suggestions:   

  1. Study scripture to learn about the character and nature of God. Throw out everything you have known and especially what you have been taught by man, and let the Lord and the Holy Spirit bring truth to you.
  2. Read 1 John. I believe this book clearly shows how we know what is true, presents fruit that is exhibited by those who walk in truth, and teaches us HOW to live out a life that is changed from the Gospel transforming our lives.
  3. Listen to the sermon I mentioned above. It is by Matt Chandler at the Village Church in Texas. I do not know much about the church, but I know Matt’s reputation is very sound, and he is one of the strongest biblical teachers in our nation. He is very blunt (which I like), which means he will address things that other pastors might not, including how we are misled by false teaching. He gives us some tests to use and ways to communicate with others when they present us teachings and philosophies that sound good up-front, but which really drive us away from truth. You can find the sermon here. The first 12-20 minutes are the section that speak directly to these issues, but the entire sermon is good and powerful.
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In 2004 when I was spiritually abused I started having nightmares. Until that point in my life I had only had a few nights in my lifetime where I experienced this and I started having nightmares almost every night. It was a very disturbing piece of evidence in my life of the trauma I had experienced and I didn’t know how to respond to it and to make it go away.

A few months ago after the struggles at my last church some similar nightmares started to resurface. Thankfully this time my heart and life were in a very different place and I was able to lay the issue before God and trusted him to lead me to a solution. About that time I happened to see Beth Moore doing an interview on TV. In that interview she spoke of how she went through a time in her life where she realized she wanted to have God’s word on her heart and to always be rejoicing in and worshipping him. She began to learn how to always have a song on her heart so that even when she awoke in the middle of the night her heart and mind would turn to God and celebrate his goodness. Through that interview I took on a new idea to train my heart and mind to always be thinking of and at rest with God’s word. When I am upset, stressed, emotionally struggling, or feeling depressed…when I don’t think I will sleep well I take ahold of my small bible that fits within my hand and I hold it to my heart until I fall asleep. Throughout the night if I awaken the Bible is there to remind me to trust God because he is in charge and watching over me. This simple act has had profound impact on my rest and overall peace. I know that I can place myself under God’s protection and rest in his care.

A few days ago I came across this story from Beth in her study A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place. The lesson for the day was on the Bread of the Presence that was placed on the altar in the tabernacle. It reminded me of the way God has taught me that he covers me and keeps me safe under his care.

“My father was in the battalion that broke open the gates and announced freedom to prisoners in Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp. The emaciated prisoners kissed the soldiers’ feet and repeatedly cried out their thanksgiving. In that moment the soldiers were forever changed. The liberation, however, posed an immediate problem: the children. Either they had been separated from their parents, or their parents were dead. Either way, they had nowhere to go. An army hospital was set up at once to care for them, where they were bathed, fed, and warmed. However, it was not enough. Every night brought horrifying nightmares, making rest impossible for the children and the personnel. Finally, one man lined up the children one night at bedtime, gathered loaves from the kitchen, and tore off a piece of bread for each child. The children curled up in their beds, nestled the bread against their breasts, and slept with the angels.”

Know that you are safe under the protection of God. He cares about you and if you suffer from nightmares may you find a place of safety, peace, rest, and hope in him!

If you have been a staff member or even a ministry leader that was wounded by a pastor you may have experienced DID. It could even apply to just a member of the church that was abused. Dr. John K. Setser presents this information in Broken Hearts Shattered Trust: Workplace Abuse of Staff in the Church.

People who have “sustained a trust injury due to senior pastor mistreatment have all been traumatized. As a result, many of them manifest symptoms that are associated with both Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). ”

“The fundamental characteristic of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is ‘the presence of two or more distinctidentities [and]…a failure to integrate various aspects of identity, memory and consciousness.’ Indeed, staff associates who have been injured by their spiritual caregiver/senior pastor boss experience this dilemma. They are caught between the sense of being painfully mistreated and the need to be in harmony with their spiritual authority figure. These staff associates experience internal discord over the fact that their spiritual caregiver is also the source of their pain. They cannot reconcile being valued and loved by God on one hand only to be minimized and abusively treated by God’s representative on the other. Failure to integrate these various aspects causes them to experience an agonizing and conflicting reality.”

“When any person lives in such a conflicting reality, he or she is forced to adopt a disorganized and disoriented attachment style. ‘The natural, innate protective mechanism of turning to people to whom you are attached for safety is turned on its head. Your persecutors become the same ones you turn to for relief.’ For staff associates, trauma, insecurity, and emotional distress results when a senior pastor is both protector and persecutor. It forces the individual to live in a state the Leah Coulter calls ‘frozen watchfulness,’ in which they continually as themselves, ‘Am I safe?’ or ‘Should I hide?’ Coulter explains, ‘Frozen watchfulness is an adaptations to unpredictable behavior by a loving [individual] who without provocation, is transformed into an angry, abusing [person] and then back…again.’ Frozen watchfulness indicates the presence of inner panic. it shatters an associate’s self-confidence and disrupts every aspect of life. The words ‘wounding’ and ‘senior pastor’ were never meant to be used together. However, this is precisely the persecuted staff associate’s dilemma.”