Learn to Discern: Living in Fear – Does Perfect Love Cast out all Fear?

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What does perfect love mean?  Is living in fear unbiblical?

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A comment came in on an older thread that has been quite heated.  It was from a blogger who has disagreed with a recent blog post here.  Unfortunately, we are still not in agreement and the point of the original article seems to have been lost.

However, with this latest comment,  my panties got in a wad – – big time.  I’m not offended by the words personally, but by the dangerous message it can send to survivors.

I’d like to open the discussion on this thread to be solely regarding the content in the two quoted paragraphs below (not the issues debated from the other thread).  It might be a little bit of a challenge to separate the two, but let’s give it a try.  If you have something to add directly to the linked comment, please do so on that article.

While on the surface, these words may seem fine and Biblical, I find the way they are used to be potentially dangerous for those living in abusive environments at home, or church, or even on support blogs.   Do you see why?  Let’s learn from each other.

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Thank you for writing an article about people living in fear. I am deeply grieved in my spirit that so many people live in fear of an email arriving in their inbox. That level of fear does not come from God. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I pray that those who are living in fear, any kind of fear, and especially fear that is a result of being abused, would run to God for healing. My Bible tells me that perfect love casts out all fear. What is that perfect love? God. God = LOVE (I Jn. 4:8). When we allow ourselves to be wrapped in the love of God, our fears will dissipate and disappear.

As a blogger who desires to support those who have been abused, I would encourage you not to foster those fears, but to teach them the love of Jesus instead. It is not natural to be afraid of receiving an email from someone you have already interacted with, especially if that person really cares about you. I care about all my commenters. I love them all and want only what is best for them, but I will not mollycoddle them to remain trapped in their own minds either. I pray that God would free those living in fear, as they come to truly know the love of Jesus.

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52 comments on “Learn to Discern: Living in Fear – Does Perfect Love Cast out all Fear?

  1. I did not read the quoted comment in the other article, and I have not clicked the link, though I can GUESS which of JA’s post this came from.

    That said, paragraph 2, especially the word “mollycoddle” SMACKS, SCREAMS condescension to me. Jesus (LOVE) is NEVER condescending. If you have ever been through or KNOWN someone who has been through trauma, you know that coming out of that fear is a LONG psychological process. Just reading today about trauma in young children (not spiritual, but all the other kinds) and it discusses state memory, located in the lower limbic system. Memory stored here, when triggered, actually OVERRIDES all the other areas of memory. Therefore that fear we should just let go of? NOT that easy. We have to (with the help of the true love of Jesus and with the help of truly caring individuals who will give you the time and space) retrain that limbic system to react appropriately, rather than in fear.

    One of the fruits of the spirit is gentleness. I guess this commentor would call that mollycoddling. I call it love. When you give someone a safe space (physical, emotional, spiritual, cyber, etc.) to heal, learn and grow…that is love.

    To feel fear when you receive an email from someone you never GAVE your email address to? OR didn’t realize you were giving it to them? THAT, friends, is a breech of expected security, and is like someone coming in my front door without knocking. DEFINITELY would I feel fear! Abused, or not!

    Being freed from fear is a process, and sometimes a long one. Whether you know the love of Jesus or not!

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  2. There are three things that strike me as unkind in the comment. First, there is the implication that if someone continues to experience anxiety after trauma that it is a result of failing to turn to God. If one is religious – and some readers may no longer be (and that is their business) – certainly one would turn to God for healing. However this is a process, not magic, and people heal at their own rate. Needing therapy, for instance, does not say anything negative about someone’s relationship with God any more than going to a doctor to set a broken bone would.

    Second, I don’t like the word ‘unnatural.’ It is not up to me to criticize someone’s feelings. If someone feels anxiety because of past experiences, then it is a natural consequence for her or him.

    And finally, I don’t like the word ‘mollycoddle.’ If someone asks me not to contact them because something about my communication bothers them, then I am certainly not going to persist and rationalize it by arguing that to do otherwise would be mollycoddling. It is their choice whether or not to interact with me.

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  3. Anybody who says fear is unbiblical is unacquainted with such as Psalm18. It is certainnly possible to fear and sin. It’s possible not to fear when we should, too.

    On the whole, whatever we bring before God am\nd work out before him becomes light. Whatever we do something else with, including pleasant and positive feelings, works out badly. For instance we read that the heart of the Philistines was “pleasant,” when they were taunting Samson in their temple. That did not turn out so well.

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  4. “That level of fear does not come from God. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I pray that those who are living in fear, any kind of fear, and especially fear that is a result of being abused, would run to God for healing.”

    “What is that perfect love? God. God = LOVE (I Jn. 4:8). When we allow ourselves to be wrapped in the love of God, our fears will dissipate and disappear.”

    First the certainty in this comment of what God will do upsets me. What about the ones, no, I will speak only for myself. I did run to God for years because fear via anxiety attacks hounded me since I was a child, no matter how much prayer, fasting, being in the word and memorizing the Word I was still traumatized & God didn’t heal me quickly. My fear didn’t dissipate or disappear quickly. (Some here might recall some of my story with PTSD )

    Comments like this only feed a false sense of shame that I or others who are/were afraid must not have been trusting in the Lord or whatever little bible prescription we failed to apply when fears lingered.

    ABUSED PEOPLE WOULD BE CRAZY NOT TO FEAR, fear can be a message to get out, get away, protect yourself, call 911, so I don’t like the implications of this persons remarks. Fear can be a gift. King David said what time I am afraid I will trust in God. He didn’t deny his fear he named it. O, but biblical people are always free of their humanity, well, at least their shadow side, right. I call baloney. Remarks like this shut down authentic, raw, real conversation by implying that that is ungodly to have fear.

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  5. I didn’t even touch the surface on the hot button words like: “mollycoddle”
    You have a great radar J.A. I am right there with you on feeling worked up by what this person wrote.

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  6. I’m not familiar with the original discussion so the obvious may have already been mentioned. If so, I apologize. The obvious is this: the fear discussed in 1 John 4 has NOTHING to do with receiving emails. The context is clear that the fear in these verses is the fear of Christ’s return and God’s impending judgment. The mishandling of Scripture is rampant in the church and the results are disastrous: abuse, intimidation, etc.

    “When we allow ourselves to be wrapped in the love of God, our fears will dissipate and disappear.” THIS IS AN UTTERLY PREPOSTEROUS SENTENCE. TOTALLY UNSUPPORTED BY SCRIPTURE.

    Steve

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  7. Reminds me of the time I approached a pastors wife for counsel regarding PTSD due to ritual abuse I was struggling with and it was making being in church difficult. She says to me’well, what do you think your resulting sin is that caused the abuse because that needs to be addressed.’ ‘Mollycoddling’ is saying the same thing. It’s victim blaming . It just is

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  8. Legalistic claptrap.

    And the phrase “live in fear”….well, I don’t know anything about this comment exchange or who the commenter was, but that phrase is an oldie but goodie in the word of faith/name it claim it/positive confession/charismatic movement.

    Everything is “live in”…fill in the blank……or having “a spirit of”….fill in the blank. And the living in and/or having the spirit of are never good things and proof you are sinning, doing something wrong, not letting God love you, not having the right kind of faith, etc., etc., etc. You must get the victory over all that…. blah blah blah.

    It’s cruel.

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  9. I think the verses are referring to the day of judgment and not having to fear punishment.

    “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

    People who don’t love me, yeah, I can have reason to fear them! Wouldn’t it be silly to not be afraid of getting hit by a bullet or attacked in a violent area? Fear can be our protection.

    It looks to me that the person picked out words, misapplied them and didn’t read the whole paragraph of scripture.

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  10. Yes JA, those two paragraphs your commenter wrote are bad, very bad. The person who wrote them sounds like he or she may have a degree of pentecostal or charismatic theology. I’ve heard statements like that before — mostly from Penties and charismatics who have somewhat flakey theology. BTW, I don’t think that all penties have flakey theology, so don’t get ruffled unduly, please readers 🙂

    What is wrong with those two paragraphs. A lot, but the most wrong bit is this:
    “It is not natural to be afraid of receiving an email from someone you have already interacted with, especially if that person really cares about you.”

    HUH? whatcha? “especially if that person really cares about you”? I thought this blog was all about abuse. Victims of abuse have been subject to heinous mistreatment by people who DO NOT really care about them. So where did that commenter get off?

    In my opinion and much experience with survivors of abuse, it IS very common (hem hem natural) to be afraid of receiving an email from someone you have already interacted with if that person purports to really care about you but actually has a knife hidden in their pocket to stab you in the back with. And that is what abuse is like. That is what your blog deals with. The commenter who wrote those paragraphs is being patronising and laying false guilt on survivors. Should-ing on them, we call it.

    It can even be natural to sometimes be afraid of receiving and email from someone you KNOW FOR SURE really cares about you. Consider the situation where that person is gravely ill or has some crisis in their life, I might easily be afraid of reading the next installment of their horrific journey through suffering. This called empathy and it’s akin to compassion. *Feeling with* someone.

    But cut to the chase: Fear is not necessarily a sin. It is sometimes the healthiest and most natural and normal response to a situation. It all depends on the context of the situation. And people are facing grave danger, fear is a positive and life-enhancing emotion because it will provoke them to flee or protect themselves by setting up stronger boundaries. Why did Paul escape from Damascus in a basket? Because he was afraid: he knew there were threats against his person by people wanted to stop him from ministering the gospel.

    Here is a post I wrote about this topic a while ago:
    http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/is-it-a-sin-to-feel-afraid/

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  11. There have been some great and insightful comments and I always love to do Learn to Discern posts because you all teach me and most of the time you see something completely different than what I have seen. This is very cool.

    Ok, here are the 2 situations that immediately came to mind:

    In 1990, I was in a major 8.0 earthquake even though there were no earthquakes. When I came back to the States, a few months later, I was still feeling the earthquake. I was having flashbacks – undiagnosed PTSD. I sought help from several Christian counselors at churches – Biblical counselors – not professional counselors. I was told that I didn’t have enough faith. I was told that I needed to pray more. I was told that there was old unconfessed sin that I had not dealt with and that was why I was living in fear. I was told that I didn’t love God enough because perfect love casts out fear. I went home trying to pray more, read my Bible more, to no avail. The fear and flashbacks continued. It wasn’t until I sought professional help to deal with PTSD that my symptoms subsided. It wasn’t about my faith at all. I wonder what would have happened if I had not gone to get professional help? Maybe I wouldn’t be here – depression, despair, sleep deprivation can lead to suicide. I’m so thankful that my mom practically kicked my butt to make me seek professional help.

    Second situation that was startling for me to think about when I read those 2 paragraphs: imagine the scenario of a battered wife. The fear she has and lives with on a daily basis is legitimate. Can you imagine telling a battered wife that her fear is because she doesn’t love God enough or is not good enough? That could guilt a woman to remain in an abusive situation despite the risks because she blames herself and her lack of faith. It could even cause her death. God gave us fear. Sometimes it is for our protection to get us out of a bad situation.

    For a blogger who deals with abuse victims, these kinds of statements could cause someone their life. Yes, it is that serious.

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  12. “ABUSED PEOPLE WOULD BE CRAZY NOT TO FEAR, fear can be a message to get out, get away, protect yourself, call 911, so I don’t like the implications of this persons remarks.”

    Gail, what you said is VERY important. Something would be very wrong with ANYBODY that never experienced healthy fear. Healthy fear is good, it protects us. And the commenter, the subject of this post, seems to deny healthy fear even exists.

    Healthy fear/concern has it’s place. Two examples:
    Creak of the front door opening after all are in bed for the night.
    On New Year’s Eve, another Mom friend screamed in fear as her little child rolled down some stairs at an event our families attended. I was at the bottom, turned & caught him before he hit the tiled floor. Was she in sin for screaming in fear? Should she have focused instead on being “wrapped in the love of God” so her fear would have “dissipated & disappeared”? Hogwash. Thank God she screamed. That scream made me turn around real fast. It spun me into action. Was that wrong of me? Should I have admonished her instead? Bull honkey!

    Life doesn’t take place in the mind alone, by meditating ourselves away from reality and naming it trust in fate (not God). I’d call that naively BUBBLE-wrapped in love of fate/destiny (not God). Life is breathing, physical, moment by moment action which requires physical, practical solutions. God gave us eyes to see, ears to hear & brains to figure things out. This is just more Platonism “focus on heaven & wait to die” philosophy and zero action now in God’s kingdom come on earth, IMO. Devotion to Jesus, helping ourselves & helping others IS life. What we do matters. We are accountable for our actions.

    I believe the advice in this post is harmful to those in abusive situations or ANY situation in which a healthy fear/concern is right and good.

    Why not act in loving protection to a hurting person instead of telling them their fear is sin? Loving protection IS one action of a “perfect love that will cast out all fear” as was quoted. Perfect love is not thought or feeling (in the mind), it’s action (doing). Could it be the person who is the subject of this post doesn’t know what perfect love is? More Platonism interpretation of the Bible.

    Yikes, yikes, yikes. Unbelievable.

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  13. Yes, agree the context is misunderstood on that passage. Fear can save our lives. We went hiking recently and we warned the bears were out so we wore bells because we “fear” bears. Just as I am alert and cautious to spiritual abuse.

    This person might be confusing wisdom/discernment with fear.

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  14. Seems like it would be better to get the bears to wear bells so we would know they were coming. I’d be afraid that me wearing one might sound to them like a dinner bell!

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  15. People love to isolate verses as fortune cookies. The previous verse clarifies quite a bit.

    1 John 4:17-18, not just 18 ripped from context.

    “[17] Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
    [18] There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

    What is perfect love? To be in this world exactly like Jesus.

    What then does it mean for perfect love to cast out fear? If someone loves me as much as Jesus loves me, then I have no reason to fear them.

    So, does this mean I should not fear an abusive pastor? No. How dare anyone suggest that an abusive pastor loves as much as Jesus does!!!!

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  16. Or, paying more attention on the second go round to the exact wording of the final clause of verse 18, the idea is concerning fear of condemnation. He that loves God perfectly has nothing to fear, no fear that they might be condemned, for they know how perfectly they love God and how their life accords with that love. This also goes along with verse 17’s “that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.” It certainly doesn’t mean that you trust everyone who puts their collar on backwards or says Jeeesssuuss really slow.

    We can also move on to verse 19, “We love him, because he first loved us.”

    And verse 20: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

    Ask that one to the abusive pastor. Why does he not love his flock? Why rather does he devour them as a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Surely because he does not love God.

    Verse 21: “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”

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  17. Pingback: BUBBLE-wrapped in the love of God | Nerdy stuff from David Brainerd's brain

  18. I have not been abused and one of the areas in my life I am having to leave to the Lord is fear- I am 45 and it has taken this long for me to even start dealing with it through the Holy Spirit. I have even prayed that my fear would dissipate and flee from my presence for years; not until now am I even seeing just tidbits of my fear turning into strength. This is not something you can turn off like a light switch. So I just think of the person who has gone through trauma how extremely difficult this must be.

    The other bothersome part of this comment is that this person is taking on the …….again….. role of a “High Priest” – with words, such as, “is not natural”; “I care about all my commenters”; “I love them all and want the best for them”; “I won’t mollycoddle them”. This is not that bloggers business to take on someone else’s spiritual journey or their duty to right the “wrong” so to speak. Jesus knows when and where to deal with everyone’s pain or fear; it is important to have patience when dealing with issues such as this.

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  19. I hate this point of view. It used to drive me crazy thinking I didn’t have enough faith or love because I was still afraid of things. Then someone pointed out to me that Jesus was so afraid of what he was about to face in his crucifiction that he was sweating blood. So if perfect love didn’t cast out fear from the only perfect man who walked this earth, then I think fear is OK.

    But if people think God’s love casts out all fear, and they honestly believe they have no fear, then let’s take the fans of this viewpoint and lock them in a cage with some lions. Or poisonous snakes. Or bombs. And then we can test their “loving” responses.

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  20. My mind jumped to somewhere very interesting after reading this: BACA – Bikers Against Child Abuse. Their motto is “no child deserves to live in fear”. The standard interpretation of perfect love casts out fear is this pietistic, individual approach where it’s just you and God against what you fear. BACA’s approach is to find those in fear and be a bulwark between them and what they fear. I like the BACA approach much better. We so often forget that to some extent we are supposed to incarnate God. If God says “fear not for I am with you” the Christians job is to be with them. If that Christian happens to be wearing leather and chains and drives a big, bad Harley, so much the better!

    This is the most comprehensive article I’m aware of about BACA: http://www.azcentral.com/news/azliving/articles/2012/07/13/20120713bikers-against-child-abuse-make-abuse-victims-feel-safe.html (fair warning: you may cry reading this)

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  21. Ken, Thank you! With all this teaching out there that we are miserable worms and expect Christians to sin all the time it keeps people from understanding we are to be as Christ NOW. We are to be the “kingdom” on earth now. I keep hearing folks talking about heaven and how we will have to wait till then for justice, etc. Uh no. We do what we can now.

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  22. AnotherTom, This was a quick hike not far from home but we took the warnings from the Rangers very seriously. funny thing, so did the 100 other people doing the same hike on the same day! All wearing some sort of jingle noise. :o) So much for communing with nature. I am sure the bears were full of “fear”.

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  23. I just posted on my blog about a similar issue regarding negative emotions such as fear. The amount proof texting and out of context scripture to justify positions I have come across lately is disturbing. What is the issue with the lack of people using the WHOLE counsel of scripture?

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  24. One of my high school teachers was verbally abusive toward me, so much so that I had to transfer out of her classes. She sent me an email defending herself, claiming to “love and care” for me. I was afraid to open it and only managed to read about two lines before leaving the room to lose my dinner. My parents had to go to the school board president and in effect create a type of restraining order against this teacher so that she would not be allowed to communicate with me in any way or be in the same room I was located. She was fired the following year for allegedly throwing a stapler at the principal’s head. I do understand the fear that can come from unwelcome contact of any kind, even email. The author of the email needs to respect boundaries of those who have been wounded and not chastise things which are not understood.

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  25. I’d like to have a go at analyzing sentence by sentence what’s wrong:

    “Thank you for writing an article about people living in fear. I am deeply grieved in my spirit that so many people live in fear of an email arriving in their inbox. ”

    Who said there are “SO MANY”? I don’t care if it’s only ONE PERSON who is being abused & in danger of receiving email from a blog that regularly discusses abuse. That one person matters, no? And they are COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED in not wanting email contact if it jeopardizes them in any way. If this isn’t realized & respected, abuse blogs will cripple themselves in their ability to help the abused.

    “That level of fear does not come from God. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

    Of course evil isn’t from God. ALL should fear /be aware of danger & protect themselves accordingly. This wisdom & discernment is from God. This is exactly what a sound mind does.

    “I pray that those who are living in fear, any kind of fear, and especially fear that is a result of being abused, would run to God for healing.”

    Abused need MORE than our prayer. As for telling them to “run to God for healing”, I don’t even know what that means (sounds like Piper flowery nothingness to me). What I know is they need our loving protection. Specifically on topic, a blog dealing with abuse should NOT contact a commenter via email if it’s not solicited, IMO. What if the commenter was in danger or in an abusive situation & their abuser (spouse/parent/employer/etc.) had access to their email from which they comment? I’ve brought this up multiple times. Following Jesus IS protecting them, not just reporting about them. Let’s stop telling them what to do & instead focus on what we can do for them.

    “My Bible tells me that perfect love casts out all fear. What is that perfect love? God. God = LOVE (I Jn. 4:8). When we allow ourselves to be wrapped in the love of God, our fears will dissipate and disappear.”

    We are not BUBBLE-wrapped in the love of God. That is dangerous teaching. Does this person cross the street without looking? Walk off cliffs? We should be afraid to do those things. Davidbrainerd2’s response on 1John 4 explains it quite well.

    “As a blogger who desires to support those who have been abused, I would encourage you not to foster those fears, but to teach them the love of Jesus instead.”

    It is ignorant to imply the abused need to be taught the love of Jesus as if they don’t know/have it; as if that’s the cause their fear.

    “It is not natural to be afraid of receiving an email from someone you have already interacted with, especially if that person really cares about you. I care about all my commenters. I love them all and want only what is best for them,…”

    This blogger states they care & love all commenters. Care & love go beyond statements & thoughts in the mind, they are followed through with doing/actions. Can anyone point out what is caring & loving in this statement so far?

    “but I will not mollycoddle them to remain trapped in their own minds either. I pray that God would free those living in fear, as they come to truly know the love of Jesus.”

    Red flag: blame-shift by implying they want mollycoddling & they are trapped in their own minds, IMO. Insults, IMO.

    Question: Does this person think their right to unsolicited email contact with their commenters outweighs the possible jeopardy it may put even one person (and possibly those connected to that person, including minors) in?

    That’s my take & question. I thank this blogger for being upfront with their views. And I think they have done good by sounding alarms, at great personal cost maybe. That’s admirable. One simple solution: Why can’t the blogger comment back asking a commenter to contact the blogger via email & let the commenter decide to or not? I hope this person takes stock, makes corrections & sticks to them like glue on their blog. Now that would be admirable amends, wouldn’t it?

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  26. JA, I have followed your blog and respect all of the good work you do to expose spiritual abuse. I hope that many are able to find freedom and comfort in this supportive community. I have dealt with other types of abuse which taught me to follow no man. I have also learned you can not get all your needs met by one person-you will only be disappointed! However, I do have one concern, but do not want to add fuel to the fire. There are many different blogs that work toward the same end-calling out spiritual abuse. People make mistakes and disappoint each other. I am confused about this second post about another blogger. I hate to see your blog lose it’s focus-Spiritual leaders who are abusive and the terrible fallout. It seems to me that both you and Jen have experienced heinous abuse from despicable men. You both carry that wound. And you both are using your woundedness to reach out to others. I respect both of you for the sacrifices you make to help others. These and other blogs are lifelines to those who are drowning. Thank you and I hope my intentions aren’t hurtful.

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  27. Hi Ann,

    Thanks for your comment. I am going to respond to your comment here because I’m afraid that my comment will then open up the discussion that I’d like to keep separate on the other thread.

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  28. “When we allow ourselves to be wrapped in the love of God, our fears will dissipate and disappear.”

    This statement makes me want to hit the person who made it.

    It sounds spiritual but it simply isn’t true in all circumstances. (What does ‘wrap yourself in the love of God’ actually mean anyway?)

    The Biblical method of getting free from fear when abusive authority is after you is, more often than not, to RUN! God knows our weakness. He does not demand of us more than we can give. And he does not call us to self-destruction.

    Mary and Joseph were told to run.

    Believers, when faced with the ‘awful horror’ were told to run.

    Wrapping yourself in God’s love may involve obeying His instruction to run.

    In my own situation, every meeting eventually became a place of fearful torment. I drove to each one with my heart pounding. And desperately hanging on to God with every ounce of strength in order to maintain some kind of equilibrium.

    To be told that all I needed to do was ‘wrap myself in the love of God’ may be well meant, but would amount to yet another burden of spiritual abuse.

    Yes, I worked hard to allay my fears and God helped me.

    Yes, He was always reassuring and upheld me.

    Yes, I reminded myself of that.

    But the solution given above is by no means the last word in advice to the spiritually abused!

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  29. I’m sure the lady who made the comment probably meant well, but Bible prayer, faith, etc, do not drive out all fear for me.

    In addition to having clinical depression and being codependent for much of my life, I had anxiety, both social anxiety and generalized anxiety.

    I’m pretty much over all this stuff now, except for having a low level of generalized anxiety day to day.

    Julie Anne, I’ve discovered it’s any area of life Christians will behave like this, not only PTSD or anxiety.

    If you do go to most other Christians for help or comfort about ANYTHING, with any sort of problem or hurt, you will more than likely get the same terrible advice (e.g., pray more, have more faith, pray harder, trust God more, etc – not that those are bad things to do, but they are in fact terrible when it comes to treating depression, anxiety, etc), when all you may need (depending on the situation) is simply a good friend to sit next to you with an arm around your shoulder as you weep.

    (Of course, for other things, such as PTSD or depression, you may also need medications or professional counseling too.)

    During my years of clinical depression, and then grief after my mother died, and I went to Christians for comfort, hope, and encouragement, I also experienced what you wrote about here about your situation:

    I was told that I didn’t have enough faith. I was told that I needed to pray more. I was told that there was old unconfessed sin that I had not dealt with and that was why I was living in fear. I was told that I didn’t love God enough because perfect love casts out fear. I went home trying to pray more, read my Bible more, to no avail.

    Yep, I got those sorts of comments often. They wound, too.

    Being let down by other Christians in that way adds to the pain you have to overcome (for me it has, anyway).

    I liked an analogy I heard on a Christian show I watched yesterday. I can’t remember exactly how it went, I wish I could….
    The preacher was talking to people who have been hurt by churches, when they walked in already hurting and looking for help.

    He said, it’s like you walk in sick to a doctor’s office and needing medicine, you need treatment and actual help, but instead of pills or pain killers, the doctor tells you the diagnosis (“what’s wrong with you is you have disease X, or injury X”), or,

    The doctor judges you for getting sick to start with, like, “if only you had not done X you would not be sick now”.
    And you’re like, I already KNOW I’m sick and wounded, I need you to treat the wound and help me recover, not judge me or diagnose further!

    I liked that analogy. Too many Christians that I’ve come across are like that.

    You go to them with a splinter in your finger, and instead of getting tweezers and pulling the splinter out and saying, “You poor thing, that must have hurt!,” they want to tell you how stupid you are for working with wood.

    Some anxiety is biological, by the way. I think it runs in my family. It’s not just an emotional problem. (I’ve also read in books by medical doctors that some anxiety in some people is biological in nature.)

    Some people have to take medication for anxiety – thinking warm, fuzzy thoughts about Jesus, or reading the Bible, trying to stay positive, or praying to God, does not make it go away.

    I used to focus a lot on the verses about perfect love casting out fear and stuff like that during some of my worst (and even mild) depression and anxiety attacks, and it did not stop the depression or anxiety.

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  30. My father, a devout Christian, once advised us (his children) “never speak of a rope in a home where there has been a hanging.” He went on to explain: trauma experienced by people in life is real. If you are visiting a person whose relative had committed suicide by hanging, you never even say the word rope, because you might trigger that trauma. I am now 58 years old, and I carry that saying around within me to this day. Why would anyone say or do anything to trigger traumatic memories?

    The person who wrote those two paragraphs would do well to sit with my dad for some much needed wisdom.

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  31. I have recently finished a book, a work of fiction that has “Perfect love casts out fear” as the last words of the book (minus the epilogue).

    In my book the main character, a teenaged girl, must overcome fear and act out of love in order to give another character her life. She was able to overcome fear because she had grown to love the woman she rescued and she was willing to risk her life for her friend. Not only did she save her friend but she changed the path her own life would take because she learned to set aside fear and let love govern her actions because (borrowed heavily from 1 Corinthians, against love, there is no law and with love, there are no limitations.

    But as much as perfect love casts out fear, there is also no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. I would be loathe to bully someone going through PTSD or a depressive or anxious state any less than I would not withdraw my hand from the hot stove burner.

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  32. “The Biblical method of getting free from fear when authority is after you is, more often than not, to RUN! ”

    Amen Chris! One should always exit from toxic relationships before they lose any sense of normal. Because they will.

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  33. @sheila0405 — thank you for sharing that. I think what your dad said is one of the top 10 most important things I’ve read in the last five years on subjects relating to surviving any form of abuse and the horrors of post-traumatic stress that so often go with the wounds that were inflicted.

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  34. I think what your dad said is one of the top 10 most important things I’ve read in the last five years on subjects relating to surviving any form of abuse and the horrors of post-traumatic stress that so often go with the wounds that were inflicted.

    Ok, if Brad just said that, I am going to copy it and file it.

    I, too, thought it was wonderful. What great wisdom!

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  35. I posted about this at TWW earlier. I hope it’s okay to cross post here, since it’s related. Here is a partial copy of what I wrote there:
    ————————–
    …. In this PDF that follows, these biblical counselor guys came right out on page one and say clearly (paraphrasing),

    “Non Christian counselors are interested in helping you get better and moving on; Biblical counselors are not. We want you to think about your sins. Bad stuff that happens to you is wonderful because God made it happen to you because God wanted you to learn a lesson from the bad stuff.”

    You can view that horrifying PDF here:
    PDF: Secular Vs Biblical Counseling explained (from the Biblical Counseling Perspective

    According to that page, it looks like biblical counselors do not want hurting, damaged people to “function in society” or “experience some degree of ‘recovery’ from addictions, … weaknesses,” and so on. Holy moly. 😯
    —————————
    Their goal (see the PDF) is NOT to help people recover and get past pain, to sit around dwelling on their sins.

    They apparently even attribute crimes and hurts against you as BEING YOUR FAULT (ie, as being due to your personal sin). It’s stunning in its total lack of sensitivity and compassion.

    I can’t imagine many people being helped by their approach.

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  36. I haven’t read ALL of the comments…but most of them regarding this post. I am so glad to hear so many healthy responses to the original comment on living in fear. It does INFURIATE me that someone could be so insensitive to abuse survivors. Especially coming from someone who has survived abuse. It makes no sense. First of all, the verse quoted was taken out of context, as many bloggers have pointed out. I am a survivor of physical/spiritual and emotional abuse. As a child I was molested and physically abused. I later became a christian, and unfortunately became involved in a cult very similar to the Vision Forum type. I lived with the pastors family for a year, under the guise of learning how to be a Godly wife/mother. Ha! Their agenda was abuse and control. Thank God I eventually I escaped. Yes..escaped!

    I am thankful I had family members who loved me enough to help me to get away. Later I married a man who became spiritually/ emotionally abusive. You think I would have learned! Eventually I did…and no longer will take abuse from anyone. It took me a LONG time to learn! I say all this to say there have been MANY times I was afraid to answer the phone, the door or look at my emails! I would get messages from church members who would try to guilt me into coming back, try to convince me I was wicked for leaving the church…you get the picture!! It has been a very painful experience. I was not and am not LESS of a christian because I had fear…I had a reason to be afraid! I am no longer afraid. I have learned how to have boundaries…and I have learned that “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world” 1 John 4:4. It took me SO LONG to learn this. I can’t possibly see why a fellow abuse survivor would put such a burden on other survivors. Maybe it’s another example of Mt. 23:4 “They placed heavy burdens on others shoulders that they themselves were not willing to carry.” There…done with my rant!

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  37. Lovesthetruth, I am so glad you shared your experience here. It breaks my heart that you experienced what you did & it was called Christian. These types of cults & religious groups look nothing like Jesus. They are are not Jesus-followers. Jesus is a loving Savior. Jesus does not make, demand, control. That is a big red flag. We chose & are responsible .

    You are strong & courageous for speaking up. I am so glad you are FREE! Yes! Greater is He who is in you! He IS in you! 🙂

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  38. Lovesthetruth,

    Welcome! The Mathew 23 verse is a good one, especially because he’s talking to the Pharisees. Interestingly, in the NLT translation, a different word is used for “burdens” that I had never noticed before and really makes it applicable when it comes to spiritual abusers:

    They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

    Thank you much for sharing your experiences. I think many of us have subjected ourselves to abuse from more than one person and I’m glad you have been able to see the signs and establish healthy boundaries. Yea!

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  39. I had never heard of the “religious demands” translation, that makes sense…and is so applicable! I have found that my abusers are definitely pharisees. My counselor pointed that out to me. It was hard to hear at first, but I’m learning!! It’s the truth that sets us free:) A Mom isn’t amazing that Jesus does NOT demand control! Yet these “spiritual leaders” demand more that Jesus ever did!! That should tell us something. A Mom and Julie Anne thank you for your encouragement! It means so much to me.

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  40. Lovesthetruth

    So glad to hear of your “escape” to – Freedom – Liberty – Jesus – Truth…

    2 Cor 3:17 KJV
    Now the Lord is that Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

    And Yeah… I’ve been fooled more than once – By the best of them…
    Or is that worst of them?

    By those whose agenda was abuse and control.

    Of course the benefit was – I finally turned to Jesus – Had NO place else to go.
    And NO longer have to follow or trust in man…

    Jesus said – MY Sheep – Hear MY Voice – And – Follow ME. John 10:27.

    Tried that following man stuff – It stinketh… 😉

    But Jesus – HE is the BEST Shepherd and Friend… Yes? 🙂

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    Like

  41. Chris

    What a great statement @ JANUARY 16, 2014 @ 12:02 PM…
    “The Biblical method of getting free from fear when abusive authority is after you is, more often than not, to RUN! God knows our weakness. He does not demand of us more than we can give. And he does not call us to self-destruction.”

    That made me think a little…

    Yup – Lots of God’s people running from “abusive authority.”

    Seems David the shepherd, who slew Goliath, called to be King…
    Took off – Running from Saul, more than once…

    1Sam19:15
    And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying,
    Bring him up to me in the bed, **that I may slay him.**

    1Sam 19:18
    So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah….

    And Paul escaped in a basket. Twice??? Acts 9:25, 2 Cor 11:33.

    And when Steven was stoned…
    And there was a great persecution against the church…
    Seems the Whole Ekklesia, His Sheep, left Jerusalem – except the apostles.

    Acts 8:1
    And Saul was consenting unto his death.
    And at that time there was a great persecution against the church
    which was at Jerusalem; and **they were ALL scattered abroad**
    throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

    Yup, “when “abusive authority” is after you is, more often than not, to RUN!”

    Like

  42. “…that horrifying PDF…”

    Wow…horrifying is right. “Counseling”? I think not. That disgusting approach is nothing but a loaded gun aimed right at the counselee!

    Like

  43. It sounds like the author of those two paragraphs has never experienced true fear.
    I have been used by God to heal my two step-children who were sexually abused by their father and my wife who was physically and emotionally abused by her ex-husband. I learned during that process that the victims see the abuser as a very large power and that a victim’s fear is very real and raw even after the abuser has been removed.
    It was helpful for my stepkids and wife to be able to see their abuser for what he truly was: a very small, angry child not worthy of the time of day. We effectively used the court system to put this little angry child into a box from which he could not escape nor ever harm any of them again.
    God tells us ” .. the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” PROV 27:6. I would suggest if someone is negating your feelings and telling you, in essence, your feelings are not “real” and that they “truly care about you”, they are not your friend, but your enemy. All people will have different feelings about different issues and incidents because of the complexity of human life and experiences. For one to tell you that your feelings are “wrong” show them to be a fool about us complex human beings God created in His image. They sound like the “friends” of Job speaking of things they do not understand, who God rebuked.
    We are told “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” ROM 12:18. Our family leaves others alone and does not break man’s laws. When people enter into our lives who cause us pain or seek us harm, God gives me the license to utilize whatever is legal to prevent them from harming my family.
    If someone is contacting you, and their contact is hurting you, you can tell them not to contact you. If they persist, they are committing the crime of harrasment. You can tell them you will contact the police and if they persist, do so. “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil …” ROM 13:2-3
    The scripture that my stepkids said helped them a lot as they were going through the depths of their PTSD was “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” HEB 4:15 It made them feel better to know that Jesus had experienced the exact same feelings that they had and that they were not alone in their suffering in that Jesus had suffered exactly the same way.
    And to those who tell you that fear is not found among Christians remind them of Peter and the rooster. I guess God selected your self-righteous judges to play a larger role in the church than Peter?

    Like

  44. “The scripture that my stepkids said helped them a lot as they were going through the depths of their PTSD was “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” HEB 4:15 It made them feel better to know that Jesus had experienced the exact same feelings that they had and that they were not alone in their suffering in that Jesus had suffered exactly the same way.”

    O, I resonate with this so much Christian Husband/Father! Once I got out from that kind of teaching i.e. that it was a sin to be fearful & true Christians didn’t suffer from PTSD. I too held that verse very close to my heart. Here is a few lines from a poem I wrote when I was waking up to who Jesus really was/is.

    My church turns a deaf ear to my cry
    forget your past abuse they imply.
    So who understands? Who really cares?
    I am starting to grasp that Jesus feels my prayers.
    He will fathom my sorrow when I writhe in pain
    because the cross He bore with its agony and shame.

    He knows what it feels like to be the object of brutality
    because He suffered atrocities when he was crucified at Calvary.

    He will stay with me as I unpack and unfold
    all the dark memories & lies I was told.
    Jesus already knew The secrets I could never tell
    He comprehends fully that my childhood felt like a living hell.

    Jesus sees the shame & worthlessness I carry inside
    He longs for me to bring it to Him and no longer hide.

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  45. That’s beautiful, Gail. I’m sure your poem has touched & comforted many hearts.

    Thank you for sharing it! You are of much worth & value! (hugs) 🙂

    Like

  46. A Mom,

    Thank-You. I enjoy reading your comments, this blog is a haven isn’t it?!
    ( : I wish I could figure out how to use emoticons lol.

    Like

  47. I can’t believe what that commenter posted. I still live in fear daily. I’m not trying to, and definitely do not want to, but just the mere mention of my son’s father’s name (or anyone else with that same first name) triggers flashbacks in me, and the fear, panic attacks, ulcers, seizures, and other manifestations begin all over again inside me. And this is all the while knowing that he lives 2 states away from me, and can no longer do me any harm. My son is grown now, no longer living with him, I’m no longer having to pay child support (I’ve had to hand him over $44,000 in support through the years). But the damage he’s done to me and my kids left permanent scars on me and in me.

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  48. wftt2,

    I am sorry that you are still suffering from the fallout with your ex, he must have done a real number on you. It took me years to settle down inside, not a completely done deal either, but in a much better place than I was.

    It didn’t help me one iota to have my x pastor tell me that if I would keep my mind stayed upon Jesus I would have a peace that passes all understanding, that was after I told him some of my story of childhood abuse and how I was struggling with anxiety.
    O, he said a lot of other things that put more fear in me than faith but I don’t need to carry on about him.
    Bless you, I will pray for you tonight.

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