Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me.
On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains,
Your love never fails…
Do you ever get a song stuck on repeat in your head? This one has been stuck in mine like a mantra ever since my volunteer orientation at Without Permission; a faith-based, non-profit organization doing a great work with local and federal law enforcement agencies to rescue people from human trafficking and modern-day slavery. So many are lured by a promise of love, the need to belong, and desperate hope for a better life, only to be trapped in a cycle of perpetual abuse.
If I were ever kidnapped by a secret government organization, my memory wiped clean, and my body rigorously trained and honed into a finely tuned, size 5, Jason Bournesque killing machine (stop laughing), then my ‘handlers’ could make me unleash a world of hurt with a single trigger word; abuse! I just hear the word and I want to fight somebody, which I have not done since I was about six years-old, when… allegedly… it took three adults to pull me off a kid who was trying to beat me up for the second time; two to hold me, and one to rescue him. I do not recall that incident, but… allegedly… there are witnesses.
“abuse: use something to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse; treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, esp. regularly or repeatedly; use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm; speak in an insulting and offensive way to or about (someone); the improper use of something.” The New Oxford American Dictionary.
It is appalling how many descriptive words we can now put in front of ‘abuse’ to describe the ways we can repeatedly treat a person with cruelty or violence in order to cause damage or harm; physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, emotional, and on and on. All of these have in common the debilitating devastation inflicted on body and mind from injuries seen and unseen. Every survivor is a hero, and the only legitimate position to take and policy to adopt is… zero tolerance!
But perhaps the most destructive abuse that mauls the heart, breaks the human spirit and puts our very soul in peril, is inflicted by people claiming to represent God; purporting to act on His behalf in our lives. Whenever any form of abuse is combined with spiritual abuse and perpetrated ‘in the name of God’. the devastation takes on nuclear proportions because victims are made to believe that to question, challenge, or fight back against the abuse is to fight against God Himself. Who in their right minds wants to be guilty of doing that?!
The wounds inflicted by spiritual abuse are not only deep, they become septic almost immediately, flooding heart, soul and mind with deadly emotional ‘bacteria’; bitterness, rage, helplessness and hopelessness. The sense of betrayal alone damages, if not completely destroys, precious faith and consequently our ability to have a healthy relationship with Almighty God, or His true followers.
I was at the lowest point in my life, wounded and vulnerable, when I accepted an invitation from a friend to a new church that for a time was a desperately needed shelter from the terrible storm that was raging in my life. Some of the people who were part of that church are still among my closest friends, however as the leadership welcomed and surrounded me with acceptance, warmth and fellowship, I was completely unaware that I was being ‘groomed’ for the emotional, mental and psychological manipulation and abuse that was to come, in the name of Jesus; spiritual abuse, expertly executed.
These leaders used their position of influence over people who were vulnerable for one reason or another to build their own ‘kingdom’. They manufactured evidence of spiritual gifts and manipulated with misinformation about God that was so close to the truth it was nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. By the time they were exposed and moved away, claiming to be ‘led by the Lord’ to do so, they left behind countless people whose faith has been decimated, and to this day some have never recovered enough for them to trust in God again.
Jesus warned about spiritual charlatans, purveyors of spiritual abuse, and the wrath of God is stored up to be unleashed on them.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes.” Matthew 18:6-7
“For we know the One who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:30-31
However the cry of my heart is for those victims of spiritual abuse who are still unable to separate the truth about God’s nature and character from the lies of the snake oil salesmen who claimed to represent Him. I ache for too many who have been so wounded that their faith is barely a flicker and the walls around their hearts impenetrable. Hear me when I say I know your rage, I have felt your pain, I have walked in your shoes, but… I also know Jesus, the Word that became flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14). He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy,
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow upon them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3
So here’s the thing, no matter how terrible the damage, there is always a way back to even deeper faith, making the enemy of our souls rue the day he messed with us. We must be willing to immerse ourselves in the healing truth of the Word of God, to emerge restored to wholeness; wise as serpents, harmless a doves (Matthew 10:16), ready to strap on the armor of God,
“…that you may be able to stand against the methods and schemes of the devil…that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.” (Ephesians 6:11, 13)
Spiritually armed and dangerous; from wounded to warrior… just living the thing.