Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bouncing Back from Spiritual Assault

Have you ever been hurt by another Christian or by a group of fellow believers in Christ? Maybe your character was maligned, or maybe some small misunderstanding was somehow purposefully transformed by another individual into a more colossal misconception. Perhaps you've witnessed one disagreement cause great dissention or discord among brothers and sisters, and tragically those relationships never recovered.

While each of these situations is difficult and stressful, the effects of such injuries to the Christian soul are traumatic and life-changing. Yet without a close, firm, constant relationship with Jesus Christ, it is almost impossible to recover from the purposefully inflicted pains of such a spiritual assault. I know because I've been there. We all know that Satan roams the earth looking for whomever he may devour however; today, I'm talking about intentional assault inflicted on Christians by other Christians and yes it happens.

I have always been taught, that if serious problems occur in any relationship, that there is plenty of blame or fault to be laid at the feet of all the parties involved. This sounded reasonable and even logical. Simply put, if you want to stay out of trouble and protect your reputation, character, and relationships with others, just make wise decisions, be forthright and optimistic. Live for Jesus, and no harm will come to you.

I have come to understand that such a belief is naive and unfair to those of us who have been blind-sided and disillusioned by stealthily calculated assaults within the context of Christian life. Until you have fallen prey to such attacks (and I hope you never will), it may be difficult to understand the context from which I write today. Unfortunately though Christians sometimes hurt each other and it takes months, and in some cases years to recover.

I know you're thinking, "What do you mean? Obviously if they purposefully cause others serious problems, they cannot be true Christians?" But we must remember that flesh is weak, and that pride and ambition left unchecked can wreak havoc on the Christian life and on Christian relationships.

I always try my best to heed the warning of a close friend of mine who said, "We must never put a face on the enemy." In other words, our true enemy will wear many faces in our lives. As disheartening as it may seem, occasionally, the enemy will wear the mask of a friend, a co-worker, a loved one, and even our fellow church members.

A few years ago, the enemy was able to play out such a scenario in my own life and I suppose the fact that I am writing this today is evidence that I am still somewhat in recovery. Without airing the specifics of that horrific situation I wanted to, in a nutshell, share with you some insight, some encouragement, and some steps to recovery for your wounded soul.

And so, if you are reading this and you can relate to it. I'm so very sorry. I know how dismayed and hurt you have felt. I know how hopeless a situation may seem and I hope that your battle scars and the wounds and bruises to your spirit will not hinder your relationships with others and more importantly with our Savior.

I hope soon that you will be able to trust your friends again. I hope that the truth of your circumstances will be revealed to those who chose to believe less in you, or those who have fallen prey to the enemy's deceit. And I truly hope that someday you will be able to heal those important relationships that were merely collateral damage for the enemy and his troops at the time.

I believe such attack-scenarios by the enemy come in three forms:

1) Shock and Awe: an overt attack by enemy forces planned to get everyone's attention and to reveal signs of potential weakness in your life, your job or your relationships.

2) Infiltration-I'll use the military definition of this: when individual solidiers or small groups attempt to penetrate the opponent's lines by assembling at weak or guarded points, even secretly from the inside.

3) Abandonment: the forsaking of an individual, a withdrawing, or discontinuing of their relationships with others.

In my case, all three of these attack methods were deployed.

My shock and awe attack, came in the form of lies. At that time, most of the people in whom I had great trust disregarded them, and so I was comforted by that, and I resolved to let the situation go as best I could. This to me signaled early defeat of those who were trying to hurt me and so naively, I did nothing to fight back.

The second attack came in the form of purposefully well-mastered manipulations and infiltrations. Those who were involved in trying to hurt me, began to work on the people I felt were close to me and those who had confidence in my abilities. They began to chip away at those confidences and at my friendships, and even my reputation.

Ultimately, I chose to purposefully withdraw from a situation which was hurtful to me and to my family. In the end, I turned around and very few people were left standing with me. Because of that abandonment, I retreated. I avoided going into public places because I didn't want to be reminded of the relationships that had been severed.

In recent weeks, I was with my family in a public place and came across a group of "friends" whose lives had also been touched by this horrendous experience. There were several. It was exciting to see them all together in one place. Unfortunately, I approached them and only one person in the group spoke to me. The others turned away, and I mean they literally turned away. It's sad that after so much time has passed, incidents like this still happen.

From my own personal experience, I liken the Stages of Spiritual Assualt to a grieving process:

1. Shock or disbelief. You want to believe that Christians don't hurt each other on purpose or at least that when they do, they're sorry.

2. Denial. You think to yourself, "Ok, this didn't just happen to me. Surely good, solid believers I know and trust, did not fall for this." And you hope that it will just blow over.

3. Realization. You come around to the idea that another Christian purposefully attacked you and your family and you begin to assess your current friendships and your standing with those around you.

4. Disillusionment. After you've assessed the situation, you begin to see people for who they are and the results can be enlightening. A good friend once told me, "When people show you who they really are, believe them."

5. Anger and Resentment. Unless you're careful, this stage could last a long time. Being angry at this stage is normal. After all, you've been unfairly hurt and you did nothing to provoke it. Just don't let it linger.

6. Acceptance. Only when you've accepted the fact that a very ugly side of Christianity, (the human side), has been revealed to you, can you begin the process of recovery and healing.

I remember early on, during the scenario I just discussed, someone close to me saying, "This is not supposed to happen in the context of a Christian life." At the time I thought the same thing. I felt I might have been treated better in the everyday context of a typical, secular life and that at least in that domain, I would have been given more benefit of the doubt. Jesus warned us about these situations.

I know some of you are thinking, "But what did you do to bring this circumstance about?" Or you're reading this and you're saying, "You need to think hard about your situation, because there must be some fault on your part."

Yes, I have considered those thoughts myself over and over. Yet, from the beginning of the situation, I resolved to do what I thought was right and to be above the fray, and this assault still happened and lives and relationships were forever changed.

There have been situations in my life in which I've made mistake after mistake. Some I have owned up to and others I'll just keep to myself and try to learn from over time. I'm not perfect. And you are not perfect. But the fact remains, that these situations really do happen. And many are left wounded. Maybe you were one of them?

Dear friend, sometimes in this life we are temporarily defeated. I know I was supposed to write this today, and so I am speaking to those of you who have been hurt, maybe continually hurt by people you trusted. Consider the Lord for a moment. Peter denied Him three times after promising Him he'd never do such a thing. If Peter could deny the Lord himself, we certainly can be denied by others.

Remember that the Lord allowed Job to suffer at the hands of the enemy and remember Job's own friends, questioned his character and his beliefs.

I know your pain is real. And I'm going to ask you to do three things.

First, stop waiting in neverending vigil for the big apology. I know you've been hoping for all these people to come to you miraculously and tell you they are sorry. That may never happen, and in all reality, it probably won't. Such an apology would require recognition and understanding on their part that they were wrong, and/or that they were deceived. That would require the Lord working in their lives and we know from the circumstances that that relationship is strained (at best) by virtue of the offenses against you. Therefore, forget the apology and resolve to move on.

Second, it is easy to get caught up in our own pain and to become so self-asbsorbed that we think we're the only ones in need of pain relief and restoration. My next challenge is to look around you today. Who do you see that's hurting? Find someone you know is hurting and help them. But wait... let's take it further. Disregard whether or not this person is responsible for his or her own pain, and just love them for who they are. Forget about blame. Forget about scoreboards and circumstances. The Lord never keeps score. The Lord just loves.

Thirdly, work to make your church or your home a sanctuary. There's a whole world of bruised and battered Christians out there. In the physical realm, we send those who are battered, to shelters until they can get on their feet again. But spiritually speaking, I submit to you that the church should be a shelter for those who are injured. All too often though, it doesn't function as the refuge of restoration that it should be. Begin today to help the hurting you know get on the road to recovery. Damaged Christians need to be loved and nurtured by the church.

I've developed the following 7 Steps to Recovery from Spiritual Assault and I hope you'll use them on your pathway to healing. At times you may need to regroup and start at number one again, or maybe you'll need to start at number one daily. I know I do.

The Seven Steps to Bouncing Back from Spiritual Assault:
1. Relinquish Control. God is powerful and almighty.
2. Proclaim Truth. Dig into God's word and know that you are all He says you are.
3. Connect. Don't retreat from the church or from your brothers and sisters. You need them.
4. Resolve to Be Positive. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, ...think about such things."
5. Worship Him. When we worship Him, we realize our place in this crazy world.
6. Model Raw Faith. Don't be afraid to share your feelings and who you are.
7. Understand that people are human and so are you.

Dear friend, I know it's hard, but you have to move on. God wants you to be free from the bondage and the spell that Satan would have you stay under for the rest of your life. He wants to render you ineffective.

But our Father wants you to live life to the fullest. When you dwell in negative circumstances, or you are continually paranoid about what others are thinking, you are not living fully. Don't worry about the scars. They've made you stronger.

Finally, commit this scripture to memory and know that you are not the only one who has been hurt or disappointed by other Christians. Consider Job's promise:

"You will lift up your face without shame. You will firmly stand with no fear inside. You will surely forget your trouble (and pain), recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, darkness becomes like morning. You will be secure because there is hope and you will look about you and take rest in your safety. But the eyes of the wicked will fail." Job 11:15-18 and 20.

Hope is yours today. It is time to heal my friend. And until next time, glorify your Lord and live a faith that is raw.



elizabethstwins said...

Wow. This was enlightening, know that even though I am not aware of your situation, you have an excellent reputation, and you and your family have my families upmost respect. Your blogs are amazing.

Doc Op said...

Thanks for stopping by my site and leaving an encouraging word. I do indeed wish to be a light in the place God has placed me, which is in turn - a strange place.

I would have said more, but you don't list an email, so I'll leave it at that.



I just found your blog. Enjoy the simpilicity and truth in your writing. Keep up the good work.