Free Sample Chapters
￼Day 1 / Introductory Week
Week 1 / Sunday
You Have to Want It
In the United States, there are recovery groups for alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, overeaters, overspenders, and numerous other subgroups with unique recovery needs. All are needed, but there is another group which also requires help: those who have been abused by organized religion—primarily by religious leaders in positions of trust.
With these abused people in mind, Recovering from Religious Abuse has been developed. Helping people like you to recover is my purpose—my only purpose.
Each of the following ninety-one readings, which lead you through the “11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom,” have been developed to help those who have suffered—or continue to suffer —from religious exploitation. There are millions of you—people who have been used, abused, and discarded—dismissed contemptuously by those you trusted completely, suffering shame and low self-esteem in the process.
Most of you are bitter and resentful. You may even be hostile. If you are, that’s okay. We accept you right where you are—without reservation or condemnation. Having been wronged in the past, you may have discarded your belief in God, or perhaps you’ve put Him on the back burner.
It’s easy to understand how this could happen, but it’s also self-defeating behavior. God is a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. It’s like saying, “I’ll get even with You; I’ll hurt me.” Obviously, this isn’t a good idea, but it’s what millions have done.
￼If it’s what you’ve been doing, you don’t have to continue. You can make a change. There’s a way out that works, and Recovering from Religious Abuse can help you find your way back to wholeness—back to emotional and spiritual wellness. That’s why we’re here. We want to help you recover. We want to help you become the best person you can possibly be. We want to show you how to free yourself from bitterness, resentment, shame, and other debilitating emotions, all of which lead to an unfulfilled life.
If you’re angry with God, it’s not surprising. Most abused people are—whether they are willing to admit it or not. It’s not unexpected; it’s predictable. But remember, Christ also was abused by religious leaders—just like you have been. He was accused falsely; then He was slandered, beaten, and murdered. Obviously, He understands how you feel—precisely how you feel. When you think about it, He never had much use for self-righteous religious leaders either, did He?
Just because you’ve been wronged, however, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to sit on the sidelines and wallow in self-pity, nurturing a self-indulgent belief that life has mistreated you. That’s not taking good care of yourself. A life of resentment or smoldering, camouflaged bitterness is a wasted existence. We’re here to help you change that—if it’s something you want. Your willingness to change is the key. No one else can have that desire for you. Not even God can do that. You have to make the effort to help yourself. You have to want it.
If you will make even the slightest attempt to open your heart—to be willing to change— recovery can begin. If you start moving toward God, you will find Him to be everything you ever
dreamed Him to be. After all, it’s God who heals broken hearts. He can heal yours. Will you make the effort?
￼Day 2 / Introductory Week
Week 1 / Monday
Still Living in Denial?
Read: If you’ve made the decision to compartmentalize Christianity—to keep God at arm’s length—you have essentially thrown out the baby with the bath, neutralizing God’s power in
your life. When you discarded Christianity, or at least most of it, you probably were surprised that so few negative consequences followed—at least not at first. You walked away, and God just allowed you to leave. He didn’t chase after you—even though it broke His heart to see you go.
God never chases after anyone and always honors an individual’s decision to stay or wander away. “Free will” is not a doctrine; it’s reality—your reality. When you chose to shelve Christianity, perhaps throwing stones as you abandoned it, God honored your right to do so. There’s something noble about that. God respected your decision and treated you like an adult— even when your behavior may have been foolish and childish.
Leaving was not the end of the story, however. It was probably just the beginning. You may think you’re done with God, but He’s not done with you—not by a long shot. Because His spirit lives in you, He has a huge stake in your future—in who you become. For a while, you probably enjoyed being finished with Christianity, but life has a way of coming full circle. Like the prodigal son, pursuing materialism and vice is not as rewarding as you thought it would be, is it?
￼Has God orchestrated your circumstances to make your life less than meaningful, or is it worse than that? Are you miserable or just bored? Are you tired of suffering the consequences of poor behavior—of being half dead while still being alive?
Do you own enough of your soul to admit the reality of your situation, or do you still live in a state of denial, telling yourself you’re okay—you’re fine the way you are? Are you finished running, or do you need to wander for a while longer?
When you come to the end of yourself—when you’ve bottomed out—there’s no place to go but home, home to your heavenly Father. At the end of your anger and your rebelliousness,
there is nothing but sorrow and pain—a life unfulfilled and wasted. You’re not where you belong, and you know it.
Come home—not to meaningless religion or more abusiveness—but to a deep, fulfilling relationship with God Himself. He’s waiting; it’s time.
And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20 NASB).
Pray: Father, I’m tired of feeling empty. Please lead me back to You. I want to come home, but I’m not sure how to get there. It’s time; help me come back to where I belong.
Write: Spend time today considering what it would mean for you to “come home.” Take time to journal about this concept.
But when he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!
I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.’”
So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” And they began to celebrate.
—Luke 15:17–24 NASB
￼Day 3 / Introductory Week
Week 1 / Tuesday
You’ve Had Dark Times
Read: Each of the readings in this book is authentic—without sugar coating. That’s a promise. Because we’ve heard so many “war stories,” the material is based on what’s real—not what’s imagined. Regardless of your particular situation, others have similar experiences and have recovered to lead fruitful lives—lives of value.
God loves you just the way you are—despite your circumstances, despite your state of mind. He doesn’t see you as others see you or as you see yourself. His insight into you is penetrating and accurate. He knows you’ve experienced dark times and have made self-defeating choices, but He loves you exactly the way you are—even though you may not love yourself. You can count on it. It’s true, and it’s not going to change.
Your life still has incredible value. If you choose to experience God’s accepting, forgiving touch once again, you’ll want to take your rightful place as a “favored” child—a child with promise. Having been derailed will no longer thwart your future, a future which can be full of hope and promise. Like Israel after the Holocaust, you will learn to say with confidence, “never again” to spiritual abuse.
That’s our goal for you: to help you heal and become the mature man or woman God destined you to be—emotionally sound and resilient. Your entire outlook on life will change, as will your attitude. Steadfast confidence will replace despair and the defeated life you’ve been living for so long.
￼Aren’t you tired of being cynical and pessimistic? It’s so fatiguing. Besides, God doesn’t need more cynics; He already has more than He can use.
Isn’t it time to make some changes? Wouldn’t it be nice to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness once again? But this time, you could add wisdom to the list. Your life can be one of calm, strong sanity. This is not a “name it, claim it” approach to life. Recovery requires real work, real faith, real commitment, and time. If you work for it, however, you will be amazed by the progress you make, and so will others. That’s the promise recovery brings—a new life, a better life.
And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6 NLT).
Pray: God, lead me as I pursue this path of recovery. Strengthen me as I begin this journey. Write: Prepare yourself for the days ahead. Start journaling about this new beginning. Ask God for help—moment by moment—and surround yourself with people who will be supportive and encouraging in this process. Talk to one or two friends who will be supportive, and tell them you are beginning Recovering from Religious Abuse.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 8:38–39 NASB