NEW* ebook - Free2Heal

© 2015
Betty Jahne
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All Scriptures contained herein, unless otherwise noted, are from the New
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STANDARD VERSION® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
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Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the NEW AMERICAN
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1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission
I – Enslaved to the One you Obey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Set Free to Live. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Enslaved to God?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Shutting Out the Enemy’s Voice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
II–Tactics of the Enemy.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Underming God’s Words. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
What is this Tree?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
The Serpent was Cursed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Nipping at Our Heels. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Filling our Heads with Dust. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
The Ground was Cursed.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Shame and Fear. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Identity Crisis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
The Blood Covenant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Knowledge Puffs Up. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Evaluating According to Knowledge. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Taking Responsibility. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
God Has Given Us a Choice (Free Will). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Keeping Our Focus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Created for Relationship. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Playing Mind Games. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Seeds of Doubt.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Adding or Taking Away from God’s Words. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
So What do the Thorns and Thistles Represent? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Review. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Application: .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
III – Moral Living vs. Relational Living. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Sola Scriptura?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Application: .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
IV–Attributes of the Enemy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Devil, Adversary, Accuser. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
1. The enemy is an Accuser and Slanderer – one who falsely accuses. . . . . . . . . 25
2. The enemy is a Murderer and a Liar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
3. The enemy is Deceptive – he looks good but is evil. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
4. The enemy is an Adversary – one who Opposes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
5. The enemy is called the Ruler of this world. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
6. The enemy is the Spirit of Error/Anti-Christ. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
7. The enemy is a Thief who comes to Steal, Kill and Destroy. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
What is prophecy? .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Application: .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Reflection: .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
True Humility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Application: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
V–Weapons of Warfare: Seven Things the Enemy Hates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
1. Praise and Worship. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
2. The Word of God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3. The Name and Authority of Jesus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
4. The Cross of Christ. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
5. The Blood of Jesus.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
6. The Word of our Testimony. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
7. A willingness to die for Him. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Application: .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
VI–Trauma Bonds Created by Psychological Abuse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Secrecy.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Transparency. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Moralism vs. Life by the Spirit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Healing Broken Relationships. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Most Abusers are Men, Most Victims are Women .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Model of Separation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Making Choices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Chosing the Path of Shame, Blame and Fear.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Walking in the Light. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Encountering the Love of God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Turning from Sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Giving not Taking. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
A Demanding God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Narcissism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Jesus is Genuinely Loving and Caring. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Uncaring and Indifferent–Lacking Empathy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Unclear Communication. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Trauma Bonds with a Legalistic God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Sensory Based Living . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
The Controversy Over Supernatural Healing.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
The Rule or the Relationship (Law or Love). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
A Loving Father Who Calls us to Account. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Legalism Takes, Jesus Gives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Domestic Abuse. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Push and Pull. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Kiss my Face, Stab Me in the Back. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Perception Blaming (Gaslighting). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
The Elusiveness of Psychological Abuse.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Blocking out the Bad. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Recognizing the Signs .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Too-Good-to-be-True.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Painting Subtle Pictures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Confusion.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Regret.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Practical Application. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Afraid to Step on Toes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Take Action, Don’t Hesitate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
What NOT to Do. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Lack of Discernment .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
VII – Healing from Trauma Bonds. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Where to Start. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Forgive God? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Anger. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Exercise:.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
A Word About Grief. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
The Restorative Power of God.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Appendix 1 Evidence of Repentance.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Defeat Your Enemy
Relationships can be complicated and we often find ourselves caught in dysfunction, either with
another person or even within a spiritual community. Understanding how the enemy seeks to
destroy intimate connections with others is key. When his tactics are exposed and we are armed
with an effective defense, we can find healing and learn to live in daily victory.
A trauma bond is frequently formed when a person experiences a combination of both abuse and
care in a relationship. As a result of the mind twisting nature of toxic relationships, it can be very
difficult to leave an abuser even when one knows they are being oppressed. This type of
behaviour has been observed in a variety of scenarios from slavery to kidnappings to abusive
marriages. At times a person will even loyally defend the one who mistreats them and feel
‘safer’ in bondage than they do in freedom. Trauma bonding is the reason survivors of domestic
abuse often return several times before they are able to get free.
A similar type of trauma bonding happens within legalistic Christianity with the same end result.
Although less recognized because of its subtle nature and widespread acceptance, it can be
equally difficult for people to escape. Believing in a god who is both loving and indifferent, safe
and dangerous, kind and judgmental creates psychological confusion. Legalistic teaching sets
people up to feel like hopeless failures, enslaved to trying to measure up. The enemy’s goal from
the beginning has been to keep us feeling defeated and trapped in a cycle of attempting to
resolve the issues involved in a confusing relationship with God. We cannot heal or thrive in that
kind of religious system.
It may seem strange to write a book that intermingles issues of domestic and spiritual abuse, but
the two are almost always entwined. This material takes the reader back to the Garden of Eden
to explore the tactics of the first psychological abuser, the ancient serpent himself. He is
responsible for distorting the nature and character of God in the first ‘marriage’ and for
stubbornly persevering throughout history in his attempts to keep people from hearing and
seeing God as He is. God's desire is to bless us and lovingly guide us into a lifestyle that is
abundant and beautiful.
Stepping into a new paradigm of thinking can both challenge and liberate. I pray the message
herein will do both. May the eyes of your heart be opened and your ears receptive to hear and
discern and may God implant a new understanding deeply into your heart.
I – Enslaved to the One you Obey
The word sin conjures up negative feelings in most of us, but it simply means ‘to miss the mark.’
Spiros Zhodiates, author of the Word Study New Testament, defines it as “missing out on the
true goal and scope of life.” A life of “missing the mark” is not necessarily one that is filled with
bad or evil things, it is a life that is lived without a continual connection to God. We were
created for a deep and personal realtionship with Him.
Paul, in a first century letter to followers of Christ in Rome said,
“Romans 6:16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient
slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin [missing the
mark], which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (NIV)”
So long as we are listening to and heeding a voice other than that of God, we are not living in
freedom. God set things up from the beginning in such a way that so long as people were living
in an intimate relationship with Him, death would have no power over them. The enemy’s goal
from the beginning was to interfere with that relationship by distorting their communication and
convincing them that the consequence of death would not impact them.
Set Free to Live
Paul also said in that same letter, “While we were yet sinners [missing the mark], Christ died for
us.” At the cross He bought our freedom from enslavement to sin by taking upon Himself the
consequence for sin – death. However, many remain in a sin-enslaved life, not fully able to leave
it behind and find rest in the freedom of a renewed relationship with God. A sin-enslaved life at
best is a life lived in moralism, at its worst it is a life enslaved to evil forces that control one’s
mind and behaviour.
King David, the author of Psalm 23 says,
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of
righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff (tools for
disciplining and leading), they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the
presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely
goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house
of the LORD forever.”
This is a picture of peace in the midst of hardships and trials. There is no fear, no striving; there
is provision, stillness, restoration, comfort, abundance, goodness and mercy.
Enslaved to God?
Being a slave to God may sound oppressive if you have been exposed to legalism and have
experienced spiritual abuse. You may expect God to be a harsh taskmaster who demands
obedience and who will reject you if you do not do what He says. Many have absorbed distorted
views of God because of the incorrect interpretation of scripture. If this is true for you, you are
not alone in that painful place of feeling disillusioned or fearful of God. Many people have been
deeply affected and damaged in a similar way. You may find that pondering the words of Psalm
23 will help you understand that a life led by God is not about striving, but about resting in His
provision, safety, and enabling power. Reading and rereading that portion of scripture can instill
peace and rest in your being over time. Take some time to meditate on this passage and record
what God shows you as you do.
Shutting Out the Enemy’s Voice
In order to walk in freedom we need to understand the dynamics that keep us hooked into
‘missing the mark’. Awareness is perhaps 90% of the cure. The other 10% is stepping into it.
Although the prison doors have been opened for us, many are unable to walk through them and
fully embrace freedom in Christ. The enemy’s infiltration into Christian teaching has caused
many to ‘miss out on the true scope and goal of life’ and even to defend a moralistic lifestyle as
though it were what God intended.
Out of love for humanity, God sent His Son to take upon Himself the consequence for sin. He
solved the problem of man’s inability to walk in freedom by giving us His life (Hebrews 9:26b).
It is His life in us that empowers us to live in freedom instead of ‘missing out on the true scope
and goal of life’. From the very beginning God’s desire has been to live in an ongoing love
relationship with humankind and to bless us with abundant life.
II–Tactics of the Enemy
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
God created us to commune with Him. When we do so consistently the enemy cannot touch us,
there is nothing within us to which he can attach himself. Jesus lived this way and the enemy had
no power over him. We, likewise, are free from any hold the devil may have on us when we are
engaged in an ongoing relationship with the Lord, not giving ear to the enemy’s voice. Scripture
testifies that Jesus did only what He saw and heard from His Father (John 5:19; John 12:49). He
tells us to do the same. In the garden, Adam and Eve were free to walk in harmony with each
other and with God, so long as they stayed away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Throughout scripture God uses pictures to demonstrate spiritual truths. If we go back to the
beginning, the ‘picture’ He presents gives us a clear understanding of how God has ‘set things
up’ for us. After creating a unique world, set in a universe that is vast and incomprehensible, He
places two human beings, perfect counterparts to one another, in a beautiful garden and engages
them in a loving and intimate relationship with Himself. So what happened to distort that?
Let’s look at what the Bible says concerning the trees in Genesis 2 and 3 (ESV).
Gen 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of
every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not
eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Gen 3:1-4 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the
LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of
any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of
the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in
the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to
the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes
will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman
saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree
was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some
to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
God gave one clear instruction to Adam and Eve. We are not told how long they lived ‘obeying’
that instruction but at some point, the serpent lures them into a dialogue about what God had
said. In that exchange the first thing the serpent does is question God’s words, “Did God actually
say...?” He then twists God’s words, “ must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
Eve, in response, attempts to correct the serpent’s twisted version, but in doing so she does some
of her own twisting. She says, “We may eat from the trees of the garden, but God did say, ‘You
must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or
you will die.”
Eve is affected by the serpent’s questioning and twisting and seems a bit defensive in her
response. She adds the phrase, ‘neither shall you touch it.’ Notice how the enemy is careful not
to say too much, but lets her come to her own conclusions.
The serpent then outright denies God’s words saying, “You will not surely die…” And finally,
he challenges the integrity of God’s words and implies that God has a hidden agenda, “…for
God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God,
knowing good and evil.”
His trick is to not say too much too soon, but to let Eve reason her way to her own conclusions.
After examining the evidence and considering things, Eve determined that the fruit of the
forbidden tree was indeed a) good for food, b) a delight to the eye, and c) desired to make one
wise. In her mind this made sense and in her mouth it tasted great... momentarily!
Underming God’s Words
The serpent’s tactic to lure her astray involved several steps. He continues to use these same
tactics today. He:
1. questioned God’s words,
2. twisted God’s words,
3. denied God’s words,
4. challenged the integrity of God’s words, and
5. accused God of having a hidden agenda.
Through this process he was able to subtly manipulate and deceive Adam and Eve. The choice
was theirs but he subtly lead them into deception through the vehicle of their rational minds.
These are important demonic strategies to be aware of today. It’s important to understand that
the enemy has an ongoing agenda to rob us of hearing and obeying God’s voice. The more aware
we are, the more we can avoid being caught in the enemy’s snares.
What is this Tree?
Ezekiel 31 mentions the tall tree in Eden that was cut down because of its pride. I believe this is
a clue to understanding the enemy. The serpent spirit is a spirit of pride. Pride is what motivates
a person to think they know better than God. The enemy’s pride is what causes him to rebel
against God. As a result of pride we lose our position with God. The serpent subtly projected his
arrogant attitude onto Eve in his exchange with her by questioning, twisting, denying,
challenging the words of God, and accusing Him of having a hidden agenda. Pride is ultimately
motivated by deep insecurity and a jealousy of the position that God has given to humankind.
This is what causes the enemy to continue to attempt to stop us from having a strong, loving
connection with our Creator. He is sneaky, seductive and deceptive and ultimately wants us
annihilated. However, his manipulative ways would lead us to believe that listening to him will
bring us a better life – a life in which we are in control.
The Serpent was Cursed
Possibly the enemy’s most subtle lie of all time, is that God cursed Adam and Eve (and through
them the rest of humanity) for falling into sin. If you read Scripture carefully you will see that
God did no such thing! God cursed the serpent, not human beings.
“The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above
all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you
shall eat all the days of your life (Gen 3:14 ESV).”
The curse God put on the serpent was that he would crawl on his belly and eat dust all the days
of his life. All of his cunning efforts at deceiving Eve through his beauty, seductive speech, and
manipulative ways were intended to cause her to come under an evil spell of pride that would
draw her away from God. God’s curse was to cut down this tree of pride, to take his legs out
from under him and cause him to eat dust for the rest of his life. Although he no longer has a
‘leg to stand on’, he was left with his big mouth, but what he puts into his mouth is dust.
Jesus, however, in contrast to the serpent, said to his followers, ‘unless you eat my body and
drink my blood, you have no life in you’! This was His way of saying that partaking of His life
continually is what would give us freedom and victory. The enemy’s mouth or influence in our
lives is as dust. He will make as much ‘noise’ as he can to try to drown out the gentle, loving,
and guiding voice of our Father; he will ‘stir up as much dust as he can’ as a smoke screen to
obliterate the truth. His mealymouthed influence is what needs to be understood and dealt with
in order to live in freedom today. We can choose between these two influences.
Nipping at Our Heels
God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring
and her offspring; he shall bruise your heel, and you shall bruise his head (Gen. 3:15
The enemy is constantly trying to hinder our walk with God by nipping at our feet. What if we
simply need to raise our foot, in the authority we have in Christ, and squash his head under our
heel in order to have victory over him? As I write this I can clearly see Jesus, taking off the
sandals of His disciples and washing the dust off their feet. He is such a servant leader to us, it
humbles me repeatedly. There is no arrogance in Christ, only sacrificial love. He cares so deeply
for His friends that He will wash off every hindering bit of dust, so we can walk in victory. He is
the absolute contrast to the enemy.
The enemy would have us continue to believe that we are under a curse. He continually attempts
to overlay his punishment on to us. Causing us to believe that our punishment for sin is the same
as his, however, this is not true. Throughout history God has repeatedly continued to call people
back into fellowship with Himself. His ultimate goal has always been to live in ongoing
communion with us.
Filling our Heads with Dust
Another of the enemy’s favourite tactics is to project his nature onto God. He wants us to believe
all the lies he tells us about God. He is the one who has a hidden agenda, whose words have no
credibility, and who would curse us at every turn. Yes, there would be a serious consequence for
disobedience, but God stated that consequence clearly from the beginning. In the aftermath of
sin, God mercifully began to remedy the problem by offering humankind hope and a future. He
pointed to the day when the enemy’s head would be crushed by Jesus, the offspring of Eve. In
that moment God began providing a covering for Adam and Eve so they could begin to feel safe
God is a loving Father who works progressively with His children to teach and discipline them.
He did not curse them in the garden, nor does He curse us today when we fail, but instead holds
us accountable for sin though natural consequences and guides us as we learn how to come into
His provision and rest. His desire from the beginning was that we would come to know Him as
our loving Father, willing and able to walk in fellowship with Him. The beauty of this
partnership is that we simply need to be willing as He provides the enablement.
The Ground was Cursed
After the fall into sin, God said to Adam that the ground was also cursed because he listened to
the voice of Eve. Eve listened to the serpent and God cursed the serpent for his deceptive ways.
Adam listened to Eve, and the ground was cursed as a result. Everything around us is affected by
our sin. That curse brought the growth of thorns and thistles. What do these thorns and thistles
represent? Let’s look for a moment at the end result of their indulgence before moving on to that
Shame and Fear
Genesis 3:6,7
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the
eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to
her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they
knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves
coverings.” (Emphasis mine)
The enemy enticed Eve to reason her way into believing that it would be ok to eat of what God
had forbidden. She then gave some to Adam who was with her and together they indulged. It’s
interesting to note that Adam appears to have been silently standing by while this took place.
Immediately upon eating their eyes were opened, but not in the way the serpent had implied.
What they suddenly knew was nakedness. They discovered that ‘becoming like God’, as the
serpent had said, was not a good thing. Instead their nakedness caused them to feel exposed,
fearful, and ashamed. When they heard God walking in the garden they hid from Him in fear.
Their disobedience in desiring something that God forbade, in the end was not desirable and not
good. The serpent had deceived them with lies.
Identity Crisis
Sin causes us to see ourselves differently. It affects our identity. Unless we have allowed
repeated sin and resistance to change (true repentance) to sear our conscience, we feel ashamed
and fearful when we make mistakes. Their disobedience not only changed the way they saw
themselves, but it also changed their view of God. Their immediate response to shame was to try
to make provision for themselves by finding their own covering. These coverings, however,
were inadequate and God later would provide His covering. This points to our need for His
intervention and provision when we sin. We cannot rectify things on our own through our own
resources. We need Him to provide the remedy for our shortcomings. It is our own willfulness
that leads us into fear and shame, but restoration comes from God’s provision. Our pride leads
to our fall, but His love restores us. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Love covers a
multitude of sin. It does not cover over sin so as to hide it, but provides a balm that heals us
from the consequences of sin.
The Blood Covenant
The immediate consequence of sin is a realization of our own vulnerability. The cure for this is
the cross–the blood covenant. The first experience of ‘death’ came when an animal was
sacrificed in order to provide a more enduring covering for the shame caused by sin. This was
the first sign of the blood covenant that was fulfilled in Christ. Paul says, ‘Reckon yourselves
dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus.’ God began already in the garden to make provision for sin.
That provision ultimately ended with Jesus taking upon Himself the consequence of our sin. “He
[God] made the one who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of
God (2 Cor 5:21).” The covering that God provided for Adam and Eve in the garden was
intended to protect them, it was the first step toward the ultimate freedom that would come by
way of Christ’s death on the cross.
The cross is a place of exchange. Jesus died in our place so that we now are righteous in Christ.
The sin issue has been dealt with. He took the penalty for our sin upon Himself. We are no
longer naked and exposed. We no longer need to hide from God in shame because our new
identity IS Christ in us, the hope of glory. At the cross we received His life! This is the bond of a
blood covenant relationship... all that is His, including Himself, becomes ours and all that is
ours, including ourselves, become His. In a very literal way, He took the consequence for our sin
upon Himself and did away with it in His death.
Knowledge Puffs Up
Listening to the serpent’s lies and eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil
corrupted humankind. “Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1 NIV).” A
regenerate nature is one that has been rebirthed... with eyes and ears and a heart fully turned in
true humility to the Lord. Then we are capable of hearing the voice of the Father, seeing what
He is doing, feeling the emotions of God and operating out of His heart. The one unifying factor
among believers, and what sets our faith apart from all other belief systems, is that we serve a
living God with whom we have a personal, intimate, and loving relationship.
Without that loving relationship with God all we have is pride, pride in our own knowledge of
what is good and what is evil. This is really what reason apart from an intimate, loving
relationship with God does to us. It’s what the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law fell into.
Today many have also been lured by the enemy into this pattern of Christianity. When we just
evaluate things according to our understanding of good and evil we become arrogant in our view
of others. We evaluate according to our judgements of outward behaviour. It comes forth from
our heads and not our hearts. We tend to view behaviour as being morally right or wrong, and
people as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Jesus had compassion on sinners, His evaluation of them came from the love within His heart.
He saw what they were on the inside, yet He was not ignorant of a person’s behaviour or their
circumstances in life. He knew their sin and so did they, but because He was full of love, not
empty moralism, He was able to minister life to those who were repentant and open to receiving
His love.
Evaluating According to Knowledge
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and
death.” (Romans 8:2)
Eve evaluated things according to her own limited knowledge. In her independent thinking she
determined three things.
1. That the forbidden fruit was pleasing to look at,
2. That it was good for food, and
3. That it would make her wise.
If we are not continually living in divine fellowship with God, surrendering our reasoning
capacity to Him, we do the same don’t we? We evaluate people and circumstances according to
our limited knowledge instead of asking God for His wisdom and insight. God’s knowledge is
infinite, ours is very limited, yet we often think we know better. Pride comes before a fall! We
repeatedly reason our way out of following Him, and we even defend our reasoning as being
scriptural at times.
For example, if God were to prompt me to step out into the street and give someone $20, I might
reason that it’s unsafe to do so and we’d both miss out on a blessing. If I stepped out in
obedience and obeyed God’s voice in the moment without engaging my rational mind, a
homeless person might have provision for what God knew (and I didn’t) he needed. One might
rationalize that this is dangerous behaviour. However, if I have cultivated a relationship with
God, wherein I know His voice, am connected to His heart, and see with supernatural vision
what my Father is up to, the motivations of my heart are His and His protection from harm is
also there. In a situation such as that my independent moral reasoning isn’t beneficial.
God said the law is a tutor to lead us to Christ. I believe the law is like a compass, it points to
Jesus to show us the way, but it is not the way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
If all we have is knowledge of good and evil, we can become like that tall, haughty tree of
arrogance, looking down on others and ourselves with our judgments and condemnation. If we
operate from the wisdom of an all knowing and loving God, our strong branches stretch out to
others with boughs that support and build them up in love and healthy green leaves that bring
Taking Responsibility
Adam and Eve not only had an altered view of themselves, they also suddenly viewed each other
differently after the fall. Their immediate response to feeling shame was to hide. When caught
in their shame and confronted by God about what they had done, their response to His inquiry
was blame. Each blamed the other for what was ultimately their responsibility. Adam was
questioned first. He pointed to Eve, and said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit
and I ate.” He was blaming God as well as Eve for his sin. When God turned to Eve she said,
“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Everyone was pointing to someone else. I often wonder
how the story would have unfolded had each simply taken responsibility for their own actions.
The enemy doesn’t do things in a way that is obvious, he is sly and sneaky, and if he can lead us
into sin and then cause us to pass blame onto others rather than taking personal responsibility,
he will. He likes to wreak havoc wherever he can and then slink away leaving us feeling
ashamed, exposed, guilty, vulnerable, insecure, and paying the price for his craftiness. Taking
responsibility for his actions is something the devil doesn’t do… ever. However, when we
understand his tactics, we can acknowledge our mistakes, turn immediately back to the Lord,
and find that we are quickly restored into fellowship.
Pride motivates shame and then blame in us. Shame is rooted in a need to defend our
unregenerate self. If we can acknowledge that our ‘flesh cannot please God’ as Paul says
(Romans 8), then we can very quickly shed our shame, our need to blame, an our inability to
forgive ourselves and others. We have no need to defend our flesh.
God Has Given Us a Choice (Free Will)
If we acknowledge that our unregenerate nature is weak, vulnerable, incapable of more than
moralistic living at best, we are free. We can acknowledge that we are the same as anyone else:
weak, prone to doing stupid things, making mistakes, and to all that is motivated by an
independent spirit of pride. We all have a choice. We can be the god of our own lives and do
things our way according to our own senses and reasoning, or we can tune our mind, heart, and
spirit to God and live out of a deep and real connectedness with Him. I like to call this option
“My Way” or “The High Way.”
Taking responsibility means we are open to a lifestyle of repentance and continual growth and
change. The measure of a person’s maturity is in his ability to take responsibility for his own
actions – having the humility to recognize that he is no better or worse than anyone else. This is
what God repeatedly required of humankind throughout history. Over and over He asked people
to return to Him, hear His voice and obey. John the baptizer called people to have a change of
heart – ‘Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand’.
Keeping Our Focus
When our focus goes anywhere besides the Lord we can easily become enslaved to other things.
Apart from Christ we are incapable of living in the true scope and goal of life as God intended.
The sooner we realize this the better off we will be. An unrepentant person will not take
responsibility for their own actions or submit to God and change their ways. We are only able to
live a righteous life if we keep our focus on the Lord, our ears tuned to His Voice, and our hearts
turned toward Him. It is in embracing Him fully, partaking only of His life, that we are changed.
In Christ we are vessels of glory. Christ in us is the hope or the expectation of glory!
We don’t need to pretend we are anything other than what we are. God created us exactly as He
wanted us to be, complete with the ability to chose between the two trees and all that they
represent. His instruction to us for living an abundant and fulfilling life in communion with Him
is simple. Awareness is a major key, we need to be aware of when our eyes wander away from
the Lord and learn to refocus quickly. “Look to Jesus... the author and finisher of our faith”
(Hebrews 12:2) Thayer’s Dictionary defines the word author as: “the one that takes the lead in
any thing and thus affords an example, a predecessor in a matter, a pioneer.” Jesus is also the
finisher: “the one who has in his own person raised faith to its perfection and so set before us the
highest example of faith.”
Jesus is the One we need to look to day and night. Our mind is busy thinking about something
most of the time. In other words, we are always meditating, pondering... make sure His words,
His truth and His thoughts are the mediation of your heart and mind. Sin awoke in us selfconsciousness, but Paul says we are to reckon our self as having died with Christ to that sinenslaved life. He also wisely instructed us to ‘set our minds on things above and not on things
below.’ We can live in a state of perpetual stress if we continually focus on our earthly concerns
instead of looking to God to lead and direct us through life.
Created for Relationship
The cure for our tendency toward self-conscious living (which is rooted in pride) is getting to
know Him by looking to Him. It may or may not be helpful to study what others know about
Him. Another person can’t give you what a relationship with Him will give you. Reading a book
about Him may whet your appetite for a similar relationship, but it’s still not a replacement for a
relationship of your own. You need to experience Him for yourself! Go after Him. Find that
place of quiet and ask Him to meet you there and introduce Himself to you in His way.
Mystical? Yes! We can’t substitute anything for this.
If I want to get to know you, I need to spend time with you, not just with your friends, or with an
email you might write me. There is no replacement for a one on one relationship. Are you trying
to do things to enhance your experience of God, but neglecting the One who is right here with
you, living in you all day, every day? This is what Jesus was referring to when He said to His
followers, ‘unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life in you.”
Playing Mind Games
Jesus said, “Be quick to agree with your enemy, on your way to court, lest you be
judged.” (Matt 5:25)
There is no accusation the enemy can hurl at us that we can’t say, “Yes, you are right, without
Christ I fail every test.” All the ‘junk’ the enemy uses to try to derail us from living in ongoing
communion with God and in the identity and authority we have in Christ, is true of us when our
focus is not on Him. We have nothing to defend. Defending the unregenerate nature is futile.
Christ in us is our defence! If you are feeling defensive you are likely getting caught up in one of
the devil’s games. His lies are only capable of hooking us if we are still tapping into the tree of
In the garden his way of deceiving Eve was to entice her to question what she heard from God.
Had she simply quoted God’s words, “Yes, God really did say…” she’d have shut him up
instantly and his influence would have ended right there. Instead she let the enemy have a voice.
She listened and pondered what he had to say and thus was lead astray. If we don’t let the enemy
‘get inside our head’ and have a voice, if we immediately turn our focus back to the Lord, we
won’t have a problem. Turning away from God’s voice to our own judgments and to the voice of
the enemy is the first step to being out of sync with Him.
Jesus had a similar experience with the enemy in the wilderness. After fasting for 40 days, when
He would have been most vulnerable physically, the enemy tried to entice Him into using His
own power to turn a stone into bread. Jesus responded with the truth, “It is written, ‘Man does
not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).” He
reminded the enemy that God’s word is true. Jesus kept His focus on God and His words, but
the enemy was attempting to get Him to act of His own accord. This is what He succeeded in
doing in the garden with Eve. Instead of submitting herself to God, she took matters into her
own hands at the enemy’s leading.
Seeds of Doubt
The enemy approached Eve and questioned, “Did God actually say...?” and thereby implanted
seeds of doubt in her mind. I have also entertained the thought that I misunderstood God or
didn’t hear Him correctly, because the enemy planted a seed of doubt in my mind. I have at
times stupidly given the enemy, not God, the benefit of the doubt. Had I done the opposite, I’d
have saved myself and others a load of suffering and pain. Instead of thinking, “Maybe I heard
God wrong” I should have embraced what I heard from Him, pondered His words, sought
confirmation, and tested those words until they were solidly proven.” Instead, I independently
walked myself into a heap of pain just as Eve did, all the while believing I was doing the right
“There is a way that seems right to a man {person} but its end is the way of death”
(Prov. 14:12, 16:25).
The more closely we walk with God, the less we will make mistakes. We need to stop dabbling
in a relationship with Him and start engaging Him ceaselessly. If we listen to God and refrain
from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we are living in the reality of what it
means to be fully alive and free. His words are life and we are saved by His life (Romans 5:10).
Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is about living in prideful independence –
thinking we know what is best for us.
Adding or Taking Away from God’s Words
The New Testament is hard to understand at times if one is not familiar with the Old Testament,
since to a large degree it is an explanation of the Old. If we just take Jesus words without
understanding His audience, it is easy to misinterpret what He is saying. Jesus is often speaking
to Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Scripture says He was sent “only to the lost sheep of
Israel”(Matt 15:24), those who were familiar with the Old Testament scriptures. The Old
Testament is a portrait of Jesus, the anointed one. The message that runs like a river of red
through it, is the blood covenant He made with humankind whereby our lives, made dead by sin,
have been exchanged and forever made alive in Him.
We see the beginnings of this covenant already in Genesis after the fall into sin. God provides a
way out and points to the redeeming work of Christ that would come in due time. The story
begins with the voice of God. After creating humankind God gave them one restriction, a
requirement that would ensure their ability to live in communion with Him. It is interesting to
note that the scriptures we have today end with a similar warning. God speaks through another
word picture... the book of Revelation (or the unveiling) of Jesus Christ to John on the Island of
Patmos. At the end of the vision, God warns not to add to or take away from the words of the
The problem in the garden was that they listened to a voice other than God’s. The enemy
succeeded in deceiving them into adding to and taking away from His clear words of instruction.
The end result was devastating. The enemy knows the scriptures and will use them in whatever
way he can to try to mess with us today as well. The Pharisees also did this with Jesus. Over and
over again they attempted to trick or trap Him with their scriptural controversies. They had
already twisted God’s words, added to them and questioned them. Jesus often brought truth to
their controversies by asking a question or by quoting Old Testament scriptures back to them in
order to point out the truth and expose their defiant hearts.
Down through history we can see how the scriptures have been twisted to support just about
anything anyone wants to believe. Is this why we have hundreds of different denominations
within Christianity today, all claiming to be biblically based and correct? Questioning, denying,
twisting, challenging, and undermining the words and intent of God continues to be the enemy’s
tactic today. Many, in fact, believe that ‘hearing God’s voice’ is not biblical and should be
avoided in favor of a more cognitive and less ‘mystical’ approach to discerning truth. This is
nothing short of the enemy attempting to rob us of our core strength.
So What do the Thorns and Thistles Represent?
There is another aspect of the ‘curse’ that needs to be discussed. Not only was the enemy put
under a curse for his deviance, God also cursed the ground because Adam listened to a voice
other than His. Jesus explains what the weeds represent in a parable. He says the enemy is
planting weed seed, and He is planting good seed and these two things are happening at the
same time in the world (Matt 14:13-30). The weeds are the result of the influence of the enemy
and they greatly complicate things for mankind. The thorns and thistles mentioned in Genesis
represent the various difficulties people now experience as they attempt to provide for
themselves. A life spent listening to the wrong voice or vascilating between voices is
complicated and painful. This gardening example gave the listeners of Jesus’ day a very
practical picture they could relate to. Jesus said leave the weeds to grow up together with the
good seed until the time of the harvest. Then gather the weeds and burn them and take the
‘wheat’ into the barn. If one is familiar with the Old Testament, which His listeners were, they
would know that fire is always associated with refining and cleansing.
Through the course of life we are learning from experience that the consequence for listening to
the wrong voice and doing things our own way is painful. In this way we are being refined and
disciplined to keep our focus on the Lord and learn to live in fellowship with Him. Each time we
attempt to act out of prideful independence, we are confronted with obstacles and hardships (ie.
thorns and thistles), albeit not always immediately. This process teaches us how much we need
God and causes us to search for and find Him in a deeper way. In learning to keep our focus on
Him, ‘laboring’ to rest in His life by listening to and heeding His voice, we find that life
becomes rich with joy and peace. (See: Heb 4; Acts 17)
The enemy, full of pride and an enchanter at the core, was cursed for his seductive and cunning
behavior in luring Eve into eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God humiliated
him by taking his legs out from under him and reducing him to a position of crawling on his
belly and eating dust. “Pride comes before a fall.” God explained that there would be ongoing
antagonism between his seed and the seed of the woman, but that ultimately the seed of the
woman, Jesus our Redeemer, would crush his head. As a result people have had to contend with
his mealymouthed influence and learn to stand up and walk in God-given authority. In Christ we
have the ability to stomp on the head of the enemy and shut him up. The process of raising
offspring in a world that continues to be affected by his deceptive voice, is difficult and painful.
Indeed, apart from the grace that God gives, reproducing life is difficult and involves many
trials, whether it be literally raising children or our own spiritual rebirth process.
Ultimately our enemy is pride, represented in the serpent. Pride sets itself up on a throne in
place of God, assuming to know more than God and to be God. This is the ultimate spirit of evil
that is still alive in humankind when we are not submitted to Him. True humility is found in
complete repentance and total submission. To be truly humble is to acknowledge our utter
helplessness apart from Him and to fully embrace the blood covenant exchange that took place
at the cross. In Christ, all that He is, is IN us. This is profoundly difficult for our minds to grasp,
nevertheless it is the truth.
Adam’s sin of listening to the influence of the voice of the enemy through Eve, caused the
ground to be cursed. As a result people have had to contend with various difficulties in life both
literally, in providing for their basic physical needs, and also in learning to come into the
provision of God in a spiritual sense. Our tendancy as human beings is to want to operate
independently and do our own thing. Our prideful independance stubbornly resists and opposes
the blessings of God.
The thorns and thistles, are the hardships of life that draw our attention away from God. It is
hard work to steer our hearts back to the One whose hand is always extended to us to guide and
bless us in the midst of hardships. The New Testament writer of Hebrews speaks of being
obedient to the voice of God, resting from our works, and laboring to enter God’s rest today
(Heb. 4). The enemy would have us view suffering and hardship as punishment, but God wants
us to learn what David expresses in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death [as a result of sin], I will fear no evil, for your rod [correction] and staff
[guidance] they comfort me.”
Take some time now to meditate on these verses from Genesis 3. Ponder His words and let him
bring deeper revelation about what the two trees represent in your life, what the thorns and
thistles and pain in childbearing mean, and more. Let God bring clarity on the two sides of pride
– good and evil and what that means in your life practically. Open your eyes, ears, and heart to
the Lord and let him draw you into a deeper understanding. Share what you learn with friends
and spiritual mentors for confirmation and for encouragement.
III – Moral Living vs. Relational Living
Unfortunately, the enemy has been very successful in robbing people of a personal, hearing
relationship with God through doubt and unbelief. The Bible is possibly the most misunderstood
and mishandled book ever written. It has often been used to beat people up with legalism and
religious judgments or to justify behavior that is not in fact godly.
Legalism in a nutshell is the strict adherance to the “letter” of God’s word rather than the
“spirit” of it. Moralism is the habit of judging things according to what one thinks or feels is
‘right’ or ‘wrong’ according to the law. One of the clear ways that Jesus demonstated that
legalistic thinking and moralistic living is not what relationship with God is about, is the
example of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law
(the religious estabishment of Jesus’ day) were ready to apply the Old Testament law to her and
have her stoned. Jesus, however, said that whoever among them was without sin should throw
the first stone. They all left and went home. Jesus also explained to them on another occasion
that even inappropriate thoughts about another man’s wife was considered adultery. He brought
a deeper understanding of what it is to live a life devoted to God, not to bring bondage, but to
show that an outward self-righteous lifestyle is not what relationship with God is all about. In
fact Jesus called these men white-washed tombs – appearing clean on the outside but filled with
dead man’s bones.
Sola Scriptura?
Are we placing far too much emphasis on being ‘biblical’ instead of being relational? Scripture
alone (sola scriptura) is actually un-scriptural, is it not? (Please, don’t throw stones.) Jesus
Himself said to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal
life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may
have life.” (John 5:39,40) Staggering numbers of Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Those who
knew the most about Him from the scriptures and had anticipated His coming for centuries, at
His coming, rejected Him and were, at least in part, responsible for His crucifixion. They were
convinced He was an imposter.
Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the one thing all people have in common, rather than focusing
on our differences in understanding the words written in the Bible – the ability to have a
personal relationship with a living God. The foundation of faith in God is that His sheep hear
His voice, and He knows them, and they follow Him! (John 10:27) If we continually resort to
using our own reasoning capacity to discern the scriptures, setting ourselves up in a prideful
manner as though we were God, yet ignore the One who is right in the midst of us speaking, we
play into the hand of the enemy. He then succeeds in removing from us the very thing that
makes our faith unique and effective in transforming lives.
I certainly respect the great priviledge of having God’s written Word in the form it is available
to us today. The Bible is something we need to value and study. Most Christians throughout
history have not had access to this great book, but let’s not worship it instead of its Author! This
is the mistake that was made by many in Jesus day. Let’s not repeat the mistake! We can’t
pretend to be able to understand this book without relying on the revelation and guidance of the
Holy Spirit in a hearing relationship with God. Even so, we must acknowledge that we are
limited in our capacity to hear Him perfectly and in a unified way. Is being ‘right’ the most
important thing? Is it most important to have ‘right’ theology and to be in the ‘right’ church? Or
is it most important to actively pursue and cultivate an ongoing real and living relationship with
God and other believers?
Don’t take my word for it, inquire of the Lord for yourself!
These are good questions to ask the Lord. It is His voice we want to hear and He is the one who
will guide us into all truth. Ask the Lord and record what He says concerning this. Then trust
what He reveals to you, seek confirmation from scripture and from your spiritual mentors, in
order to accurately discern and believe His words. Don’t entertain the enemy’s version of things
and don’t let him cause you to doubt and rob you of anything.
I have found that God works progressively with me in the way that He reveals things. We are
often not ready to comprehend or take in the full picture, so He gives it to us in an order that is
right for us individually, just as a good earthly father might train up his child, giving
responsibilities and information that are appropriate to our level of maturity.
Record your observations and insights from the Lord. Then share them with others for
(Note: If you have not read the book Real Time with God found at or
otherwise learned to hear God’s voice, see vision, and experience His emotions, doing so will
greatly increase your ability to benefit from this materal.)
IV–Attributes of the Enemy
The following attributes of the enemy are found in the words of scripture. It is helpful to study
and become familiar with his ways in order to have good spiritual discernment. Good spiritual
discernment will protect us and prevent him from gaining ground in our life.
Devil, Adversary, Accuser
The following list summarizes what the Bible says about the enemy. Read through and become
familiar with his attibutes. The Greek word "diabolos" is translated "devil", he is also referred to
as “echthros” which means “adversary” and “satanas” which is translated “accuser”.
1. The enemy is an Accuser and Slanderer – one who falsely accuses.
Rev. 12:10 “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the
kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren,
who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”
The enemy will taunt you daily with messages that are twisted bits of truth intended to make you
doubt God, just as he did in the garden of Eden. He will accuse God of having a hidden agenda,
of being out to get you, rather than bless you, and that you need to hide from His presence if you
have done something wrong. Take notice of accusatory and slanderous voices internally and
externally from others.
2. The enemy is a Murderer and a Liar.
In speaking to the Jews who sought to kill Him (not all did), Jesus said, "You are of your father
the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning,
and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks
from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)
From the beginning he attempted to cause Adam and Eve to believe that God was not telling
them the truth and that disobeying God would be to their benefit. He used a lie to cause them to
chose the way of death... this was his attempt to murder. Pay attention to internal lies and
murderous thinking and speech.
3. The enemy is Deceptive – he looks good but is evil.
"Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also,
disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their
deeds." (2 Cor 11:14,15)
The “too-good-to-be-true” nice guys are often wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt.7:15). Jesus uses
phrases like ‘white-washed tombs’, ‘hypocrits’, ‘snakes’, ‘blind guides’, to describe those
operating out of the enemy’s spirit and Paul speaks of those ‘having an appearance of godliness
but denying it’s power’.
Look for fruit in the lives of those around you to be able to identify the prideful influence of the
enemy. The hallmark sign of a group of believers who are genuine, is the humility of ones who
are in a process of continual growth and change. Are you surrounded by people who are the
same year after year? If you are hearing the same testimony over and over, at best this is a sign
of stagnation, at worst the sign of spiritual fraud. Each new day is a new testimony of the love
and grace we live in if we are walking through life with the Lord. Change (repentance) is the
continual pattern of the life of a follower of Christ.
4. The enemy is an Adversary – one who Opposes.
1 Peter 5: 8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a
roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
The devil works to undermine, oppose, resist, and defeat you. He will try to rob you of your
identity in Christ, to diminish you and to prevent you from accomplishing all that God has
purposed for your life and for His glory. The enemy thought the ultimate defeat was at the cross,
but in reality, it was the day of greatest victory. In John 12:23-24 we read, "The hour has come
that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat
[referring to Himself as the seed] falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it
produces much grain." At the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, He literally multiplied Himself
in the hearts of men and continues to do so today. "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in
the world." (1 John 4:4)
When our identity is firmly rooted in Christ and our entire focus is on Him, the enemy cannot
mess with us. However, he will attempt to thwart the work of the Spirit in subtle and often
covert ways that are adversarial and oppositional. God comes alongside us to support, He
encourages and builds up the body of Christ with grace and truth. Those who are operating in
the Spirit of God will also come alongside to support and build up. Beware of oppositional and
resistant spirits.
5. The enemy is called the Ruler of this world.
The enemy thought he had his day of victory when Jesus was put to death, yet Jesus said:
"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if
I be lifted up from the earth will draw all people to myself (John 12:31,32 emphasis
On a personal level, when we identify with Christ’s crucifixion in our life, the ruler of this world
is cast out and King Jesus becomes Lord of our lives. Collectively, as the body of Christ submits
itself to Him as Lord, the kingdom of God grows and grows in the earth. The enemy does not get
to rule this earth! He has already been defeated.
Isaiah 66:1-2 says:
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the
house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My
hand has made, And all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.’”
God is looking for a humble heart in which to dwell. We are His house if we hold fast to the
faith. (Hebrews 3:6) We are His temple, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the
Holy Spirit, who dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 6:19) "For we are the temple of the living God;
just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they
shall be my people." (2 Cor. 6:16) "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (1 Colossians 1: 27)
This is the epitome of the spirit of the enemy... to be the ruler of our own lives and to resist the
cleansing, healing, and restorative work of Christ as Lord of our lives. When we are free, He is
free to minister in and through us to set others free.
6. The enemy is the Spirit of Error/Anti-Christ.
'Christ' means 'anointed one'. Anything that is anti-Christ (against the anointing) is of the enemy.
John speaks of discerning the spirits to determine what is of God and what is not.
"Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every
spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this
is the spirit of the anti-christ. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1
John 4:2,3,4)
One can determine from the context that confessing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is about
His literal coming to earth and also about acknowledging His indwelling presence in our lives
today, since he says: the One in you is greater than the one in the world (vs 4). Anyone who
comes against God's anointing and His anointed ones, is operating out of the spirit of anti-Christ
(against the anointing). Beware of subtle attacks that come against hearing God’s voice and
spiritual gifts, miracles and healings today. Be also wary of those who prefer to continue in old
paradigms rather than moving forward in what God is currently doing today in the body of
7. The enemy is a Thief who comes to Steal, Kill and Destroy.
Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have
life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
Jesus calls Himself the good Shepherd who comes to lead and protect the sheep and care for
them. His sheep know His voice and He knows them, and they follow Him. The enemy’s
primary objective is to rob us of hearing His voice.
According to Paul, prophecy is for the purpose of comforting, encouraging and strengthening us.
(1Cor. 14:3) Let’s de-mystify the word ‘prophecy’ since it may conjure up negative connotations
for those who have experienced its misuse.
What is prophecy?
When God speaks to us it is essentially personal prophecy. What you hear, see, and feel in His
presence will bring you comfort, encouragement, and strength says Paul. God speaks truth to us,
which at times convinces us of our sin. The enemy wants to destroy us with condemnation, and
will use even God’s written word to make us feel condemned. He wants to kill our confidence in
subtle ways or build us up with pride and false confidence. The enemy would have us believe
we don't need God and that we are just fine on our own or that we are too pathetic for God to
care about on a personal level. He would also have us believe that if we don’t do everything
perfectly God doesn’t really love us, that God loves us when we are good and turns His back on
us when we make a mistake or are ‘bad’. The enemy will try to rob us of all that God has in
mind for us and replace those spiritual treasures with earthly things.
Jesus' voice on the other hand, is gentle, calming, and comforting. He came to bless, He gives
life and He builds us up. When we listen to Him, and learn to follow Him, we are liberated from
a life that is plagued by doubt, grief, sin and misconceptions about God’s love for us and the
freedom He offers. When we hear Him speak to us personally, we begin to fall in love with Him.
His kindness and devotion to us bring about a desire to follow Him.
The disciple John tells us (I John 2:29; 3:8; 3:10) that if we are "born of" God it will be revealed
in our attitudes and actions and in the love we demonstrate for others. Likewise, the opposite
would confirm that a person is born of the devil. This birth isn’t literal, it is about what you are
allowing to control and influence you and what is being birthed in your life.
The ways of the enemy are well defined in scripture. We are told to avoid such behaviour and
those who operate under his influence. The following gives us a good description of those who
are operating from the wrong spirit:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people
will be lovers of self (selfish), lovers of money (attracted to excess or lack), proud,
arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy (impure), heartless
(lacking normal compassion and empathy--uncaring), unappeasable (never satisfied),
slanderous (speaking in secrecy and riddles, and telling shrouded lies about others),
without self-control (lacking self-discipline), brutal (mean), not loving good, treacherous
(deceptive and unfaithful), reckless (dangerous risk takers), swollen with conceit, lovers
of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness (pretending to
be godly), but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:1-8
In contast, the follower of Christ will manifest the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These fruits
are the outward evidence that we are born of God and all that we do will be a reflection of those
underlying characteristics and qualities.
How do we guard ourselves from the influence of the enemy and prevent him from bringing
harm to us? Sometimes others bring accusations against us. Often it is a spirit of evil – the
accuser – throwing thoughts at us that are intended to make us feel bad about ourselves and
others. He also wants us to believe lies about God. For example, you look in the mirror and
think, "I am so ugly". You finish a project for school or work and think, "I'm not good enough."
Or you may cry over something that’s hurt you and think, "I'm making a big deal of nothing."
The enemy will taunt you with false accusations on every front in your life if he can. He will try
to make you doubt God and doubt yourself. He will attempt to make you feel worthless, weak,
and incapable spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. He is, in effect, trying to
project who he is on to us so we deny our identity in Christ and instead embrace his identity and
destiny. Misery loves company and if he can drag us down with him, he will. Don't engage him
in his games!
It is not a sign of humility to view yourself as less than all that Christ is in you. True humility is
to deny the enemy’s lies and to embrace Christ in us. Don't let the enemy rob you of your
inheritance! Likewise, if we have this tainted view of ourselves we are also likely to have a
tainted view of others. However, in Christ, our job is to see and call forth the Christ nature in
ourselves and each other and stand in that.
Sometimes our interpretations of life prompt us to respond in ways that are unproductive or
unhealthy. There are many variables that lead us to the conclusions we come to and the ways we
respond to life. If the enemy can implant lies and deception in us, then he becomes the ruler of
our 'world' and we are living in a way that is in opposition (anti-Christ) to the heart of God. How
do we prevent the thief from stealing the abundance God wants us to enjoy, robbing us of our
inheritance and attempting to destroy our lives with lies?
We can also become puffed up in an egotistical self-conscious pride. Remember the enemy
masquerades as an angel of light and his followers do likewise. An even more sinsiter influence
is found in narcissistic selfishness, indifference, and greed. Today this seems rampant. These are
the ‘nice guys’ who are busy patting themselves on the back and doing things that bolster their
own ego addiction. New age ideologies also elevate ‘self’ rather than elevating a God-given
Christ nature that comes from Him. Be careful to discern the difference. One seeks personal
gain and to be served, the other is a servant to all and seeks the benefit of the whole of
humankind. It is by nature altruistic rather than self-centered.
True Humility
To be truly humble is to walk in the selfless nature of Jesus, manifesting the glory of God in
your life as He did. We are enabled by God to humbly serve others out of the fullness of all that
He is in you. False humility would have us believe we are incapable, but true humility
acknowledges the exchange that took place at the cross. A truly humble believer is clothed in
the righteousness of Christ (His anointing), He reckons himself dead to sin and alive in Christ,
and becomes Him to the world around as he walks in His life. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you
will obey me, and my Father and I will come and make our home in you (John 14).” This is a
position of utter and complete dependency on God.
In His Presence is Fullness of Joy
“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at
Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Proverbs 16:11).
If we linger in His presence, pondering only His words, walking in obedience to His leading, our
lives are rich with the fullness of joy.
List as many accusations and lies as come to mind about your spiritual, physical, emotional, and
intellectual self, anything that is contrary to what God would say of you, and all that is
anti-Christ or in opposition to Him. Ask the Lord to help you write this list. Remember, at times
these things will feel like the truth, but are not. After you have formed a list, go through it and
renounce the lies. Ask God to speak His truth to you. Record what the Lord reveals and embrace
His words. Ask Him to embed the truth deeply into your being as you meditate on His words.
There will be more opportunities to reflect and more exercises to take this study deeper on a
personal level. Don’t worry about feeling like you need to get it all sorted out in one sitting. This
exercise is intended to be starting point for reflecting and applying what you have learned and
you can return to it over and over.
What is your mindset?
It’s important to realize we are not really in a battle with the devil if we are in a relationship
with God. When we are living in His presence at all times, there is freedom from the need for
war. We live in a state of peace. When we step away from the presence of the Lord, just as
Adam and Eve did in the garden, the enemy is there taunting us with lies, trying to drag us away.
A stronghold is essentially an ungodly mindset or thinking pattern. Perhaps the most damaging
mindset or thinking pattern we can become stuck in is that of believing that the enemy still has a
leg to stand on... a mindset of defeat. I believe we need to be careful not to let the enemy
deceive us into believing it is complicated to get out from under his control. He loves to make a
big fuss, he has a big mouth and likes to put on a big show. Wherever he can confuse things,
complicate stuff, deceive us, twist our minds, etc. he will. The most dangerous weapon in the
hands of a believer is a strong personal relationship with God that is interactive. The more
connected we are to God the less influence the enemy can have over us.
There is no need for “Lord of the Rings” type battles with satan and his cohort, although he
loves that kind of special attention if he can get it. Put all of your focus on God. This is where
your strength lies. We only need to know how the enemy works so that we are aware of the
dangers of getting our focus off God. Our task is to keep our focus on the Lord and to teach
others to do the same. When we recognize the enemy at work in our midst we can excercise the
authority we have in Christ, tell him to leave and he must. “Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7NIV).
Hebrews 12:1-4 says,
“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every
weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race
that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the
joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at
the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from
sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have
not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”
Jesus kept His focus on ‘the joy that was set before Him’. He did not look at the sinners who
were slaying Him, except to ask His Father to forgive them. He recognized, with compassion,
that they didn’t have a clue what they were doing or the impact it would have. He wasn’t taking
personal offense at their very personal attack on His life. He did not love His own life, but
entrusted it completely to His Father. We are also told in this struggle against sin to keep our
eyes on Jesus and not become weary. What the enemy intended for evil – Jesus’death – became
our victory. It was the day of the devil’s defeat!
Paul said in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God
to salvation [deliverance] for everyone who believes.” John said, ‘The kingdom of God is at
hand’. In other words… God rules! This is the gospel… the good news! So don’t give the enemy
more or less attention than he is due. Don’t give him the influence he seeks! Don’t let him
project his identity onto you and certainly not onto God. The gospel of Christ is the power of
salvation and our deliverance from evil… just come into the kingdom and fix your eyes on the
V–Weapons of Warfare: Seven Things the Enemy Hates
1. Praise and Worship
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
When our heart is attuned to God and He is the focus of our adoration, the enemy has no ground
in us. Praise and worship are effective ways to keep our minds, hearts, and emotions tuned to
God. Simply having God honoring music playing in your home, work place, or vehicle and
infiltrating your mind regularly, can ward off the enemy.
2. The Word of God
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing
even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the
thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
People have experienced healings of various kinds simply by saturating their minds with the
Word of God. I personally believe this is not only a reference to the written word but also the
words the Lord speaks into our hearts daily when we commune with Him. Memorizing and
repeating the words of the Lord, can deliver us instantly from the oppression, discouragement,
and distractions of the enemy. He’s an attention seeker, let’s not give him any!
3. The Name and Authority of Jesus
“The name of the Lord, is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are saved [safe]. (Prov
18:10)” Jesus “called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all
demons, and to cure diseases. (Luke 9:1)” He also demonstrated that He had power over the
wind and the waves and taught his disciples to walk in that same power and authority. Jesus also
said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and
even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. (John 14:12 NLT)”
We have the authority of Christ because He dwells within us. We can say to the enemy, “In the
name and authority of Christ I command you to get your hands off me, my children, my spouse,
etc. and leave. You have no right to touch us.”
4. The Cross of Christ
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life… 11 So
you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 5:4,
We are to consider ourselves as having died to sin with Christ and also raised into new life in
Him. Remind yourself, and the enemy, of this truth when he taunts you with thoughts of
unbelief, doubt, and worthlessness. If you are plagued by sin, you simply need to bring it to the
cross and leave it there. Allow God to heal you. It is not necessary to linger in feelings of self loathing, doubt, fear, or any other thing. God is not condemning us for being sinners, in fact it
was while we were yet sinners that He died for us. The enemy would have us believe we need to
be perfect for God to love us, but this is a lie! His presence in our life is what perfects us as we
learn to repeatedly turn to Him and live in Him day by day.
5. The Blood of Jesus
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb…”Revelation 12:11a
We, like the Hebrew families in Egypt, are passed over by the ‘angel of death’ because the
doorposts of our lives are smeared with the blood of the Lamb… we are completely untouchable
by him as we come under the protection of God. We can simply say, “Hands off satan, I am
covered (protected) by the blood of Jesus.”
6. The Word of our Testimony
“… and by the word of their testimony…”Revelation 12: 11b
The daily word of our testimony gives witness to the victory of Christ in our lives which defeats
the enemy. Keep reminding yourself of what God has done for you in the past and is currently
doing in your life in order to encourage yourself and each other. Refuse to let lies defeat you. In
all things give God the glory!
7. A willingness to die for Him
“…and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11c
The ultimate test of friendship, as Jesus defined it, is a willingness to die for Him as He died for
us. When we ‘love not our lives’ the enemy cannot scare us on any level… “to live is Christ and
to die is gain.” There is no fear! How far will we go to follow Him? How willing and open are
we to receive His blessings in our life? The more we ‘die’ the more alive He is in us!
Ask the Lord if you have adopted a mindset of defeat wherein you are believing the lies of the
enemy about your position in Christ. Are you caught in a legalistic mindset of defeat and feeling
like you are unable to get free rather than living in Christ-consciousness? The following material
is intended as a starting point to help you get free. Beyond that you can learn to let God walk
you through the process outlined in Living a Healing Lifestyle (found at to
uproot lies, heal traumas of spiritual abuse, break unhealthy bonds with spiritual leaders or other
unhealthy relational dynamics. You may find a generational sin pattern needs to be severed
because you were born into legalistic religious system. God wants us to be free to follow Him.
Ask the Lord specifically how He would have you take up the weapons of warfare in your life so
that the enemy will have ‘no place in you.’ Learning to refocus your attention away from
defeatist thinking patterns and behaviors will transform your life, release you to walk in the
Christ nature that is in you, and empower you on every level of experience. God is very present,
very real, and very much alive. Abundant life in Him is available to each of us.
VI–Trauma Bonds Created by Psychological Abuse
The following section deals specifically with cases that I would define as psychological abuse.
The examples given can easily be identified in domestic relationships but also in church
leadership, and many other scenarios, wherever there is an imbalance of control between
individuals or groups of people. I believe these dynamics are very prevalent today and that
everyone will benefit from becoming more familiar with them. We all need to be more aware of
how the enemy operates in his attempts to ruin relationships and sever our connection with God.
It is easy to be drawn in by his seduction and become part of the problem where a victim is
further victimized and a perpetrator is supported and enabled, instead of both being helped and
delivered. These dynamics are very prevalent in ‘Christian’ marriages that end in divorce and in
churches that have their foundation in legalism and moralistic thinking.
Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 11 of churches that are weak, sick and falling asleep because they
are not discerning the body of Christ. This lack of discernment has to do with not recognizing
the workings of the enemy in our midst. If we are not discerning the spiritual condition of those
who claim to be believers, the enemy has open doors to wreak havoc in the midst of God’s
people. This begins with a very basic bottom line... the church is to be a place of no secrets.
If we are judging ourselves and each other in the body (which Paul instructs us to do) while
reaching out to draw others in, the body will be strong, healthy, full of life and the Spirit will
move unhindered. If we are not using good discernment, the body is weak, sick and falling
asleep. A church that simply coddles unrepentant sinners is a perfect lair for the enemy. Jesus
did not waste time ministering to those who were legalistically judgmental and resitant to
change. If we are following His lead, we will not either.
Jesus said we are to eat and drink his body and blood. This is about partaking of his life, filling
ourselves with Him by living daily in close connection with Him. If, however, we are not
judging ourselves to see that we are ‘in the faith’, daily checking our hearts to be sure we are not
indulging in pride, we are prone to a deep and dark sickness that plagues so many today. Paul
says you cannot serve two masters... you cannot live a self-centered life and a God-centered life
at the same time. You cannot eat from both trees simultaneously.
Many have never learned to discern. There are many reasons for this but the important point to
make is that it is our obligation to love one another with accountability (Matt 18). Recognizing
that we are weak in our flesh and that the enemy is roaming around seeking whom he might
devour with his big mouthy influence. Learning to discern and also how to exercise our spiritual
authority over the enemy are essential on a daily basis.
At his core the enemy is sly, sneaky, deceptive, and secretive and will adapt to the environment
in which he is attempting to wreak havoc. He rarely functions in ways that are openly obvious.
He also is willing to take whatever time is necessary to roll out his sinister schemes. The more
suspicious people become the deeper, darker and more subtle his tactics. For this reason alone it
is of ultimate importance to consciously ensure that there are no doors left open to him and no
place given for him to operate in our relationships and communities.
Transparency in leadership is absolutely essential for healthy relationships. A body of believers
that is above board will have plural leadership and open books (not only financially), ongoing
accountability and mutual submission among all members including those who lead. There will
be continual movement within this body to train up the less mature into leadership and perpetual
growth and multiplication of the community. This kind of body is a living organism that is in a
state of continual motion the healthier it is.
In the same way, a marriage within a dynamic body of believers will have clear boundaries on
what is and is not acceptable behaviour, no secrets between spouses, and no hidden agendas.
God modelled this in the covenants He made in scripture. He clearly spelled out the blessings
for healthy behaviour and the consequences for toxic behaviour. This was modelled from the
beginning in the Garden of Eden. If you examine each of the covenants (agreements) made in
scripture you will see this principle over and over. However, the new covenant He made is
different. The old is patterned after the choice Adam and Eve made to eat from the tree of
knowledge of good and evil, the new is patterned after the Spirit of Life that is in Christ Jesus.
Moralism vs. Life by the Spirit
The old covenant way of life is about discerning what is good and what is evil. Moralism
follows after this pattern. We get to chose what we think is right and wrong, beneficial or not
beneficial. It relies heavily on the rational mind. Hence there are umpteen ways to read and
apply scripture. The new covenant way, and what God has wanted all along is for us to learn to
live a life lead by His Spirit. His desire from the beginning is that we chose a life governed by a
dynamic relationship with Him and following after His leading. The choice God gave to
humankind in the garden was not the choice of good or evil it was a choice between ‘trees’. The
one tree represented moralistic living wherein you get to be the god of your own life. It was the
tree of pride; “I” get to be the Lord of my own life; I get to chose my own way. I can be ‘good’
or I can be ‘bad’ or a little of both.
The option God wants for us is the tree of Life. The choice He gave us is between living life
OUR way independent of Him or a life that is lived in an ongoing interactive relationship with
Him. ‘My Way’ or ‘The High Way’. A life lived in relationship with God is not about right and
wrong or good and evil. Many Christians have mistakenly embraced that mentality. His desire is
to bless us, to enfold us in His love, to grow us up into maturity in Christ and to live in the
abundance of His life. We have become so immersed in religious thinking that this is very hard
for most of us to grasp without a serious mind shift. A healthy Spirit-led marriage will likewise
be the coming together of two people who are mutually submitted to the leadership of God in
their lives and therefore operating in sync with one another with Him as their head.
Healing Broken Relationships
The perpetrator–victim relationship is part of this good vs. evil scenario that finds its roots in the
tree of good and evil. The dynamic between perpetrators and victims is active and reactive.
Abusers actively harm their victims and victims react to their abuse. Both usually come out of
their own dysfunctional pasts and often out of childhood abuse. Can we learn to empathize with
both in a strong but loving way that holds them each accountable? Are we willing to ‘see’ the
abuser for what he is, rather than the facade he hides behind. Most abusers are either exposed
for what they are and shunned for it, or hiding in secrecy and successfully manipulating others
to coddle their egos. Many victims are helped and find healing. Some are supported in a
dysfunctional way that permits them to remain in a victim mentality and never really heal.
Most Abusers are Men, Most Victims are Women
Men by nature tend to be more aggressive, women by nature more passive (although this is not
always the case so let’s not look at this in a legalistic way). This may very well be due to the
what is considered culturally acceptable and the result of unconsciously training boys to be more
aggressive and girls to be more passive emotionally. Although from the scriptural account of the
consequences of sin it appears to be part of the male and female design or a distortion that was
caused by the fall. God said that a consequence of sin was that men would ‘rule” women and
women would ‘desire’ men. As human beings we don’t want to linger in either camp, although
being a victim appears to be the morally ‘acceptable’ position to be in. If you have been
victimized, please don’t allow these words to bring condemnation, they are in no way intended
to do so. My point is that there is healing in the Lord for both men and women, abusers and
victims, if they are open to change. The goal is to learn to thrive in relationship with God
beyond the limitations of sin-conscious life.
Neither an abuser nor a victim can heal or change without a willingness to BE changed and we
need to be careful to learn to ‘judge’ (discern) the hearts of people to know who is willing. Both
need to know they can come to the throne of God boldly to confess their brokenness and
weakness and receive from Him. He doesn’t shun anyone and His desire is always to heal and to
bless no matter who you are or what you have done.
Model of Separation
When dysfunctional and toxic patterns are identified in a relationship, and these patterns are
exposed, if there is no repentance on the part of the offending party, complete with obvious
change and transparency, a ‘no contact’ policy is essential for the healing of everyone involved.
The longer a toxic relationship continues to go on, the more skilled the abuser becomes
(ultimately this is not about people but the enemy) in his deviant behaviour and the more
traumatized the victim becomes. The more traumatized the victim, the more abusive the abuser.
The more deviant the abuser, the more complicated it is for both to heal.
In the Old Covenant, perhaps the most obvious example of this model of separation is shown
when God divorced Israel for her unfaithfulness (Jer 3:8). This arrangement was conditional on
her willingness to repent of her sin and return to the Lord. Often throughout the Old Testament
we hear God say, “If you would return to me, I would bless you.” In every covenant He made
with people there were rewards for keeping their part in the agreement and consequences for
unfaithfulness to Him.
Jesus also modelled healthy boundaries repeatedly in how He dealt with unrepentant sinners. I
believe this is why He said “Do not yoke yourself with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14) and why He
used questions to unearth hidden motives and walked away from the Pharisees and Teachers of
the Law when they were trying to engage Him in pointless arguments. It is also why He did not
minister in places where people were not receptive to Him.
Paul, likewise advised churches to hand unrepentant sinners “over to Satan for the destruction of
their flesh, so their spirit might be saved” (1 Cor 5:4,5; 1 Tim. 1:20). He also said, “Come out
from among them and be separate. (2 Cor. 6:17)” There are many clear examples in scripture of
this pattern of being ‘set apart’ from unrepentant sinners. This is not about ignoring ministry to a
broken world, it is specifically about separating ourselves from intimate fellowship with those
who stubbornly refuse to come to the Lord to receive life when it is offered to them. This refers
to those who know the light but choose darkness.
It is very important to make a clear distinction between ones who are actively pursuing change,
and those who are unrepentant sinners – resistant to change. Jesus came to seek and save the
lost. He never stops loving sinners. Scripture says He ‘desires that all men be saved and come to
the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4)” and that He is “not willing that any should perish but
that all would come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).” This should be our attitude toward others as
well, however, being a doormat for unrepentant sinners is never a role Jesus assumed, nor
should it be a role we assume. In fact it will harm us and others to do so.
Making Choices
It’s important to remember that although toxic and abusive people make choices, the ultimate
enemy is the one to whom they have given control. A lack of repentance (turning from sin) is
what opens doors to the enemy. Abusers usually have had their own past experience of having
been abused or traumatized and that is what opened them up to the enemy’s influence and evil
spirits. The longer a victim of abuse stays in a relationship with an abuser the more entrenched
both appear to become in the unhealthy relational dynamic. However, one can not remove a
victim against their will from an abusive relationship, they need to will to be free from their
circumstances as well!
Many women continue in abusive or neglectful marriages long term, waiting in hope that their
spouse will have a change of heart. They often do not realize, however, that their own lack of
ability to make a change is part of the problem. This may sound like blaming the victim, but it is
simply an acknowledgement that in a dysfunctional relationship the enemy has infiltrated things
so deeply that victims often find it extremely difficult to get out. In every case it is best for those
involved to be able to recognize this in the early stages. This will ensure the best outcome for
everyone. Victims desperately need support and input from discerning believers in order to be
able to take the first steps. Are believers able and willing to stand in that gap? Do people outside
these toxic relationships understand the dynamics well enough to be able to minister on this
level? In most cases the dynamics are not understood well enough to offer any practical help
that is beneficial to those who are engaged in these kinds of relationships.
One cannot help an abuser until they admit they have problems and are willing to actively take
responsibility for their behaviour and make changes. If they are holding onto shame and fear of
exposure they are not ready for healing. God never stops calling, but He doesn’t engage in an
intimate relationship with those who choose darkness. John 3:20-21 says, “For everyone
practising evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have
been done in God.”
Chosing the Path of Shame, Blame and Fear
In the garden Adam and Eve were unable to come into the light, they chose the path of shame,
blame and fear and as a result God put them out of the garden. There were no longer able to
walk in intimacy with Him. The flaming sword, the fire of His Spirit and the Word (His voice),
are the way back to the Tree of Life. Repentance is the key to walking that path of a Godconscious life. I believe God never stops calling us to repentance with a loving attitude not a
demanding one. As we come to know Him we are drawn by His kindness into repentance.
Although it is important to intercede for unrepentant sinners, praying the demonic spirits out of
an individual who is not repentant (unwilling to change) will put them in a worse situation. The
enemy will simply gain more force by returning through a door left open by unrepentance with
more of his ‘friends’ and strengthen his ground. Jesus warns of this in scripture in Matthew
12:43-45. There are good reasons to separate ourselves from those who continue to choose
darkness and we do this not only for our benefit but for the salvation of the sinner. Paul says to
hand such a one over to Satan ‘for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on
the day of the Lord.’(1 Cor 5:5)
In most cases, psychological abusers do not change. However, I believe we ought never to stop
praying for them and asking God for their deliverance. If we are no longer engaged in an
unhealthy dynamic with them this is much easier to do. I have come to believe that part of the
problem is that we do not practice this separation principle. This often leaves abusers in their
churches where they continue to find undiscerning victims to ‘feed their ego needs’. Be careful
not to counsel or pray with those who are not demonstrating true repentance (See Appendix 1).
It is common for them to be very deceptive attention seekers. Sometimes very confessional,
especially in Christian circles where admitting your faults makes you appear to be humble and
transparent. Confessions that are not combined with genuine repentance and accountability are
often just meaningless attempts to manipulate empathy. Without the accountability of an
intimate relationship, it becomes a useful tool in the hands of the enemy to mask deception.
Spouses who have repeated affairs, addictions, and other abuse/neglect issues often use
confession as a means of manipulating their spouses into taking them back repeatedly and
continuing the toxic relationship. Don’t under estimate the enemy’s ability to deceive and to
weave his way around being detected.
Walking in the Light
One who is ashamed of past sin and hiding in fear of being exposed is not genuinely free, he has
not come into the light. He still has his identity rooted in the tree of knowledge of good and evil
and needs further ministry. It is not necessary for us to flaunt the details of our own or another’s
sin, but shame is gone when Christ is victorious in our lives. Over and over the scriptures tell the
tales of those who are saved and these individuals are identified by the sin or problem they once
had that lead them to Christ. The prodigal son, the deceptive tax collector, the prostitute, the
paralytic, the adulterous woman, the women with the issue of blood, the man born blind man,
and many more, glorify the work of Christ by being recognized as sinners who were delivered. It
was their past sin or weakness that magnified and gave glory to the power of God in their lives.
The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well ran home after He exposed her as the women
who was living with a man who was not her husband and who had had 5 previous husbands. It
was with excitement that she made it known that He was a prophet of God who knew all about
her life. Shame and secrecy played no role in these examples from Scripture. There was no
shame in the exposure of what they had been. No shame, no blame, no fear!
Encountering the Love of God
If we have genuinely encountered God’s complete love and acceptance we are liberated from
fear, shame, and the need to blame. Abusers often have serious road blocks that need to be
removed to be able to receive love. Victims likewise have usually had their identity so damaged
by abuse that their need for inner renovation and restoration spiritually and emotionally in a
loving environment has to be the first priority. Being heard, believed, validated, nurtured and
unconditionally loved in a safe environment is essential. Safety is found in an environment
wherein transparency is encouraged, normal and accepted. This kind of spiritual fellowship isn’t
often available to those recovering from abuse dynamics. In the absence of these kinds of
communities it is very difficult to let go of the need to self-protect and begin to heal. Within
moralistic and legalistic churches where one is judged for their past sin, or in commuities where
true repentance and transparency is not encouraged, it is nearly impossible for healing to begin.
Turning from Sin
The one step God expects us to take is into relationship with Himself and this involves our will.
He has repeatedly said. “Return to Me so I can bless you.” We must also minister this way to
sinners today. John the baptizer called people to repentance. What he really was saying in plain
language was, ‘Change... for the reign of God is here.’ We cannot come into a new life without
consciously turning away from our old life. Daily we need to turn away from a self-focussed,
independent, ‘do it yourself’ lifestyle to a God-conscious life in Him. Until we are completely
finished eating from that tree of pride we will be unable to fully come into who we are in Christ.
We need full exposure in the light of Christ.
Paul says,
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present
yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members
to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since
you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14ESV)
Giving not Taking
The enemy operates out of selfish motives, but Jesus emulated unselfishness. He is the greatest
in the Kingdom of God because He is the servant of all. He came to serve not to be served. Our
relationship with God is rooted in His love. We love because He first loved us. It is a no fail
belief system because the empowerment to live a righteous life of obedience to Him, comes
from Him. All the fruits of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are characteristics of His life in us. We are not
expected to conjure up these attributes out of our own nature. He freely gives us His Spirit when
we come to Him and ask. He is the love and unselfishness that characterize those who believe.
The enemy is selfish and full of pride, looking to gain only for himself. He is a taker, not a giver.
Those who operate out of the heart of Jesus will be servants. Those who operate out of the spirit
of the enemy are takers and can only give when there is something in it for them. This is another
basic way to recognize his influence. In dysfunctional relationships people are only willing to
give in return for a reward. This can be seen in marriages, friendships, legalistic churches, etc.
A Demanding God
Legalism portrays God as demanding of our obedience. His love and acceptance are conditional
on obedience. Those who adhere to this understanding project a very judgmental and critical
attitude onto others based on outward behaviour. They also have a tainted prideful view of
themselves that is shrouded in false humility. There is a belief that heaven awaits those who
save themselves by their own works, although it is almost never that clearly outlined in the
theology. The enemy is far too sneaky to say it that boldly. However, you will feel and hear that
message in the theology. I have heard it pointed out by a child who had not had years of
adulterated teaching. The more entangled we are in religion, the less we can hear what is
obvious to those outside it seems.
In contrast, Jesus came to save us from the condemnation we are currently living in (John 3:17).
We are saved by His life, which He freely gives to those who want it. “While we were yet
sinners [people following our own path] Christ died for us (Romans 5:8-10).” When the door is
opened to Him, He floods us with His life. If we resist His love, He will not force it on us, but
His love remains steadfast. He never stops hoping that we will respond to His love.
When we open the door, His love floods in and that is what changes us. We love because He
first loved us. His life in us is what transforms our lives. His love in us is what causes us to
overflow with love for others. His love in us is what changes how we see ourselves. His love in
us is what compels us to obey. None of this can happen without an intimate relationship of
hearing, seeing, feeling – experiencing Him.
Narcissism, is a very prevalent problem today. It is nothing more than a manifestation of the
character of the enemy in the lives of those over whom he has gained control. His ultimate goal
is to rape and murder souls, but his devious ways of doing so can be deeply seductive and
complex. His tactics are shrouded in convincing arguments and nice sounding but manipulative
doctrines. As Jesus pointed out, he is the wolf in sheep’s clothing, masquerading as an angel of
light yet full of darkness, like a white-washed tomb full of dead man’s bones, having an
appearance of godliness but denying it power. If we are able to recognize him we will not be
confused or fearful of his cunning ways, nor will we come under his oppression. However, if we
are not aware and not discerning, we can be greatly harmed by his sinister tactics.
Jesus is Genuinely Loving and Caring
Jesus reproduces life wherever He goes. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His ways are
uncomplicated. He speaks with clarity and truth, making His expectations openly known and His
blessings apparent. He is easy to access, and freely giving and kind. If we are feeling convicted
of sin, He sets before us a clear path to the cross to be released from it. He also stands with us
and beside us holding us up so that we can look at our lives objectively and see what we are in
our old man and not feel shamed by what we see. Do we love our lives more than Him? Yes, so
long as we are still offended by an abuser’s need to tear down our reputation to build up his own
ego, we too are still living from the wrong tree. In repenting of this we can find freedom to walk
in His life without offense. We are no longer victimized by the enemy’s influence. This is where
freedom begins. Abusers often remain stuck for the same reason. They cannot come out from
under the lie of the enemy that says, “If I expose yourself the shame will destroy you” and
protecting their ego becomes paramount to their survival. This is the epitome of the enemy’s
nature and character. The tree of knowledge of good and evil – the tree of independant pride – is
very attractive for many ‘sick’ reasons.
Uncaring and Indifferent–Lacking Empathy
In contrast to the love of Jesus, the enemy is indifferent toward us. He works in subversive ways,
through secrecy and gossip, seduction and deception, manipulation and guilt. He doesn’t care
about others, his agenda is entirely about himself and getting what he wants. A person operating
out of this spirit is mostly concerned with maintaining their own image and getting their ego
needs filled. They are generally ashamed of those needs however, and will often use either
forceful or covert methods to get what they want. Others exist in their life for the purpose of
being used, although you may not realize this initially or at all. The indifference and lack of
empathy is not often readily seen. Its detection usually comes too late in a relationship, after a
person is hooked by a facade of niceness. Seeing through this fog and letting go of denial is the
first step out.
Unclear Communication
The enemy will butter you up with compliments while controlling you with subtle guilt trips,
obligations, and expectations. He speaks in unclear messages, assumptions, inferences, and
implications. He uses partial sentences, leading questions, and other forms of unclear
communication. He is an enchanter who will utilize whatever tactics he can to lure you in with
lies: feigning emotions, putting up smoke screens, throwing in red herrings, stone walling,
feigned forgetfulness, and many more tactics subtly devised to worm his way into your head and
mess with your heart. What I call word weaving is a common characteristic used to twist reality
in ways that are mind-bending and crazy-making.
In order to combat this kind of confusion it is necessary to be very direct. Avoid all forms of
unclear communication and ask for clarification, repeatedly if necessary. Question comments
that are obscure. Confront lies directly. Require accountability and true repentance and expect
others to properly apologize when they have offended or hurt you. Learn to be assertive. Practice
empathy and model compassion, but don’t be anyone’s doormat. The appendices at the end offer
some practical tools for learning healthy communication.
Trauma Bonds with a Legalistic God
In legalistic Christianity, scripture is used in a tainted way to control the minds of its adherents.
It can happen so progressively that people are not even aware of their ‘self-righteous’ attitudes
that bring others under judgement and condemnation. God’s ways are not legalistic, but without
His guidance in reading scripture one might perceive Him to be so. The enemy loves this
inversion of things and he is the mastermind behind this way of thinking. This kind of
theological manipulation is what creates ‘doctrines of demons’ and seared consciences (1
Timothy 4:1,2). The basic message of the judgmental legalist goes something like this: “You are
bad therefore God has rejected you. I am good, therefore God loves me. Just be good like I am
and God will love you too.” Rather than being governed by a Spirit of humility, they are puffed
up with pride and living in a moralistic knowledge of good and evil.
The truth is God loves us without condition and is calling us to Himself. In response to His
calling we turn to Him and what we see in His nature and character enables us to open the door
of our life to Him. When He enters in, He empowers us to live a righteous life. When He does so
we realize that our own ‘goodness’ is irrelevant. Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and
evil can make for a fairly wholesome looking life of moral living and as lords of our own life we
can feel pretty good about that. I think perhaps we all need to indulge in it for a while in order to
realize even our best moral living is vanity. God, however, is calling us to a much richer
experience in Christ.
Sensory Based Living
The devil wants us to remain in a very sensory and rational based experience of life. This is how
he enticed Eve, through her senses and her reasoning. What looks and tastes good and what
seems good for making us wise (in our own eyes) is what we tend to go after. The enemy wants
to keep us functioning on the lowest level of our humanity. He wants to invert reality, to overlay
his ‘base’ thinking onto us. He is the one who would have us feeling proud of what we perceive
as our accomplishments and gained wealth and blaming others for the negative things that
happen in life.
The Controversy Over Supernatural Healing
If we look at the controvery over healing the sick as an example, there are plenty of ways to
point out how the enemy works. His goal from the beginning has been to distort God’s word and
thereby also malign the character and nature of God. Jesus said to the woman who touched his
garment, “Your faith has healed you, go in peace and be free from your sufferng.” The enemy
has taken a portion of this story and used it to bring accusation against those who are ill. His
scornful accusation is, “See, it’s your lack of faith that keeps you ill!” The truth is Jesus never
lacks empathy for those who are sick or in need. Blaming the victim is never His way. Our faith
does not save us, Jesus does; He is our Saviour! When the enemy’s lies infiltrate our thinking it
blocks us from reaching out to God to receive from Him. This particular woman reached out to
Him and touched the hem of His garment and He felt power leave Him and go into her to heal
She had been following Him around long enough to know that all she needed to do was get close
enough to touch Him and she would be healed. What a beautiful realization. The enemy takes
this beautiful thing and inverts it into a subtle tool for condemnation. He attempts to turn what
Jesus said into a principle for religious thinking and a tool for condemnation. Yes, Jesus said,
“Your faith has healed you” but those who had faith to believe that Jesus could heal them had
obviously seen Him in action and knew His heart of compassion. As a result they believed that
connecting with Him would bring their own healing. No one believes in something they know
nothing about. Faith in the power of God to heal is not something we can fabricate out of thin
air, it is birthed in the dynamic of an ongoing relationship with Him.
The truth is, God loves us and sent His own Son to die for us, to heal us of our lack of faith. He
took our sin, sickness, and pain upon Himself so that we can be free. He does not blame the
victim, He binds up their wounds, He gives them faith to believe, He heals their diseases. It was,
and is, the demonstration of His love that causes people to run after Him and fall on their knees
in worship and receive His healing. We love because He first loved us. We give Him our lives
because He loves us deeply and unselfishly. When you have been told that your circumstances in
life are your fault (the enemy loves to blame) you can’t come to a loving Father to receive from
Him because you feel like an unworthy failure. God loves us as we are and never expected us to
be good enough.
It is an independant spirit of pride that says ‘I can do things on my own, I am my own god’, ‘My
faith heals me’, ‘My good works make me worthy of God’s love’, ‘I choose Jesus therefore I am
saved’, and so on. Jesus often addressed those ‘do gooders’ who were full of pride and selfrightousness. He wasted no time coddling the self-righteous and unrepentant. Repentance is a
response to the love of God. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, as a result the Pharisees and
Teachers of the Law were in an uproar. They were looking only at the legalities of things, the
black and white, the right and wrong and they deemed it wrong to heal on a certain day of the
week and right on another day. In several places in scripture we read, “And Jesus, moved with
compassion, healed.” He operated from His heart.
Put this into your own reality today. If you had the power to heal a sick friend would you say,
“According to this book of laws, I have to wait till tomorrow to alleviate your suffering”? When
we operate from the heart out of a motivation of love we don’t think before acting with empathy
for those in need. We simply act in love.
The Rule or the Relationship (Law or Love)
Much more can be said about the issue of healing. My point in bringing it up is not to have a
thorough discussion on what is a very complex issue, or to make any kind of statement about
how or why some are healed and others are not, but to say that almost anything can be distorted
in scripture to bring condemnation on others. This is the enemy’s plan. He will use whatever he
can to twist the truth and cause us to feel bad about ourselves, each other and God. His attempts
to divide us so we operate in independent, self-protective and self-righteous ways seem endless.
Our defense against his lies and deceptions is a close connection with God.
His voice is a gentle guide in a personal loving relationship, but laws are an oppressive
governing force in legalistic religion. There are many and various ‘rules’ within legalistic
Christianity that cause people to feel oppressed. These so called ‘biblical rules’ paint a picture of
God as an oppressive law enforcement officer rather than a relational, loving Father. The enemy
is the author of confusion. I have found that where the scriptures seem contradictory, it is my
interpretation that is wrong, not God’s word. In digging more deeply into things God has often
shown me where my thinking has been influenced by the enemy’s distorted version of things. It
is so important to read the scriptures with open eyes and ears to the Spirit and an open heart to
our loving Father.
A Loving Father Who Calls us to Account
God loves us without reserve but He is also not passive in His response to willful sin. He holds
people accountable for their actions. God is not the gentle giant of heaven who had no spine.
Parental passivity is just as damaging to a child as authoritarianism. God is portrayed in scripture
as a loving Father who calls us to account. There are consequences for doing things our way.
These consequences are spelled our clearly and when our hearts are teachable, God’s mercy
toward us is irresistible. His blessings are poured out when our hearts are soft toward Him, we
bring upon ourselves punishment and correction when our hearts are selfish. There is no hidden
agenda. God said eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and you will die as a result.
They immediately began to experience the effects of death.
Legalism Takes, Jesus Gives
Today many ‘religious’ systems require followers to give something in order to receive, but
Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened
to you. (Matt 7:7,8)” The emphasis is on Him as a giver. He gives and we receive freely when
we come to Him with an open heart. His giving heart is what compels us to lay down our lives in
Those of us who have been subjected to legalism and have been under authoritarian leadership
often need to receive healing from trauma bonds with spiritual leaders and even God Himself (or
the version of God that was presented to us). In legalistic religious circles psychological abuse
appears to run rampant and many have been caught in its snare. It is a serious problem that
brings deep pain into people’s lives and it is often not recognized or properly addressed. It cuts
people off from a loving relationship with God.
Domestic Abuse
Those traumatized in domestic relationships share some things in common with those who are
spiritually abused. Domestic abuse often involves a mixture of psychological abuse/neglect and
affection/kindness that causes confusion. In most cases the abuser initially showers his victim
with affection, compliments, and what seems like love. Most unhealthy relationships start with
very intense and seemingly good dynamics. Later things descend into an opposite pattern of
behaviour. In times of deepest need the abuser responds in very selfish ways, neglecting his
partner or expressing frustration and/or anger over her needs. Anger may be either openly
aggressive or covertly passive-aggressive. They live in the expectation of being served by others,
yet they seldom express clearly what their needs are. There is almost always an undercurrent of
either covert manipulative control or overt aggressive domination and an irrational anger at the
victim when she is in need of support. Most of this stems from the disappointment that comes
from reality replacing an unrealistic fantasy-based view of the world that was adopted as a
coping skill in childhood.
Legalistic religious systems also contain a mixture of reality and fantasy-based thinking. Many
cope with life by living for a future reality that is outside of the ‘now’. Disappointment comes
from living in the reality that is. God is viewed as simultaneously loving and dangerous and
although one fantasizes about a future utopia, there is an underlying insecurity that that can be
jeopardized in some way. This insecurity is what underlies the judgments legalists makes about
others. Uncertain of their own belief system, the Pharisees sought to prove themselves right and
Jesus wrong. If they had been secure in their own thinking there would be no need to try to prove
Him wrong.
Push and Pull
The typical cycle of dysfunctional behaviour moves from what appears to be positive relational
dynamics into negative relational dynamics and back again. Confessions, apologies and
promises to do better are followed by a downward trend back into toxic behaviour. The victim
forgives and the abuser may feign sorrow and repentance for a time, but before long he is back
to secrecy and lying, opposing and resisting, scorning and blaming, harming and defending and
on it goes. The confusion can be very complex, sometimes very subtle and usually involving a
combination of covert and overt abusive or neglectful treatment. This cycle repeatedly throws a
victim off balance emotionally. This push and pull cycle and is rooted in shame issues, usually
from childhood abuse or neglect, like fear of intimacy and rejection.
Kiss my Face, Stab Me in the Back
In other cases it’s more of a steady “kiss my face stab me in the back” dynamic. Outsiders are
drawn in through subtle slander so that the abuser appears to be a ‘nice guy’ to the public eye.
Acquaintances are usually fed subtle negative messages about the victim and are unknowingly
used to administer a subtle negative influence in the victim’s life over time. The enemy is
patiently persevering in the sinister development of this dynamic. This is sometimes referred to
as “abuse by proxy”. The dynamic is rooted in a vow, “I’m going to hurt others before they can
hurt me.” The underlying fear is usually similar to the “push and pull” dynamic. The abuser,
afraid of being hurt or rejected, ensures that they have the upper hand in the relationship. They
manipulate love and loyalty from their victim while ensuring that they can at any point ‘destroy’
them covertly in revenge. This more sinister dynamic usually develops out of a need to hide a
secret sin, often sexual.
In these scenarios, the victims usually start to become confused by the attitudes and behaviours
of others around them and eventually suspicious that something is going on behind their back.
This process often involves what is called “triangulation” wherein the abuser engages in covert
character assassination behind their victim’s back. A close friend to the victim may be fed subtle
negative messages about the victim in secret. When the victim expresses her confusion about her
friend’s behaviour to the abuser (who she is not yet recognizing as an abuser) he will state that
he is ‘just as confused’ as she is by the behaviour or attitude. He will then have an open door to
express similar subtle negative messages to his victim about her friend, thereby appearing to
each person to be their friend, while covertly pitting them against each other.
The evidence of foul play is usually too unclear to deal with openly... like trying to nail Jell-O to
a wall. To confront the behaviour would be to seem accusatory so it is often not dealt with at all.
The victim usually believes the best of others and assumes they themselves are just being too
sensitive and misinterpreting things. Meanwhile the abuser casually sits back and watches with
sinister satisfaction from the sidelines as his victim becomes more and more disturbed and
affected by the behaviour of others around her. She continues to be unaware that these
relationships are slowly being damaged. No one else suspects there is any foul play involved.
The victim by this point is usually suspicious but has had her confidence so eroded she doesn’t
have the self-esteem to confront the situation even when there are things that are concrete
enough to confront. If she does confront the issues she is typically not heard and her concerns
are not taken seriously because by this point the abuser has painted a very tainted picture of her.
(Note: I write with the assumption that the abuser is male for simplicity sake.)
Perception Blaming (Gaslighting)
As the victim becomes more and more aware that something sinister is going on, the abuser
begins to resort to perception blaming as a means of hiding his motives or a hidden sin. If he can
manipulate circumstances so that it appears that his victim’s perceptions are the problem he can
elude detection. The spouse who verbalizes empathic sounding concern for an ill spouse but
neglects to act compassionately in private will be seen as supportive by others. A spouse who
functions in a helpful and servant-like manner when there is an audience but is not supportive in
the reality of daily life with his family will be perceived as being empathic and helpful. He can
honestly say to his wife, ‘Everyone else thinks I am a great guy.’ and actually be telling the truth.
The implication is that since she doesn’t perceive him as being helpful and supportive (because
in the home he isn’t) the problem is her perception of things. Those outside the situation may
believe he is a nice guy since they usually have nothing but his words, or actions while ‘on
stage’, to base their opinion on.
He may also do things covertly to manipulate her environment to subtly make her think she’s
losing her mind. In the 1940's movie called Gaslight, the main character would secretly alter the
normal functioning of the gaslighting in the home to cause his wife to question her own sanity.
The psychological term gaslighting comes from the movie. Children will also be drawn into
believing their mother is ‘crazy’ by these kinds of games that can be elaborately played out. The
gaslighter may hide, damage, or in some way alter the possessions of his wife, play games with
words and details, and in various ways question the functioning of her memory or mental state.
As a result of this form of abuse the victim genuinely starts to believe they may indeed be ‘going
The Elusiveness of Psychological Abuse
Part of the problem with recognizing and separating oneself from this form of abuse is its
elusiveness. People tend to apply their own internal set of moral and ethical principles to others,
especially those who are close to them. Most of us approach life from a basic belief that in
general people have the best interests of others at heart. No one wants to believe that their
spouse, pastor, parent or friend is capable of hurting, manipulating or using others to their own
advantage, so the mind separates itself from what it doesn’t understand or relate to. In general
we tend to assume others operate from the same degree of honesty, compassion and empathy
that we do. Generally this sort of thinking is normal, but when dealing with those who are
lacking an intact conscience this can cause us to be in ‘denial’ of what is, and cause a serious
lack of ability to discern properly. It can keep a person locked into a dynamic of forgiving
intermittent bad behaviour, giving second chances, and unknowingly supporting, condoning and
enabling dysfunctional and toxic relationships.
Blocking out the Bad
It is also common for abused individuals to remember the good and block out the bad. It’s a
sneaky little survival mechanism we all resort to using at times in order to cope. Those who have
been engaged in long term toxic relationships will sometimes even vehemently defend their
abuser if concerned friends or family members start to question what is going on. Those outside
the relationship who are more objective may advise them to leave, but the victim is often in
denial and unable to recognize destructive patterns or the danger to their psychological wellbeing. Financial, emotional, and spiritual dependency may also cause problems with leaving an
In most cases there are eventually severe psychological wounds from years of psychological
turmoil and neglect. Complex post traumatic stress disorder is a very common consequence,
usually as a result of the hidden nature of the abuse dynamics that prevents the victim from
receiving support. Sometimes the awful that is familiar is considered more tolerable than the
fear of the unknown. Most victims have been so dis-empowered by ongoing abuse they are
unable to leave without help. As the symptoms of being abused increase, the abuse also
escalates, since abusers are drawn to those who are vulnerable like a shark is drawn to blood in
the water. The more one manifests symptoms of traumatic stress, the more they are despised and
preyed upon and the more ‘crazy’ they appear to those on the sidelines of the situation. The
abuser is only too happy to promote that idea. To the untrained eye the one being mistreated
appears to be the one with ‘problems’.
Recognizing the Signs
Victims often begin to develop issues with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and lack of
confidence, and have difficulty regulating their emotions. They may have stopped caring about
their appearance, have sleep issues, and stress related health problems, addictions, etc. This
especially plays into the lies their abusers have subtly planted in others around them. It’s a
vicious and destructive cycle. If a relationship changes a person nearly beyond recognition over
the course of time rest assured there is a reason for that change. Those outside the situation
should take that as an indication something is wrong in the relationship that needs further
investigation. Good relationships make partners “better” not “worse”. If a relationship is
bringing out the worst in a person, its almost always because there is a dysfunctional or toxic
dynamic that needs to be remedied. No one just becomes messed up emotionally or
psychologically for no reason. Symptoms of traumatic stress almost always begin to manifest in
women who are abused long term.
In many instances, as I noted previously, the people who are on the fringes of this kind of toxic
relationship are part of a covert dynamic the abuser uses to control the situation. Narcissistic
abusers, for instance, are practised in the art of manipulation and deception and are usually
skilfully slanderous. They are the ‘too-good-to-be-true’ nice guys that everyone seems to love as
acquaintances. The old saying applies, ‘If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true’! Beware! These
people often have an ‘appearance of godliness’ but at the same time are not able to walk in
healthy behaviour in their personal (hidden) lives.
They are also often quite shallow spiritually, but may appear otherwise as they ‘hitch-hike’ off
the strong leaders they surround themselves with. Ask them to defend their own personal
convictions in a deeper way and give testimony from their personal lives and you will often find
they are unable to do so. They will many times defer to those who are ‘better at explaining’ or
rely heavily on reiterating the teachings of others they admire and ‘butter up’ in order to use
them for their own image preservation.
Painting Subtle Pictures
As mentioned earlier, they spend years subtly creating a tainted view of their situation so that
they have succeeded in portraying themselves as a victim. A dynamic of secrecy is always
present and disguised as being discrete or protective of other’s reputations when in fact they
have actually done the opposite. The abuser has usually ensured that he has manipulated for
himself a complex network of unsuspecting acquaintances who think highly of him or feel a
need to coddle and protect him but seldom really know him or his underlying motives. They are
incapable of mutual relationships and others exist in their lives to boost their ego, usually
without realizing it. If at some point they are ‘found out’, these ‘friends’ are easily discarded and
others are groomed to fill their shoes.
Years of mind-bending relational dynamics leave victims of psychological abuse in a tail-spin of
confusion, feeling guilty and to blame for their failed relationships. After years of chronically
neglecting their own needs and focussing all their available energy on trying to make things
work with their partner, most end up emotionally and psychologically depleted and often
suffering from deep psychological wounds and often physical illness as a result. There is usually
extensive spiritual damage as well. This is often amplified by well-meaning, but seriously
misinformed and uneducated church leaders and friends. Unfortunately, domestic abuse
situations, because of the nature of the union, combined with legalistic spiritual views about
marriage and divorce, are often the most serious cases.
In the aftermath of escaping this form of domestic abuse, at great cost to themselves emotionally
and socially, it is common for individuals to agonize, “What is wrong with me that I stayed in an
abusive situation for 10, 20, or 30 years before leaving?” They blame themselves for the damage
they and their loved ones spend years attempting to recover from. These feelings are not
uncommon when recovering from other scenarios as well, such as hostage taking, military
hazing, bullying, child abuse, etc. Survivors often have regrets over not having stood up to their
abusers and somehow escaped their circumstances. At the same time they sometimes continue to
feel attached to those who inflicted the pain even while knowing that the relationship is
damaging and unhealthy. Many have left and returned to domestic abuse situations more than
once before their spouse either physically abandoned them or they found the stamina to leave on
their own. The dynamics can be very covert and hard to recognize.
It is important that those in influencial roles understand these covert demonic strategies in order
to recognize this prevalent problem within spiritual communities. Circumstances are almost
never as they appear from the outside and careful examination and discernment are necessary if
one wants to help. If we are aware of how the enemy works we can take a more discerning
approach. If we are living out of godly insight and wisdom in a two-way relationship with God
we can safeguard ourselves from being taken in by those who operate out of this evil spirit
without having to be suspicious and non-trusting of people in general.
Practical Application
Go back through this section on Trauma Bonds and underline all the characteristics of the enemy
that you can identify from the information given and compile for yourself a list of ways he
operates. This will help you to develop better discernment. Read the list of attributes from
Chapter III Attributes of the Enemy and do the exercise a second time. Ask the Lord to help you
as you record your insights. Be careful not to focus too much attention on this part alone. The
point is to learn to recognize the ways of the enemy, but the enemy’s goal will be to cause you to
be drawn into fear and judgments about people. God is victorious and once we understand how
the enemy works, defeating him in his tactics becomes as easy as tasting sugar in a treat. Once
we know the dynamics and can discern the spirit of the enemy we are empowered to defeat him.
Afraid to Step on Toes
Leaders often take a stance of non-action because they don’t want to interfere or step on
anyone’s toes. God is all powerful and His words have authority. The enemy may be mouthy but
in reality he doesn’t have a leg to stand on and his head is crushed under the authority of Christ
in us. The threat he poses is only as viable as our ignorance of his tactics and lack of ability to
exercise spiritual authority. When we stand up in the Christ nature that is in us and act in His
authority, the enemy must flee. It’s important to remember that the battle is won through
intimate connection with God and that people are not the enemy. Defeating the enemy and
restoring people is God’s way, but at times people are willing vessels of the enemy. In those
situations Paul says to put them out of the intimacy of the body of believers where the enemy is
using them to wreak havoc. God is more than able to continue His work in their lives without us,
but we are asking for trouble when we are not enlightened enough or willing to exercise Godly
discernment and spiritual authority.
Take Action, Don’t Hesitate
The Lord recently demonstrated to me in a dream the importance of protecting the body of
Christ from the sinister attacks of the enemy. In this dream I was boldly preaching this message
to a group of people. At one point I spoke directly to the enemy and told him in a matter-of-fact
way, to leave because there was no place for him in the midst of the body of believers I was
preaching to. A man immediately stood up and walked out and that was the end of that. If we
don’t speak up against the enemy he will continue to hang around. It is important to recognize
that we are not dealing with flesh and blood, but with spiritual powers over which God has
authority. If we are afraid to confront the enemy he will progressively gain more and more
strength within a body of believers and eventually cripple the entire thing. As I previously stated,
the end result of not taking action is often a leadership crash that involves the exposure of
inappropriate sexual sin.
If you see even a hint of any one of the many dynamics mentioned, simply take authority over
the enemy by engaging in the practices mentioned in the weapons section and speak directly to
the spirit you are seeing manifest in a situation (not the person) and send it away. Restore
members who are willing to change and broken and don’t tolerate the presence of those who are
unwilling to change. Matthew 18:15-20 explains how to properly intervene. Approach the person
alone, if that conversation doesn’t produce change, then go with a second person, if there is still
no resolve, involve a larger community of caring individuals into the situation. Require
accountability, transparency and requirements that will compensate for wrong behaviour ie.
repair damage, as you are lead by God, in a loving and restorative way.
What NOT to Do
Never require someone suffering from a trauma bond to engage in counseling with their abuser.
The deceptive nature of the relationship makes healing impossible in that kind of environment
and the victim usually ends up being re-traumatized and further abused. Focus on severing toxic
relational bonds between people through prayer, healing trauma memories by inviting God into
them, and breaking off curses and uprooting lies and that have been implanted from years of
abuse. Once both the victim and the abuser have been restored through God’s intervention a new
relationship may develop between them based on mutual love and respect but their own
individual healing is necessary first. Trust can take years to redevelop and restoring a broken
marriage, for example, should not be seen as the ultimate goal.
Lack of Discernment
The inability to discern hidden motives is the reason the church is weak and sick and falling
asleep (1 Cor 11). The discipline of God is healing and builds the body into a strong fortress for
Him. Believers are to separate themselves from among those who don’t want change in their
lives but that doesn’t mean we should have nothing to do others. Like Jesus we continue in every
venue of our lives to offer life to those around us wherever we go as we are directed by God in
our personal relationship with Him. How we treat others is affected by our relationship with
Him. If however, we are eating and drinking, in other words having intimacy and openly
engaging in the Life of the Spirit together while the enemy is given a seat beside us, it is like we
are running through a forest dressed as a deer in hunting season. We become easy targets to the
enemy when we allow toxic and unhealthy behaviours and those who don’t to change to impact
our lives and spiritual communities. Paul says, “For if we discerned ourselves, we would not be
judged. But being judged, we are corrected by the Lord, that we not be condemned with the
world. (1 Cor 11:31, 32)” In other words, followers of Christ have an obligation to each other to
be discerning and to judge each other(1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
Journal about this and seek God for a deeper understanding. One of the enemy’s lies is that we
should not judge one another. How appropriate that he would have us believe that lie! What does
God have to say about ‘judging’?
In the next chapter you will find a practical exercise that will help people get free from a trauma
bond with God. If you are a pastor or leader who desires to help others, study this material and
the resources recommended at the end carefully and with diligence so you can learn how to
recognize hidden abuse dynamics and facilitate this kind of healing in those who are wounded. If
you yourself need this kind of healing, get support to walk through your own healing. Some of
the best helpers are those who have experienced the pain of abuse personally.
If you want or need help getting free from a trauma bond, contact me or an understanding and
supportive friend or counsellor/mentor.
VII – Healing from Trauma Bonds
The following portion is written to one suffering from a trauma bond and is only part of what
may be required to get free. It is a place to start your healing. It would be best used in
conjunction with learning how to create your own healing prayer journal as taught in the book
Living a Healing Lifestyle. If you have not already learned how to hear God’s voice and connect
intimately with Him a more gentle starting point, especially when recovering from legalism, will
be the book Real Time with God. These materials are intended to be used in conjunction with
each other.
Where to Start
If you have been torn apart by rejection and betrayal and are feeling alone and unsafe in the
world and unable to trust others, a trauma bond may have left you with a special set of hurdles to
overcome. You are not alone in these feelings. The symptoms you are manifesting have likely
been misinterpreted by others, and you have likely felt very misunderstood by those who have
not walked in your shoes. The enemy works hard to distort God’s character making it difficult to
experience intimacy with God.
Forgive God?
An important step in healing trauma bonds is to forgive God for what is perceived as being His
responsibility. There were injustices He could have prevented. You will need to vent your anger
and frustration toward Him, but at the same time feel it is inappropriate to do so. He is not
offended or insulted by heart wrenching honesty or raw anger. In fact He can handle it much
better than anyone else can. [Note: As a counsellor/friend to a person coming out of abuse, it is
vitally important to remember that a person's feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they are,
need to be expressed and validated in order for healing to happen.]
You may also be angry with yourself, your abuser, your friends, family, acquaintances, and/or
with the enemy for messing with your life. It is important to get all this emotion sorted out and
processed in order to come into a new perspective so you can forgive God, yourself and others
and continue to heal. Bitterness can dig deep roots if this is not dealt with and can cause you to
isolate from others in unhealthy ways. Loving support is the best means of healing. However, the
enemy also knows this and has done his best to completely remove the natural support network
most people have around them within which to heal. A new network of support often needs to be
developed first and this can be difficult.
It is my personal belief that the enemy has singled out strong individuals for this kind of abuse. I
have repeatedly seen victims emerge from the rubble of psychological abuse with a very strong
sense of their own personhood and a much deeper God connection than the average person. This
is not a negative thing, in fact it completely flies in the face of what the enemy is seeking to do
and instead of weakening the person he has targeted, it strengthened them and their ability to
impact others in a healthy and postive way.
Especially in Christian circles, anger is an emotion that is often considered ‘bad’. Nothing could
be further from the truth. In fact outrage is a normal, healthy response to abuse and often the
first step to taking one’s life back. It is God’s response to the abusive behaviour of His people
toward Him time and time again in scripture as well. For victims of abuse, temporary anger can
be a catalyst for re-empowerment and for regaining emotional balance and wholeness. It is
necessary for getting out from under the long term effects of having been victimized and
traumatized. It can set the stage for learning how to thrive beyond abuse and victimization.
Venting these strong, uncomfortable emotions to God, can provide the kind of purgatory release
necessary to begin healing. The hard part may come in finding appropriate ways to do so. It is
also necessary but sometimes difficult to give God an opportunity to respond. It’s ok to need
time to work through disappointment, but just as you and I would like to be given opportunity to
explain when someone is angry with us, we also need to give God an opportunity to explain.
When you are ready to listen to Him, He will show you where He was and how He felt/feels
about your circumstances. You may be surprised by His response.
Take the time to write out your feelings in a letter to God or visualize sitting with Jesus in a
quiet place. Remember He is in no way offended by your emotions no matter how negative or
uncomfortable they feel to you. If you are not comfortable freely expressing anger, let Him know
this. Tell Him your fears. Take your time in this process. Have a compassionate friend or mentor
join you if you find that helpful. Vent your feelings to them first if that feels safer. Remind them
that you are not angry with them, but that you just need to be allowed to vent your feelings in a
way that isn’t harmful to yourself or others and know that someone cares. Don’t worry too much
about the language you use, sometimes it feels like there are no words vile or strong enough to
convey the pain we feel. You are not venting to the world, you are venting in a safe place to God
or a close friend who loves you. This process may take place over a period of time. Allow
yourself to do this in whatever way works best for you.
Remember you are in control of this process and it is not necessary to let your feelings control
you. If you need to take a break you can chose to do so. Work at learning to be more of an
observer of your emotions than a slave to them. It may work well for you to do some physical
activity like walking briskly or jogging to work off the physical component to anger. Being
proactive about dealing with your emotions will help you avoid being destructive! Boxing,
weight lifting, other forms of exercise, worship, crying, screaming into a pillow can all be very
cathartic. Be careful not to do things that re-traumatize you. Caring for yourself in this process is
important. Stuffing strong emotions is counter-productive to healing and can lead to
inappropriate outbursts, depression or passive aggressive self-harm. Focusing too much attention
on your emotions can also be harmful and create an unhealthy stronghold of bitterness and
unforgiveness. As you let out your feelings visualize letting them go. Toss them into a big pit, or
out into the ocean, out the window of an airplace, etc.
Keep your focus on the empathic response of someone who loves you, and your reactions will be
more manageable and you will recover more quickly. Sometimes God as Father is not safe, but
Jesus is. You may find it helpful to focus on Him as you do this. Find what works for you. See
another loving person coming along side you to help. It may even be an older more empathic
version of yourself that you see coming alongside to help. Look for creative ways to release your
emotions safely. If you have released your anger with a friend who has validated your pain, try
approaching God in your mind’s eye as though He were a friend and let Him know your feelings
as well.
When you have had your say, step back from your feelings for a moment, let yourself soften, ask
God to help you understand. Listen and look to see where God is and what He has to say. Take
as much time as you need. Let tears of surrender come. You’ve been through a lot and it’s hard
work processing heavy emotions. If you have difficulty feeling empathy for yourself, ask
yourself how you would respond to a friend and then practice treating yourself as you would in
that type of situation.
Letting Go of Self-Abuse
We often take on our abuser’s attitude and behaviour toward ourselves. Resist and renounce
every lie that surfaces that speaks against being compassionate toward yourself in this process.
Your support person or counselor can help you with this. For example a lie might be: “I just need
to suck it up.” The truth is, “I am free to experience the legitimate pain I feel over deeply hurtful
behaviour that has harmed me. My pain is important and it matters.” (This process is taught
more completely in the book Living a Healing Lifestyle.)
Allow God to speak into your situation if you are able. Let Him show you where He was while
this was going on in your life. Ask Him to help you experience His feelings about what you have
been through. Record in some form what He says to you and what He shows you visually and
how you were feeling.
Take your time and be sure to get plenty of rest afterwards. This process is much more difficult
and exhausting than hard physical labour and requires plenty of rest to recover from afterward.
Be sure to take care of yourself as you regain your emotional balance. Give yourself permission
to take a day off to rest if necessary. Meditate on God’s love for you and His healing words,
visions, and emotions. Linger there and let it saturate you.
A Word About Grief
It is not uncommon to go through periods of grieving once you have released anger over abuse.
This may be confusing to some, but it is very normal to feel a deep loss as you recover from
trauma. Once the layer of anger is removed and released, a time of mourning losses often
follows. Continue to linger in the love of God and grieve those losses as they arise. Don’t
suppress these feelings. God’s love will comfort you as you work your way through them and in
time your emotions will rebalance and you will find yourself in a place of deeper internal rest.
You will experience various emotions as you heal. Trust yourself to be able to handle these
things along with the love of friends and/or a counsellor or mentor. Healing emotionally doesn’t
mean we get to a place of always feeling wonderful. Emotional health is about living in what is
real and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic with others. In doing so we will also
encourage those around us to pursue and embrace their own healing with authenticity.
The Restorative Power of God
In my own healing I was led through a series of visions. The following is a very abbreviated
version of what was to be the final phase of a longer healing process for me.
I asked the Lord to help me release what was in my heart. I was able to create in my
mind’s eye a painting on canvas that depicted the deep anguish within my soul from
years of living in what had felt psychologically and emotionally torturous. It was
profoundly healing to pour this all out in a visual form. He entered the scene with me and
together we unleashed my pain onto a huge canvas. His bodily movements, facial
features, emotions and posture all conveyed the depth of suffering He was experiencing
as He worked along side me. His sharing in my pain had a profound impact on me
emotionally. When I was finished I stepped back exhausted and looked at what was a
knife slashed canvas containing many stark red and black lightening-like streaks that
represented my ravaged soul. Jesus then took the lead in painstakingly transforming it.
He began by repairing the gashes with a fine needle and thread, taking perfect care as He
mended the canvas of my soul. Then with His bare hands He began stroking the canvas
affectionately with a damp cloth, gently washing over the steaks of black and red. His
posture conveyed agonizing pain and empathy. Over many hours His repairs and the
washing turned the scene into a beautiful sunset of radiant colours. I wept as I watched
Him laboriously working at this with such depth of care and precision. I was deeply
moved by His empathy and there was a release that took place within my being that
words are entirely inadequate to convey.
When He was finished He turned toward me, embraced me lovingly and led me to the
canvas. With me by His side He gently raised a top layer containing that scene off an
underlying strong, clean, white surface. It separated much like a layer of old wall paper.
He then carefully folded it into a small square and gently kissed it before tucking it into
His back pocket. I later realized this was symbolically His way of validating an awful
part of my life that freed me to ‘put it behind me’ and move on. It was powerfully
transforming and brought deep and lasting healing.
Appendix 1 Evidence of Repentance
The following is a clear list of evidence to help you discern the genuineness of a repentant
1. Repentance is evident in a person’s ability to confess all their sins, not just what got
them into trouble.
2. A willingness and ability to face and deal with the pain caused to others is evidence of
3. Asking for forgiveness without expecting others to ‘just get over it’ is evidence of
4. Genuine change (repentance) is evident in their willingness and ability to come under
the authority of those to whom they are accountable.
5. Repentance is evident in the ability to give time to hear the concerns of those they
have harmed, reassure them, patiently work to rebuild trust, and observe boundaries in
the rebuilding a relationship.
6. The ability to fulfill responsibilities faithfully, remain humble, and not try to rush
things back to normal in relationships is evidence of repentance.
(List compiled from Redemptive Divorce by Mark W. Gaither “Repentance Inventory”)