Abuse, Suffering

From Victimhood to Victory: Biblically Helping Abused Women Heal

Ever since the Me Too movement exploded on social media a couple of years ago, we’ve been hearing more and more heartbreaking stories of women who have experienced physical and sexual abuse. If anyone can help and should be helping victims of abuse, it ought to be the church. But, unfortunately, it seems that the people in the evangelical spotlight who are stepping up to advocate for victims are often popular false teachers.

In 2019, we saw Beth Moore take the lead at the Caring Well conference, which centered around helping abuse victims. Christine Caine is the founder and leader of A 21, an anti-human trafficking ministry. In 2018, Lisa Harper was the keynote speaker at the Pastors’ Wives Conference at the annual Southern Baptist Convention where she addressed the issue of abuse. And in addition to stepping out into the spotlight as champions for abuse victims, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, and Lisa Harper, as well as Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Lysa TerKeurst, Jackie Hill Perry – and many more, I’m sure – share their own personal stories of abuse at their conferences, in their books, and so on.

These are the people being showcased to the average Jane in the pew as those who care about abuse victims. These are the people who are actually (supposedly) doing something about abuse. By and large, we’re not seeing doctrinally sound men and women being put forth on the stage of the visible church as caring about abuse victims or doing anything about abuse.

And so, when an Evangelical woman is coming to terms with her abuse, these are the women she’s seeing, so these are the women and their resources that she reaches out for. And by the same token, because these false teachers are in the spotlight and have name recognition and resources available, and there aren’t very many well known doctrinally sound resources available, churches who want to help abuse victims are also reaching out and grabbing hold of false teaching to try to help the women in their churches.

So what we’re finding is that women who are victims of abuse are especially vulnerable to false teaching because they see these teachers as someone who has gone through the same thing they’ve gone through: “This teacher knows how I feel. She has experienced the same thing.” And that’s the primary reason victims seek out these false teachers, rather than seeking out someone who – regardless of whether or not he or she has experienced abuse – can help them to heal with rightly handled Scripture.

This is one reason I am purposely not disclosing in this article whether or not I have ever been abused. Because biblical healing from abuse isn’t about me or my personal experiences. It’s about what the Bible says. My experiences don’t change what God’s Word says. The Bible remains the same whether I’ve been abused or not. Scripture is our standard, not our personal experiences.

But, unfortunately in the church, and particularly in the realm of women’s Bible study, we have indoctrinated women with the idea that personal experience reigns, not Scripture. So what abused women get when they seek out these false teachers for help dealing with their abuse is exactly what I’ve said before is the problem with women’s Bible study in general: narcissism.

These victims of abuse don’t get taught how to biblically come to terms with what happened to them and how to biblically heal from it. They get a cheap, shallow compassion that teaches them to focus on their own pain and feelings, and to harbor bitterness against their abuser and everyone and everything else they can assign blame to for the abuse (some of those things supposedly being biblical complementarianism, sexism in the church, misogyny in the church, not enough women in positions of leadership in the church, as Beth Moore said at the Caring Well conference, etc.)

These women are being victimized twice.

And so these women are being victimized twice – once by the abuser, and once by false teachers who are not only not helping them to heal biblically, but are actually eroding biblical teaching and sound doctrine – for that woman personally and in the church in general – by saying that biblical precepts, such as leadership of the church being restricted to men, are at fault for their abuse. It’s really insidious, because what’s implied by this whole paradigm is that this mixture of focusing on your feelings and believing unbiblical teaching is the quick fix that will make them feel better right away. This is what will finally bring them healing and wholeness. They’re being sold a lie.

Praise be to God, there are lots of doctrinally sound Christians out there who are quietly, out of the spotlight, helping victims of abuse in a biblical way, one on one, in their own local churches. So, how are they doing it, and how should we be doing it? What are some biblical ways we can help abuse victims?

Genuine Compassion

Abuse is a horrible, despicable thing that no one should ever have to suffer. The pain that it causes doesn’t just magically disappear because it happened years ago. It is not something about which any woman should ever be told, “You just need to get over it and forget about it.”

And certainly no woman should ever be made to feel that it was her fault, or that if she had just done something differently it wouldn’t have happened. The sin of abuse lies with the abuser, not the victim.

The sin of abuse lies with the abuser, not the victim.

So when we disciple a woman who is just beginning the journey of healing from her abuse, it should be handled with biblical compassion every step of the way. It’s important, especially in the beginning, to do what Romans 12:15 says, and “weep with those who weep”.

Let her pour out her feelings of pain and anger, and sit there in that with her.

Yes, that was awful.

No, you didn’t do anything to cause it. It wasn’t your fault.

That man was evil and took advantage of you. It was his sin, not yours.

We need to have that same heart for her that God has in Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

A Biblical Perspective of Suffering

It’s imperative that we have a biblical perspective of suffering so we can teach it to abuse victims. Because one of the things you’ll notice about the way false teachers approach the issue of abuse is that this component is completely missing. Why? Because walking through suffering in a biblical way can be hard and scary and painful and messy. It’s much easier to just smile and exude sympathy and say, “Just listen to me and I’ll tell you how to feel better right now.”

And if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? Our flesh doesn’t want to suffer, we just want to feel better now. And that’s what makes this a hard sell that false teachers don’t want to deal with. It doesn’t fit in with their ear-tickling paradigm. But if we want to offer victims true help and true healing in Christ, we have to address the issue of suffering, and address it biblically and correctly.

A biblical theology of suffering applied to the issue of abuse understands that…

Everyone suffers. You’re not the first person to suffer, and you won’t be the last. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” When it comes to suffering, you’re not special, and neither am I. We don’t all suffer in the same way, but everybody suffers. It’s just the human condition resulting from the Fall.

Even Jesus suffered. Isaiah 53 tells us: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,”

Abuse is not a special class of suffering that exempts you from dealing with it in obedience to Scripture. We’re kind of seeing this line of thinking with homosexuality- that it’s a special class of sin that people don’t have to repent of. That homosexuals can hold onto their sin, cherish it in their hearts, and maybe even live it out, and still supposedly be biblical Christians.

And that’s the same sort of mindset a lot of the false teachers espouse: Abuse is a special class of suffering that you don’t have to walk through in a biblical way. You get to wallow in your victimhood for the rest of your life and think and act and feel and express yourself however you want to because you’ve been hurt so deeply. That’s not right. Perpetual victimhood is not biblical, it doesn’t help you heal, and it doesn’t bring your abuser to justice. It makes God look impotent and uncaring. If He can’t or won’t transform someone from victimhood to victory, how could He have the power to raise Christ from the dead? If He doesn’t care about a victim of abuse, why would He care about anybody else’s problems?

I would never minimize the pain and suffering of abuse victims, but all Believers are required by Scripture to act in a godly way regardless of their particular kind of suffering. Believers who have terminal diseases have to deal with that in a godly way. Believers who have lost a child have to deal with that in a godly way. Believers whose spouses have cheated on them have to deal with that in a godly way. Believers who are being tortured and persecuted just for being Christians have to deal with that in a godly way. We all have to bear up and respond to suffering in a godly way, regardless of what kind of suffering we’re dealing with.

1 Peter 4:19: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

Jesus understands your pain and serves as your perfect example for responding to suffering. Go back and read Isaiah 53. Go back and read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ trials, flogging, and crucifixion. He knows what it feels like to be abused. And look at the way he handled it. He didn’t give up. He didn’t feel sorry for himself or lash out at his abusers or become bitter. He didn’t blame God or the church or anyone else or His circumstances.

Jesus knows what it feels like to be abused.

Jesus kept his eyes on the Father. He continued to walk out God’s plan for Him and didn’t let the abusers distract him from that plan. He continued to behave in a godly way. He forgave his abusers, even though it must have been extraordinarily difficult. Remember what He said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

You don’t have to suffer alone. If you are a Believer, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. He will enable you and empower you to suffer well. You are never alone.

“Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” God says in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Ask God to carry you through the difficult times. Ask God to heal you, to help you forgive, to give you strength. Whatever you need, ask Him for it.

God has a purpose for your pain. The abuse you suffered was horrific, but in God’s economy, it wasn’t random and senseless. God can take what that abuser meant for evil and turn it around and use it for your good– to grow you and strengthen you. There are so many passages of Scripture that talk about this. One of my favorites is Romans 5:3-5:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Jesus didn’t save you for you to live in self-pity, bitterness, unforgiveness, and victimhood. That is not the abundant life He promised you in John 10:10. It’s no life at all. Christians are not weak, helpless victims. Jesus makes us victors. Yes, what happened to you was unspeakably evil and hurtful. But in Christ, that’s not where your story ends!

Jesus makes us victors.

As you walk with Christ – trusting Him, obeying Him, loving Him – day by day, He will bring you that peace that passes understanding. He will reveal Himself to you as hope of the hopeless. He will heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. If you refuse to handle your pain biblically, you’re missing out on all of the good things God wants to use that pain for – the godly character He wants to build in you, the healing He wants to give you. If you refuse to handle your pain biblically, you’re choosing to give that abuser the power to continue to stand in the way of all those good gifts God wants to give you.

Your pain and suffering won’t last forever. Once Christ begins healing you, your pain will fade over time, and eventually He will wipe it out all together in Heaven. Consider these two wonderfully comforting and hope-giving passages:

2 Corinthians 4:17-18: For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:1,3-4: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Your suffering has a time limit.

Your suffering has a time limit, and one day God is going to take it away forever. Rest in that hope.

 

How can we biblically help abuse victims move from victimhood to victory? We continually take them back to the truth of God’s Word and remind them of His goodness and grace, and the hope and healing He wants to bring them through Christ.


Additional Resources:

This article is excerpted from the A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast episode It’s Time for Sound Leaders to Talk About Abuse

Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help 

Weeping with Those Who Weep 

Christ- the Suffering Servant 

Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering 

True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? 

God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Ministering to the Bereaved

 

How can I properly console a friend who has experienced the loss of a loved one? My friend’s baby recently passed away. I really want to know how to console her. What are some helpful things I can say to her and do for her (and hurtful things I can avoid saying to her) during this time?

I’m so glad you want to reach out to your friend with the love of Christ and minister to her during this difficult time. The Bible is very clear that because God is a God of love and comfort, we are to offer love and comfort to those who are grieving:

…weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15b

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Comforting and grieving with those who grieve is a ministry for which God has (generally) gifted, shaped, and equipped women in a way that’s unique and discrete from the ways He has (generally) gifted, shaped, and equipped men. Certainly pastors (and others) can, do, and should minister much needed compassion toward those under their care, and most Christians can attest to how helpful good pastoral care has been during a time of grief. But there’s something special in the way a godly woman can minister to the heart of a hurting woman and her family that should be nurtured and encouraged in the body of Christ.

Your question is a very wise one. As Believers, we have the desire to minister to those who are hurting, but we’ve all heard stories about well-meaning people who have said some really insensitive things that have caused further pain to the bereaved.

So what I’d like to do today is to offer a few thoughts on ministering to those who have lost someone dear and then open things up to all of my readers – especially those who have lost a child or another very close loved one – to offer some input.

Pray– Pray fervently for your heartbroken friend, asking God to comfort and heal her heart, provide for any material needs, and any other specifics you know of. Also, ask God to give you wisdom to know the right things to say (and not say) and do.

Remember: Your words can’t fix things.– It’s hard to watch someone suffer. As godly, tender-hearted , nurturing women, there’s often nothing we want more than to take all that pain away and make the sufferer happy again. Sometimes we ladies have it in the back of our minds that if we can just find the exact right combination of words to say in the exact right comforting tone, we can take away the pain of the person we’re comforting. We can’t. It’s something I have to remind myself of again and again. But it’s especially important to remember this when we’re comforting someone, because the more we talk, searching for those “magic words,” the greater risk we run of sticking our foot in our mouths and saying something hurtful instead of helpful. Additionally, when a grieving person’s emotions are raw, it can be extremely grating to listen to someone talk on and on and on. We would do well to take a lesson from Job’s friends…

[Job’s three friends] made an appointment together to come to show [Job] sympathy and comfort him…And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job 2:11b,12b,13

…Remember, it was only after these guys opened their mouths that the trouble began, because…

Make sure whatever you choose to say is doctrinally sound.– This is where Job’s friends got into trouble. They tried to “minister” to Job with unbiblical theology.

Heaven did not “gain another angel” with the death of your friend’s loved one. People, even Christians, do not turn into angels when they die. The deceased has not “gone to a better place” or “gone to be with Jesus,” nor will he “rest in peace,” nor is it true that “at least he’s not suffering any more,” if he was unsaved. Don’t say something like this unless you’re relatively certain the person was saved as evidenced by the fruit of his life. If you’re thinking about saying something theological-ish to your friend and you’re not sure whether or not it’s biblically accurate, either take the time to find out first, or err on the side of caution and don’t say it.

Say: “I’m praying for you.”– I’ve heard many grieving families say this is one of the most comforting things they can hear, especially if they know you to be someone who is faithful in prayer. Do not say you will be praying for your friend if you don’t really mean it. If you’re afraid you’ll forget to pray for her, set a reminder on your phone, stick a note on your bathroom mirror, tie a string around your finger – whatever you have to do to remember. From time to time, remember to let your friend know you’re still praying for her.

Say: “Can I pray with/for you?”– There might be a moment at the wake or during a visit when it’s appropriate to offer to pray with your friend, or pray for her out loud, just between the two of you. Ask God for wisdom to know if it’s the right time, if this would be encouraging to your friend (ex: if your friend is unsaved and/or enraged at God over her loved one’s death, this might not be helpful at the moment), and what would be the appropriate words to pray. Ask God to comfort your friend, provide for her needs, help her to know that He is there for her, and to strengthen her trust in Him.

Say: “I love you,”– Just a simple “I love you,” lets your friend know you care and are grieving with her. If appropriate, you might wish to also share a special memory of the deceased or recount how much he meant to you.

Share a Scripture: Was there a particular verse or passage focusing on God’s goodness or comfort that brought you peace and strength when a loved one died? Make sure you’re rightly handling it (i.e. it applies to someone who has lost a loved one, doesn’t appear to promise your friend something that was only promised to Israel, a particular Bible character, etc.), and recite it or jot it down (maybe in a nice sympathy card) for your friend.

Follow up- There are some people in this world who are what I call “calendar gifted.” They remember every birthday, every anniversary, every significant date, and they send a card or note, or commemorate the day in a way that makes the recipient feel like the most special person in the world. I do not have that gift. I am in awe of people who do have that gift. If that’s one of your giftings, put it to work in ministry by reaching out to your friend on her loved one’s birthday, the anniversary of his death, their wedding anniversary, etc. What a blessing you will be to your friend.

Hugs and tears– Sometimes the best thing you can say is nothing at all, just “weep with those who weep”.

Don’t say something you wouldn’t want to hear if you had just lost a loved one.Matthew 7:12 reminds us to treat others the way we would want to be treated. This is a very helpful filter when it comes to what to say or not to say to your grieving friend. Think about your own children. If one of them died, would you want to hear, “Well, at least you have your other children,” or “You’re still young- you can have more children.”? Probably not. (Also, in a way, this falls under the “don’t say unbiblical things” category. While these statements may be factually true, Christians recognize that every individual is uniquely created in the image of God. Other children can never replace the one who was lost.)

Don’t try to give a theological treatise on why the person died.– “God wanted your loved one to be with Him,” “He had finished the work God gave him to do,” “God decided it was his time to go,” “God wanted to spare him further suffering,” etc.

The bereaved person almost certainly doesn’t want to hear it, you don’t have the chapter and verse goods to back up any kind of statement like this, and it smacks of trying to “let God off the hook” for allowing the person to die. Your friend is probably already wondering why God ended the person’s life at this time. You don’t have the answer, and it’s prideful to think that you do. Nobody needs you to wax theologically eloquent on why the person died. So don’t.

Just do it./DON’T just do it.– “Don’t tell the person, ‘If there’s any way I can help, let me know.’ Grieving people are overwhelmed. They can’t think of what they need at the moment, and later, they may feel uncomfortable asking for your help. Just find something helpful to do and do it.” I’ve read this advice about how to help the bereaved more than once. Don’t ask, just go over and clean her house, or go buy her groceries, or take her a meal, or whatever.

If you’re extraordinarily close to the bereaved person and know all of the ins and outs of her household, this might be helpful. But if you’re simply a friend from church, a next door neighbor, etc., I would not recommend “just doing something” without checking with your friend first to find out if what you think would be helpful would actually be helpful. You don’t want to just show up with a meal on the night three other ladies have just shown up with a meal and a fourth has already taken your friend out to dinner. You don’t want to just show up with perishable groceries when other people have already packed her fridge. You don’t want to just show up to clean her house when somebody already cleaned it yesterday. Instead, think of two or three things to suggest to your friend and ask if that would help her. “Could I bring dinner for your family one night this week?” “I know you have a house full of people and you probably haven’t had time to do laundry. How about I take it to my house and take care of that for you?” “Could I drop your kids off at school tomorrow morning?” “Is there something else I could do that would be more helpful than what I just suggested?”

Offer to be an intermediary.– I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite as helpful as someone who steps up to “handle” things between the family of the deceased and others who want to help. An intermediary can be the “bad guy” who explains to surprise visitors that the bereaved person is resting and isn’t up to a visit right now. She can organize a meal or grocery schedule, fill people in on funeral arrangements, field “What can I do to help?” questions, and assign tasks the bereaved person needs done. If you’re someone who’s good at understanding and carrying out someone else’s wishes or instructions, offer to step into this gap for your friend. (And be sure to reassure her that your feelings won’t be hurt if she doesn’t want/need this or if she’d rather someone else do it.)

OK readers, it’s your turn. What are some things you’ve found helpful or encouraging (or unhelpful/hurtful) that people have said or done when you have lost a loved one, especially if you’ve lost a child?


Additional Resources:

On Funerals, Grieving, and Suffering (links to resources on suffering and ministering to the bereaved)


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Breast cancer resources, What does “cruciform” mean?, Yoga-ta find a new church?…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


 

Should women serve as the worship leader/minister of music of a church?

No.

If I answer a question in a co-ed Bible study/Sunday School class, am I “teaching” men in violation of Scripture?

No.

Is it biblical for a woman to lead a prayer during the worship service?

It is not technically a violation of the letter of 1 Timothy 2:12, but I would discourage it for other reasons.

I’ve heard people say it’s OK for women to preach or teach the Bible to co-ed groups as long as they are doing so under their pastor’s and/or husband’s authority. Is this true?

No.

I’ve received the first three of these questions again recently, so I thought it would be a perfect time to take the opportunity to remind everyone of a little resource I think might be helpful for you: my article Rock Your Role FAQs. The first question is answered in #16, the second in #4, and the third in #15. I just added the fourth question to the article. It is #20. And don’t forget to read the other articles in my Rock Your Role series, too!


Do you have any book recommendations for a woman just diagnosed with breast cancer?

Let me just start my answer by saying two things. First, I’ve taken a moment to pray for you (or whoever the woman is), that God will help you through this difficult journey and bring you comfort and peace. (Readers, will you also please take a moment to pray?)

Second, it drives me absolutely batty when I ask for a recommendation on social media for a Christian book on a particular topic and people answer in a joking, or smart aleck, or holier than thou way: “the Bible.” Obviously, the Bible is our first “go to” for every issue in the Christian life, but sometimes we need a book that can also teach us about the Scriptures that pertain to our issue.

So please understand that the first part of my answer is not meant to sound flippant or self-righteous, but to assist you in finding a good place in Scripture to park yourself. And my recommendation is going to be to get into Psalms and stay there for a while. You might also find that praying the Psalms back to God is very helpful. There is a great deal of comfort, peace, and strength for trying times in that book.

As for books outside the Bible, I have not read it myself, but I have heard trustworthy people say that John Piper’s¹ booklet Don’t Waste Your Cancer is very good. You may wish to check out Joni Eareckson Tada’s² Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Life After Shock. Joni is a breast cancer survivor and has written a number of books on suffering that you might also find helpful, though most are related to disability, not cancer. Additionally, I would recommend anything John MacArthur has written on the topic of suffering, such as The Power of Suffering, as well as anything at Ligonier. If you’d like something short and free, I’ve written several articles on suffering that will point you to a variety of Scriptures you may find helpful.

You may wish to keep an eye on the comments section of this article, as other readers will probably also have some good recommendations.

(Note to readers recommending resources: I believe the lady who sent in the question is looking for theological resources on how to cope with breast cancer biblically, not medical/holistic/other treatment resources. I’m not qualified to dispense health advice, so those types of recommendations will not be posted.)

¹John Piper is not someone I normally proactively recommend. I’ve explained why HERE.
²Over the years I have received three or four questions about Joni’s actions and theology, but she is generally regarded as doctrinally sound. AS with any Christian author, read discerningly.

Is there a biblically sound Reformed private forum where I can ask some questions about my salvation? I am not in a church.

Since you’re specifically looking for a forum type of interface, I would recommend the (women only) Theology Gals Facebook group. I don’t know what “flavor” of Reformed you are, but it is mostly Presbyterian (though, in the past there has been a large contingent of Reformed Baptists in there too). If you are looking for a good Presbyterian church, they should be able to help.

You can also try my Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page. It leans more Reformed Baptist/Reformed Bible church, but there are other denominations, non-Reformed, and non-denominational churches, too.

When you say you’re “not in a church,” I’m hoping what you mean is that you’re in the process of trying to find a solid church but haven’t yet. If that’s not the case, and your intention is to stay out of church altogether, please be advised that this is not in keeping with Scripture. The Bible knows nothing of a “Lone Ranger” Christian. Please give my article Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians a read.


I have a question regarding the Cruciform Conference that you’ll be speaking at. There is only one person I’ve heard use that term “cruciform” before and it was Ann Voskamp. What does it mean exactly? Also curious what you’ll be addressing there?

I actually had a couple of ladies ask me this question after I announced that I would be speaking at the Cruciform Conference this fall. I am so glad you asked rather than wondering if it had something to do with false doctrine!

The word “cruciform” simply means “cross-shaped“. I’m really excited to be speaking at a “cross-shaped” conference, where all of the teaching will center around the cross – we can’t let false teachers have all the good words! :0)

Also, lest anyone mistakenly think I will be teaching men at this co-ed conference, I will not. I will not be teaching any of the main sessions. I will be teaching two breakout sessions for women:

Faithfully Fighting Feminism:
Fighting the Good Fight by Walking Out Biblical Womanhood
and
Hooked on a Feeling: Living by God’s Word Instead of Our Emotions

Get your tickets quickly since space is already filling up! (This would make a great Father’s Day present!)

 

 


My church recently started having yoga classes. I spoke to my pastor about it and he didn’t see a problem with it because they use Bible verses and don’t use the lingo typically used in yoga. But they use the word yoga to promote their classes. Do I find a new church?

For those unfamiliar with the theological issues related to yoga, or “Christianized” yoga, as this reader’s church seems to be using, please see my article The Mailbag: Should Christians do yoga?

Since I don’t know all of the issues and circumstances at your church, I can’t definitively tell you whether or not you should leave this church.

If this is the only theologically problematic issue at your church and there are no other doctrinally sound churches within reasonable driving distance of your home, I would lean towards recommending that you stay where you are and wait out this class (it probably won’t last forever), praying your kneecaps off in the meantime, and kindly and gently explaining your biblical reasons for not attending the class to anyone who asks.

If there are multiple theological problems at your church (and I suspect there might be if your pastor sees nothing wrong with yoga) and there are other doctrinally sound churches in your area, I would lean more towards exploring those other options for a church. The Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page may be helpful for you.

This is something you will need to pray for wisdom about, and possibly seek counsel on from a mature Christian friend. Of course, if you are married, you and your husband will need to discuss and pray about it together, and you will need to respect his final decision on the issue.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

False Doctrine, False Teachers, Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help

Originally published October 7, 2016suffering-women-false-doctrine

 

Joyce Meyer. Beth Moore. Paula White. Lysa TerKeurst. Christine Caine. Lisa Harper. What do all of these women have in common?

Yes, they’re all false teachers, but they’re also all victims of sexual abuse.

I haven’t conducted a scientific poll, survey, or longitudinal study, so my observations could be way off base, but I’ve been noticing lately – from hearing these women’s testimonies, reading comments on their blog articles, and talking to women who follow them – that women who have been sexually abused seem to be particularly vulnerable to “feel good” false doctrine.

And it’s not just victims of sexual abuse. It’s women who are suffering from the death of a child or spouse, divorce, infertility, illness, spousal abuse- all of those agonies that strike right at the core of women’s hearts. You’ll find them in droves at the conferences, book signings, and blogs of false teachers.

Why is that?

Because those things hurt. I mean, “I want to crawl under the covers and die,” hurt. “My life is over,” hurt. “An elephant is sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe,” hurt. These precious, beautiful souls God created for joy are walking through something no human being should ever have to experience.

And Satan, that evil beast, is right there to exploit their pain and make things worse by molesting them spiritually. He sends false teachers to whisper sweetly in their ears, “It hurts, doesn’t it? But I can make all that pain go away, now.

Let’s just be honest for a minute. That’s what we all want. I don’t care how doctrinally sound and spiritually mature you are- when excruciating pain explodes into your life, you don’t skip through the tulips to meet it with a smile on your face and a giddy tune on your lips. You just want it to go away. And like a confidence man with a wagon full of snake oil, false teachers are at the ready to offer a magic elixir that will miraculously cure what ails you. Instantly.

“You’re God’s masterpiece- His princess!”

“It’s never God’s will for you to suffer.”

“Just declare the things that are not as though they are!”

“God will give you back what you lost a hundredfold.”

“Sow a seed into my ministry and God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out His blessings!”

“Your words create reality. Just speak out what you want and you can have it!”

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper!”

“God wants to do the impossible in your life, so dream big dreams!”

In other words, “Just do or believe X. You’ll feel better and your situation will turn around. I suffered just like you did, and look what God did for me!” The only problem with that kind of teaching is…well…the Bible. The Bible doesn’t make that sort of promise to anyone, in fact it says just the opposite. Jesus promised us tribulationJames, various trialsPaul, persecutionPeter, suffering.

The truth is, since the Fall, we live in a broken, sinful world. We’re going to suffer. It’s often going to be long, painful, and messy. Sometimes, there won’t be a cure this side of Glory. God’s promise to followers of Christ is not that He will eradicate our suffering, but that He will walk through it with us.

So how do we provide chemotherapy for the soul to an anguished woman who just wants a pretty Hello Kitty Band-Aid for her emotions or life circumstances? How do we impart hard, healing truth when she’s being seduced by an easy, deadly lie?

1. Be honest.
Don’t be tempted to “compete” with false teachers by telling her God’s going to fix everything the way she wants it. She might die from the cancer she was just diagnosed with. She might never be able to get pregnant. Her estranged husband might not come back. Things might not get better. They might get worse.

2. Walk with her.
Joyce Meyer isn’t going to be there at three in the morning when she can’t stop crying. Beth Moore isn’t going to go to court with her and hold her hand when the verdict is handed down. Christine Caine isn’t going to pull her hair back when she’s vomiting from chemo. You be there. You comfort her. That’s why God put you in her life.

3. Set her mind on things above, not on earthly things.
Help her keep her eyes focused on Christ, not her situation. Pray with her. Sing songs of praise with her. Remind her of the gospel. Lead her to be thankful. Take her to church. Recite Scripture together.

4. Shut up.
Some of us are fixers. We want to make people feel better or fix their situation by doing something, saying something, teaching something. And a lot of times that’s not what a suffering woman needs. She just needs a hug. Someone to sit and cry with. Someone to eat raw cookie dough with. Hush. We don’t have to talk things to death all the time, and we’re probably not going to be able to fix the situation anyway.

5. Rehearse God’s real promises.
The false teachers are throwing sparkly fake promises at her. You give her the real ones. They’re so much better.

6. Suffer well.
Suffering is going to come your way, too, or maybe it already has. Set an example by being real about your own struggles and failures, yet testifying to God’s faithfulness during tribulation. What did you learn from your suffering? How did it build your trust in God and draw you closer to Him?

7. Pray.
Ask God to give you wisdom about what to say or do to help and comfort her. And intercede for her and her situation, as well, because, ultimately, regardless of your words or actions, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to comfort her heart and give her peace and trust in God. (Hmmm…maybe that’s why He’s called the Comforter?)

The desire to escape from suffering is normal and in no way an indication of a lack of faith. Even Jesus prayed in the garden that if there were some other way than the cross, God would “let this cup pass” from Him. But sometimes, as difficult as it is to understand, suffering is part of God’s plan for our lives. It’s not His desire that we escape it but that we depend on Him, rest in Him, trust Him, and obey Him as He carries us through it. When we love our sisters in Christ, this is the truth we will impart to them, not the heal-all salve of improved life circumstances and feel good-ism the used car salesmen of evangelicalism are hawking.

Faith

Throwback Thursday ~ Facing the Furnace

Originally published July 28, 2010

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?

“Now if you are ready…to fall down and worship…very well; But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.

Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.”

He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.

The…king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.

“Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

Daniel 3:14-29

What a great story. It’s almost Disney-ish in the telling. Three boys rise from virtual anonymity to high and respected places of power and influence. Next– oh no! –there’s a brief period of drama and suspense. But then, as we knew it would, comes the happy ending. Cut and print. That’s a wrap.

Hang on. Rewind.

If you grew up in church like I did, you probably can’t remember a time when you didn’t know the happy ending to this story. Check that. This wasn’t a story. This was a historical event. It was a real situation that happened to real, flesh and blood people, with real feelings, just like you and me. And just like you and me, when these boys were in the middle of their circumstances, they didn’t know what was going to happen next or how things would turn out in the end.

I think we forget that sometimes. We forget how frightening it must have been for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to stand up to this megalomaniacal king and say, “Regardless of the outcome, we’re not going to worship an idol.” They served in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. They had seen what this guy did to people who disobeyed him. Cruel and unusual punishment was his specialty.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego weren’t out to be heroes. They didn’t know that they would be written about and set an example for Bible-readers for thousands of years to come. Their only concern was personal obedience to God. Whether they lived or died. Whether or not anyone else noticed. They were in it for God, and God alone.

But since they were written about, what can we learn from their example?

Truly following and obeying God means trouble is coming our way.
How’s that for an advertisement for Christianity? Jesus didn’t say, “Follow Me so you can have ‘your best life now’.” He said, if you want to follow Me, you’d better realize from the get-go that you’re going to have to deny yourself and prepare to be crucified daily (Luke 9:23). He said, “Look, the world hates Me. If you follow Me, they’re going to hate you, too.” (John 15:18-20) He said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33). Following Jesus is not a skip through the park.

Gird up. Now.
Where do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego got the spiritual fortitude to stand against Nebuchadnezzar? These weren’t guys who just attended church, read the Bible, prayed whenever they happened to feel like it, and had a lackadaisical attitude towards their walk with God. You know how I know that? Because people like that don’t do great things for God. People like that fold when faced with the furnace.

These guys were firmly rooted in the Word and in prayer. They were serious about obeying God, even when it came down to meal time (Daniel 1:8-15). They had such an awe and reverence for God that they feared His judgment more than the furnace. They were able to stand firm because they were already girded up in the faith.

Don’t kick against the trials, embrace them.
God is sovereign. Any circumstance that comes into your life was put there, or allowed there, by Him. Even if it’s a circumstance that is confusing, horrific, or heartbreaking, He is allowing it into your life for His glory and for your good. Maybe He’s trying to reveal something to you about Himself, such as His faithfulness or His power. Maybe He’s disciplining you so that you will repent and obey Him. Maybe He’s trying to teach you a skill, such as patience, endurance, or persistence in prayer. Whatever it is, what greater blessing could there be than the God of the universe wanting to work in your life?

Just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the furnace, accept that God has the right to use whatever means He deems necessary to work in your life, and thank Him for even wanting to. (Romans 5:3-5)

Trials allow us to know God in a new way.
It’s one thing to know, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) just because the Bible says so. It’s another thing entirely to know it because you have walked it with your own two feet. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would never have come to know the manifest presence of God had it not been for the furnace, we cannot know Him as Provider without experiencing desperate need. We cannot know Him as Healer without facing disease. We cannot know Him as Comforter without experiencing crushing loss. It is not until we are in the furnace with nowhere else to turn but to God that we can experience the fullness of His promises.

What about Bob?
Or Joe or Mary or Nebuchadnezzar and all his cronies? What effect does the trial you’re going through, your reaction to it, and God’s handling of it, have on the people around you who need to know Jesus? Maybe it’s not just to grow you, but to bring someone else to salvation.

In verses 2, 3, and 27, Daniel gives a detailed list of the heads of state who witnessed this event. That was no accident. In His mercy, God brought each of these officials to Babylon to show Himself to them. Through Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s obedience and subsequent suffering, God’s glory and power, and the fact that He was the only true God, were displayed for all to see. Look at the reaction Nebuchadnezzar had in verses 26-29. In verse 26, this idol builder does a 360 and calls God, “the most high God”. In verses 27 and 29 he says, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego…there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

Trials aren’t any fun. They can be scary. They can be heart-wrenching. But if God gets glory, how small a sacrifice and how great an honor is our suffering.