Tag Archives: recovery

Survivors of Spiritual Abuse: Five Ways to Offer Your Support

I’m working on a new book called, Broken Trustreclaiming God’s survivors of spiritual abusegrace from toxic faith, toxic church and spiritual abuse. I want to help the many hurting people I’ve met find a way to healing and wholeness. In this post, I’d like to speak to pastors and other believers who meet survivors of spiritual abuse.

In my book, I describe survivors of spiritual abuse as the person that Jesus spoke about who  was wounded and found by the side of the road. The religious people were not willing or able to help him. Thankfully the “Good Samaritan” stopped and did what was necessary for healing.

It’s very easy to dismiss the concerns of survivors of spiritual abuse as overreacting. It’s tempting to minimize their hurt and expect them to “get over it.” But what many people don’t understand is that survivors of spiritual abuse often suffer from PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). Minimizing their abuse and expecting a quick recovery only adds to their pain and may send them away, feeling like no one can understand them, or they are too broken to heal.

Helping Survivors of Spiritual Abuse

Here are five ideas to keep in mind when befriending or pastoring survivors of spiritual abuse:

1. Listen to their story. Survivors of spiritual abuse need to tell their story. It helps them to process their experience. They gain awareness of what happened to them even as they speak. Talking helps them to sort out what happened.

Don’t feel the need to jump in and correct them or offer solutions. That’s what they have experienced in abuse: people telling them how to think and feel. What they need is a safe context to speak without being corrected or judged for their thoughts or emotions.

2. Validate their experience. As people tell their story, they are afraid of being judged. They are afraid of being rejected because they are either too far off base or too broken. Let them know that you appreciate them telling their story and you believe their experience. Even if you don’t think their experience would have wounded you so deeply, be careful not to minimize or dismiss how it affected them. It’s their story to tell.

3. Don’t offer quick fixes. Christians are great at offering simplistic solutions to complex problems. I noticed the contrast in approaches when I joined a Celebrate Recovery ministry. The small groups gave each person a chance to respond to the evening’s teaching. But other members were not allowed to offer comment. We just thanked the person for what they shared and went on to the next person. This was so foreign to me (and refreshing).

My experience in church small group studies is that someone would share a concern, and everyone else in the group felt it was their responsibility to offer their 25 cent diagnosis of the problem along with as many Bible verses as they could remember. Point: don’t do that! Just listen and draw them out. Invite them to say more and give more examples. It will help them to heal.

4. Give them space and time to heal. People are often exposed to abuse for years. It will take years for them to regain their equilibrium. Don’t rush them. If they have recently joined your church, don’t push them to become a member or volunteer. You can offer the opportunity, but don’t imply that either are necessary to be fully accepted.

You have to realize that just returning to church is a big step for survivors of spiritual abuse. It might be months or years before they can do any more than that.

5. Appreciate their hyper-sensitivity. Survivors of spiritual abuse are prone to high anxiety and panic attacks due to their past experiences. Little reminders will trigger strong reactions. Many people have spoken to me about their fear of running into someone from their old church at the local store. Don’t brush this off as silly, insignificant, or “nothing to worry about.” Some people organize their day around avoiding people.

You can be a healing presence to survivors of spiritual abuse or another person along the way who adds to their pain. Consider how you might be a healing presence.

Get a Free Copy of Broken Trust

If you would like to read a draft of my book, Broken Trust, email me and I’d be happy to send you a free copy. It’s still a work in progress. Any feedback you have to offer me would be welcome. I’m doing my best to offer practical advice so people can move toward healing and full recovery.


The Principle of the Path on Getting Lost

This continues my discussion of Andy Stanley’s book, The Principle of the Path. The principle says: the direction you take in life, not your intentions, determine where you will end up. If you head into an uncharted forest, you will probably get lost even if that is not your intention.

The sad thing about getting lost in life is you usually don’t find your way back in hours or days. Typically you stay lost for years, even decades. Maybe you can relate.

Is Getting Lost God’s Fault?

I’ve had many people complain to me about their situation in life. They chart a life of self-destruction and then when it blows up they say, Why did God let this happen to me? Whoa. Say what? How did this become God’s fault? Most often, their situation is a result of their choosing to walk a certain path with very predictable results. To blame the consequences on God is an easy way to dodge responsibility. They need to own the consequences.

Good Intentions Aren’t Good Enough

Andy Stanley describes their problem saying that people don’t understand the connection between their behavior and the consequences that follow:

They’ve come to believe the popular notion that as long as their intentions are good, as long as their hearts are in the right place (whatever that means), as long as they do their best and try their hardest, it doesn’t really matter which path they take. They believe somehow they will end up in a good place. But life doesn’t work that way. page 20

He Partied Like a Rock Star

In chapter three he uses an example from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. It’s a story of a young man who goes to town and is seduced by a prostitute. He doesn’t see the down side to his decision. He feels like a rock star in a club but Proverbs says, “…he followed her like an ox led to slaughter”…like a deer stepping into a noose…like a bird flying into a snare…he has no idea it will cost him his life.” (Proverbs 7:22,23)

Why Do We Choose to Blow Up Our Lives?

Any casual observer can see the foolishness of his decision. Why can’t he see his fate? There are a few reasons:

  • He lacks experience. He doesn’t have the wisdom to connect the dots.
  • He minimizes and justifies his behavior, rationalizing why it’s not that bad. Why he deserves it.
  • He is proud. He thinks he’s the exception. Only fools are led astray. That won’t happen to him.
  • He tells himself it’s a one time event. He’ll just do it this once and be over it.

Do these excuses look familiar?  Have you used them in the past or are you using them now?

I write this blog to help people reclaim their life. My hope in reviewing The Principle of the Path is that you will use the wisdom to not just reclaim your life but hopefully prevent you from losing it in the first place.

Question: Which of the excuses above have you used? How many years did you decision keep you lost? Leave your comments below. Thanks.


Lance Armstrong and The Principle of the Path

I started discussing The Principle of the Path last week before Lance Armstrong hit the news. But actually, Lance Armstrong is a great example for this discussion. lance armstrong

The Principle of the Path is a book by Andy Stanley.

The Principle of the Path is this: Direction, not intention, determines our destination. It doesn’t matter how much you want to go to Florida. If you are driving north out of Chicago, it’s not going to happen.

We Need A New Direction, Not a Solution

In chapter two of The Principle of the Path, Andy makes an interesting point: we often don’t need a solution. We need a new direction. For example, if I find myself in Green Bay after driving two hours north of Chicago, I don’t need a solution. There is no solution. There is no quick fix. What I need is a new direction. I’ve got to admit that I’ve wasted four hours, turn around, and get on the road to Florida.

Lance Armstrong Doesn’t Need a Solution

This is where Lance Armstrong might heed Andy’s advice. Lance doesn’t need a solution right now. Nothing will fix what he broke. He might think that making an apology will at least buy him back the right to compete in future sporting events. But if he looks at his apology as a solution he’s sadly mistaken. What people want to see is a new direction. They want to see that month after month and year after year he follows a new path. Then, and only then, might they decide to grant him the right to compete again.

The Mistake of Apologies

This is where offenders often go wrong. They come clean and confess. That is SO HUGE to them they think they’ve done something radical. Something noble. They think they’ve found a solution to their problem. They want the world to applaud them and allow them to continue on. But that’s only the beginning, not the end.

What people do after the apology tells us what we want to know: will they follow a new path? Have they found the right direction? Will they stay the course? Only time will tell if Lance Armstrong sets a new course and follows it as closely as he followed his bike tour routes.

Are You Looking for a Solution or a New Direction?

What about you? Maybe you are in a jam right now. You realize that you’ve blown it. Are your scrambling for a solution? Desperate for THE answer? Consider a new direction.

New Direction + Time = A Better Place

Question: Can you relate to this distinction between solution and direction? Have you wasted time looking for a solution when what you needed was to start moving in a new direction? Take a second and tell me about it below.

Get my free e-book, Forgiven…once and for all,  when you subscribe to this blog.


Reclaim Your Life by Reframing Your Life

This post is a rant/plea that comes on the heels of my speaking at the treatment center today.  I’m taking a break in my series on God’s forgiveness to simply share my heart. My hope is to inspire you to reclaim your life.

Reclaim Your Life

Reclaim Your Life

I was talking to my group today about some practical steps they could take to forgive their offenders and reclaim their lives; things like: set boundaries for your life, get a good support system, etc.  As I spoke it struck me how these aren’t just “helpful tips”.  These could be the difference between life and death.

Some Give Up

I flashed back to a funeral I did two weeks ago for a young client who ended their life. They had been in treatment earlier this year but found recovery too hard and opted out. I spoke to some of the friends at the funeral who were also in recovery. I  asked them to not grow weary in their journey. They could reclaim their life with God’s help.

As I spoke this morning, I stopped and reminded the group about this and how much I want them to succeed. I don’t just teach a class and go home. I love these people. Many of them are in treatment for a few months and start attending my church. I get to know them.  I want them to know that they can reclaim their life. It’s not impossible.

Reclaim Your Life by Reframing Your Life

I just wish they could see what I see in them. I don’t know anything about their history other than they have an addiction. I wasn’t there when they overdosed or spent time in jail or woke up in bed with a stranger or got fired from their job, or lost custody of their kids, etc.  None of those images cloud my view of them.

I see who they are TODAY and who they CAN be tomorrow.  I see them at their best. I see a room full of possibilities. But I’m afraid when they look in the mirror they see a history of defeat.

See What God Sees

I mention this because I think God sees us more like I see these people. He chooses to not remember our past. He forgives our past and invests in our present so we can reclaim our future.  If I am full of compassion and want only the best for people…how much more does God feel these things?

I encounter so many people every week whose life gets very narrow. They stop seeing the possibilities and live in dread of the worst case scenario. If we could only see in ourselves what God sees in us. We have to stop looking at our future through the lens of our past.

I wonder about you today. I hope you are in a good place emotionally and spiritually. But if you are not I want to speak a word of encouragement to you. You can reclaim your life. I don’t care what happened yesterday or today…how much ground you think you lost. You can get it back and more.

Question: What makes you feel like giving up? Leave your comment below or, for confidentiality, reply to me directly at remydiederich@yahoo.com.

Note: When you subscribe to this blog I will send you the free e-book, “Forgiven…Once and For All”.


Jesus Dealt With Your Past

Jesus Dealt With Your Past

Jesus Dealt With Your Past

This continues my series on how God’s forgiveness helps you deal with your past.

God understands that until you deal with your past you’ll never have a future.  The problem is, we can’t do anything about our past. There’s no going back. That’s why Jesus dealt with your past for you. The Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that Jesus… 

… appeared once for all … to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26

To “do away” with your sin means that Jesus pulled the plug on the power of sin. It means that his death eliminated the effect of sin on your life.  So your past doesn’t have any power over you and your future carries the hope of a new life.

Now, you might still have to pay the consequences of your sin in this world. If you are in debt $100K you still need to pay that back. But God’s not holding your sin against you. He’s not trying to sabotage your life to get back at you. On the contrary, like the woman caught in adultery, He offers you a new life. And if you are in debt he’ll help you get out of debt.

Your Past Doesn’t Determine Your Future

You might say, “Remy, you don’t understand. It’s too late for me. I messed up so bad. I will never be who God wanted me to be.  I’m sure I’m the last person God wants to on his side.”

You are thinking too small. You think that God only has one plan for your life and you blew it. You are thinking that there is only Plan A and if you mess up Plan A that there’s no Plan B. Let me tell you… when you mess up, God has Plan B waiting. And when you mess up plan B, Plan C is next.

You might be living Plan Z right now and you think for sure that you’ve run out of options. You feel like you are pushing your luck with God, that God’s fed up with you and ready to wash his hands of you. But guess what?  God has whole other alphabets for you!

So don’t give up on yourself. God hasn’t.

Question: What makes you think your past has ruined your future? Leave your comment below and consider “sharing the knowledge” with others.

This post is adapted from the book “Forgiven…once and for all”.  Subscribe to this blog to receive a free copy of this e-book.


Coming Back From a Crash and Burn

This is the final post in a series about how to recover from a crash and burn experience where your life imploded or exploded and came to a grinding halt. Track back to read the series. Consider sharing it with a friend.

Coming back from a Crash and Burn

Coming back from a Crash and Burn

The crash and burn series is based on the story in the Bible when the nation of Israel chose to walk away from God. Then the Babylonians took them into exile for 70 years.

You might see those years as wasted. But God doesn’t waste anything. Every moment was purposed to prepare his people for a comeback. Following are my last two lessons on exile.

Exile gives you hope for a better future.

People often think that exile is a time of despair rather than a time of hope. But that’s not true. Exile is when God speaks to you about your future. He speaks to you with words of hope. You just need to have ears to hear.

If you are in exile today because of some kind of crash and burn, God wants to encourage you about your future. This is what God spoke through Jeremiah to the exiles…

I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

I bolded the phrase “bring you back”…very important words if you are in exile. Exile isn’t forever. Remember, God isn’t trying to punish you. He’s preparing you for the next phase of your life.  You were on the sidelines. A time will come for you to reenter the game.

Exile gives you a new sense of identity and purpose.

God’s people had lost their identity. God called them to be a blessing but they forgot that. They became  self-serving. But exile gave them a chance to reclaim their identity and purpose in life. Exile does that. Exile was a time for them to reflect on what was important and restructure their lives around serving God and others first.

It was in exile that Jews had a new urgency to study the Word of God. It was in exile that the Jewish synagogue took shape. As Jews studied the Bible they came to realize that they were God’s chosen people, his treasured possession and they were called to be a blessing to the world.

It was in exile that the Jews decided they didn’t want to lose their way again. They wanted to make sure that if God ever gave them a second chance they’d be ready to fulfill their calling and not squander it. Exile prepared them for a comeback. And God did bring them back to their land to start over.

So, where are you in all of this? I hope my words help you to see the value of exile no matter how bad the crash and burn experience was.  Don’t run from it. Embrace it and let God do his work in you. Let the full work be done in you so you can be resurrected to a new life.

Prayer: Father, you know how important seasons of exile are.  Help us to see what you see. Help us to not run from our times of exile but turn and embrace them so we can experience the resurrection we need and reclaim our lives.

Please comment below. I’d love to hear back the insights you receive regarding your times of exile. We all learn so much more when we hear from many and not just one. I can only offer you insight from my limited perspective. With every additional voice our view increases our understanding. Thanks.


A Crash And Burn Sends You to the Sideline

crash and burn

The sidelines is where we prepare to make our return.

This post continues my series on how to recover from a crash and burn. It is based on the story of the Israelites when they “crashed and burned” and were sent into exile to live in Babylon for 70 years. It’s ancient history, yes. But it’s relevant to anyone who fails miserably and ends up on the sidelines of life. Track back to read the earlier posts.

It might seem that when you crash and burn you are sent to the sidelines to sit out for the rest of the game. But the sideline is the place to regroup, heal up and get some good coaching so you can make a comeback. Here are two more advantages of exile (the sideline).

Exile puts you in a place to see God move.

When you’ve made a mess of your life there is a tendency to think that God won’t show up for you anymore. But that’s not true. God wants to do amazing things in your life and it starts in exile. If you read the book of Daniel in the Bible it’s about what happened in exile. God showed up in some miraculous ways in exile.  God didn’t wait until the Jews got back to Israel to work miracles. He didn’t wait until they were living the perfect life.

God does the same with us.  He’s not waiting for you to get your life back together before he moves in your life. He wants to move in your life today, even in exile, so you CAN get your life back together. I’ve seen this in the lives of divorced couples. They feel so defeated. But God shows up to bless them both. It’s amazing and so contrary to what they think will happen. They assume that after failing at marriage they have to suffer. But God’s not out to punish them. He’s out to transform them.

Exile gives you time to form new habits.

Exile is typically a long period of time, not just a few weeks. A few weeks isn’t an exile. That’s just a bad vacation!  Most of us want to get out of exile long before our time is up. So we need to readjust our thinking and prepare for the long haul. When Moses killed a man he spent 40 years in the wilderness before God used him to lead the Exodus. For the Jews, their time in exile was set for 70 years. This is what the God said:

When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.   Jeremiah 29:10

God wants to restore us but we have to endure the exile first. The seventy years needed to be “completed” before God brought them back. There is a set time for exile and you can’t rush it. I’ve been through my share of exiles…some for months, some for years… and Psalm 37 often guided me…

Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Psalm 37:3

I felt God used this verse to keep me grounded in TODAY and not jump into tomorrow. He wanted me to be faithful to the people in my life and not complain to God about why I wasn’t moving on to the next phase of my life.

My point here is, don’t spend your exile wishing your life away. Embrace it. Make the most of your time by working on the things that made you crash and burn in the first place. Exile is a time for building your character because character is only built in hard places…not easy ones.

Question: I’d love to hear from you about your sense of exile. What good things have you seen happen to help you recover?  Leave your comment below.