In a previous article, I shared that abuse is not just about behaviors, it is about mindsets and beliefs. Abusive actions stem from a mentality of entitlement, pride, selfishness, and a need for power and control over others. From these faulty beliefs and mindsets, various destructive behaviors come forth. As we often emphasize at Esther Company, abuse is not limited to physical violence only. There are many types of abuse–and one of the most sinister forms it takes is spiritual abuse.
Spiritual abuse is when someone uses things related to God in order to oppress, control, or exploit another person. The Scriptures, a position of spiritual authority, prophetic words, or other means, can be misused or misapplied in order to abuse others. This can happen in the context of a church or ministry, and can also happen in various types of relationships. Unfortunately, it is happening in many marriages.
I have observed the devastating effects of spiritual abuse in various situations, but here I will address it in the context of marriage. When a husband uses the Bible as a way to coerce, control, and dominate his wife, much pain and confusion is caused. A woman who loves God has a value for His Word and wants to walk in obedience to His ways. Therefore, when the Word of God is misused, she is faced with a situation where she feels that she must give in to the pressure or demands being made of her. She feels that in order to please God she must yield to her husbands irrational, controlling, demeaning, and abusive behavior because he is using the Bible to justify it. Spiritual abuse takes her love for God and uses it against her; that is why it is such a sinister form of abuse.
The truth is that the Word of God is never meant to be used to control or oppress other people. When the devil tried to use a passage of Scripture to tempt Jesus, He resisted by quoting another portion of Scripture (see Matthew 4:5-7). To stand against spiritual abuse is not disobeying God, it is resisting the devil.
If you have been wounded by the effects of spiritual abuse, there will be a process of healing to walk through. Here are some of the steps that might be key on this journey:
1. Renewing the Mind: Spiritual abuse causes great confusion. The Bible says that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (see Romans 12:2), and this certainly is true of healing from abuse. There are lies that we have believed about God, ourselves, and others. Our minds can be renewed by the Holy Spirit and Word of God, effective counseling, and other ways. Through the course of time, the lies get replaced with truth and the confusion is replaced with peace and clarity.
2. Deliverance from Demonic Oppression: In many cases, receiving deliverance from demonic oppression can be a key part of the healing journey. Abuse opens the door for our soul to be shattered and the devil takes advantage of this to oppress and torment. But the good news is that Jesus is the deliverer and is still setting captives free!
3. Healthy and Safe Relationships: After being in controlling and abusive relationships, part of our healing journey will often include having godly, loving, and safe relationships. It may take time to build trust, but as you experience healthy and loving relationships, healing will come from the effects of spiritual abuse. Just as people are involved in the process of trauma and abuse, people will be involved in the process of healing and restoration.
If you have been wounded by spiritual abuse, please know that God is for you. He is “near to those who have a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18). He “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). Continue to give yourself grace as you allow your mind to be renewed and your soul to heal from the effects of spiritual abuse!
Below is a link to a message that I preached on deliverance from the effects of hypocrisy and spiritual abuse. I hope it is helpful to you on your healing journey!