Blog Post by Sister Diane Foster

Spiritual Abuse

A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. Isaiah 42:3


Beginning this past August, PURPOSE has focused on Spiritual Abuse. It has been a journey that I did not want to rush through. Even as I write Part Five, I see areas of focus not given the same focus as others. Areas such as Spiritual Abuse in terms of Spiritual Warfare have several connotations; they co-mingle. Powers, principalities, and rulers of darkness seek to keep Yahuah’s children in states of confusion and distress. Emotional, mental, sexual, physical, and financial abuse: the effects of one frequently coincide with the other. Part Four of this series gave added validity to data found on spiritual abuse. The purpose of the survey was to show on a grass-roots level that these findings accurately represent the whole, regardless of religious organization.


Yet, I did not want to stop with survey findings only. Those findings did indeed support the more significant phenomena. But now what? Are answers and solutions available for women and men who have been traumatized by way of spiritual abuse? Do we leave them in a statistical data bucket with no outlet for healing? Or do we, with the help and guidance of Yahuah and His Ruach haQodesh, His Holy Spirit, seek ways to help them mend? Compassionate Soul Care Ministry (CSCM) wants to do what it can to help. CSCM has disseminated information mainly to the Yahudi community. Our survey validates facts about spiritual abuse. Now, CSCM will move forward with the healing discussion. 


Part Four began a discussion on healing. Part Five is taking a closer look at healing. Part Six of this series will bring in real-time discussion. We remain excited because some of you who responded to the survey expressed a willingness to participate in a webinar or panel discussion. CSCM is pleased to announce with great optimism that the webinar is underway! Your willingness was so overwhelming that more than one discussion may be in order. 


When I first began this series, I defined spiritual abuse as: “any attempt to exert power and control over someone using religion, faith, or beliefs. Abuse can cause serious trauma and significantly impact your mental health.” I will now take this definition further by adding that spiritual abuse is “injury to or mistreatment of the soul, of the deepest and most intimate aspects of a person’s being.” (Wounded Faith: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse edited by Rev. Dr. Neil Damgaard) This definition moves into what happens to the internal nature of the victim, their soul. By this definition, we find that the injury can run deep. It is important to note that the topic of discussion is abuse. Abuse is exploitive, manipulative mistreatment. This series speaks to this group, those who have suffered, not someone who has had a bad experience with their assembly or organization and decided to leave. With this critical distinction, I will not move deeper into healing.


Healing from Spiritual Abuse


Healing is possible for those victimized and often traumatized by spiritual abuse. Not all victims suffer traumatic stress, yet there is a level of emotional imbalance because they, too, were a fatality of prey. Those suffering emotional trauma could be suffering all alone with no one to help them sort out and work through what happened. Some do not know what to do or where to go to receive help, even if they know help is available. What does the healing process look like? What is involved? As stated from the beginning, first and foremost, we know that when you joined these groups, you did not join them expecting mistreatment. That’s like saying a person marries with the expectation of getting a divorce or with the expectation of being abused by their spouse. 


Understanding that what happened to you is not your fault is essential. Even if you do feel this way, there is a reason for it, such as perhaps some childhood trauma. Healing from spiritual abuse can indeed have deeper meanings.


Before moving forward, let’s take another look at some issues of suffering spiritual abuse.


Living under such domination leaves the victim with a shattered personality and loss of self-image. Whether through bullying, friendly fire, loss of faith, inability to cope with everyday life situations without the approval of others, spiritual confusion, or bewilderment in terms of the failure to answer the question of how it happened in the first place, healing is possible. You may ask, “Am I to blame?” Did Yahuah do this to me? What about my children? My faith is wounded; can I trust another assembly? If so, how can I trust to the same degree as before? Will I ever be free to be me spiritually? 


These types of feelings lead to depression, remorse, sorrow, and regret. Add to that is the inability to express such emotions as anger, shame, guilt, powerlessness, codependency, being weak emotionally, lack of discernment, being vulnerable, fear, insecurity, loneliness, betrayal, and embarrassment. Some victims have described their symptoms as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a term often attributed to soldiers of war and applicably to victims suffering from high-stress levels. I mention this term because several victims have likened their emotions to having PTSD.


The symptoms are harmful in that memories of the trauma do not go away even though the event has passed. The events were traumatic, meaning they left the individual in a very disturbing, painful, and distressful state of being. It is a disorder because of the anxieties it causes or impairment to function normally. It is post-traumatic because of unwanted returning memories that can trigger behaviors. 


Of most significant importance is knowing that Yahuah rises above all of this. He is sovereign; He knows everything. He knows our weaknesses, hurts, and pain. Some feel guilt, and some feel shame. Yahuah wants to help the person become free of what happened in the past. Yahusha came to set the captive free. He came to give us peace with what happened, the trauma. He left His Ruach haQodesh to comfort us and help relieve the stress it left behind. He desires to wash away the tears, replacing them with health and well-being. Trauma happens to a person, not something the person creates. PTSD is the label placed on a person in their attempt to cope with their situation. Yahuah is The One the person can turn to, not to cope, but to heal. 



The Good News


Remember the survey? 100% of respondents said they suffered mental and psychological abuse. Satan wants this. He wants to kill our desire for spiritual joy. He wants to rob our spiritual confidence, disabling us from being the child Yah desires us to be. He wants to steal your ability to love and mainly destroy your faith that Yahuah loves you. The trauma can be terrible for women who historically have suffered marginalization. 


Finding Strength 

  •         Realize that you are not alone. 
  •         Know that there is nothing right about spiritual abuse. 
  •         Return your focus to the love of Yahuah; know He loves you. 
  •         Understand codependency. 
  •         Develop critical thinking skills. 
  •         Learn who and, most importantly, “whose” you are. 
  •         Realize time is the healer of all wounds.
  •         You can break the harmful and detrimental shackles of spiritual abuse can be broken.
  •         Know that you are not to blame.
  •         Know you were deceived. 
  •         Do not suppress your emotions.
  •         Never abandon your relationship with Yahusha.
  •         Upsize your prayers!
  •         Do not be discouraged!
  •         Take charge of your situation.


Be Confident. Then, with self-assurance, let us draw near to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need. Hebrews 4:16


Understanding these keys is a powerful medicine for healing. With the Holy Spirit’s help, focusing on any of these with single-mindedness closes doors of bondage and opens avenues to spiritual and emotional freedom.


Time is the healer of all wounds. Yahuah heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).


Your relationship with an abusive leader, group, or person is not equal to your individual and personal relationship with Yahuah. There is no connection between the two. There is no need to turn from receiving the love of AbbaYah, no matter how distant it may seem or how deeply you have the abuse. Remember, in truth, regardless of how it may appear, spiritual abusers are anti-Yahusha. Separate yourself from them on all levels.


Ah yes, Yahuah’s power is made perfect in us when we recognize our reliance upon Him, for it is indeed by faith that we are healed.

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