Comforting My Church With the Comfort They Gave – by Julie Cleaveland

Julie Cleaveland was married to a very wicked man. When she sought help from her church, she got the usual bad treatments. She published this letter to her former church leaders to highlight the bias in their thinking.


Dear Former Church Leaders,

I was surprised to hear that your head pastor and you parted ways suddenly. I daresay that one might use the term that you are now “separated.” I understand that he left you suddenly. I am sorry.

Image result for comfort hug

I also understand that he was a “difficult” person. Just hearing one of his earlier sermons about a call for unity in the church led me to understand that all might not be well behind the doors of this church.

After all, this shepherd of the flock explained from the pulpit that each attendee must agree with him, must not question him, and must not cause him any trouble, (oh….him and the Elders he added). Or else, he (and the Elders) would see to it that that person’s reputation would be ruined. He very carefully explained the ancient system of “credit” — back in the ancient marketplace, a person had a tile with his name on it. Shopkeepers would break off corners of the tile, the pastor explained, as purchases were made. However, if those debts were not paid, the shopkeepers would break that person’s tile. So, the pastor explained, if anyone caused him (oh, and the Elders) trouble creating “disunity,” he would make sure that a person’s “tile” was broken. He would make sure that person’s “credit” — his credibility, his reputation — was ruined within the church community.

Hmmm….a person who threatens….

Also, I understand that a dearth of staff, church employees, and even several pastors suddenly felt the need to take early retirement or to find other employment since he arrived and dug in.

Hmmm….a person who intimidates others….

Also, I understand that upon his arrival, he took assessment of the church, and proceeded to rearrange staff, to change the church website, to change the church’s logo — essentially to compel the church into “rebranding” and remake itself to fit his tastes, his ideas, his “vision.”

Hmmm….a person who is controlling….

Hmmm….a person who pressures, threatens, and forces others to fit and fill his tastes, his whims, his ideas….

Sounds so much like the type of person I came to you about when I asked for help with my abusive then-husband….

Well….I am sorry to hear that you had to deal with that.

I would like to return to you the words of comfort that you offered me when I took my children and ran from my abuser. Like II Corinthians 1:4 [NASB1995] says, “….we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted….”

Here are your words of comfort returned to you….

First, you must NOT separate! I know he left suddenly, but you must seek him out! After all, he is the leader of your “home (church).” He may not have been the pastor you thought you were getting, but he is the head pastor you have now. You chose him. You should have seen any “red flags” before you signed on the dotted line. After all, you “candi’dated’” him for a while. So now that you have a contract / covenant with him, that makes him God’s man for you, whether you like it or not. (Sorry that you didn’t understand that people like him do something called “lovebombing.” You should look it up. In a secular expert’s book.)

If the head pastor is willing to give a hearing to your earnest pleadings for reconciliation — for you must seek reconciliation earnestly — you must offer to submit to him quietly, reverently (re: I Peter 3:1, 4). Apparently, (and unfortunately for you) he is and has been behaving in ways “disobedient to the word,” and therefore, you — as members of the body, sub-shepherds, under the head pastor  — must be submissive, “so that (he) may be won without a word by the behavior of (his supportive Elders) as (he) observe(s) your chaste and respectful behavior.” You must strive — no….bend over backward, no….give your all — to be winsome! After all, as you comforted me with these words, “you must be winsome to win some!”

It doesn’t matter what he has done. Don’t bring up any of his actions. His actions are not relevant here. His long-standing patterns of behavior and treatment of you are not relevant. His actions are his actions, and he must deal with them before God. You must do the right thing! And that means submitting to the head (pastor) that God has put over you! Joyfully! Without grumbling! After all, “You must not touch the Lord’s anointed!”

As a matter of fact, I was disappointed to hear of all those pastors and staff leaving recently! They must be recalled. All of you must be put into a room with him with a counselor, and it is essential that we talk this thing out! That is what needs to happen! You all just need to be put together in a room with him, locking the door if necessary, and you just need to talk this all out. After all, I’m sure this was all just a big misunderstanding. This whole thing has to simply be a collection of small issues that you did not deal with or talk through properly, and that grew out of proportion. He, and you, are essentially just having a tantrum. So, the solution is, we must put you all in a room together, and you need to talk it out! Instead of “couple’s counseling,” we’ll call it “church leaders’ counseling!”

You say he threatened you? You say he made sure you lost your jobs? You say he removed your income and left you without money? You say he’s ruined your references so that it’s hard to find a job anywhere else? You say he’s damaged your reputation? Left you with almost nothing?

Oh sirs….let me sit next to you as I say this. Let me rub your back as I say this. Let me tell you I love you as a sibling in Christ as I say this….


So what?

You most likely took all of his words, his “jokes,” his behaviors wrong. You must have been holding grudges him against a long time for you to see him now the way you do. He’s hurting. That’s probably why he does what he does! Hurting people hurt people! Right? He probably had a bad childhood. He most likely was not treated well along the way. He probably had problems in former churches, with former Elder boards. He needs love and support now more than ever. After all, he‘s without a job right now, without a church home! He needs friends and kindness right now. I will pray….for him.

After all, one of the titles of a book you made me read was, How to Act Right When Your Spouse (or head pastor, I guess) Acts Wrong. So you need to start acting right! Even if you think he’s acting wrongly. Submit joyfully to the authority God gave you! After all, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4  [NASB1995])

This brings me to another huge point. You must look to your own sin. Obviously, both parties are at fault. It takes two (parties) to tango, right? That’s what you told me. It always takes two to tango. Damage in relationships could never be one-sided, right? Never caused by the actions of one party while the other tries desperately to heal, love, reach out, forgive and forget, right? Please don’t tell me of his behavior. Please don’t tell me anything of his offenses. That only demonstrates to me that you are unwilling — unwilling! — to look at yourselves, to look at your own role in things going wrong. You must look deep into your own hearts, and the collective heart of the church’s leadership, and find the sin deep within. If you can only think that he caused the damage, and that you really tried to be kind and patient and loving, then you obviously have some secret sin blinding you. You must repent of this secret sin you are not even aware of. If you continue to insist that he was the one who hurt you, and that you tried so hard to make things better, then you are more sinful and selfish than even you can know. “The heart is evil above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Throw yourself before the mercy of God! Confess! Confess! In tears of repentance. There must be tears! I’ll sit with you and rub your back while you start crying and confessing now. Right now. Do it now! I must see your tears, your weeping of repentance….  I’ll wait….

What was happening behind the closed doors of your offices? Did he threaten you? So, what was your sin? What did you do to make him do that? Were you harsh in your words? Did you approach him at the wrong time of day? Did you make sure he had a nice meal on his desk for lunch in the office?

And did his threats make you feel afraid? Then your fear obviously shows you are sinning by not trusting or depending on the Lord enough.

Did he cut off some people from their livelihood? Did that make you angry? Did the injustice of it all upset you? Did your feelings of helplessness overwhelm you? Then you have sinful feelings of bitterness. Confess! Don’t let that root of bitterness take hold!

Was he controlling? Did he yell angrily? What did you do to deserve this? Did he tear you down consistently? Maybe what he said was true after all, and you really need to humbly look at yourselves. Did he shame you? Maybe you needed some more humility? Did he laugh at you? Did you need to learn to laugh at yourselves better? Did he undermine you? Maybe you were holding your ideas and opinions too tightly and you need to agree with him? Did he play mindgames with you? Maybe you needed to let him win? Did he move the goalposts constantly as you tried to placate him? Did you try harder? Did he make you feel small? Maybe your opinion of yourselves was too big anyway? Did he make you feel that you’re no good? Maybe your ego needed knocking down a peg or two?

Did he make you feel worthless? Then obviously, you just need to center yourself on Christ! Center yourself on Christ and His opinion of you. Regardless of what he does or whatever happens to you, center yourself on Christ. Then you will feel, and be, all better: no matter what tricks he plays, no matter how much he yells at you, no matter how much he gets others to laugh at you, no matter if he holds you up for ridicule, no matter if he makes cruel sarcastic jokes at your expense, no matter how he tricks you, or lies to you, or shames you relentlessly. Just center yourself on Christ! (I’m still not sure what that means fully, or how that works, but it’s what you repeated to me, so it must be good for you, too.) I’ll give you some verses to memorize. Luckily for you, I’ve still got the list you made me memorize and you quizzed me over week after week. Oh, and pray! Write out those prayers, and someone will be around to collect them and evaluate them and point out the wrongly-motivated, selfish things you’re praying for. Lose your job because of him? It’s okay, because now you’re centered on Christ! You’ve got some verses memorized and you prayed! So, ignore what’s happening to your livelihood right before your eyes! He threatens you? Ignore what your ears are hearing! Has he carried through on some of those threats just to show you he means business? Just remember to say (or sing if you want) over and over to yourselves….“Jesus loves me!” You’ll be fine!

If your stomach knotted whenever he came to the office, if you tried to hide from him as much as possible, if you tried to speak to him about the pain he was causing you, and it always blew up in your face, and you somehow ended up being shamed into being the bad guy (even though he hurt you!); your behavior and feelings demonstrates a lack of trust. This creates a huge problem on your part. You see, you must be “available” (you know what I mean, wink wink) to him at all times! He is your head (pastor). If he stops you in a corner of a hallway and wants to have a conversation with you (even if it feels like he’s just using you — grilling you for details that he’s going to use later against you or someone you care about), you must make yourself “available.” If he comes into your office to pry into your life and digs in for personal details — blowing through your boundaries of levels of distance and social intimacy — you must be open to him! Again, be winsome! You must be “available” for whatever level of conversational or social intimacy he desires to approach you for. If you are withholding, then you, sirs, are the problem! You are closed off to his advances. No wonder he is looking into other offices, searching out other sources of social or conversational intimacy! No wonder he left you! If he blesses you by coming back because of your begging, and he demands outrageous things that make you very uncomfortable, creep you out, or even hurt you(r wallet, your schedule, your private family time), you must make yourselves “available.” Again, he is your head (pastor). As you taught me all my life, you are under his umbrella of protection and leadership, as he is under Christ. You will only be blessed as you bless him.

You say he is not showing Christ-like qualities? You say you wonder if he even really is a Christian, even though he leads in the church? (Like I repeatedly brought up to you about my guy?) His spiritual standing is not for you to decide. True-Christian or not, you need to keep reaching out to him. If he comes back to be your head pastor again, God commands that you submit to his authority, surrender your will, ignore your doubts, your fears, and most importantly, squelch and confess your gut feelings that he may just be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Another point….if he is not showing Christ-like qualities — if he’s no longer acting like a Christian — then your office, your relationships with him, have just become your mission field. And as you know, you must show yourself approved within your field of mission. And how do we show ourselves approved? By suffering! Long-term suffering! Patiently bearing up under the heavy, heavy load that his behavior has laid upon you. That is how you will demonstrate that you belong to Christ. Christ’s way is the way of the cross. We are called to suffer along with him. After all, a Good Father disciplines his children, and suffering is part of this discipline. And like you reminded me, Hebrews 12:11 [NASB1995] says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” So stand under this discipline because you will yield peaceful fruit or righteousness….if you remain. And remain you must. Because, as you have taught me all my life….“God is not interested in our happiness. He is interested in our holiness.” So stand in there. Stand in the gap! Pray for him who spitefully uses you! Each one must bear his own load. And this, sirs, is your load. You must prove yourselves worthy of the calling by which you have been called! By following in His sufferings! And therefore, again I say, for all those who climbed down off the altar of sufferings, and took early retirement or another job, I say that you as leaders must recall them. Have them return to the altar. You must all prove yourselves by enduring his shaming you, taking up your crosses, suffering for Christ, loving at all costs (including the cost of your mental and physical health like you told me….(just trust God, don’t protect yourself or your health)). Prove yourself by loving your enemies unconditionally, submitting to the authority God has placed in your life, never giving any cause for the minister to grieve because of you, forgiving seventy times seven, loving patiently, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things! LOVE NEVER FAILS! HALLELUJAH!

Remember….anything less, and we as your congregants will label you as bitter. You must be joyful at all times — especially in his presence, should he deign to come back to you. Don’t let bitterness take root “in your hearts” (you always added that when counseling me, even though that phrase and meaning is not in the verse of Hebrews 12:15). Forgive everything, even if he never asks for forgiveness or repents or shows any signs of lasting change. (That’s not in the Bible either, but you used it on me, so I’ll comfort you with the same.) Make every, and I mean every effort to reconcile. Go back to him! Reach out! Woo him back!

As to legal matters, like contracts or covenants, as you told me, you must keep reaching out to him, trying quietly, reverently, respectfully to win him over. Do not accept his resignation letter. Do not seek or file any termination of his employment. Keep reaching, praying. Find yourself a closet to pray in every day. Make this as ritualistic as possible to earn God’s favor. Write the prayers down so we can check that you’re doing that. Make sure if he threatens you in any way, that you take absolutely no legal steps to protect yourself — you must not protect yourself physically, financially, legally, socially. Be open. Trust God.

If you do take steps to protect yourselves, we as the congregation will bring you up for a disciplinary hearing. Then if you insist on trying to protect yourselves or your families, then we will put you under church discipline, and we will order your instant resignation from office, indeed from any form of service within the church that has been a huge part of your lives all these years. And we will make sure that all concerned are notified that you are under discipline, and that they are to shun you. And what’s more, we will make sure all of the aforementioned proceedings are kept secret, so that no one who would support you, who would stand with you, or who would be kind to you will know what’s going on and what we’ve done to you.

If you are good enough to refrain from trying to protect yourselves legally and in any other way, and if you refrain from moving forward with any legal termination of the employment contract / covenant, then, we as the voting members of the congregation who put you into office, we will look over your efforts. But you must give the whole process time. You must be in prayer. At some point, we will go to him in a group of two, like Matthew 18 says. Then we’ll wait. And pray. For a long time. Then, we will bring it before the (“select committee that we will keep secret.” Listen, I know the verse says to bring it to the church, but as you have shown me, that passage really means a secret committee that you are not allowed to know about, may not appeal to, may not make your case to, or may not make any defense to. Right?) Again, you may not sign or accept any legal documents until we have reviewed the situation. Even though we were never in your offices, never in your halls when he did the things he did to you, never really witnessed any problems (other than those odd, threatening, dark, controlling pulpit statements every once in a while….) we still know what’s best for you. We must give the process time. We must give God time to work. In two to three years we will review everything. Then we will let you know if you may start legal proceedings to accept his resignation.

In closing, I will return to you the words in the letter that you delivered to me as a team of two — a pastor and an Elder (along with a church transcriptionist) — the letter that you blindsided me with on that horrible day that you put me under church discipline. Here is the “comfort” (church discipline) that you handed me when I came to you begging you for help to escape our abuse. I have simply reversed the references. [Brackets in the following letter are from the original post. Editors.]

Dear [Church Leaders],

As [a member] of __________ Church, we desire that all [church leader relationships] found in our church body be strong, healthy, affirming and God-honoring. For the [members] of __________ Church, we expect their [church leader relationships] to be models for others in the church to both witness and imitate.

We are aware that you and [former head pastor] are separated and that, at least at the present time, you are not making progress toward reconciliation as a [Christian brotherhood]. Therefore, it is the decision of [this member] of ______ Church to remove you [“I only have the power to suggest that “you should remove yourselves””] from your leadership position as [Elders, pastoral staff] with our prayerful encouragement that you and [head pastor] work aggressively on the reconciliation of your [Christian brotherly working] relationship.

We stand ready to assist you and [head pastor] in whatever ways we can. We would strongly encourage the [group] of you to seek counsel together from one counselor, to remove any and all obstacles to reconciliation that have been put into place in recent months (hint…they meant my taking out the protection / restraining order to protect myself and my kids….), and to humbly seek God’s direction and healing for your life together as [pastor and leaders].

It is important that you know that we care deeply for you and for your famil[ies] and that we are praying for restoration of your [Christian relationships]. It would be our great delight to hear that you and [head pastor] are actively working together to reconcile your [working] relationship and, therefore, [this member would] be able restore you to your leadership role.




Julie Cleaveland recently started her own blog. Read her original post here. Thanks very much Julie for allowing us to reblog it!

[September 16, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to September 16, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 16, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 16, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 16, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

24 thoughts on “Comforting My Church With the Comfort They Gave – by Julie Cleaveland”

  1. I didn’t get all this advice from the church leadership but also years of listening to Christian radio, pastor’s sermons, family advice talk radio. It is all in there. And it is all twisted to make your life strangled in a box and his freer. He spent hours doing the same so he would know how to play the game and use the right words to discredit me, although I did not know it at the time. I left the church before I could be held accountable for his abuse, I could feel it coming and I had the gift of prophesy (I always knew what [the] Elders were talking about in their meetings and it used to freak out the pastor, lol, but did he invite me into the men’s club to be part of the future of the church? NO. Years later the pastor left the church and his wife to pursue a same-sex marriage. So there’s the secrecy in that!

    The Elders held my ex accountable for one week then somehow didn’t have a problem letting him be when he refused to meet again because he cried on the stage and asked forgiveness, lol. He was still trying to abuse me by proxy the whole time of course and now is starting on his child because our laws do not protect the kids. But do the Elders care about the damage they have done? No, I moved away and the ex followed me of course, so he can do crazy-making in my home town. I don’t attend church anymore, so he can do his wicked dealings.

    [Gender of the child airbrushed for protection. Editors]

    1. Sarah, thank you for sharing your story. Individual testimonies have a way of bringing cold, hard statistics to life—if that makes sense.

      We can be told that a high percentage of people have been abused by professing Christians, but it’s a far different matter to hear their stories in their own words. They have names. They have feelings. They have pain. Now you know, from their own mouths—what that was like for them.

      I thought you brought up a brilliant yet possibly overlooked aspect of abuse:

      years of listening to Christian radio, pastor’s sermons, family advice talk radio.

      Everything we read and listen to is somewhat “absorbed” into our beings. I say “somewhat” because not everything carries the maximum amount of influence. It all depends (I think) on the popularity of those resources. The more popular they are, the more power they tend to have. The more people advocate and recommend and hold those resources up as Biblical, the more seriously they are likely to be taken.

      I wouldn’t even know where to start in making my own list on books or sermons that I have now discarded. But discard them I did, and will hopefully continue to exercise Biblical discernment, as much as and as often as He directs me to.

      I have a few rules of thumb now, when it comes to taking in what we read, listen to, and ultimately what we label as Biblical, or not.

      Never assume that a “label” is trustworthy and truthful. It is almost taboo at this point to exercise caution and reasonable suspicion as Christians. Why, I do not know. The Bible is 100% clear on this. Words like “Christian, pastor, family-based, faith-based, godly or Biblical” are just that—words. You have every right AND every need to hold those resources at arms length until you evaluate the substance of their work.

      Paul was so adamant on getting false teachers, Christians or theologies OUT of the church because:

      This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus. (2 Timothy 2:17 [NLT])

      Now, two persons might not seem like a big deal—-why get all worked up? Because deception spreads like cancer. More and more people can and will get hurt.

      Sarah’s testimony pointed out that God had gifted her, so she had insights that helped her immensely. No matter who you are, no matter how long you have or have not been a Christian—-you have the same exact Holy Spirit that He gives to all His children. All you have to do is ask of Him in faith, and He gives. If you need wisdom, discernment, discretion—-you have the very Resource that you need the most right at your fingertips.

      So do not believe that leadership is “more anointed” than you, so they are entitled to give the orders and God’s stamp of approval is on it. You are just a so-called lowly churchgoer, and even more lowly—a woman. Those are lies. Even wrapped up in a warm blanket that claims they care about you—-no one who truly cares about you will demand that you only make choices that they have authorized you to make. Underneath that warm blanket is the cold reality of an obsession with controlling others.

      Think of when Paul confronted Peter in Galatians. Paul was still somewhat “new” to the faith. He had been accepted by then, but it’s likely he was known more for a persecutor than a partner with the Lord. Peter had quite the “resume” with a lot more going for him.

      Peter easily could have rebuffed and humiliated Paul in public (Paul had dared to call him out publicly.) and likely Peter would have come out ahead. But Peter chose to take Paul’s words seriously, as he should have.

      he cried on the stage and asked forgiveness.

      Public displays of forgiveness are suspicious for one reason and one reason only—why? Why does anyone feel the need to get on stage and supposedly repent in a public forum?

      Before we get into the discussion of leaders who are in public have an obligation to repent to the public that they have harmed—that’s not my point. Also, the argument that the body of Christ, since we are all connected, should be witnesses to a brother or sister who needs support and restoration—-that too isn’t the point.

      My point is that IF a person is compelled to get on stage and repent in public, it is fair to suspect that it might be a public SHOW of repentance. When I hear of tears and begging for forgiveness—-that only adds to my suspicion. There is a possibility that he or she is the real deal, but the Bible isn’t interested in what other people think when it comes to repentance.

      Godly sorrow, as the Bible demands and commands, that must accompany real deal repentance, is only interested in the what God believes about you. Even if your sins have hurt others, it starts with Him. You’ve hurt Him the most, so start there. Not only that, a public show of repentance does not guarantee that the hurt parties will see that repentance unfold in private. But if public opinion favors the public figure, the private parties are likely trapped.

      Worldly sorrow, as the Bible dismisses and discards, does not accompany real deal repentance, because it is likely more interested in what the world believes about you.

      Please read 2 Corinthians 7 to get a deeper insight into this. Paul describes in some detail as to what godly sorrow should look like, and it had nothing to do with a public forum.

      There is no one that can restore you to Him but Him. Yes, supportive believers can help and assist. But no one but Him can bear the fruits He is looking for, that must accompany repentance. And that should be the main focus of any truly repentant, sincere born again believer.

      I recall asking for prayer in a public forum—in college Christian settings so not as formal or official as a church. I don’t regret it, because I needed the prayers badly, even as I exposed some ugliness inside. I would likely not do that sort of thing again—-I’m very private now—-but I’m trying to explain that it’s perfectly okay to ask for prayers in a group setting. I was actually more embarrassed to ask. I tried to keep the group small and limited.

      I don’t attend church anymore, so he can do his wicked dealings.

      Easy to slam the one who walks away from church, right? That only adds to the pity and pandering to the abuser. In this day and age, we still seem to insist that if you don’t go to church, you’re not serious enough about your faith. That is a lie, but too often Christians rush to judgment, without taking the time and trouble to hear their testimonies.

      The abuser is likely still going to a church and trying to get involved—but he or she has no interest in Christ or their faith. But if it’s a “show” you want, that’s your kind of guy (or gal).

      I still recall reading the testimony of a former abuse victim who said she would get dressed for church but ended up sitting on the side of her bed—-unable to go. If I could just beg and plead anything at this point—-I would ask that anyone who claims to follow Christ would see how much abuse takes away from its victims. The very comfort they need, that they WANT or hope to find in a church setting—-is denied them.

      And before we go off and talk about how their faith must not be strong enough, or else you’d BE at a church no matter what—-sit up straight and listen up:

      The anxiety and stress and fear and even physical symptoms like shaking or trembling become unbearable. Stomach pains and limbs feeling stiff—praying that the service will be over soon and that you’ll make it through, or praying that they don’t preach about “submission” in a way that 99% leaves out topics like abuse—-you know nothing so don’t act like you know everything.

      I got to the point where I couldn’t get OUT of church fast enough. And this is a church that I had found after being absent for a good amount of time. I looked forward to going, and I felt blessed because I realized how much I’d missed worshiping with my brothers and sisters. And I thought I’d found a pastor that understood a lot that other pastors did not.

      I tried to keep going for almost two years after we found out that pastor, who had retired in order to escape being exposed while he was still a pastor—-was a liar and a cheater. So I tried. I wanted to stay. But I couldn’t.

      I am grateful that Pastors like Pastor Sam are online, because I have access to his encouragement even if we don’t live in the same area. I don’t know if I could attend his church, but it would not be his fault. Even a church “setting” feels suffocating! But I’m thankful that he is able to reach out beyond the city he lives in.

      1. In response to Helovesme (27TH JUNE 2019 – 11:57 AM):

        LIKE!! for your entire comment.

      2. Thanks, Helovesme.
        I’m having to use my phone at present because my laptop is getting a new battery. So I’ve not been as active on the web as usual.

        I’m seeing how hard it is to write a comment with one finger! And to retain in my head the points you made that I wanted to respond to!

        Ah, now I remember. For listening to church services or sermons online — some of our readers say they get a lot out of Ps Liam Goligher’s sermons. He’s at Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, as I recall.

      3. Thank you, Finding Answers, and Barbara—I hear you on trying to leave comments or replies with one finger. That is hard! I think I’ve only done in one or two times and it wasn’t easy!

  2. Classic and clever! I love it! And the dire truth of it angers me at the same time. Thanks for posting.

    [Screen name changed to Joy for safety and protection. Editors.]

  3. I don’t know who shared it on Facebook, but I have read this previously. I look forward to reading it again. It was brilliant!

      1. Oh, thank you, Barb. I thought it might have been you! Not surprised; it was a keeper.

  4. Potential Trigger Warning

    Wow! And ouch! And BAM! Yes brilliant…. I would only add my former church’s words of comfort: “you have no right to withhold from him, as YOU are causing him to sin….YOU are tempting him beyond what he is able to bear.”
    “We have received his repentance after hearing his side of the story (for 2 hours), so you must trust our [leadership] and return to him to work things out. Your continued separation shows a lack of trust in God, and a spirit of rebellion.”
    “You are the Jonah in the boat and anything you do will fail.”
    “You are clearly not a Believer because you continue in your defiance of your [pastors]. We urge you to quickly and sincerely repent and return to the true faith, as evidenced by your [pastors].
    “Because you have not repented from your rebellion, we are declaring you an unbeliever. You have disqualified yourself from any ministry forever.”

    Thank you for reminding me of 30 more things I need to forgive them for….

    [Potential Trigger Warning added for the protection of some readers. The brackets in the comment were inserted by the commenter. Editors.]

    1. Hi, Churchshygirl, I’ve been wanting to say thanks and I want to reply to the wonderful things you brought up. For now I’ll just say “thanks,” and let you know I’d love to share what your thoughts brought to my own mind. I’m hoping to reply tonight or over the weekend.

    2. Churchshygirl, thanks again for your comment. When I first read it (I was thankfully able to dodge being triggered), I was blown away.

      The first part you mentioned (I think) indicated a lack of physical intimacy? So that how you were blamed for “causing” him to sin.

      This is a personal view—-but if a couple gets pregnant out of wedlock, I don’t believe that they “have to” get married as a solution to a “problem.” Marriage in of itself IS problematic! It is NOT a way to make up for, or cover up having sex out of wedlock. If that couple WANTS to get married, by all means—but I don’t like how it’s pushed or pressuring them.

      I said that because the church or professing Christians seem to do what Peter did when he tried to rebuke Jesus from going to the cross. You have in mind the ways of man, not God (Matthew 16:23).

      Just as marriage is not a solution for sex OUT of wedlock, sex WITHIN wedlock is not the solution for a marriage. Sex was designed by God for intimacy, first and foremost. It is a precious and powerful way for a couple to draw near to one another—-but is not the only way for a couple to grow in intimacy.

      Hunger for sex is not on the same level of hunger for food. A so-called “sex starved” person will not die if they do not engage in sex. A hungry person will eventually die of starvation, because we need to eat and drink to live. No sincere, born again Christian will try to equate the two things. If they try to, they are WRONG.

      You also can’t solve a broken marriage with sexual relations. That again is not how I believe God designed it. You don’t solve a broken marriage with fancy meals, either. In a nutshell, more food and / or more sexual intimacy do not solve issues of the heart and mind.

      The second part is also very common.

      A lack of trust in God, and a spirit of rebellion

      —are fear words to inspire fear. Abusers and their enablers are often guilty of this. The last parts of your comment were all designed to do just that—-inspire fear in order to inspire fear-based decisions.

      Fear is often underrated in its power. It is one of the most potent and powerful weapons that the devil has in his arsenal. Try to imagine people in different countries; how they are kept in line by means of fear: the threat of pain and suffering, even death to you or your loved ones. That country may seem like a well-oiled machine, but that oil is not promising life or prosperity. It is a toxic, poisonous, even deadly substance, keeping people obedient while keeping them shaking in their boots.

      One thing that would make a major difference is to very much differentiate what it means to fear God, and what it means to fear man. They are so distinct that they don’t even belong on the same stage. They are in two separate arenas! Two separate universes, more precisely.

      Yet so often those two fears are used interchangeably—much to the chagrin of the Living God, and much to the condemnation of His creation.

      I am so sick and tired of non-Biblical fear being used as a mode to support supposed Biblical obedience.

      There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)

      Say it, pray it, claim it—whatever it takes—but do not believe for a moment that God is holding a gun to your head, a knife to your throat, a fist before your face—-in order to get results.

      And I won’t listen to anyone who tries to use the Old Testament or any other instances in the Word—where God did promise and execute His wrath as punishment for disobedience to Him. He did punish those who did not fear Him, who chose otherwise, and paid a dear price for it.

      In a nutshell, abusers are not God. They do not have the right to wield their wrath and claim that they are representing His wrath. A “Biblical” label on your anger is just that—-a mere label.

      Yes, God used human instruments to execute His wrath, but the people being judged were warned, time and time again. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He would much rather see them repent (Ezekiel 33:11, 18:23).

      Abusers take great pleasure in their wrath. It murders people from the inside out, sometimes tragically they take the physical lives of their victims as well.

      The fear of God draws us near to Him. That doesn’t sound quite right, but if we get the notion of fear being as an instrument to hurt people—then we understand how fear of the Lord brings us closer to Him. He is not looking to harm. He is looking to heal.

      And there is nothing more wonderful than knowing that we have a God like Him—-He is huge and Heavenly—-and He will compensate us for the pain that fear of man brings, and will comfort us with the joy that the fear of God brings.

      Yes, JOY. Fearing Him means we take Him at His word, because He never has and never will lie. When we trust that vengeance is His, because He is 100% capable of keeping His Word, we can rest in His arms. We are safe in His arms. We are consoled, and the abusers are condemned.

      Abusers have nothing in common with the Lord—-and we thank You for that.

  5. Helovesme commented (27TH JUNE 2019 – 11:57 AM):

    The anxiety and stress and fear and even physical symptoms like shaking or trembling become unbearable. Stomach pains and limbs feeling stiff….

    ^That. Plus a host of other physical symptoms stemming from non-physical causes.

    Sarah commented (24TH JUNE 2019 – 7:35 AM):

    ….I moved away….

    ^That, although it was MANY years before I went No Contact with my “dad”, who I am FINALLY realizing is a psychopath. (Omitting details for my protection.).

    Churchshygirl commented (24TH JUNE 2019 – 10:42 AM):

    “You are the Jonah destroyer in the boat and anything you do will fail.”

    (Strikethrough / addition of the word “destroyer” done by me.)

    I am FINALLY learning ^That description belongs to my “dad” and not to me.

  6. A really quick comment on the first part of her letter / post:

    You should have seen any “red flags” before you signed on the dotted line.

    In America, in 2008 the housing bubble burst and a lot of people suffered in so many ways: losing their homes and losing a lot of income.

    People were sold “sub prime” mortgages. Since I’m not even one tenth of a money or housing expert—-in a nutshell they were deceptively sold mortgages that were outside of their ability to pay back.

    I shamefully, for a VERY short time (thankfully)—-wondered what people were thinking in signing a loan that (in retrospect) was not reasonable to sign.

    It took just one documentary to remind me of the power of deception. They were sold these loans in a deceptive manner, by people with deceptive purposes. It was a hard and good reminder for me to hear the stories of everyday people who did NOT lack intellect or whatnot. They wanted to buy a home and that desire was exploited by those who had no interest in their best interests—-only the interest in making money.

    Worse yet, if I recall correctly no one was really punished or held accountable for their deceptive practices. So a lot of people got away with a lot of lying or lack of telling the truth, and never got held fully or even partially accountable for a lot of suffering that was caused.

    America is a country with a sort of “weird” philosophy of living. You have the belief in a “free market” as a way to prosper the economy. Then you have the OTHER belief that you need to regulate that so-called “free market” because people are not morally or inherently “good.” So you have to keep that moral compass in check, while still letting people engage in a “free market.”

    This is a website about abuse, not financial enterprise. But I wanted to illustrate her very first point. Testimony after testimony from abuse victims will talk about being deceived by a prospective partner. Before “dumping” on such victims for being “duped,” keep in mind that intellect does not 100% protect you from deception. Intellect is valuable; don’t get me wrong! But it does not necessarily indicate a LACK of intellect if you have been deceived.

    Barbara has given us WONDERFUL resources in this, especially with Don Hennessy’s work. He has beautifully and pointedly written about how a “targeted” victim is never to blame, and we should not focus on blaming the target, but instead exposing the one who DID the targeting in the first place.

  7. I have to thank Barbara again for sharing this. It really was and is a brilliant post. I’m so grateful for the author to have allowed us to read this for ourselves.

    A marriage covenant is like a table with room for only TWO chairs. There is literally no room for another chair for another human being. And yes, God is involved, too, but He doesn’t need a “chair” because He technically doesn’t “sit.”

    Anyone—-pastor, church leadership, family member, friend, neighbor, coworker, counselor—who comes in with a chair and tries to have a place at that two-person table, is out of line, and should be out the door. “Get away from this table, or get out of our lives.”

    Most of those people I mentioned will likely try to argue that they mean well or want to help or care about the both of you. Or, they care about your faith, your family, your needs.

    I don’t question the sincerity of such persons. The fact remains: there is not enough room at the table for you, or any third party. In doing what you’re doing, you’re pushing one or even both of us away from OUR table. That does not indicate a desire to help, but rather a desire to dominate.

    I once read a fictional book designed for young readers, but it contained so much food for thought that I never forgot it. Two young girls (preteens) were talking. They were best friends. One of them said: “you told my mom I’m a snob. Why would you say that?”

    The friend answered: “Because that is how you act.”

    She proceeded to explain HOW she acted that led her to make that conclusion. And the friend was right. She was acting like a snob, so the label fit her. It was an unwelcome, unflattering label—-but it fit her behaviors to a “T.” Her friend never SAID—“I’m a snob” (who does that anyway?), but she was acting like one. She thought she was better than everyone else, and everyone heard her say those words through her actions, or lack of actions.

    This letter laid out this rather logical but often disregarded concept. Churches often encourage denial without even listening to or showing interest in details. Victims, when they describe their testimonies—have those details. They don’t make random or false statements, they can back up their statements with real life experiences.

    My father was my abuser. He NEVER said he hated me, or that he didn’t love me or that he wished I were dead or didn’t exist. But I can tell when I’m not wanted. I can feel when I’m not loved. I can hear the messages he was sending. He knew how to say those words without saying those exact words!

    No abuser announces that he or she is an abuser. They ACT like one, and that IS the message they are sending without using actual words like “abuse or abuser.” If someone is acting like an abuser, they are an abuser. For a lot of victims, this takes a long time to uncover—-hearing those messages and seeing the abuser as an abuser. In that book, her friend didn’t see her friend as snob until all the “numbers” added up over time, if that makes sense.

    So as I read this letter, you can see how she added it all up eventually, and got the “right” answer, but her pastor and church leadership kept trying to convince her otherwise: she didn’t know how to add things up right. Or that her numbers were all wrong, so her final answer was based on inaccurate numbers.

    I was never a natural at math. I had to work pretty hard to get the right answers in a subject that did NOT come naturally to me! So it’ might not come “natural” to a believer—that all the figures add up and spell out: abuser. That is all right—this is a hard subject.

    As I got older, the math got harder—-so much more than just adding and subtracting. Which was quite hard at first, but became a lot easier as I practiced and exercised those skill. But like I said, I learned. I grew. I studied. I (tried to) make sense of a lot of weird symbols, long equations and jumbled numbers.

    This again is much like learning to spot, discern and recognize an abuser. This is why the Spirit of God is the most important tool to have. In math, we eventually needed fancier calculators than the simpler ones that we started out with. With the right tools, we could help make sense of what was very confusing at first! So, “arm” yourself with the Lord. He can untangle and solve ANY riddle—math wise or abuser wise.

    The pastor and leadership she called out were obviously using “false or faulty” calculators! They kept punching in the numbers but getting all the wrong answers. Perhaps they didn’t WANT to use the right instrument—-it would have been given answers that were right, but that they didn’t want to see.

    You would have to wonder WHY. After I worked hard to study and work out those crazy math problems, getting a good grade (if that happened) was the prize that made all that hard work worth it. It meant you knew how to use your mind in the right ways.

    When the Lord works in us, and through us—giving us HIS mind (1 Corinthians 2:16, Philippians 2:5–8)—the answers are not only right, but based on His righteousness. Which is a joy! It is major facet of our walks with Him. This is fruit of the Spirit. This is what He looks for. This is how we KNOW we are His and belong to Him (Matthew 7:15).

    So it’s fair, again, to wonder—why that pastor and leadership persons seemed to ACT like the last thing they wanted was to bear good fruit in Him, through Him and for Him. Why they were so bent on bearing BAD fruit, which is indicative of something sinister and suspicious.

    It doesn’t add up, right? But it does: abusers have allies, and those allies are content to let those abusers continue to abuse. They are not partners with His light, they are partial to the darkness. That is a horrible, sickening conclusion—but if that is how they are acting, that is how they should be labeled, and there is plenty of evidence to back up those labels.

  8. 1) “You must repent of this secret sin you are not even aware of.”
    2) “Center yourself on Christ and His opinion of you.”
    3) “you must make yourself “available.””
    4) “His spiritual standing is not for you to decide.”
    5) “And how do we show ourselves approved? By suffering!”
    6) “Forgive everything, even if he never asks for forgiveness or repents or shows any signs of lasting change.”
    7) “You must keep reaching out to him, trying quietly, reverently, respectfully to win him over.”
    8) “We will make sure all of the aforementioned proceedings are kept secret…(no one) will 9) know what’s going on and what we’ve done to you.” (insert was mine)
    10) “we still know what’s best for you.”

    Seriously, there are so many good “nuggets” in this post that it’s hard to keep up. I listed out the ones that stood out to me, and will try to briefly knock them down via Scripture. So much of that SOUNDS Biblical—and that is one of the most effective ways to deceive. Not out and out lying—-but out and out putting a Bible-like “COVER” over those lies so they aren’t seen for what they really are.


    Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding….” (Jeremiah 3:22 [NIV])

    God knows how to draw people to Him, and convict them of sin. This verse was spoken of WHILE His people were in rebellion—and all He asked them to do was to come to Him. We are even more blessed under the New Covenant, in which He wrote His commandments on our hearts.


    Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

    It’s not uncommon to hear that we need to disregard the poisonous, ruthlessness of abuse, or the allies of abusers who constantly tell lies to ruin the victim. Focus on Him and how He loves you. Fair enough, but the Bible is clear that the tongue is like a fire, and can set a whole forest on fire with one spark (James 3:6). It is wicked to try to throw cold water on such a fire by admonishing victims to just “trust in His love,” while your heart is on fire from the “heat” of evil words.


    My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. (Psalm 31:15 [NIV])

    Julie was told she could never reject him if her ex wanted something (anything) from her—-anytime, anywhere, for any reason. That is out and out idolatry. Your time belongs to Him. No one has a right to demand and expect on that sort of level. The word “no” is NOT a sinful word, but so often it is treated as such.


    I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. (Romans 16:17

    The spiritual standing of others is ABSOLUTELY up to you to decide. There are many verses that repeat this theme, so it’s an important one to Him, and it should be for us, too. You’ll notice that Paul didn’t say that HE had to tell them who to avoid. He admonished “brothers and sisters” to be led by the Lord.

    5) I have to link to Pastor Sam’s blog to answer that one. He uses Scripture, of course. If you can please read the comments; they were a blessing, too: Divorce and Tempting God [Internet Archive link]

    Also, ACFJ has a wonderful link explaining how abuse does NOT fall under the category of Biblical suffering: Suffering is ‘blessed’ – so should I just put up with being abused?

    Will finish up in a new comment; trying to make this easier to read!

    [June 9, 2022: Some slight reformatting done to correct WordPress’ numbering issues. Editors.]

  9. My comment didn’t show up exactly how I’d written it; I tried to “number” the nuggets and respond in a corresponding way—my apologies. I also put spaces to make each paragraph easier to read. If it shows up that way I am very sorry!

    Barb or Reaching Out, I’m hoping you can fix however this comment is displayed as well!


    David gave Saul his promise, and Saul went home. But David and his men went up to the safe place. (1 Samuel 24:22 NLV])

    Relationships are all about trust. You don’t need to trust someone to forgive them, but any bond between two people requires some measure of trust. I am not married to my doctor, for example, but no doubt I trust her. If she harmed me in any way, I would hopefully come to forgive her, but I would likely never use her medical services ever again.


    ….I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. (Nehemiah 6:3-4 [NIV])

    Nehemiah had opposition when he was trying to rebuild the wall. He did not stop the work in order to “win” these people over. I realize he wasn’t married to them, but the principle still stands. A person is “won over” when the Lord moves on his or her heart. All our efforts are useless unless the Lord does a work within a person. I had people who witnessed to me about Christ. The only reason I came to Him is because He did a work on my very soul, something no believer can do, or should try to do.

    8) and 9)

    And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. (Nehemiah 4:8)

    Secrecy isn’t always a bad thing. Counseling is done in private to preserve the dignity of the one who is suffering and needing support. Julie spoke of things being secretive in order to PREVENT her from receiving much needed support. Secrecy in that respect is not about the dignity of a person—-it is to tear it down instead.


    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord…. (Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV])

    I’ve had way too many people tell me that they know what’s best for me as a way to generate obedience out of me. Godly wisdom or even personal opinions from trustworthy persons is one thing. But no one knows what His plans are for me, except for Him. You may THINK you know what’s best, but only He knows what is right.

    [June 9, 2022: Some slight reformatting done to correct WordPress’ numbering issues. Editors.]

    1. No apology necessary, Helovesme. WordPress tends to strip out the numbers on non-HTML-coded numbered lists. I’ve done some fancy footwork by omitting spacing in order to retain the numbers.

      If you need corrections to either of your comments, please submit another comment addressed to me and I will make the requested corrections.

      1. Thank you so much. I will look over my comments tomorrow; I’m sure whatever you did was just fine.

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