Whatever is True

Whatever is TrueHow many people who experience trauma secretly condemn themselves for the anxiety that continually surfaces in their thinking? Books have been written about the relationship between anxiety and trauma from a psychological perspective. But for the Christian, the spiritual dimension and the Scriptural comfort and direction are usually left out of the book.

William Woodington, man with chronic anxiety, has written a book for any child of God who struggles with anxiety. The genius of the book is that is not wordy. You will find no stories or illustrations and not a lot of exposition and application of the Bible passages that fill the eleven chapters that fill this book. What is said, however, is enough. The author connects the passages on a topic with a concise flow of comments that introduce or illuminate the passages on each chapter’s topic.

This tiny book can be read in a single sitting (109 small pages), but I wouldn’t recommend reading it that way. Each chapter is worth reading, taking notes or marking in the book, and reflecting on what you read. I do not struggle with anxiety, but I imagine that those who have that struggle will want to absorb the contents of Whatever Is True and make it part of their thinking. This would be an excellent tool for a support group of people who struggle with anxiety or survivors of abuse. The group could discuss a chapter at each meeting and better appreciate what God has said to them in their distress.

William Woodington credits the book Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes for her concepts of “Facing, Accepting, Floating, and Letting Time Pass.” As helpful as the concepts were, he concluded that she didn’t have the full story. As a Christian, he sees a dimension not mentioned in her book and so he writes “in the context of dealing with anxiety and panic. That’s the way God chose to discipline me to bring me closer to him.” As one who suffers chronic anxiety, Woodington does not offer pat, promising but ultimately frustrating advice – rather he changes the reader’s perspective.

Whatever is True.

Buy now 

Author: William Woodington

Reviewed by James Behringer on June 7, 2021

Man facing mountains

Man facing mountains


“…the LORD was with [Joseph].” – Genesis 39:3

Abuse destroys lives: physically, psychologically, emotionally. Sometimes abuse kills. This is why we fight back. We pray, of course, but we also report physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as the crime it is.

And yet, Christians survive abuse. Martin Luther looked at Joseph and appealed to a theologian named Augustine who wrote, “the miracles performed daily in the world surpass those performed by Christ.” There’s better than blind receiving sight? Yes. Every day God the Father feeds the world. Every day God takes care of birds and plants. Every day he is your God, your Father. Your life is a miracle. You’re here and I’m here – miracle. We get to baptize children, preach the Word, commune – miracles. We eat, sleep, work, play – miracles. From God.

Which is why you’ll survive. I know this because Moses says about Joseph: “The Lord was with him.” This isn’t Joseph picking himself up by his bootstraps or having more grit. This is the Lord being with Joseph. Joseph is, by faith, a temple of the Holy Spirit. That gets you through: when God lives in you and with you.

Moses gives us Jesus. “The LORD was with him.” That’s Christ. You know, God with us. Immanuel. That’s what Moses says. God is with us. Jesus was with Joseph, preserving, protecting. He’s with you. In injustice. In abuse. In success.

“The LORD was with him.” Sometimes this is all I get. It’s what I need. It got David through: “You are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” The LORD is with him, and it’s the crucified Lord. It’s Jesus, who came in the flesh, who became Joseph’s brother and yours. Jesus suffered every temptation Joseph suffered. He suffered every abuse, and more. Jesus let the world abuse him for you. Jesus nailed to the cross is the Lord with us. He’s with us in slavery and death. Until he breaks free. He rises, like Joseph. Joseph rises from the dead: from the pit, from slavery, from prison. This points to Christ, the one who can’t be killed or destroyed, but rather destroys the power of death. For you.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, you have promised to be with me, keep me firm in that promise when you seem to be gone. Fix my eyes on your love for me in Christ. Amen.

Forget Me Not Flowers

Forget Me Not Flowers


“…the LORD gave [Joseph] success in everything…” – Genesis 39:3

“It could be worse.”

“It’s darkest before the dawn.”

“Something good must come from this.”

You’ve heard these. They’re meant well. They prove that we don’t process trauma well. Sometimes silence is best, right? If someone just sat with us until things got better.

But what if they don’t? What if abuse doesn’t stop? Anxiety never leaves? Therapies don’t work?

We could give in. We could do whatever makes us feel better. We could end it. If it’s not going to get better, why not kill myself?

And now you throw Genesis 39 into our face and show us Joseph’s success? I do. Mind you, he’s still a slave. God didn’t free Joseph. God didn’t suddenly make Joseph powerful. Those things happen. But first, Joseph spends years as a slave and in prison falsely accused of rape.

Joseph could conform. He could curse God. He could be a wicked, lazy, unfaithful servant. He could dole out physical and sexual abuse upon those below him. He could indulge in the sex his master’s wife offered. He could say, “God screwed me! Screw him!”

But he didn’t. Pay attention. Whether you’ve been abused, are being abused, or know someone who has. When Joseph holds firm to his trust in the Lord, he offers his body as a sacrifice to God: not conforming to the world, not doing what it wants, what makes us feel good, what’s most convenient.

Martin Luther said about Joseph: “The Word spoken by his father reigns in his heart…. ‘My father has taught me. No matter how long God wants to forsake me, I will hold out. My father has taught me to believe and to wait patiently for God’s help, no matter how long He postpones or delays. “Wait for the Lord….”’” Wait. God remembers. He remembers you. He wrote you upon his hands, the hands imprinted with the marks of nails that attached him to the cross. After going through such trauma for you, he doesn’t forget. In fact, he wrote his name upon you when he baptized you.

Father, lead me out of temptation. Forgive my sin. Bless me according to your will. Amen.

Abuse even happens to good people

Abuse even happens to good people


“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.” – Genesis 39:1

If you didn’t know better, you’d make nothing of Genesis 39:1. It sounds harmless. Far from it. Joseph’s been sold into slavery, a horrific trauma. His brothers did this. They roughed him up, stole his clothes, threw him into a cistern, and debated whether to kill him. If that’s not domestic violence, I don’t know what is. When they sold him, they handed him over to who knows what. He goes from slave pen to slave master, eventually prison, places where abuse are cliché. You know the reputation of prison showers. Slaves are non-people: do what you want to them.

Maybe Joseph deserved it. Nothing in the Bible suggests that. The Spirit shows us no terrible sin. Or even small ones. Certainly, he was a sinner, but he’s presented as neat and clean. Adam lies. Noah drinks. Abraham sleeps around. Jacob cheats. Joseph? He did nothing wrong. Yet almost no one in Genesis endured more.

The point? Bearing the name Christian is not some trauma-preventing talisman. Sinful things happen to baptized children of God. This doesn’t excuse or minimize them. This doesn’t compel us to stay silent or say, “God wills it.” It compels us to look to the cross. “Lord, have mercy upon us!” And, more, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Only when Christ’s return with new heavens and earth will end trauma. But we can be sure that end is coming. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” You know who said that? The one who endured more trauma than Joseph. For you.

Jesus, deliver us from evil that harms bodies and souls. Grant us peace. If not today, grant it in the blessed end of eternal life with you. Amen.

Prayer

PrayerVictims may approach a relationship with God with distrust and a lot of questions. Philip Yancey is the kind of author that communicates well to such an audience. This book on prayer is not the standard instructional manual nor the straightforward encouragement to pray. As Yancey does in his other books, he takes the questions and objections of others seriously, and admits to his own doubts and struggles. For that reason, this book may be more “in tune” with the Christian who wonders how God didn’t seem to answer a cry for help or healing. Some other books on prayer are written with solid faith that never questions and ponders before arriving at the biblical truth. Hurting people may find that reading Yancey will remove some painful barriers to prayer.

I struggle with two common assertions about prayer. Some people credit prayer “working” when, in truth, God did all the “work” as a response to prayer. Admittedly, the Bible speaks in a similar way when it says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16 NIV). And neither the Bible nor Philip Yancey can be accused of treating prayer as though prayer has a mystical power and God is not the receiver of prayer.

The other assertion some Christians make is that prayer is how you get to know God. Not: pray and learn about God from how he answers your prayers. Not: read what God says in the Bible and get to know God as you meditate on what He says. Sometimes writers assert that you pray and God speaks back to you, and you get to know God from this conversation. Yancey makes this assertion at the beginning of Chapter 5: “The main purpose of prayer not to make life easier, nor to gain magical powers, but to know God.” Isn’t prayer our side of the conversation with God? Doesn’t God’s side of the conversation come from the revelation about God on the pages of the Bible, and from experiencing how that revelation applies to our life? Yancey admits that he has not heard God’s audible voice. He admits that prayer often seems one-sided. Prayer is one-sided (unless it is defined as meditation on Scripture). Again, I admit that Yancey doesn’t define prayer as God talking to us as we talk to Him. He quotes Tim Stafford’s book Knowing the Face of God,

I am cautious in interpreting my impulses and feelings as messages from God. I do not want to take the Lord’s name in vain. I do not want to say, “The Lord told me,” when in reality I heard a mental recording of my mother’s voice. I have spent any number of hours talking to God, and he has not yet answered back in a voice that was undeniably his (page 56).

He talks about the experience of prayer as learning to speak to God about the world from his perspective, aligning our will with his as we pray. We begin to understand God, to know God as our prayers shift from what we want to what He wants. But I still question the statement that the “main purpose of prayer [is] . . . to know God.” Yancey doesn’t place this “knowing God” in the Scriptures, and without that explanation, will readers view prayer as the way to know God and as a result grow frustrated in the silence that follows their prayers?

To be fair to Yancey, and to challenge those who might not read his book because of such criticism (of a tiny part of the book, much counter-balanced by other statements he makes), Yancey examines prayer in such detail that many who have a simplistic view of prayer need to read his book so they stop making other false statements out of ignorance which also could frustrate those who struggle and seek God’s help. Yancey examines many questions such as the effect of a positive attitude or faith on recovery. His conclusions are far more nuanced and directed by Scripture and faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, than those who dismiss all discussion of how the body fights disease when teaching about God’s answers to prayer.

Yancey‘s kindliness to the suffering Christian who does not feel grateful, who is angry, resentful, and full of complaints was particularly moving. His consistent expressions of such grace may prove helpful and encouraging to those who have met rejection and frustration from Christians when they cry out in their pain. He mentions a mother who rejoices in the full time care of her invalid child, but then says, “By mentioning this woman I do not mean to compound the guilt of a mother who might wake up every day resenting the demands of her child . . .” (page 280). On the pages of this book, those who still struggle may find hope for their situation in the grace of God and in God’s promises. I was struck by this comment, “If I nurse a grudge and have not the strength to forgive, I present to God that wound, along with the one who inflicted it, and ask for strength I cannot supply on my own. (Could this be why Jesus prayed, ‘Father forgive them . . .’ from the cross rather than pronouncing, ‘I forgive you?’)” (page 313). This statement is followed by a story of a woman who interpreted praying for our enemies as applying to praying for the man who molested her daughter. She said she struggled daily to forgive and worried that by forgiving she’ll minimize the pain and suffering she caused. This example of what Yancey is talking about helps those who struggle to look closer at what Yancey just wrote about asking for strength to forgive.

The book contains many inserts—stories and comments by others that illustrate the point being made in that chapter, or provoking further thought. The inserts acted as a stimulus while reading each chapter, providing alternate voices to the authors.

A vast number of classic books have been written on prayer and Yancey catalogs many of the most famous. While I have a couple of other favorites, I would recommend this book to anyone who, having been deeply harmed by someone, has a spiritual struggle or feels estranged from God. I’ve not encountered a book that takes this pain as seriously as this book, and provides helpful and healing responses directed at hearts that have been betrayed.

Buy Now
Author: Philip Yancey
368 pages

Reviewed by: James Behringer on June 9, 2015

On the Threshold of Hope

On the Threshold of HopeThis book is written by one of the leaders in the Christian community when it comes to understanding and counseling childhood sexual abuse (CSA). While Langberg speaks to survivors in this volume, it is also helpful reading for called workers, friends, relatives—anyone who is serving as a support system for those who have been affected by the sin of CSA.

Langberg not only has 25 years experience (as the book’s writing) of counseling CSA survivors, she also has a deep understanding of Scripture and a profound appreciation for the healing power of God’s Word.

Throughout the book she points to the Savior, Jesus Christ, not only as the Redeemer who lived for us and died for sin, but also as One who understands the pain of abuse. She writes,

You live in a world where you have encountered evil people. So did he. Some of you have known violence because of other’s twisted need to gratify themselves. So did he. He, too, has encountered darkness, chaos, and trash. He went to hell—the place of greatest darkness and chaos. He who is sovereign over all knows what it is like to have hideous things happen and not be in control. He who is our refuge knows what it is like to be unprotected, not only from the fury of the enemy but also from the wrath of God. He knows what it is like not to get what you need. He had no place to sleep. He who created food and water went hungry and thirsty (p. 165).

As the author walks the survivor through the healing process, she make it clear that the road to recovery is long and painful. Yet as the title implies, she indicates that there is a hope. This books helps survivors finds such hope, practically and spiritually.

If this sin has affected you, read this book. If you are a pastor, teacher, or staff minister, read this book. If you have a friend or family member who is helping someone who was sexual abused as a child, read this book. If you are a Christian counselor or social worker, read this book. You will learn what not to do and also what you can do to help victims of CSA become survivors.

Buy Now
Author: Langberg, Diane Mandt.
217 pages

Reviewed by: John D. Schuetze on July, 2015

Read the review by Sheryl Cowling, LCSW, BCPCC, BCETS

Rid of My Disgrace

Rid of My DisgraceRid of My Disgrace – Hope and Healing of Victims of Sexual Assault

As a Christian psychotherapist, I found Rid of My Disgrace to be a very well-researched, thorough analysis of the issue of sexual assault from both a clinical and biblical perspective. This is likely a reflection of the co-authors, John Holcomb, a pastor and professor, and his wife Lindsey Holcomb, who has counseled victims of sexual assault and trained leaders to care for them.

They quickly establish a tone that is compassionate, supportive, encouraging and Christ-centered to victims of sexual assault. I appreciated their emphasis on how “God restores, heals, and re-creates through grace” (p. 15) in contrast to secular notions of healing based on self-help, self-healing and self-love.

The book is divided in to three parts. In Part One, titled “Disgrace,” the pair provides a thorough, detailed definition of sexual assault that emphasizes the traumatic nature of such an experience for both female and male victims. They offer facts and statistics that put the epidemic of sexual assault into a sobering, somber perspective. The authors detail potential biological, psychological, social and spiritual injuries that can result from sexual assault. Again, I appreciated that they draw the reader back to God’s ability to heal when they write,

What grace offers to the victim experiencing disgrace is the gift of refuting distortions and faulty thinking and replacing their condemning, counterfactual beliefs with more accurate ones that reflect the truths about God, yourself, and God’s grace-filled response to your disgrace” (p. 45).

In Part Two, titled “Grace Applied,” the pair offer vignettes written by both female and male victims of sexual assault. These testimonies convey emotions and experiences that grab the reader’s attention and empathy. They then write about denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. These are approached from a perspective that seamlessly combines sound clinical information with scriptural references. They do note how forgiveness is different than reconciliation, although I wish they would have expanded upon this even more, as often the two are considered one, which can be a significant hindrance to forgiving. The pair consistently point the reader back to Christ and Scripture as the source for all comfort and healing.

In Part Three, titled “Grace Accomplished,” the authors talk about how sexual assault is the result of sin—against the victim and against God. “In addition to being a sin against others, sexual assault is also a sin against God because the blessing of sexuality is used to destroy instead of build intimacy” (p. 170). They note how sexual assault can change how victims relate to other people, and also how they relate to God. They go on to detail grace in the Old Testament, emphasizing that, “Not only does God hear, God also sees. And out of hearing and seeing, God knows the suffering of people” (p. 180). The authors end with a chapter about grace in the New Testament that focuses on the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. “The work of Christ is to deliver us from suffering, corruption, and death, as well as from sin” (p. 207).

Overall, I found the book to be very informative and thorough. Its strengths seem to be in the details about what sexual assault is and how it can impact victims, along with the need for Christ for complete healing. Pastors and loved ones of victims may find this especially beneficial.

The book may leave some victims wanting more detailed strategies about how to heal, as it is not a workbook with exercises that might help one to apply the knowledge contained in it.

Buy Now
Author: Holcomb, Justin S. & Holcomb, Lindsey A.
288 pages

Reviewed by: Sheryl Cowling, LCSW, BCPCC, BCETS February 2015

On the Threshold of Hope

On the Threshold of HopeThis book is written by one of the leaders in the Christian community when it comes to understanding and counseling childhood sexual abuse (CSA). While Langberg speaks to survivors in this volume, it is also helpful reading for called workers, friends, relatives—anyone who is serving as a support system for those who have been affected by the sin of CSA.

Langberg not only has 25 years experience (as the book’s writing) of counseling CSA survivors, she also has a deep understanding of Scripture and a profound appreciation for the healing power of God’s Word.

Throughout the book she points to the Savior, Jesus Christ, not only as the Redeemer who lived for us and died for sin, but also as One who understands the pain of abuse. She writes,

You live in a world where you have encountered evil people. So did he. Some of you have known violence because of other’s twisted need to gratify themselves. So did he. He, too, has encountered darkness, chaos, and trash. He went to hell—the place of greatest darkness and chaos. He who is sovereign over all knows what it is like to have hideous things happen and not be in control. He who is our refuge knows what it is like to be unprotected, not only from the fury of the enemy but also from the wrath of God. He knows what it is like not to get what you need. He had no place to sleep. He who created food and water went hungry and thirsty (p. 165).

As the author walks the survivor through the healing process, she make it clear that the road to recovery is long and painful. Yet as the title implies, she indicates that there is a hope. This books helps survivors finds such hope, practically and spiritually.

If this sin has affected you, read this book. If you are a pastor, teacher, or staff minister, read this book. If you have a friend or family member who is helping someone who was sexual abused as a child, read this book. If you are a Christian counselor or social worker, read this book. You will learn what not to do and also what you can do to help victims of CSA become survivors.

Buy Now
Author: Langberg, Diane Mandt.
217 pages

Reviewed by: John D. Schuetze on July, 2015

Read the review by Sheryl Cowling, LCSW, BCPCC, BCETS

Wrestling with God

Wrestling with God

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:1

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

The writer of this prayer is being completely honest with the Lord, explaining how he actually feels. He wonders why the Lord seems so far away. And more importantly he wants to know where the Lord was when he was experiencing so much trouble and suffering. Was the Lord hiding himself? Was he scared of his enemies? Did the Lord just not care that this Psalmist was suffering?

You might be surprised to hear a man of God being so honest. Can we really say what we feel to the Lord? Can we really be so bold? Can I really say, “Lord, where were you when I was getting abused?”

Not only can you say those words, but Jesus himself said something similar. From the cross, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

So today, allow yourself to be completely honest about your feelings to the Lord. Lament, mourn, grieve, and cry out to him. Let your deepest wounds be exposed to the Lord of the universe. He not only gives you permission to be so honest, but the opening words of this Psalm give you the very words to cry out to him.

Prayer

Lord, there is so much pain that is deep within my heart. And at the depths of my soul there is a question: Why? Why, Lord? Why did you stand so far off when I was suffering? In your mercy, let me be honest with you about what is stirring in my heart and soul. Amen.

Two minutes of silence

The wicked are proud of their evil

The wicked are proud of their evil

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:2-6

2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”

If we are going to walk down this road of being honest with God, we need to be able to voice what we see with our eyes. And that’s exactly what the Psalmist does in these verses. He sees that the wicked man is arrogant. He boldly goes after the weak without fear. And he boasts of what he does. He thinks it is just a game. He boasts of the cravings in his heart. He is so full of himself that he has no room for God. He has such a bloated of himself that he believes nothing will ever shake him.

If we are honest, this is a very accurate view of what it seems like in the world. It seems like the wicked get away with their wickedness and they are even proud of it. It makes us sad and angry that the wicked would ever have their day in the sun. There are no words to describe the agony of knowing that someone has gotten pleasure from our pain.

Prayer

Lord, do you see the arrogance of the wicked? Do you see how they boast about their wickedness? Do you see the pleasure that some have gotten from my pain? Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer. Amen.

Two minutes of silence

The wicked harm the weak

The wicked harm the weak

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:7-11

7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”

I wish for one day I would open up the newspaper and there would be nothing to report. No violence. No shootings. No robberies. Just a blank page. But since Adam and Eve sinned, this world has been marked with violence. In fact, Adam and Eve’s firstborn son was Cain, the notorious murderer.

Being a Christian means that we want to see all the good in creation. We want to praise God for the flowers of the field and the taste of blueberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But it also means that we don’t have to ignore all of the wickedness and violence. The truth is we can talk to God about the violence in the world, and most importantly, the violence and abuse that has been done to us.

The Psalmist says, “(The wicked) lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under strength. He says, to himself, ‘God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees.’” He is saying, “Look at what the wicked are doing! He thinks he’s getting away with it. Do you see this Lord?”

We can say the same things to God. “Lord, violent people waited for me. They hurt me. And I was crushed. He thinks he got away with it. Do you see this Lord?”

Prayer

Lord, violent people seem to be all over the world. Violent people have been in my life and they have hurt me. Lord, did you see that? Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer. Amen.

Two minutes of silence

Turning the corner

Turning the corner

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:12-13

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?

In verse 12 the Psalmist begins to turn the corner and have some hope. Up to this moment he has been honest about his feelings of sadness and despair. He has wondered why God has allowed him to suffer, he has been honest about the arrogance of the wicked and their ability to destroy lives. But now he seems to find some hope.

The writer says, “Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.” It’s amazing to see the Psalmist calling out to God even after he has suffered so much. You might expect him to give up on God or deny his existence, but deep down he knows that there is a good God. And if he really is a good God he will hate what is evil.

How about you? Even after being a victim of unspeakable pain, can you still believe that a good God exists? Maybe one way to begin is by taking a walk. Walk through the green forest. Get outside. Or enjoy a tasty treat. Eat a bowl full of fresh strawberries (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course). Look around you to see God’s good fingerprints everywhere. Then look inside of you. Your body is an amazing, complex living machine, filled with advanced technology that is beyond our wildest dreams. You also have incredible gifts and profound emotions. There is no escaping it. You know a good God exists.

Then, if you are ready, find that good God where he most clearly reveals himself: The Bible. You might begin by reading the first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…and it was very good.” Because a good God exists, he will hate what is evil. He will call the wicked to account.

Prayer

Lord God, I don’t see you, but I do so some of the many good things you have made and done. Convince me again that you exist and that you are good and that you hate what is evil. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer. Amen.

Two minutes of silence

God sees me

God sees me

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:14

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.

The writer began this Psalm by saying, “Lord, why do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” When we suffer it seems like God was sleeping at the wheel. But now the writer says, “God sees the trouble of the afflicted.” I wonder what happened in his life that he had a change of heart and viewed God’s love differently. Did he read a specific promise in the Bible? Did something extraordinary happen in his life? How did he go from doubt to faith?

Whatever happened, I pray it happens to you. I pray that you might look back on your pain and sadness and see that God was there. He saw you and continues to see you. Do you know why I know that? Do you remember when Jesus was up on the cross and there were all those people ridiculing and challenging him, saying, “Jesus come down from that cross and save yourself! Prove that you are the Messiah!” He most definitely could have come down from that cross. But Jesus didn’t. He stayed up on that cross. And do you know why? He saw you. He was thinking of how much he loves you. He would not come down from that cross until all your shame and guilt and pain were bleached clean with his blood.

He always sees you. And one day soon, you will get to see him.

Prayer

Jesus, it is hard to believe you see me and love me because I was treated like I don’t matter. Open my heart to believe that I’m important to you, that you love me, and because of your blood I’ve been bleached clean. Amen.

Two minutes of silence

Fall into Jesus Arms

Fall into Jesus Arms

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:14b

The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.

Now comes the really hard part. In fact, it is so hard only the Holy Spirit can make this happen. Now, the Psalmist calls on all victims to commit themselves to the Lord as their helper. It is hard and impossible to do this on our own because our reason and emotions are telling us, “How can I commit myself to the Lord? He seems to have been absent in the past?” But the Psalmist, who was also a victim of abuse, has taken the first step, and he encourages us all to follow him.

Committing ourselves to the Lord is like participating in a “trust fall”. Have you ever done one of those team building exercises where you just fall back and trust that the person behind you will catch you? That is what the Psalmist is encouraging us to do. Just fall back into the arms of a loving and powerful God. Because Jesus died for you, you are a child of God and your heavenly Father is behind you to catch you.

What does feel like to fall in the arms of your heavenly Father? You feel safe and loved. You feel clean and forgiven. You feel like it is good that you exist. You feel like you have a reason to live today.

Prayer

Father in Heaven, I’m scared to trust you. I’m afraid that if I fall back into your arms you won’t be there. Lord Jesus, wash away my doubt. Holy Spirit fill up my heart with a new faith. Amen.

Two minutes of silence

Lord break their arm

Lord break their arm

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:15

15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.

The Psalmist doesn’t seem very Christian in this verse, does he? I thought Jesus said we are to turn the other cheek? I thought we were supposed to forgive and forget? Well, the only way I can “turn the other cheek” and let go of my anger is by knowing that God will right every wrong. The reason I don’t need to drink the poison of envy and hatred and bitterness is because God is in charge and he will judge all wickedness.

In a strange way, hell is a very comforting teaching in the Bible. God hates wickedness so much that he created hell so that the devil and all his angels would suffer eternally. But also, if the wicked don’t repent and plead to the Almighty God that their wickedness be forgiven for Jesus’ sake, they will have to spend eternity paying for their wrongs as well.

We know God takes wickedness seriously. Just look at what Jesus went through on the cross. Jesus suffered hell so that you would never have to. May the Lord lead you to leave all of the injustice in your life in his capable and just hands.

Prayer

Almighty God, I get so angry with those who have hurt me. I want them to feel the pain that I have felt. I want to get my revenge. Forgive me Jesus. I hand over all the wicked to you. You are their judge. I don’t need to carry that burden any longer. Now give me your joy and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Two minutes of silence

Walking in Peace

Walking in Peace

Two minutes of silence

Psalm 10:16-18

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.

The Psalmist has come a long way from where he began his prayer. He began crying out to God in despair, pounding on his chest, and now he is praising him. He calls him his king who rules over all things. Then he speaks sweet words of faith to the Lord, “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted, you encourage them and you listen to their cry.” What a change!

Are you there yet? Has the Lord turned your pain into praise? Maybe not. And that’s ok. The wounds of abuse cut deep and they can take a long time to heal. The Lord knows something about time. At the beginning of time the devil brought pain and shame into his beautiful world. It took about 4000 years until the healed that pain through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on the cross. And he is still taking time until he returns and restores his creation to the way it was always supposed to be.

Your story is not a short story. And as your story continues to unfold I want you to believe what this Psalm says. Look again at the verse above: The Lord hears your deepest desires. He will encourage you. He listens to your cry. He will defend you. And finally it is his will that you would no longer live in fear. May the Savior who has washed you clean, convince you that you are loved, forgiven, and safe.

Prayer

My dear Lord Jesus, I have a very broken past, and a long road ahead of me. Would you carry me down that road? Would you listen to me and encourage me? Would you defend me and love me? Grant me the peace that surpasses all understand to guard my heart, mind, and emotion. Lord Jesus, in your mercy, hear my prayer. Amen.

Two minutes of silence

nfo to Know When Seeking Counseling

Info to Know When Seeking Counseling


Brochures: View | Download

Informational brochures for dealing with mental health issues:

  • Ask a Therapist Brochure This brochure gives you important questions to ask counselors when you seek counseling and don’t have access to WELS counselors.
  • Christian or Non-Christian Brochure This brochure outlines potential concerns when a counselor is not a Christian, or is a Christian but not of your faith.
  • Mental Health Issues Brochure This brochure will guide you when you believe you might need counseling for mental health issues.
  • Therapy Models Brochure This brochure helps you sort out psychological terms and distinguish between different counseling processes.
  • When to Refer Brochure This brochure is written to help pastors determine when a member is in need of other forms of counseling in addition to the spiritual counseling he offers.

Check out our own Freedom for the Captives list of counselors.

Definitions of Child Abuse

Definitions of Child Abuse


There are numerous federal and state laws that define child abuse and neglect. In determining whether or not a specific action violates civil or criminal law, it is necessary to consult with local authorities. The following general definitions of child abuse and neglect are taken from the World Health Organization and the International Society on Child Abuse and Neglect. In reviewing these definitions, Christians should keep in mind that God’s standards are much higher than earthly standards. In God’s eyes, for example, even lustful or hateful thoughts about a child constitute abuse in direct violation of God’s commandments (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-30).

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse of a child is defined as the intentional use of physical force against a child that results in – or has a high likelihood of resulting in – harm for the child’s health, survival, development or dignity. This includes hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, strangling, scalding, burning, poisoning and suffocating. Much physical violence against children in the home is inflicted with the object of punishing.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is defined as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared, or else that violates the laws of society.Children can be sexually abused by both adults and other children who are – by virtue of their age or stage of development – in a position of responsibility, trust or power over the victim.
Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Emotional and psychological abuse involves both isolated incidents, as well as a pattern of failure over time on the part of a parent or caregiver to provide a developmentally appropriate and supportive environment. Acts in this category may have a high probability of damaging the child’s physical or mental health, or its physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. Abuse of this type includes: the restriction of movement; patterns of belittling, blaming, threatening, frightening, discriminating against or ridiculing; and other non-physical forms of rejection or hostile treatment.

Neglect

Neglect includes both isolated incidents, as well as a pattern of failure over time on the part of a parent or other family member

to provide for the development and well-being of the child – where the parent is in a position to do so – in one or more of the following areas:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Emotional development
  • Nutrition
  • Shelter and safe living conditions.

Source: Preventing Child Maltreatment: A Guide to Taking Action and Generating Evidence

Understanding and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Understanding and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse


Understanding and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: A Primer for Parents and Caretakers

By Victor I. Vieth and Alison Feigh

The trial of Jerry Sandusky has caused parents and others entrusted with the care of children to ask a number of questions about child sexual abuse and about the role of parents in keeping children safe. Some of the common questions parents have asked the National Child Protection Training Center, and our answers, are below.

How do children disclose sexual abuse?

Generally speaking, children don’t intentionally disclose their victimization. 3 There are many reasons for this. As adults, we would feel uncomfortable publicly disclosing even positive sexual experiences with our marriage partners. In the same way, children are understandably reluctant to disclose their sexual experiences—particularly when the experiences are negative. Since most abuse is at the hands of a loved one, the child may be worried what will happen to their parent, and to them, if the parent is removed from the home. A boy may be worried that disclosure will cause him to be labeled as weak or that it will say something about his sexual orientation. Children who have a biological reaction to sexual abuse may blame themselves for the abuse. If a child didn’t say no because they were confused or afraid, they may blame themselves for not being able to get away. Some children have been threatened or had their pets threatened as a means of coercing them to maintain the secret. One survivor of abuse told how her father tortured her cat as a means of keeping her quiet. Children who have been photographed may be scared that the images of them being sexually assaulted by a loved one will be shown on television or on the Internet. As a result of these and other dynamics, many victims carry their secrets into adulthood, even to the grave.

If children seldom intentionally disclose child sexual abuse, how does the victimization come to light?

In many cases, the child makes an accidental disclosure. In one school, for example, the children were asked to keep a journal as a means of encouraging them to write. One of the children wrote in her journal about her father sexually abusing her, unaware that the teacher would be collecting the journals. In another case, a girl was staying over at a friend’s house and the mother of her friend overheard her bedtime prayer: “Dear God, please don’t let dad have sex with me on my birthday.” Sometimes, older children disclose abuse as part of an angry outburst. In one case, a father denied his teenage daughter the keys to the car and, at a family reunion, the daughter angrily denounced her dad and called him a child molester.

Sometimes, a child will tell a best friend who discloses the abuse to an authority figure. In one case, a 14 year old rape victim detailed the abuse in a letter to her best friend in northern Minnesota. The letter was discovered by the mother of the victim’s friend.

Sometimes a child may present to the doctor with a sexually transmitted disease or perhaps a parent or other party will walk in on the abuse. In one study, 54% of child molesters admitted that, on one or more occasions, they had sexually abused a child with another child in the room and 23% had molested a child with another adult in the room. 4

Apparently, the increased risk of getting caught enhanced their excitement. Moreover, if they could abuse the child with others in the room, this would increase the child’s feeling of helplessness. Perpetrators might do this by abusing a child while a spouse is also in the bed sleeping or may begin to fondle her or him while watching TV under the same blanket with a child.

Children or teens may disclose following a training on personal body safety. Abuse may also come to light after adults have received training on warning signs and how to talk about abuse prevention to the children in their care. Even with training, children may not disclose and adults must remain the primary protectors of children.

Are certain behaviors indicative of being a child sexual abuse victim?

Most behaviors consistent with being abused are equally consistent with other causes. A child experiencing nightmares could be a victim of abuse or could simply be a child who watched a scary movie. However, research from William Freidrich of the Mayo Clinic has identified sexual behaviors in young children that are not diagnostic but have a correlation to that child being victimized sexually. 5

When these behaviors are observed in children below the age of 6 there is a chance that child has been victimized sexually or has been exposed to pornography or other sexually inappropriate activity. These behaviors include inserting objects in their body cavities, manipulating genitals with an object, acts of oral sex, and imitating sexual behavior with dolls. In one school, the after-school worker discovered a 7 year old girl performing cunnilingus on a 5 year old girl. The fact that such a young child is aware of this sexual act, much less performing it, is suggestive of sexual abuse or exposure to developmentally inappropriate sexual material. Simply stated, the child did not acquire this knowledge by watching Sesame Street.

If a child demonstrates a shift of behavior, suddenly has difficulty concentrating, or suddenly wants to disengage from activities that they liked in the past, those are signs for a caregiver to engage. The signs may not indicate abuse, but they do present opportunities for parents to connect with their children.

If the child doesn’t want to talk about the issue with a parent, brainstorm together other adults that both the parent and child trust who can be asked to check in about the problem. Every child should have five adults whom they can talk to about problems. Asking one of the five adults to check-in can serve as a powerful reminder that the world is full of adults who want children to grow up healthy, safe, and strong.

If the day care, school, summer camp, or church my child attends conducts a criminal background check on workers and volunteers, is that enough to make sure my children are safe?

Although a criminal history check may satisfy the school or camp insurance company, it does little in identifying a potential predator. Most predators do not have a criminal history. Studies indicate there is no better than a 3% chance a sexual predator will ever be apprehended. 6 When predators are apprehended, many have accumulated hundreds of victims. There is in the Wisconsin prison system a predator who has confessed to sexually abusing more than 1,200 children. 7 A study of 561 non-incarcerated sex offenders concluded these men sexually abused 195,000 victims. 8 Simply stated, a criminal history check is a good first step, but it is not meant to stand alone.

If a background check, by itself, is not enough, what sort of policies should I make sure are in place at the schools or camps my child attends?

At a minimum, parents should look for the following policies:

  • Two-deep leadership. If at all possible, children should always be in the care of at least two workers. Even if a worker or volunteer has to remove a child from the group for a legitimate reason, the child and the worker should always be in the eyesight of at least one additional worker or volunteer. When developing two-deep leadership teams, it may be wise to avoid placing close family members or friends as teams. This is because a spouse or other close family member is more likely to protect a loved one who violates church rules or engages in concerning behavior with a youth.
  • Respect the child’s privacy. Sex offenders like to see children undressing or otherwise seek an opportunity to initiate conversation about sexual topics. Accordingly, workers and volunteers should avoid watching children undress in locker rooms, showers, or bathrooms.
  • Separate sleeping accommodations. At boarding schools, camps, or other overnight settings, there should be separate sleeping accommodations for children and the adults. If there is a reason for an adult to enter the sleeping accommodations of children at night (i.e., a child has become ill), the exception should be well documented and, if at all possible, two adults should be entering the sleeping area. When requiring separate sleeping accommodations, make it clear this means truly separate. In one case, an offender arranged an overnight with youth during which he had an adjoining room door he could easily open and otherwise gain access to the children he molested.
  • Limit, if not prohibit, events at a worker’s home. In one case, a youth minister had the children he was working with over to his house for a party in which all the children joined him in a hot tub where he instructed some of the children how to masturbate with the jets. Again, sex offenders seek private access to children and allowing a worker to be alone with children at his or her house increases the risk. If there is a legitimate reason for hosting an event at the worker’s home, have some rules around such activities—such as an additional worker present. In the same vein, there should be regulations on workers visiting the homes of children. In more than one case, church or other workers have visited children at their homes and have molested them there. 9
  • Appropriate attire. Adult workers and volunteers should wear appropriate clothing at all times. Activities such as skinny dipping should always be prohibited. Again, offenders look for opportunities to initiate inappropriate sexual conversations with their potential victims. Accordingly, sexually suggestive or otherwise inappropriate apparel or behaviors should be prohibited.
  • Sexual jokes, comments, or behaviors around children should be strictly prohibited. In one case, a “Christian” teacher told the boys in his care about the frequency he had sex with his wife on his honeymoon. The same teacher would slam on the brakes when driving the school van and comment to the boys this was merely a “ball busting exercise.” A worker at a church boarding school hosted a pizza party where the invited adolescent girls were “accidently exposed” to his pornography collection.
  • Open windows and open doors. There may be times when a teacher or other adult will need to be alone with a child, such as a teacher giving a child a music lesson. In such a scenario, it is important to have an open-door policy where fellow teachers or others can enter unexpectedly and to have windows on doors so others can see what is happening in a particular room. Again, sex offenders look for opportunities to abuse children and it is the responsibility of a youth-serving organization to limit these opportunities. 10
  • Prohibiting corporal punishment. Corporal punishment of children is prohibited in most schools, day cares, and other settings. 11 There is a large body of medical and mental health research documenting that corporal punishment does very little good and is often harmful to children. 12 In settings where corporal punishment is allowed, children get mixed messages about telling. A child telling when someone hurts them is then discounted and told to ignore that feeling if the behavior is allowed. As an additional concern, sex offenders may view corporal punishment as a socially permissible means to touch a child’s buttocks or other intimate parts of the body. 13

How do I speak with my child about personal safety?

There are number of books and materials that parents can use in speaking with their children. about personal safety. Some parents worry that personal safety is frightening or involves sex education. This is not the case. You are simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed.

Children should be encouraged to tell the person taking care of them if anyone is acting in a way that makes them feel confused or scared. Parents and caregivers can stress that even if the person giving them the “uh-oh feeling” or trying to get them to break their safety rules is someone that they know, they can still tell and it isn’t their fault. The greater risk to children is people that they already know, but that relationship often makes it harder to tell.

Some professionals are opposed to personal safety classes because they believe the classes put the burden on the child to protect themselves. If this logic is carried to the extreme, we would stop teaching children not to play with matches. We want a child to know what to do if they see a matchbook without assuming they would know what steps to take to fireproof a home. Children who have been sexually abused have often been led by their perpetrators to believe there is nothing they can do to stop the abuse. A personal safety program may give them a way out. The responsibility for personal safety should not rest solely on the shoulders of a child, but giving children good information can help start important conversations and keep them safer.

How will I know when my child is trying to tell me about child sexual abuse?

Recognize that a child making a disclosure of abuse may do it piece-meal or in a manner that distances him or herself from the abuse. For example, a child may approach a parent after a personal safety lesson and ask him/her “if something like that happened to my friend, who should she tell?” The child may have a friend who has been victimized or she may be seeking more information before deciding if she wants to disclose her own abuse. An appropriate response may be to reiterate the importance of telling and then ask the child directly if anything has happened to them. Many children will not disclose unless directly asked. This is particularly true given that most child sexual abuse is at the hands of someone the child is close to and may love.

Starting “What if” games with a child when the child is young is a good way to begin these important conversations about safety. Allowing your child a chance to problem solve with a “What if” can increase their confidence on these subjects. Thinking through a “What if” scenario and coming up with good solutions can make it easier to make those same choices if the actual scenario presents itself. It also allows the caregiver to reinforce important messages.

Parent : “What if an older child asked you to play a secret touching game with them for $5?”

Child: “I know that we talk about touches in our family. I would not take the money and would come and tell you about it.”

“Great answer! You know that your safety is worth more than any amount of money, right?”

What should I know about how sexual predators select children?

Many predators put a great deal of thought into selecting, grooming, and abusing their victims. They often look for children whom they believe will fall into their attention/affection trap. Consider this report from a predator targeting church children:

First of all, you start the grooming process from day one…the children that you’re interested in…. You find a child you might be attracted to…. For me, it might be nobody fat. It had to be a you know, a nice-looking child…. You maybe look at a kid that doesn’t have a father image at home. You know, you start deducting. Well, this kid may not have a father, or a father that cares about him. Some kids have fathers but they’re not there with them…. Say if you’ve got a group of twenty-five kids, you might find nine that are appealing…. Then you start looking at their family backgrounds…. Then you find out which ones are most accessible. Then eventually you get it down to the one you think is the easiest target, and that’s the one you do. 14

Since predators seek vulnerable children, it is wise to pay attention to children at greatest risk. Children and adults who are physically or mentally disabled, children engaging in delinquent behavior or who are having trouble with drugs or alcohol, or simply children of a single parent may be an easy target for predators.
Will being engaged in my child’s life and proactive in monitoring my child’s activities deter a potential predator?

Parents who understand that a predator may look for the one child at basketball games, band concerts, or other school events that never has a parent attend or otherwise demonstrate interest in their son or daughter may choose to take a greater interest in their child’s life. Parents must also understand the dangers of the Internet. A University of New Hampshire study found that 20% of children between the ages of 10-17 have been solicited for sexual purposes. 15 If a parent would not allow an unsupervised adult to enter the child’s bedroom, then a parent should not allow Internet accessible computers in a child’s room or even allow the child to enter chat rooms where predators abound. Tell your child to save their questions about their bodies and sex to ask you or another approved adult in person and not to seek out those answers from people wanting to chat online.

What sort of therapy should I refer my child to if he or she has been victimized?

It is essential that the counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist be experienced in working with victims of sexual abuse and be well versed in the abundant research on treating children suffering from trauma. Keep in mind that most psychologists received little, if any training at the undergraduate or graduate level on child sexual abuse. 16 Accordingly, if a given therapist has not taken the initiative to master the literature in this area and is not experienced in working with this issue, he or she is simply not competent to work these cases. If your community has a child advocacy center certified by the National Children’s Alliance, contact that center for a referral. 17

Where can I acquire additional information?

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) is a program of the National Child Protection Training Center. JWRC has numerous resources for parents on speaking with their children about safety and keeping children safe when out of a parent’s care, including a class on how to talk to children about body safety in a positive and empowering way. To learn more, visit JWRC at www.jwrc.org.

JWRC employees and volunteers train parents, children, caregivers, and professionals about personal safety. Recently, one of our speakers was working with children on writing out individual lists of each child’s five trusted adults. Children were offering plenty of examples of the people in their lives they can go to if they have a problem. Children were taught that we have five adults in case the first adult doesn’t know what to do, isn’t around at the time of the question, and that sometimes it is the adult on their list that is trying to get them to break a rule or is giving them the “uh-oh” feeling. The children were told if the first person on the list can’t help, move on to one of the other 4 adults. The room was full of positive energy as children were making lists of 5, 10, and even 15 adults in their lives that they could approach for help. One little girl looked up with wide eyes and said, “Isn’t it great that there are so many good guys in the world!” That is the good news. There are so many people in the world who want to do their part to create safe childhoods for children. How would our world be different if people protested in the streets anytime a child was hurt? Our best protest is prevention.