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Re: Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God

Posted by psycjw on April 15, 2005, at 6:52:56

In reply to Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God, posted by daisym on April 14, 2005, at 14:22:10

thanks for your post
i'm afraid i don't have any more answers than any of the rest of us here

i guess my main perspective as a doctor too is that although there are some great/fantastic/beautiful things in the world/creation, there are also some pretty nasty/oppressive/violent/abusive things that go on too. i guess from a faith based perspective it ties in with the idea that we are all living pretty much in a battleground where even if we have a personal faith and that can sustain/encourage us, we are not protected from the bad things that exist in the world

those bad things might include:
walking down a road and breathing in a virus that gives us flu
walking home and being mugged
driving home entirely safely and being killed by a drunk driver

as a Christian i do believe that God can and does intervene in world affairs, and sometimes that can be directly, or through church members etc, however the reality of flu, car crashes, muggings etc clearly shows that God doesn't intervene to stop all "bad" things happening. we therefore can as individuals experience pain, suffering, abuse etc which is wrong. what the bible does say however is that god knows and loves and offers relationship

i know sometimes there's things are easier said (or typed!) than held on to when terrible things have happened, but i guess part of cbt is also about helping break the chains of the past and move to the future. perhaps - hopefully - your faith might help in that at least somewhat. i hope the sessions with the practitioner help

some of the reasons for bad things being allowed to occur can be ascribed to free will/choice ie would we really want to be be completely safe but robots unable to drive fast/make silly or soemtimes frankly bad or evil decisions? the wold we have may just be the consequence that its the world not just that god has made, but also that we (generically ie mankind) has made it. can i mention here that when people are abused - its really common to feel guit - BUT that is inapprorpiate. when an adult abuses a child it is always the adults fault - and its impt to keep that in mind when you notice feelings of false guilt

i guess as a final comment that the christian faith offers both hope for the future (new creations,us changed/healed etc), but also that that can start now. hard as it is i'd siggest keeping talking to God - even if some of it is when you feel like shouting. its great that you have noticed that prayer is ustaining you and it is helpful going to church. keeping choosing to do this may be part of the answer
and keep seeing the therapist - he sounds very helpful

finally - below this post ive added a section from the I'm not supposed to feel like this book which deals with the idea of false guilt - maybe some of the ideas might be relevent?
chris w

From Chapter 8: I'm not supposed to feel like this: A christian self-help approach to depression and anxiety

1). Potential problems in our relationships with others in our Church.
We have seen in earlier chapters that our thinking patterns can become quite extreme and unhelpful when we are experiencing depression or anxiety. They alter our view of ourselves, other people and God. In particular we can focus a great deal on aspects of ourselves that we see in a negative light and ignore completely the more positive things. This is a common experience for most people when feeling depressed or anxious whether or not they have a personal faith, but for the Christian there are one or two areas that can cause particular problems; these are feelings of false guilt and low self-esteem.

a). The problem of false guilt.
Amongst the most fundamental and basic beliefs of most Christians are these:
• Everyone is guilty before God of sin “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans Ch. 3 v. 23).
• Jesus died for our sin to set us free from condemnation and give us salvation “For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. … But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans Ch. 5 v. 6 and 8).

The Christian faith accepts that guilt is a normal response when we have broken God’s laws. In the normal course of events guilt is a helpful part of the cycle of sin, repentance, forgiveness and restoration. However, if we develop mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, this normal helpful cycle can become disrupted. Psychologists and psychiatrists have found that during periods of anxiety and depression, people may unhelpfully and incorrectly feel guilty about things that are either not their fault, or about which they have already been forgiven by God. As a result, feelings of guilt cause them to feel that they are utter failures.

Howard Gordon is a Baptist minister who has worked for many years as a hospital chaplain with people experiencing depression, and has written particularly about the issue of guilt. He relates a typical conversation with someone experiencing depression like this:
“Patient I feel so guilty.
Chaplain God is willing to forgive everybody’s wrongdoing.
Patient Yes, I know that.
Chaplain Have you asked God to forgive you?
Patient Yes, I have.
Chaplain Do you believe that he has forgiven you?
Patient Yes, I do.
Chaplain Then what is the problem?
Patient I don’t feel forgiven.”

Reference (italics added): Unpublished PhD thesis ‘Christian Identity and the Alleviation of Guilt Feelings in Depressive Illness’ Cranfield University School of Management, November 1996 p19. Reproduced with the permission of H Gordon.

The author goes on to discuss different types of guilt feelings, and particularly the difference between true and appropriate guilt, where moral and legal rules have been broken, and false guilt, where there is no real personal responsibility for the things we feel guilty about.

It is this “false guilt” that is so often present when we feel anxious or depressed, and in spite of our belief that God forgives our wrongdoing we just don’t feel as if it has happened.

Are there particular things that you are feeling guilty about at the moment?
Yes  No 

If there are, write them down here:

Now go back over what you have written and ask yourself and God if you are really responsible for wrongdoing in these areas. Is this an example of false guilt caused by anxiety or depression – where you judge yourself as guilty just because you feel guilty – even though these feelings are directly caused by the mental health problem itself?

Consider asking a Christian friend whom you trust to help you with this exercise. It may help to hear someone else state with confidence that some of the things you currently feel very guilty about are in fact based purely on feeling, rather than being based on something you should feel guilty about.

Key Point.
Where there are things that we can clearly see have been wrong with our lives it is right to confess those things to God and receive forgiveness. Sometimes it can help if we are able to share these things with a Christian friend we trust with confidential information. It may help to hear someone else state with confidence that God has removed our sin from us. This idea of believing that things are true simply because they feel like they are true is sometimes called emotional reasoning. Emotions are very important aspects of all our lives, but it is also important to be aware that during times of depression and anxiety our thinking and emotions may become biased and distorted. You may then feel guilty for things that you are not really responsible for. It is important to recognise that this is a symptom of your condition, and if so that this feeling of false guilt will disappear as you recover from your depressed or anxious mood.

Sometimes your church can unwittingly aggravate, or even cause, feelings of false guilt. For example in the preaching of sermons that emphasise the fundamental truths of the Gospel we mentioned earlier, these truths can be distorted by our low mood so that we focus upon aspects such as condemnation, and the forgiveness and love of God are overlooked – an example of the so-called negative mental filter you read about in Chapter 2 of this book. The Bible speaks about God’s unconditional forgiveness as well as his judgement, yet we may filter out the positive and fail to recognise this when we feel depressed or anxious. This may also cause us to overlook another very important truth about our relationship with God – the fact that we have been justified by what He has done.

The importance of justification.
The biblical idea of justification means to treat as or to make righteous. The New Testament word for justification is formed from the same word as that for righteousness. The point is that God doesn’t just forgive our sin; he also regards us as being sinless and righteous. This isn’t because he has a defective memory, but because of the great love he has for us.

We looked earlier at the verse in Romans Ch. 3 v. 23 where Paul speaks of everyone having sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Lots of people know this verse, but fewer know that verse 24 says this: “they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Of course reading this verse may not suddenly make you feel “forgiven”, but it may help to reassure you that your feelings of unforgiveness are not from God, and are more than likely a symptom of your current emotional state – another example of emotional reasoning.

However you feel, and however much you think you are failing the expectations of those you share fellowship with, you are not a failure in God’s eyes simply because you are experiencing anxiety or depression. Try to remember this, because otherwise you will end up carrying a far heavier load than you would otherwise, and this is likely to hinder rather than help your recovery.




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