Psycho-Babble Faith Thread 484185

Shown: posts 1 to 6 of 6. This is the beginning of the thread.


Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God

Posted by daisym on April 14, 2005, at 14:22:10

I'm surprised that this hasn't come up before. How do you reconcile your faith in God's love and protection with a childhood history of severe physical and sexual abuse?

I've read the above threads with interest, especially because I'm a practicing (and practical) Catholic who is seeing a Jewish psychologist. He and I have had several discussions about faith, especially when I told him after six months of therapy that I had stopped talking to God. He knows that I attended Catholic schools growing up and things were pretty rigid, especially "Honor thy father and mother." He encourages me to remember that I feel better when I force myself out the door to Church because as hard as it is to ask these questions about God, prayer is still sustaining for me.

We are in the middle of exploring the past and a large part of that is dealing with the guilt of what I "did" as well as the pain of recognizing that no one saved me, not even God.

OK, as an adult, I *know* about free will and I believe evil exists in the world. But there is a deep emotional wound that finds it hard to understand why God "allows" such things to happen. I guess this is the ultimate existential question, isn't it?


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.


Re: Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God » daisym

Posted by Dena on April 15, 2005, at 9:05:22

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

Daisy -

I, too, had bad experiences, and have wrestled with trying to understand how a loving God could allow bad things to happen to me...

I found my answers through Theophostic Prayer Ministry. In a very focused type of prayer, I was able to "hear" God tell me how He loved me, and grieved with me over the pain caused by the free will of others.

It made ALL the difference.

I can still feel sad - but the pain is GONE. I'm also now able to trust God, it's ok with me that I don't entirely understand. I know I will one day. Somehow, the seeming contradiction between an all-loving God, and free will that brings devastation -- somehow it works out, and one day I'll understand.

I felt so loved in those encounters with God - it made everything else pale in comparison...

There are trained facilitators all over the country. Many of them do the ministry at no charge.

It's not what they do or say -- it's what God does and says. It's amazing...

Shalom, Dena


Re: Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God » psycjw

Posted by Daisym on April 15, 2005, at 10:40:23

In reply to Re: Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God, posted by psycjw on April 15, 2005, at 6:52:56

Thank you for that long, thoughtful reply. I knew when I asked that there are no real answers except to have faith in God's love. I often wonder how people with no faith get through the really hard stuff. Sometimes I throw up my hands and say, "whatever lesson I'm supposed to be learning, obviously I'm not learning it fast enough. Please guide me in more obvious way."

One of my favorite lessons was from a lady in my church. I have three wonderful boys but they were a handful when they were little and every Sunday I would pray for patience. When I mentioned what I was praying for she said, "It seems to me that God keeps testing your patience to show you that you DO have it...perhaps if you stop praying for more of it, he'll stop testing that which you have." Hmmm...

Therapy is the most challenging thing I have ever done. It feels like being stripped to your core and exposed to God without defenses or explanations. Especially when I question Him. Or I question my ability to keep going. We've talked about suicide as a sin...a very hard discussion to have. I think these are the dark moments when you feel most abandoned by God.

Again, thank you for your reply. You've given me a lot to think about.


Re: Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God » Dena

Posted by Daisym on April 15, 2005, at 10:46:57

In reply to Re: Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God » daisym, posted by Dena on April 15, 2005, at 9:05:22


I'm glad you found such peace. I'll look at the web site.

I've thought a great deal about why I remain Catholic. When I was young, we moved a lot. But no matter where in the country we moved, Church was basically the same. There was comfort in that, that you could count on the sameness and I felt like I belonged. I always thought it was about the traditions and the way the churches looked. I know now that it was my faith that God was listening to me as I opened up to him. And Church was really the only safe place to open up my feelings. I had to hide myself away from everything and I couldn't tell anyone else.

While my parents did lots of things wrong, I'm grateful that they took me to church and allowed me to have this foundational experience.


Re: Williams: Child Abuse/Abandoned by God » daisym

Posted by rayww on April 22, 2005, at 9:44:50

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

God is God because He knows how to use the bad situations that we create, to bring about good. Everyone, including our parents, struggle with keeping God's commandments. Nowhere in church doctrine is there allowance for human abuse or torture. In fact, those who choose to abuse children who believe in Jesus Christ will some day stand accountable before Him. In His own words,

This is the end of the thread.

Show another thread

URL of post in thread:

Psycho-Babble Faith | Extras | FAQ

[dr. bob] Dr. Bob is Robert Hsiung, MD,

Script revised: February 4, 2008
Copyright 2006-17 Robert Hsiung.
Owned and operated by Dr. Bob LLC and not the University of Chicago.