Afraid of God
This webpage is for everyone, even though it is of particular relevance to all abuse survivors, whether child abuse, sexual abuse or domestic abuse. If you have suffered abuse and do not have multiple personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder), part of you probably fears that God is like your abuser, without you being very conscious of that fear. Having alters (different “personalities”) merely reveals more directly the hidden, hurting part of you.
It is appallingly common for people to use the word love when they really mean the exact opposite. They mean lust – a selfish longing to exploit a person. For them, “love” is getting what they want. In contrast, true love is generously giving what the other person wants. It is respecting people and wanting their happiness above one’s own. Genuine love is so beautiful and so rare that it seems almost unbelievable, especially when so many of us have only ever seen the fake.
Some child abusers even claim it is an act of love to beat their children senseless, but here’s the truth: “Love is patient, love is kind . . . it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. . . . It always protects, always trusts . . . (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Having God in one’s life produces “. . . patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, . . . gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Arrogant self-righteousness deeply grieves the God who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7) and would not so much as break what everyone else regards as a good-for-nothing bruised reed, or snuff out a smelly, smoldering wick (Matthew 12:20).
We tend to think that since God is holy and all-powerful he must be cold, harsh, intolerant and scary, but God is not only holy; he is pure, selfless love, like we have never seen in a human. This means he longs to respect you, honor you, believe in you, and exalt you. That can seem too good to be true, but God is so good that he is in a totally different category to anyone else. “No one is good – except God alone,” said Jesus (Mark 10:18).
God wants to be on your side as your defender and to shower you with blessings. He so passionately yearns to be your best friend that he has gone to the greatest imaginable extreme to make it possible. This is why the eternal Son of God left heaven’s throne to be abused, humiliated and tortured to death. By swapping places with you, the Lord’s holy requirements can be met, freeing him to treat you as he would treat his favorite – his one and only holy child, the Lord Jesus. Yes, God will treat you as his favorite!
The Perfect One is the exact opposite of an abuser. Despite all his power, he chooses to be ever so gentle and treat you with dignity. So, regardless of his intense ache to lavish you with his blessings and be your best friend and confidant and defender, he restrains himself, waiting for you to let him. Even though the exalted Son of God suffered beyond words for you, he will allow all that agony to go to waste, rather than force his goodness and total cleansing upon you against your will. Once you allow Jesus into your life, however, the one thing hindering the Holy One from getting close to you – unforgiven sin – disappears. He who knows your worst secrets, the Judge of all humanity, joyfully declares you innocent and would defend your innocence to the death. In fact, Jesus has literally done just that.
Once you accept Jesus’ forgiveness, the most powerful person in the universe is free to be to you what he yearns to be – as warm, safe and comforting as a teddy bear. As proved by Jesus’ sacrifice, he would take the bullet for you. He is on your side and fights your battles. He feels your pain. He weeps for you. He is an oasis in the desert; a soft, cuddly blanket to snuggle into on a chilly night; the best and most exciting friend anyone could ever have.
God and his angels are not the only spiritual beings. There are also evil spiritual beings – Satan and his angels. These evil beings not only inspired those who have hurt you, they are intent on hindering every Christian’s relationship with God. Being evil, they play dirty and specialize in deception and in exploiting any hurt or wound within us. They delight not only in initiating evil, but in trying to fool us into blaming God for their dirty work.
The enemy of our souls is the master deceiver because that is all he can do. The devil cannot change reality. He cannot change the fact that God is selflessly devoted to you with all of his unlimited love and that Christ suffered for the sins of the entire world, which has to include every sin that ever touched you. The filthiest sinner who puts his/her faith in the power of Christ’s forgiveness is instantly made as pure as crystal, as holy as God himself, in God’s eyes (2 Corinthians 5:21). So all the devil can do is to blast you with deceptively strong fear or guilt feelings, hoping that you will start to believe them rather than believe in the power of Christ’s forgiveness and the tender love of God.
It is of critical importance that you focus on God’s great love for you and not let deceptive spirits trick you into thinking that God frowns on you when you fall into sin. Yes, God is disappointed, but when a little child with good parents runs off and falls, what’s the first thing he does? He looks to mommy or daddy for comfort. You, too, should run into Daddy’s arms for the comfort you need. God is on your side. He cares deeply for you.
Your spiritual enemies, however, want to make you feel uneasy about running to God. So they swamp you with feelings of condemnation, hoping you will believe those feelings rather than believe the truth about God that he is tenderly forgiving toward all who put their faith in Christ. This is a major strategy of these deceivers because they know we instinctively recoil from anyone we fear might be angry or displeased with us. We can’t help but inwardly keep a person at arm’s length, if we suspect he is displeased with us. So your enemies flood you with guilt feelings, hoping to fool you into being standoffish from the only One who can truly deliver you from every problem and defeat their every attempt to bring you down. Rather than see you rejoice in God’s forgiveness they want you to feel miserable and isolated from the warmth of God’s compassion.
Sex abusers rarely stop at sexual abuse, and men, women or children engaging in domestic violence rarely stop at physical abuse. They commonly inflict serious psychological abuse in the form of repeated putdowns and slander that so shatters their victims’ self-esteem that, until they find healing, victims stagger through life with, to say the least, a low opinion of themselves.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, a diamond is just a hunk of rock. For centuries many cultures considered them as worthless as dirt. A diamond’s value is measured not by what it does, but solely by how much some people are willing to pay to have one. Likewise, your worth is not based on what you do. You are of infinite value because the King of kings, the Lord of the universe, paid a far higher price than all the wealth of a million earths – the willing sacrificial death of his holy Son – to have you as his best friend. And if he has invested so much in you, he will treasure you and cherish you for all eternity.
But because so few of us grasp this, it is common for not-yet-healed abuse survivors to hate or blame themselves and/or feel they deserve to be punished. As if this were not distressing enough, they usually assume that God must feel the same way about them. Mistakenly suspecting that God feels negatively toward them has one inevitable but tragic consequence. Without necessarily even realizing it, they instinctively shrink from the One who is truly their best friend, putting at least a little distance between themselves and the One who longs to comfort and heal them.
Your mind might be so certain that Jesus is good, perfect and sinless that it seems incomprehensible to you that deep within there could be part of you that feels very differently. Because you know that such a fear is utterly irrational, you might have convinced yourself that there could be no fear lurking in the back of your mind of Jesus acting like an abuser. We need to realize, however, that fear is something we inherit from past trauma; it is not an emotion that submits to rational thought.
We must address the subject of fear because no matter how strong we pretend to be, the undeniable fact is that anyone suffering abuse has suffered something so unpleasant that it is only human to be terrified of a repeat. So to avoid being unnecessarily hard on ourselves or living in blind denial of what is going on deep within us, we need to understand the nature of fear.
If you suffer from headaches and have a brain scan that proves the headaches are not due to a brain tumor, your headaches will not magically disappear. At most, pain responds only slightly to knowledge. So it is with fear.
If someone were terrified of spiders, you might convince the person that a particular spider is harmless but not even that will allow his terror to magically vanish. He will still find it enormously difficult to push through his crippling fear and touch the spider. This is not because he is crazy or is distrusting of whoever says the spider is harmless. It is simply the nature of fear.
Becoming intellectually convinced that a certain spider is harmless can help, but theory is not enough. Refusing to cave in to the fear, he must draw close to the spider. Only then will the fear slowly dissipate. Even so, he must keep this up for days or even weeks before every trace of fear leaves. There is no point waiting until all fear disappears before approaching a spider. Overcoming fear simply does not work that way.
Likewise, in our relationship with God, theology is not enough to remove all fear. Knowing that God is safe can reduce fear but we must still courageously push through the remaining fear and draw close to God and experience him. Only then will the remaining fear gradually fade. Faith is like Peter courageously getting out of the boat and stepping on the water; not sitting around waiting until the water evaporates!
Just as fear barely responds to rational thought, the same is true of the passing of years. The mere fact that the original cause of the fear occurred decades ago will not cause fear to fade. Neither does fear magically disappear if you happen to be male or mature. Fear is not an indication of a man being unmanly, or a person being immature or lacking in courage. Fear, like pain, affects us regardless of gender or maturity or courage. Some people feel pressured to act as if fear is not there, but it is just an act. Pretending not to fear will not make the fear vanish in a puff of smoke, although as we noted with a fear of spiders, continual exposure to whatever is feared should eventually cause the fear to gradually diminish.
I will endeavor to pamper you with intellectual assurance that God is safe and that his warm compassion for you is pure, selfless and utterly non-sexual. I wish that this were all it takes to make the tormenting fear within you completely vanish but, like convincing someone that a spider is harmless, I realize there is only so much that addressing the intellect can achieve.
You will find significant links at the end of this page addressing all the issues of guilt, self-hate, self-blame and low self-esteem causing us to shrink a little from God because we mistakenly presume that he feels coldly toward us. For now, however, we will focus on what might initially seems ridiculous and yet at a barely conscious level it haunts many survivors of sex abuse – fear that God could be sexually abusive.
We have already seen that fear is an almost inevitable consequence of abuse and that any sort of fear barely responds to rational thought or the mere passing of time and it is no respecter of age or gender. We should now examine yet another significant characteristic of fear.
Fear spreads beyond whatever originally caused it. Years ago, experimental psychologists proved this by first startling babies with a loud noise as soon as a white rat appeared. Thereafter, the babies would cry whenever they saw a white rat. No surprises there. You might also expect the babies to react the same way when they see other white rats that look similar to the original one. What the psychologists found, however, is that the babies would now cry if they saw a cute white bunny.
This is why intense fear generated by one man can spread not only to a fear of being alone with any man but to feeling uneasy about getting close to God, especially if he is regarded as being male. Besides gender, another superficial point of similarly between God and an abuser is that, should he choose to do so, God has the ability to overpower us.
Let’s begin by examining the gender issue. Despite the use of the male pronoun and the word “father” and “son”, God the Father and God the Son are sexless. You will find a link at the end of this page to a biblical exploration of this fact and that God is not just like a father but also like mother. But what about the risen Lord? Isn’t he male?
The Bible teaches that in the next life we will have glorified bodies. It also declares that, spiritually, there is no male or female. It is logical to expect that our heavenly bodies will reflect this fact by being sexless. In fact, there will be no sex (marital relations) in heaven. Our future bodies will be like the resurrected body that Jesus now has. It is therefore logical to presume that even if our resurrected Lord looks superficially male, he does not have a male body but is genderless, like God the Father and angels and like we, ourselves, will one day be. (For supporting Scriptures for these statements, see The Biblical Evidence.)
Regardless of whether we have multiple personalities (alters), we all have parts of us that influence us even though we are, at most, only vaguely aware of how they affect us. Increasing our awareness of those parts can greatly speed our healing and help us identify and resolve things within us that hold us back from running into God’s arms, gleefully yielding to him and falling in love with him. Even though in the remainder of this webpage I will refer to alters, what I have learned from ministering to people with distinct parts is relevant to us all.
The most powerful thing anyone can do for alters (or anyone else) is to help them learn to trust Jesus so that they open up to him and discover how wonderful he is. Tragically, alters are often terrified of their Healer and Best Friend and the safest Person in the universe – Jesus. They fear he will act like their abuser did. No matter how groundless or irrational the fear is, the feeling is often devastatingly intense.
So when ministering to people with multiple personalities, I devote much time seeking to reassure their alters that Jesus is safe and not the terrifying potential abuser that they fear. I do my utmost to coax and entice them to interact with Jesus and let him minister to them. Of course, I am acutely aware that no matter how important my efforts are, I cannot eliminate their fears. The best I can do is merely to lower their fears. Ultimately, they need to find out for themselves how safe and wonderful Jesus is by taking the “risk” and pushing through their fears to come to Jesus.
Jesus understands this so deeply that he is mind-bogglingly gentle, tender, compassionate and patient with alters. (You will find an example of an alter’s experience in a link at the end of this page and that page links to further beautiful examples.)
Sometimes we get so carried away with abstract theories about God – that he is holy, all-powerful, exalted, and so on – that we lose touch with biblical revelation. The Jesus of the Gospels was stern with the hard-hearted self-righteous who looked down on others, but he was always so tenderly compassionate toward everyone who was hurting or crushed with guilt. He came to heal the brokenhearted. He will not break even an apparently useless bruised reed, nor snuff out a stinking smoldering wick (Matthew 12:20). Throughout Scripture we see over and over that God continually delights not merely in bringing down those who lord it over others, but in lifting high the oppressed and those weighed down with despair.
This is emphatic biblical revelation but it has only been through relating to alters that I have glimpsed the full glory of this facet of our Lord’s beauty. For example, as a result of humiliating potty training as a little girl, a mature woman with D.I.D. often suffered horrific pain, fear, false guilt and enormous embarrassment when using the toilet. More than once, at her alter’s invitation, the exalted King of kings entered the toilet, knelt on the floor and held her hand to comfort her.
When Jesus allowed himself to be humiliated for us on the cross, we see not just the past but the eternal heart of our loving, selfless God. He was not just humble and gentle on earth; he is eternally humble and gentle.
Over and over, I have known alters to rail against Jesus, grossly insulting the Holy Son of God, and they report that to their amazement the Lord of Lords just stood there with pain in his heart, tenderly absorbing all the verbal abuse (just like he did on the cross). Innumerable times, alters have told me how the all-powerful Lord has let them order him around when, out of fear, they have demanded that he keep his distance, or leave, or whatever. The resurrected Lord not only rules the universe, he is still the humblest, most selfless Person you will ever find. He lives by the highest conceivable moral standards. No one is as trustworthy as him.
Abuse survivors have had their trust violated in a most appalling manner. Suffering such devastation makes trusting anyone exceedingly difficult. Of all people, however, Jesus is utterly trustworthy. He truly understands. He is patiently waiting, aching for you to draw close to you so that he can take your pain upon himself and heal you.
Because the following pages lead to more pages it is easy to lose this list of links. So save the web address of this page before exploring the links.
Is Jesus Safe? Sexual Issues in Relating to Jesus An alter’s experience
Alters Meet Father God About how safe and kind Jesus and Father God are
Deepening Your Awareness of God’s Safe Love for You
Much More Help With Multiple Personality Disorder
Help and Inspiration When Gripped by Fear
Other Things that Can Make You Hesitate to Draw Close to God
For Child Alters: Innocent in God’s Eyes
How to Change Your Self-Image & Boost Self-Esteem
Blaming Yourself, Blaming Others, Blaming God
Personalized support Grantley Morris: email@example.com
© 2008, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.netburst.net Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.
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