Questioning Why I Was in an Abusive
I think many of us have questions about "why did God allow this to happen to me?" Spiritual deception and betrayal are not easy to make sense of. I felt I was making my own choices when I listened to the program and sent away for the literature. What I had no knowledge of was mind control, coercive persuasion and propaganda techniques (methods which all false prophets and teachers use to peddle their lies1) and I was not aware that religious cults often use "church" as a front to deceive. I was young, naive, and living away from home (which I am sure played a part). As a result, I succumbed to it all, believing it was "truth from God" that no one else was teaching.
I had no idea that I was allowing a man (Herbert Armstrong) to interpret the Scriptures for me.2 But he did indeed manipulate and twist my mind, causing me to trust only him and no one else. The more I surrendered myself to every last vestige of what he taught, believing I was in God's "one and only true Church"3 and that he and "God's government" were always to be obeyed and never questioned, the more I came into slavery to an organization more evil and dark than anyone could possibly imagine. "Truths" of God turned out to be doctrines of bondage,4 happiness turned into depression, success turned into failure, joy turned into grief, and as the years passed, it slowly began destroying my life and my family's (while we only blamed ourselves). The full reason "why" it happened may never be known in this life.
I know now that the "god" that Herbert Armstrong taught was not the true God of love. Even if some of us felt we were Christians before we entered, we often find that after leaving, we lose our concept of God, and it can turn into a horrific struggle to try to understand what He is like and if He is still there.5 But one of the things I came to recognize was that He came along side me and encouraged me (oftentimes in little ways) when there was no one else that understood. He sent songs and sacred hymns to comfort me, and helped me over time to understand more of his marvelous grace and everlasting love.
Was there anything good that came out of the many years spent in such a group? I learned to have compassion for those who were downhearted, lonely and poor. I came to love certain people and wanted to encourage them (none of that will ever be a loss); I persevered, I maintained faith. Finding out that we have been deceived by evil men who chose to lie and abuse us is devastating. But as I look back, I can see God's hand on me throughout my entire life (and, yes, even while I was in a "cult"). The true God of love never stopped loving me and He never stopped being there. In spite of all my mistakes and failures, He heard me, He intervened, He sustained me--and at the right time He helped me leave before it was too late. I can identify with the needless suffering people go through by being in a destructive cult. I have become discerning about false religions and false teachings in the church. I have grown to become a stronger person than ever before. Today I see how Christ is there for me in a personal way in everything I do as I have learned to lean on Him alone, not on an organization.
If we only spend time dwelling on the "wasted years" or the "whys," we will become disheartened and fail to move forward. Some losses--and there were many--can never be fully regained, but the true God will comfort us and draw us closer to Him. He is able to use any experience we have endured, no matter how horrendous it was; take the evil and the pain and eventually work it into something good for our life and even for others if we allow Him to. He is able to bring us through the darkness; He will send others to encourage us if we ask Him. But most of all, He will stand with us and strengthen us. (II Timothy 4:17) We may have spent years and years inside an abusive, mind-controlling organization, but to finally come to understand more about the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ--His redeeming love, His grace, His forgiveness, His ever abiding presence, and His gift of everlasting life--is more important than anything else in this life. The true God is a God of all comfort and He alone can truly comfort us in the way we need comforting. In spite of being betrayed in the deepest sense of the word, He can enable us to receive the grace and strength to go on. He will never leave us nor forsake us. And someday when we enter into His presence, He will wipe away all tears from our eyes and make everything new. How much our hearts will then rejoice!
This is the true God of Love (not the one taught by Herbert Armstrong) and this God and Savior is there for us, in spite of our not being able to "feel" His love; in spite of not knowing who He is, or what He is like anymore. He's watching over us and yearning to heal us and draw us closer to Him. We can come to have a loving, personal relationship (fellowship) with Him. He will always be faithful and will never forsake us.
By D. Woods
Exit & Support Network™
Last updated August 3, 2011
"I don't know what your circumstances are, but if you are a child of God, I am sure you can testify that God has brought you up to the present moment, hasn't He? ... Do you think He is going to let you down now?" ~J. Vernon McGee (notes on Philippians 1:6)
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:38-39.
Footnotes by ESN:
1 Seducing and lying spirits, working through their "ministers," are able to use methods of mind control to deceive others, especially those who are lacking in spiritual discernment and/or an understanding of the Scriptures. (See Chapter one of ESN's critical review of Mystery of the Ages)
5 These feelings are a result of the group leader being able to transfer the member's feelings for God to him and the government in the organization. Leaving the group then results in the member feeling he has "lost God." This is a mind control technique. (Read letter to ESN: Clues to Application of Mind Control)