Exit and Support Network

Common Spiritual Difficulties
After Leaving a High Demand Group

The following spiritual difficulties are common with survivors from the Worldwide Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God and all related offshoots.

Not every survivor will have all of these, or may suffer from additional ones. Experiencing any of this does not mean you are defective. In some cases these feelings may take years to subside, but it is important to realize that, while painful, they are common feelings with exiters. In time they will pass.

This list overlaps with Common Emotional Difficulties After Leaving a High Demand Group.


  • Feeling God has betrayed, abandoned or forsaken you
  • Questioning God ("Why me?" "Where were you?" "Why did you allow this?" "Why didn't you protect me?" etc.)
  • Unable to understand God's love
  • Unable to feel God is really there
  • Believing God has placed you under a "curse" whenever any problem or disaster occurs
  • Feeling God does not approve of you or accept you
  • Problems integrating the God you knew in the group and the God you think you are supposed to know now.
  • Feeling you lost God (i. e., the God you knew and especially if you were a prior Christian)1
  • Unable to understand what God or Jesus are really like


  • Unable to read the Bible (inability to concentrate, fear of being triggered back into the group mind set, reminding one of study in the group, etc.)
  • Feeling too tired to study the Bible all over again (after years of feeling you found its truth)
  • Guilt over not studying the Bible
  • Much confusion with Scripture (especially concerning law and grace)
  • Questions of whether the Bible is entirely true, part true, or has been changed over time


  • Feeling "Where do I go now?"
  • Fear of all churches
  • Guilt for not attending a church
  • Wanting to replace everything you felt you lost in the group
  • Anxiety in attempting a mainstream church or Bible study group
  • Religious addiction (desire to immerse oneself in as many Bible study groups, church activities, etc. as possible)
  • Anxiety when reading Christian literature that reminds you of the group's teachings or control
  • Wanting to reject all forms of belief
  • Wanting to be free of all churches

Ministers & Other Christians

  • Fear or deep lack of trust
  • Fear of being controlled or deceived
  • Feeling alienated or different in thought and practice
  • Feelings of inferiority or inadequacy
  • Feeling shame and humiliation for having been in a "cult" and afraid to bring it up
  • Feeling no other Christian could ever understand
  • Great hurt when other Christians don't understand
  • Feelings of sin for worshipping the way you did in the group


  • Feeling God does not hear your prayers anymore
  • Depressed or pressured feelings (especially when attempting to pray in same position as in the group)
  • Unable to pray as before (or finding it very hard to pray)
  • Feeling guilt (for not praying fervently enough, long enough, regularly, etc.)


  • Desperation for "the truth" again
  • Very confused (not knowing who or what to believe)
  • Blaming yourself for being deceived
  • Blaming yourself for being disfellowshipped or kicked out
  • Fearing the Lake of Fire
  • Fearing a loss of salvation
  • Searching out various non-orthodox belief systems
  • Spiritualizing everything (magical thinking)
  • Feelings of pain, betrayal and grief at how the group took the true Jesus away from you
  • Wanting to drop out of religion


  • A compulsion to talk to everyone about your group experience (is a hold-over from the group-instilled confessing behavior)
  • Wanting to immerse yourself in a round of activities (to avoid thinking and feeling)
  • A need to feel "used by God" (or to be a part of something "important")
  • Not feeling a part of the human race (this can be a part of Complex Post Traumatic Stress)
  • Wondering if it was a mistake to leave the group (thinking of returning)

By D. Williams and Mike
Exit & Support Network™

Also see: Common Emotional Difficulties After Leaving a High Demand Group

NOTE: See our Booklist for helpful books.

Related Articles:

Where Do the Feelings Go? (Feelings from hurtful stimulus were not permitted to be expressed in an emotionally abusive system; includes: "How Do I Go About Writing and What Do I Write About?")

The healing process consists of several stages (from ESN founder in OIU 1, pt. 2)

Cognitive Behavioral Focusing for Exiters (An Approach to Handling Depression, Anxiety, Fear & Guilt)

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Questions About Recovery (Q&A)

Prayers For Freedom From Spiritual Strongholds
Very effective in gaining liberation from strongholds and oppressions due to involvement in any harmful, abusive group or occult practices; includes moral issues.


1 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: Techniques to Gain Control)

Back to Healing From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse