"Post Traumatic Church Disorder"

"A Condition That Few Talk About"



The physical wounds of war are often clearly seen; but the hidden wounds of the heart and soul are often harder to discern, more difficult to diagnose and harder to heal. Those returning from war, though whole in body, often come home lugging an invisible duffle bag of hurt. In World War I it was called “Shell Shock.” In World War II it was called “Battle Fatigue.” After Vietnam it was called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Many veterans came home to struggle with the psychic scars for the rest of their lives. I’ve spent almost forty years writing about and ministering to veterans and I know the dynamics of PTSD well.


Christians soldiers sometimes experience a parallel syndrome. I call it, “Post Traumatic Church Disorder.” It really doesn’t matter whether the source was a church, a Christian cult, a spiritual movement, an abusive leader or a church fad. Like PTSD, it too is seldom obvious to the naked eye. It is an invisible wounding of the heart and soul. These are the wounds that come from spiritual abuse, legalism, deception, false teaching, betrayal, injustice, offense and rejection.


You may be one of the many who have come through a religious grinder of one form or another and have the spiritual scars to prove it. You may be a casualty of a manipulative system, an abusive leader or false movement. You may be one of many who were manipulated through church fads, church hype, demanding programs, politics, petty censorship and ambitious agendas. I’ve known many. In fact, it never fails to amaze me just how many former “church-goers” and “fad followers” suffer from “Post Traumatic Church Disorder”. Maybe you are one of the “walking wounded” who’ve been manipulated, beat up and ostracized by a fellow saint, a church leader or a church system that subtly “used” people and manipulated followers to fuel their vision. This condition is more common than you may think.


The landscape is littered with legions of church casualties who have been used up, chewed up and spit out by spiritual systems and self-serving leaders. Maybe you are suffering from post-hype depression? This “wounding” which comes from our own brethren and from the household of faith is the most grievous of all because it wounds our very soul and spirit. Like the wounded man in the “Parable of The Good Samaritan” they too have been callously discarded by the roadside of life by those we trusted. And once discarded, they too, are often ignored and shunned by their religious brethren just as the priest and Levite shunned the wounded man in the parable and passed on by.


Of all the sons of men the betrayal of Joseph is the most blatant. But after many years, Joseph said to his brothers who had abused and betrayed him; “But as for you, you meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) He could say this because he had learned that God could sovereignly work all the abuse and hurt together for our good & the fulfillment of His redemptive purposes in our lives.


Maybe you are one of those stuck on the "spin cycle" and going round and round rehearsing the trauma? Be of good courage, God wants to stop the cycle and let you out. Like Joseph, He can redeem all the hurt, abuse and betrayal we have experienced to equip us for his service - to redeem triumph out of our trauma - to birth in us a heartfelt compassion, empathy, understanding, and love for others who have suffered as well. We also learn of His faithfulness to us and His unconditional love for us.

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