woman breaking box
Abuse can scar you forever with painful memories. Here's how God broke the cycle of abuse in Alice's life. (iStockPhoto | camilotorres)

It's as though there's an invisible invitation on us that sends out subcon­scious signals to others, saying, "Abuse me, please." Evil people and evil spirits read the messages sent by our body language or words.

Self-Defeating Mind-Sets
The Bible says, "As he thinks in his heart [meditation], so is he" (Prov. 23:7 NKJV). Once you have meditated long enough on your trauma, the cycle of abuse, like poured concrete, becomes set. You will attract and yield to more abuse from others because you now feel hopeless, helpless and defeated.

Negative words fall from your mouth—just as faith comes by hearing (see Rom. 10:17), despair comes through condemning words, and the more you say the words, the more you believe them. As the powers of darkness pick up on your cowering posture and your fatalistic words, they influ­ence you to become anti-social.

Unable to see your downward spiral, you might begin to dress and act in ways that put others off while you withdraw from or avoid meaningful relationships. Gloomy and defeated, you may resort to self-destructive actions that become seemingly uncontrollable, building in momentum (through demonic empowerment).

Often the abused becomes an abuser by engaging in activities such as eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, excessive fasting); self-mutilation (cutting, tattoos, piercing); or, damaging behaviors (overeating, stealing, drug use, rage, criminal activity, nicotine, alcohol, sexual sin and perversion).

When you've been subjected to trauma—physical beatings, abandonment, sexual abuse, satanic abuse and so on—your emotional responses reveal the ways you're coping with the pain. Here are three typical human reactions.

1. Redirection. We redirect our attention, change course, or go the opposite way to avoid or postpone the anguish. A man in pain may become a workaholic—shifting his focus from his woundedness to his work—to avoid difficult emotions. An angry woman may become depressed and give up on life by taking drugs or gorging on food.

Others resort to abusive behavior, taking out their fury on their spouses or children. One may become the "all-American guy" who wins the trust of others, takes their money and then skips the country with millions. Many sink into despair, shutting down internally, withdrawing from life and becoming vulnerable to spiritual oppression.

Many of us are skilled at redirecting and disguising. If this includes you, are you willing to close the gates of depression, pain and abuse? You have been given authority through Christ to take action!

In Freedom From Fear (Harvest House), Neil T. Anderson, Christian author and founder of Freedom in Christ Ministries, observes that we are "living in an age of anxiety. People all over the world are paralyzed by fear of anything and everything but God. Anxiety disorders are the number-one mental health problem in the world."

2. Repression. We also often deal with pain by internalizing it. We allow our hearts to be filled with anger or bitterness, and then when we experi­ence a circumstance too stressful to bear we may even explode, sometimes with dangerous consequences.

A root of bitterness occurs when we make judgments about an offense, a situation, words spoken or actions taken against us or against someone we love without properly forgiving and resolving the issue. When our pent-up emotions continue to fester and boil over the same series of circumstances, there is potential for bitterness to take root.

I want you to see that this can be more than a physical or emo­tional problem: The gates of bitterness open us to a realm of demonic activity that stands ready and more than willing to "supersize" our offense. So how do we uproot bitterness?  

  • Make a list of friends, family, business associates, or anyone else in your life, including your­self, against whom you might have formed judgments. (Remem­ber: God is judge, and when we form judgments, we are attempt­ing to unseat Him.)
  • Find an accountability partner to whom you can confess your bitterness. Remember, this isn't a gripe session, but a confes­sion session. If you don't have anyone to share with, don't despair. God is "a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24, NIV).
  • Ask the Lord to open your spiritual eyes to any bitter-root judgments that continually cycle in your life ("All men are controlling like my father," or "White people like Mr. James are always racists"). Make a list of what God shows you.
  • Pray and release (don't ask the Lord to release—you release) each person who has hurt, offended, or violated you.
  • Name them one by one and forgive them. Ask the Lord to forgive you for judging them.
    To refuse to forgive a person is to say: "Lord, it was nice that You shed Your blood on the cross as payment for the sins of the entire world. However, Your dying wasn't enough to pay for the sin that ________ did to me. Come down from Your throne, Jesus, and let me sit there so I can judge those who've hurt me." Is that what you really want to say?
  • Now, say aloud to the powers of darkness, "I break the bitter-root curses that I've embraced as a result of judging others."
  • Next, ask Jesus to cleanse you with His cleansing blood. You could pray something like this: "Precious Lord Jesus, I apply the powerful blood of Your sacrifice right now. Please break all the bitter-root judgments in me, and apply the sweet fragrance of healing to my spirit, mind and emotions. Lord, show me how to love and serve ________. In Your name. Amen."

3. Self-Medication. Finally, some people try to appease their deep-seated hurt with unnecessary prescription drugs, Internet addictions, romance novels, adultery, masturbation, media obsessions, fantasies, alcohol or other distractions to temporarily salve the wounds. These don't cure the hurt—they simply cover it. Inside there are open, festering wounds yet to be healed.

Ask the Lord to give you fresh revelation about yourself. Do you overwork, demand perfection from others, or blame them relentlessly? Do other improper behaviors numb your pain?

Do you have a tendency toward bitterness and anger—are loved ones never sure when you will explode next? Are you dependent on drugs, nicotine, or alcohol?

Lay all this "junk" at the foot of Christ's cross and let His blood cleanse you. Confess your sin to Him right now (see 1 John 1:8-9). Let go of everything! Tell the Lord your hurts.

Cry out to Him for complete healing. Don't hold anything back. Today is your day of new beginnings. Let your healing begin.

As one who resisted abusive cycles for years, I'd like to paint a mental picture of how liberating it is to be free from torment. Several years ago I was teaching in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a former Soviet nation nestled in the heart of the ancient Silk Road.

My host invited me to enjoy a day of sightseeing. With the gorgeous high-peaked Ten Shan Mountains on the horizon, the crisp fall air was nothing like the sticky, often humid climate of my Texas Gulf Coast.

The snows hadn't yet fallen, so we climbed into ski lifts—I loved the feeling of my legs dangling as we ascended. Up and up the lift moved until we got to the summit. The sheer majesty of God's mountains, casting a colorful hue from the sun, was breathtaking, more than words can describe.

At that exhilarating moment, it was time to stop thinking about the intense ministry schedule I had maintained for the last eight days. Atop that huge mountain I let go of my tiredness, my concerns and my problems, and then the large perspective of a vast world opened up to me. If I had been focused on the ski lift holding me, or on my fear of falling, or on my terror that I'd be abandoned at the top, my experience would have been wasted.

Friend, as long as you are consumed with your past struggles, your mundane daily routine, or your pity party, you will miss all the adventures awaiting you. Join me in this journey called life. Let's go up, up and embrace all that God has for us. 

Read a companion devotional.

Alice Smith is cofounder and executive director of the U.S. Prayer Center in Houston, Texas, and her husband, Eddie, is president.

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