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Pastoral

As church leaders we often find ourselves confronted with any of a wide range of pastoral issues where we feel we lack expertise.  The features in this section will give you many suggestions for what you might do (at least until the experts arrive!)

You can see the full range at livingleadership.squarespace.com/growing-in-pastoring-

Deliverance and demonization: a biblical understanding

Katy Kennedy

Written by Clive Burnard.

You can download the PDF of this resource here

Postmodern British people are leaving the Church in droves; and yet they are not turning their backs on ‘spirituality’. In many cases they have thrown off the assumptions of rationalism, and there is a rapidly expanding interest in occultism and neo-paganism. With this increasing fascination for the occult in its many guises, there are likely to be many who come under demonic influence through activities as apparently harmless as attending a séance or ‘channelling’ an angel.

Consequently an increasing number seek the churches’ help in the aftermath of damaging curiosity; and we must be equipped and prepared to bring the healing and restoration of Christ where vulnerable human beings have been wounded and frightened.  

But when we are confronted with an otherwise apparently sane individual behaving in a way reminiscent of demoniacs described in the pages of the gospels, and we know we are inexperienced in this area, what are we to do?

 

There is no shortage of sincere but sensationalist literature around which, at first sight, may seem to be plausibly harmonious with the wonderfully liberating ministry of Jesus and the early disciples (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 11:14; 10:17; Acts 8:4-8). However, the pastoral counselling of people with such problems needs a sensitive and careful approach if we are to avoid inflicting worse problems upon a highly vulnerable person.  Nevertheless, the right response to misuse of a God-given ministry is not disuse but correct use. As Roy Clements has said, 'As New Age ideas permeate Western culture, the spirit-world is being accorded a far greater degree of plausibility. A window of opportunity is thus being provided for Christians to demonstrate a biblical balance and confidence in handling demonic aspects of human experience.'

Here indeed is a challenge to respond to!

 

Facing the challenge  

Having read Scripture with Martin (not his real name), I was unprepared for what took place as I began to pray for this man in his thirties.

I had felt that words of encouragement and advice would be sufficient for him to be lifted out of the feelings of discouragement and depression which had beset him.  But my prayer to ask God to encourage Martin with his ‘still small voice’ met with a striking reaction. Martin, an ex-spiritualist ‘medium’ and ‘healer’ before his conversion, discipleship and baptism, fell backwards against a wall. His left arm began to thrash around, apparently involuntarily. He then slid to the floor with a bump and made no visible effort to break his fall. Once on the floor, his whole body became rigid to such an extent that his back and legs were arching and lifting off the floor.

Not a little shocked by what had taken place in less than a minute, I prayed for God’s peace to fill Martin. As I prayed in Jesus’ name, his arms locked straight in a rigid position by his side, causing so much pain and discomfort that, for the first time since beginning to pray, he cried out: asking me to do something as he felt his arms would break. I could not release the intense pressure personally but ‘instinctively’ sensed the need to pray for him to be released in the authority of Jesus. This brought an immediate freedom, but new, intense pain in Martin’s stomach. As I had just laid hands upon his arms to pray, I now placed my hands upon his upper abdomen. The pain transferred to his chest and, as I moved my hands there, continuing to pray, the pain was experienced in his throat; and, finally, around his jaw. As I continued to pray, a dramatic expulsion of air seemed to bring with it a complete and final release of all the agonising tension Martin had been experiencing in various parts of his body. It certainly seemed that some unseen entity had left him in peace as it had been commanded to do so, whilst putting up some apparently real and very uncomfortable resistance.  I was aware during this time of a subjective but very real sense that Martin had, as a spiritualist healer, placed his own hands upon those he ‘prayed’ with in a way similar to the position his arms had been in when the earlier painful phenomena took place. This was later confirmed by Martin who had believed, according to his parents’ lifelong teaching and that of his spiritualist group, that he was able to ‘channel’ spirits which could bring healing to others through him.

The process of pastoral follow-up with Martin needed to be thorough, and necessitated him developing a biblical worldview to account for what lay behind what had taken place that morning. After repentance and renunciation of his involvement with these occult practices, there were further, unexpected and unsolicited ‘deliverances’, not involving me. This proved an unsettling and painful time for myself as both Martin and his wife, members of the church where I am minister, received lengthy input from other respected sources, which implied that all that had taken place was inappropriate. This inspired deep theological reflection and much soul-searching on my part, and led to a great deal of further study. Meanwhile Martin and his wife, through ongoing dialogue and teaching, remained active and vital members of the church, and are now part of the leadership of a burgeoning church plant. At the time of writing, Martin is studying for a degree in theology.

And then there was Jane.  An experienced Christian counsellor had spent much time helping Jane (name changed) to come to terms with traumatic and damaging experiences from her childhood and youth. Having reached an impasse, and upon encountering strange reactions to prayer, the counsellor requested further assistance form the college tutors where Jane was training for full-time Christian ministry and who were responsible for recommending her ministry. Together they concluded that a fully integrated approach to her continued healing would necessitate some kind of deliverance ministry, and they approached me for help.

In the light of some of the painful experiences described above, which were still being worked through, there was reluctance on my part to make myself vulnerable again. There were also concerns within my own mind about the appropriateness or even safety of such ministry as was felt to be necessary by the college and the counsellor. However, given that this young mother needed sensitive and compassionate help in an area that my relatively meagre experience apparently ‘qualified’ me for, I agreed to assist, praying that the confidence placed in me was not misguided. The counsellor had worked in harmony with medical agencies to help Jane, and ongoing pastoral care, support and prayer were in place.

So with the prior agreement of Jane and her husband, I joined her counsellor and tutor during a time of prayer. My intentions were very clearly to listen, observe and pray, unless it became evident that God wanted something more of me in this situation. It became apparent fairly quickly that the latter option was to be the way forward. Gentle discussion with Jane revealed how far they had come together in bringing the peace of God into very disturbed areas of her life and experience. At an appropriate moment, there was prayer for more of God’s healing in areas where unresolved conflicts still robbed Jane of peace of mind and a real sense of wholeness. As Jane’s counsellor led in prayer, unusual phenomena, which had been experienced on a previous occasion, were repeated. A detached vacancy of demeanour was very evident, as if Jane were not even with us. She was closed off so completely that she could not acknowledge any input in terms of questions asked of her or words of comfort and support offered. It was as if she was emotionally ‘frozen’, generally numb, beyond human contact in some way.

Then as I offered a simple prayer for freedom, much stranger things transpired. Jane was thrown from her chair to the ground and rolled rapidly around the floor, bumping into objects such as pot plants, which were knocked to the floor. After regaining composure, further prayers were offered in as non-emotive a way as possible, with the remarkable consequence that Jane entered into a completely unblinking ‘trance-like’ state. This response appeared to be a deeper degree of the earlier detachment phenomenon. As further prayer was offered in the name of Jesus, violent reactions (such as rapid rolling away from the person praying, and kicking out) were exhibited. Further authoritative prayer, including scriptural references to the victory of Christ at the cross and his capacity to set people free, brought clear signs of at least partial release and a return to a more peaceful state.

After careful encouragement, affirmation and pastoral follow-up with Jane and her husband, it was agreed that a further time should be arranged to see how things might have improved for Jane following what had taken place. This appointment resulted in Jane, at the outset, handing over scalpel blades, which she had been secretly using to damage herself. Further discussion was now much easier and more fruitful, in terms of Jane’s willingness to disclose issues she had deeply buried and refused to address with her doctor or counsellor. Similar unusual reactions to prayer were encountered on this occasion but with much reduced intensity. There were, at one point, clear signs of what can only be described as a great ‘release’ for Jane. She reported feeling very different about herself, her life and the future; and particularly about the effects and consequences of her very painful past. Further counselling brought ongoing stability, though some medication to alleviate depression was still required. She completed her studies, as did her husband; she is now an active mother who has undertaken further training in counselling, which is equipping her to become accredited for this ministry. Jane is also an active and vital member of the pastoral ministry team of a thriving local church.

 

Agents of oppression  

'There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive interest in them.' This oft-cited observation of C.S.Lewis usefully depicts the unhelpful extremes of viewpoint held within the Western church. But in an increasingly occult-ridden society, Christian leaders in this land will need to be equipped to care for the demonically afflicted in both an evangelistic and pastoral context. It is arguable that much damage to the Church in the West has already occurred through our misinterpretation and ignorance.

There should be no doubting the existence of these dark forces, ‘evil spirits’ and ‘spiritual forces of evil’ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-20 and Luke 8:1-2; Mark 16:9, 15ff). Unbelief regarding the reality of demonic affliction would be met with surprise in much of the church throughout the rest of the world.  We have no scientific evidence whatsoever to deny that demons exist, nor that they have always oppressed and attacked human beings in various ways and will continue to do so until Christ returns to this earth and brings about their final demise. The new testament makes clear that, however chaotic, unstructured or disorganised they might be, there are ‘powers and principalities’ arranged within a kingdom of darkness (Eph 6:12), which attempt to oppose and diminish the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ in this world. Jesus describes these fallen powers as ‘the devil and all his angels’ (Matt 25:41). Demons are fallen angels who, with Satan, were thrown out of heaven (Rev 12:4, 7-9).

The Great Deliverer was of course Jesus himself (1 John 3:8b, Luke 4:18-21 and Mark 9:14-32)! In giving the disciples what we have come to call the `Great Commission’, Jesus told them that he had been given ‘All authority in heaven and on earth’ (Mt 28:18). John the apostle tells us that ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work’ (1 Jn 3:8b). Jesus saw his messianic ministry as a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah (Lk 4:18-21): he was the one who came not only to preach good news to the poor, but was also ‘anointed’ to ‘proclaim freedom to the prisoners’ and to ‘release the oppressed’. This freedom and release was not only for all who are bound by sin but also for those who are bound by Satan.

Thus in Mark’s gospel we see Jesus depicted as the great deliverer who sets a man free in a synagogue in Capernaum (1:21-28), and releases another from a most terrible example of demonic affliction in the region of the Gerasenes (5:1-20). He releases Mary Magdalene from seven demons (16:9), drives out many demons whilst preaching throughout Galilee, and then commissions the 12 to preach the gospel of the Kingdom whilst healing people who were sick and delivering demonized people (6:7-13 and 16:15ff). Clearly faith is very important here, and human as well as spiritual opposition accompanies such ministry: when Jesus ministered in his home town of Nazareth, ‘he was amazed’ at the people’s ‘lack of faith’ (6:6); and ‘He could not do any miracles there except lay hands on a few sick people and heal them’ (6:5). The Lord rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith in this area of ministry, when they failed to heal a boy who was troubled by an evil spirit (9:19). Jesus responded to the boy’s pleading father, who had asked if Jesus could set his son free, by saying, ‘everything is possible for him who believes’ (9:23). The father exclaimed that he did believe; but, he humbly requested help to overcome his unbelief (9:24). If we believe then we can be delivered - and our faith for helping others is vital too. But the point is that faith must have a focus; and the focus of our faith must be Jesus Christ, the great deliverer.

In setting this boy in particular free, and in answering the disciples’ questions afterwards, Jesus revealed that:

  • faith is vital in such ministry (19)
  • clear signs of demonic activity, including various manifestations, may sometimes be present when a person is demonised (17-18, 20, 26)
  • the spirit was a ‘deaf and mute spirit’ (25)
  • that particular 'kind can only come out by prayer' (and fasting, according to some manuscripts, 29). It seems that this is an ongoing spiritual lifestyle issue, in terms of being prepared and close to God.    
  • demons can attempt to kill people thus seeking to destroy someone made in God’s image (22)
  • Jesus was and is ‘The Great Deliverer’! 
  • A further and vital point here is that discernment must be accurate.  Jesus healed another deaf and mute individual with similar presenting problems, but he did not cast any spirits out of that person (Mk 7:31-37).

As we declare Jesus to be the great deliverer, we must also remember that the greatest deliverance is our salvation (Gal 3:6-14, Col 2:9-15, Matt 12:43-45). Through believing in him we can be delivered from sin and the consequent separation from God our heavenly Father that sin causes; and we can be set free from death - the wages and consequence of sin - and from the kingdom of darkness, that we might enter the Kingdom of God. For those who believe the blessing comes ‘through Christ Jesus, so that by faithwe might receive the promise of the Spirit’ (Gal 3:14); if you believe you can be delivered! Until faith in Christ and repentance comes, we are ‘dead in our transgressions and sins’ and, if we are not following Jesus, we are described in Scripture as following ‘the ways of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’ (Eph 2:1-3). But when we ‘were dead in our sins’ Jesus set us free and released us even as he decisively defeated the ‘powers and authorities’ and ‘made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross’ (Col 2:13-15). Jesus taught that when an evil spirit is driven out it will seek to return to its ‘home’ unless that house is occupied, taking other spirits with it. Thus ‘the final condition of (a) man is worse than the first’ (Mt 12:43-45). Setting captives free without introducing them to their saviour and deliverer is, ultimately, to let them down. We must encourage those who are set free to surrender the ‘house’ of their lives fully to the Great Deliverer, so that he might fill them with his Holy Spirit.

For full freedom, then, people need a ‘truth encounter’ as well as a ‘power encounter’ (John 8:31-36, Gal 5:1; 4:8-9; 3:1-5, Rom 12:1-3). If they are to be truly set free and to stay free, they must hear, understand and continue to respond to the truth of God’s Word! When they come to believe they can indeed be delivered: from the presence of evil spirits, yes, but also from the polluting and corrupting influences of sin and wrong thinking. ‘Footholds’ given to the devil (Eph 4:27) can be turned into ‘strongholds’ of Satan (2 Cor 10:4); and so people who were enslaved to the ‘basic principles’ (or ‘elemental spirits’ – see Gal 4:8-9; 5:1) of this world need to be set free and to continue to walk in that freedom that Christ brings.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6) and he said to the Jews who had believed in him that ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:31-32). He added that those who by faith in Christ are sons of God, will not be enslaved to sin because ‘if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed’ (Jn 8:34-36). The apostle Paul said that we should ‘offer our bodies as living sacrifices’ and not ‘conform any longer to the pattern of this world but betransformed by the renewing of (our) minds’ (Rom 12:1-2). This transformation comes through an ongoing ‘truth encounter’ with God’s written Word and through the transforming power of God’s ‘Living Word’, Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1-3).

However, any devaluing of the conversion process, through preaching an inadequate gospel or failing to stress the need for fully abandoning the old life, might result in residual demonic strongholds remaining undetected or unchallenged. It is my opinion that this is often exactly what transpires. That could certainly account for Martin and Jane’s ongoing problems, most clearly in Martin’s case. His lifelong involvement with the occult, through mediumistic trances, channelling of spirits and seances, was not initially renounced or formally repented of, even as part of his baptism, which was carried out on the very night he professed faith in Christ. (A key question for us might well be, does our integration and acceptance of newcomers to the Church adequately liberate them from a pagan past, and prepare them for a future of true Christian discipleship and spiritual growth? Serious questions need to be asked about how, as far as is humanly possible, we ensure that an individual is truly the possession of Christ.  Nigel Wright notes that 'ancient and some modern baptismal practices make place for clear and deliberate renunciation of the devil and all his works as part of the baptismal experience. Perhaps we need to return to this and to see the power of baptism in a new light.') I believe that this failure, in part, resulted in Martin’s needing to have subsequent deliverance ministry, involving repentance and renunciation, in order to free him from the influence of the evil spirits which he had previously invited into his life.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that some believers who were slipping in this process were in danger of 'turning back to those weak and miserable principles' (‘elemental spirits’) and becoming ‘enslaved by them all over again’ (Gal 4:9).  He reminded the same Galatian Christians that it was for ‘freedom that Christ (had) set (them) free’ and urged them to ‘stand firm and not let (themselves) be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’ (Gal 5:1).  A Western mindset, at times, even sadly amongst the Church, makes no allowance for the reality of our battles being ‘not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 6:12).

At the same time ‘footholds of fear’, which are turned through ignorance into ‘strongholds of fear’, can themselves require deliverance, but more through a ‘truth encounter’ than deliverance ministry, which involves a ‘power encounter’. For instance, the fear of having been ‘cursed’ has been scientifically demonstrated to have the potential to result in very real damage and sickness.

 

Ministry to the oppressed: setting the captives free

(Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-9, 17-21, Acts 10: 38, 19:11-20)

Oppressed people need to be set free, and belief in Christ can bring about that freedom and deliverance. I am not using the word 'possessed' here: this word never appears in passages of Scripture where Jesus and the Apostles are casting out demons. Despite the common rendering "demon possessed", there is never a Greek word which stands behind it. What is behind these unhelpful translations is the single Greek word daimonizomai. The original text has an absence of words such as huparcho, echo, katecho, ktaomai or peripoieo, which all speak of possession or ownership in new testament Greek. The pervasive influence of the King James Version of the Scriptures ensured that its own 'mistranslation' was utilised in most other modern versions, hence a more accurate and meaningful use of the English word 'demonised' was neglected.  

The technical expression then is to "have a demon" (daimonion echo) or to "be demonised" (daimonizomai). Nigel Wright confirms the current thinking of many practitioners that 'to refer to “demonisation”… is more biblically accurate and more suitable pastorally in that it indicates the imprecise nature of much demonic interference.' Demonisation describes the process whereby an individual has come under an influence of one or more evil spirits (demons), which goes beyond temptation, persecution, deception, and external physical attack. Thus a 'demonised' person needs to be 'delivered' from the effects of these dark forces through some kind of 'deliverance ministry'.

 

Alternative possibilities and resources

It must be acknowledged that modern medical and psychiatric insights may be seen to suggest that biblical deliverances could be explained in terms of mental health problems. Schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, dissociative hysteria, catatonic hysteria, depressive psychosis, organic psychosis or epilepsy have been suggested as alternative explanations and a way of demythologising the gospel accounts. Psychiatrists even use diagnostic terms such as Trance Disorder, Possession Disorder and Possession Syndrome. These do involve a temporary loss of both the sense of personal identity and awareness of surroundings.  Deliverance,edited by Michael Perry, includes a whole additional chapter on this issue and warns that 'no Christian should attempt to cast out a demon from a person unless he has good reason to believe that he is not confronted by a case of projection and possession syndrome'. 'Dissociative disorders', which are a consequence of unresolved or insoluble problems causing massive amounts of stress and trauma (often in early childhood), can readily result in a misdiagnosis of demonic oppression, as they can carry symptoms of bizarre or symbolic acting out. Sufferers often complain of being tormented by the mental images or insistent voices of demons, as well as feelings of guilt or being punished by God. These types of phenomena make diagnosis very complex indeed, and the appropriate treatment is usually prescribed medication (to control the false perceptions brought about by altered mental states) and psychiatric care, plus, perhaps, what Christian counsellors have called 'healing of the memories' or 'inner healing'.  However, such conditions are only so classified where it is strictly observed that these states are not self-induced but rather genuinely involuntary. But these explanations seem to provide inadequate descriptions of what took place with Martin and Jane; it seems unreasonable to deduce that they experienced some self-induced Possession State.

It is also evident that some people seeking deliverance may be consciously or sub-consciously avoiding personal responsibility. If anti-supernaturalist interpretations of human behaviour are too ready to blame upbringing and environmental and societal factors, rather than personal sin and the influence of evil forces; then hyper-supernaturalists are in real danger of attributing too much responsibility to demonic activity. The outcome can be the same, whereby an individual’s behaviour is projected either on to demons or society thus denying personal responsibility and accountability. Montague Barker, a consultant psychiatrist and practising Christian, illustrates the former position, having reviewed twenty young patients who claimed to be possessed (a number of whom had had the idea suggested to them): 'The attraction of the occult and possession as an explanation of individual difficulties would appear to be that in this way the search for solutions can be given up and responsibility handed over to the demons and the exorcist. All further conflict and distress can then be looked upon as the fault of the demon.'

A particularly disconcerting and challenging alternative explanation is that past or recent experience, teaching, and projected expectations might in themselves have elicited aberrant behaviour. At its worst this could come about as a consequence of a person or group of people projecting ideas onto an individual who becomes a ‘scapegoat’, believing himself to be evil and feeling 'possessed' as a consequence of experiencing the projections of others. This is a particularly sad and dangerous side effect of excessive interest and focus on the demonic by some individuals, groups or churches. Clearly, any attempt at deliverance in such a case would merely enforce the delusion rather than gently exposing the influence of the projections. Instead, some overzealous deliverance practitioners point to strange 'manifestations' as a confirmation of their decision to minister. They should be aware of the power of projection and fear to so shape mental processes that dramatic behavioural manifestations are an almost inevitable consequence. Shaking, trembling, fainting, vomiting, convulsions, tensions, muscle cramps or rigidity, shrieking or screaming, pallor (and consequent bodily temperature changes), are all as likely to result from a dramatic fear response as they are from the effects of an inhabiting evil spirit resisting expulsion. Powlison suggests three possible explanations for the sort of dramatic ‘manifestations’ which accompanied Martin and Jane’s response to prayer: firstly, highly charged expectations; secondly, satanic co-operation with erroneous practice to promote confirming ‘special effects’; and thirdly, an invocation of demonic activity by creating 'hypnotic effects in troubled and suggestible counselees.'

This latter consideration raises a crucial challenge regarding the possibility of sincere but misguided and dangerous practice. Sadly, medical literature contains ample evidence of patients whose conditions were made worse not better by unhelpful exorcism rituals. The mere suggestion of `demonic possession’ or ‘demonization’ could easily produce extreme added anxiety, thus exacerbating an existing condition. A recent Health Education Authority report is a landmark document in affirming the value and role of Judeo-Christian healing, but it clearly warns of the dangers as well as the potential helpfulness of deliverance ministry: `An emphasis on demons and demon possession can be very damaging to people who are vulnerable... At the same time, some hold that a deliverance ministry is an important part of their belief in prayer and some people have found exorcism and similar approaches helpful` (Promoting Mental Health: The Role of Faith Communities, p.14).

Clearly, as Shuster writes, if we attempt deliverance we should not 'assume that the worst that can happen is nothing. On the contrary, serious psychological damage can be done by ill-advised exorcisms.'  Some parachurch groups have set up centres for healing and deliverance with very little accountability to anyone outside their own sphere of influence, which gives cause for concern. ‘Clients’ or those in ‘training’ may often attend and receive ministry with little or no reference to the home church of the individuals concerned. This allows for very little meaningful continuity of the pastoral care which could ensure support, discipleship and teaching needed to undergird any deliverance. In responding to ‘horror stories’ and sensationalist media reports, justified or unjustified, improvements have been put in place by some of these agencies; there is still a danger, however, of relatively inexperienced individuals, sometimes even as part of their own ‘hands on’ training, being released to ‘minister’ to very vulnerable and impressionable people.  Sadly, some people may be suffering mental health problems, who have not been helped at all by those well-intentioned believers who rashly attempted to release them from the influence of imagined or 'misdiagnosed' demonic influence.

Nevertheless, the equally disturbing possibility remains that potentially large numbers of individuals are experiencing ongoing mental health problems, where deliverance ministry could bring a cure. Physical suffering also, according to New Testament teaching, can be caused by demonic affliction (Lk 13:10-17); Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons (Mk 1:32-34; Lk 6:17-19) instructing and commissioning disciples to do the same (Matt 17:14-21; Lk 9:1-2; 10:1-20; Mk 3:13-15). Deliverance ministry, then, does have a role in healing physical and psychological sickness, and we should expect to see those trained and experienced in deliverance ministry working in close, holistic partnership with others with medical, psychiatric and counselling skills.

Hearing of these issues may be enough to paralyse us with fear of acting in case the outcome is just one more 'casualty'. This author experienced just such a temptation after receiving the personal pressures outlined at the outset of this feature. As time went on both Martin and Jane required a sensitive pastoral framework and ongoing pastoral care and discipleship; they also required, before and after deliverance ministry, wise counselling and support from the church and medical practitioners. But in the situations I described above, my own sense of inadequacy and inexperience could not stand in the way of dealing with a very pressing and immediate need. Ideally, however, those who require deliverance ministry need to receive experienced help in a context of holistic ongoing support, which must include encouragement to individuals to take personal responsibility for their lives and to live in close fellowship with Christ and his people. This is why deliverance ministry is best set in the context of the local church.

What is clear is that we must be sure to utilise the best help available from medical and psychological practitioners. So for example the 'Panel for Deliverance' of the Church of England's Winchester Diocese involves eight people, including a psychiatrist and a family GP, and  exorcisms may only take place after the vicar involved has consulted with a member of the panel together with a psychiatrist and GP. This framework ensures accountability, with maximum caution applied to diagnosing the need for deliverance ministry. It is to be welcomed in emphasising a holistic healing ministry as part of normal, ongoing, sound pastoral practice within the life of the local church. Churches from other denominations might do well to consider developing regional teams of this kind.

Christians have been promised that the Holy Spirit will equip the Body of Christ with divine insight, wisdom and revelation regarding exactly what sort of 'spirits' may be at work in different situations. God gives spiritual 'intuition' to some people or in some circumstances, in order that they might understand how to minister. Nevertheless, there is a 'need for corporate discernment in this ministry', and even experienced practitioners should recognise their individual fallibility. As Hart writes, diagnosis 'is usually a matter of eliminating the obvious causes of the problem first .…by ensuring that other professionals also examine the person to be certain that no obvious cause of the problem is being overlooked. If all natural explanations are exhausted and several of the symptoms [see below] are present, then the pastor may wish to proceed with such a diagnosis [of demonic involvement].'

 

Diagnosis

In general, then, deliverance ministry should not be considered until accurate diagnosis has taken place, as far as is possible; and this should be done using a team with these different abilities wherever practical. What then are possible signs of demonization that we may consider within such a partnership?

The following may be possible signs of conditions ranging from mild to severe demonization. Not all may be present. The greater the number of symptoms evident, the more convincing the diagnosis will be.

  • Personality changes, including in intelligence, moral character, demeanour, appearance.      
  • Physical changes: preternatural strength (see Acts 19:16 and Mark 5:1-5), epileptic convulsions or foaming (where no biomedical cause is evident, see Mark 9:17-29); catatonic symptoms, falling; clouding of consciousness, anaesthesia to pain; compulsions and addictions; experiencing the grip of unspecific fear; changed countenance and/or voice; mocking laughter; violent struggles; bodily odours, marked temperature changes (for the individual or in the counselling room); and objection to or obstruction of the Word of God.    
  • Mental/psychological changes: bizarre behaviour; unknown tongues as a spiritual counterfeit (where this has not been received from God in a Christian context, and has brought blessing previously); understanding of unknown languages; preternatural knowledge; psychic and occult powers (eg clairvoyance, telepathy, prediction – counterfeiting spiritual gifts of revelation)
  • Spiritual changes: reaction to and fear of Jesus Christ (see Mark 1:23-25); blasphemous utterances (sometimes with regret as in depression); unusual reactions to prayer

Other factors we can consider include:

  • Evidences from case history/family history, including chronic sickness; disturbed family history; evidence of ‘curses’ being placed on the individual
  • Past/present involvement with the occult and witchcraft: including possession of occultic paraphernalia.      
  • Paranormal phenomena associated with the individual's presence: poltergeist phenomena; fear-reactions of others, etc.    
  • The individual's own awareness of demonic activity: sense of oppression, hearing voices, terrible dreams, unbreakable compulsions and/or fears. (NB caution must be exercised here not to fail to recognise a psychiatric condition.)  
  • Reaction to the name of Jesus, to communion, to the Bible, to preaching, to prayer, to entering a church building or sanctuary, or to the presence of a Christian leader or other disciple.  
  • Use of the gift of discerning spirits (1 Cor 12:10).

Both Martin and Jane exhibited a number of the symptoms above. I also experienced a strong inner conviction, which was shared by those others present, that deliverance was necessary. In each case, there was a sense of being led by the Holy Spirit of God. I am of the opinion that this 'leading' by Jesus himself is essential for effective deliverance ministry.

 

Setting the captives free

Advance preparation and pastoral follow-up are as vital as the content and context of the ministry itself. There must be an insistence upon thorough preparation of those ministering, and the person receiving deliverance. Teams should operate with additional prayer support, and under clear guidelines including an insistence on gender-appropriate ministry. One other vital consideration to ensure effectiveness and to safeguard all involved is that anyone who practises this ministry should do so under the proper authority established in their church.

Those ministering should have spent time in prayer (and, some would add, fasting), confession (repentance), and Bible reading; particularly using Scriptures which affirm Christ's victory over the powers of darkness, and stress the protection and authority of believers. This should also be the case for any Christians who are receiving ministry. Non-Christians should be sensitively given every opportunity to accept Christ as Saviour and Lord. Whatever their spiritual standing, a case study should be prepared with detailed notes being taken to aid those ministering in understanding how to pray. Adequate pastoral care backup and support should, ideally and wherever possible, be put in place in advance of any ministry, with the full prior agreement of the demonized person; and an experienced team (not too large; and not necessarily the same people as those from the diagnostic team) should carry out the ministry (bearing in mind gender issues).

The person being helped should have their confidence, in God and the team, built up in advance of the meeting; and this should take place somewhere where confidentiality and lack of distractions or disturbances is assured. Many would regard a church sanctuary as ideal. Emotive language and high-volume, confrontational prayers or commands are neither helpful nor necessary. Time parameters should be broadly agreed in advance of the ministry session, and breaks should be taken to avoid fatigue for all concerned. There is no reason for overlong sessions of ministry.

No set pattern for deliverance exists, and indeed a prescriptive 'methodology' could result in practitioners learning from and leaning on techniques, rather than on the One who is the deliverer. But the following aspects (based on Russ Parker’s book The Occult) may provide a helpful framework for effective ministry.

Recognition – diagnosis and discernment of demonic activity in an individual’s life, bearing in mind a number of possible factors as discussed above

Repentance of unconfessed sin, accompanied by a clear desire to turn to Christ and to receive his forgiveness; decisive turning away from sinful, rebellious patterns and practices.

Regeneration or rededication – Declaring Christ to be Lord for the first time or through returning to him as Lord: conversion, salvation, recommitment

Renunciation by the sufferer of any and all involvement in sinful, evil or occult practices, thus denying demonic forces any further hold over their lives; decisive turning away from the occult, etc.

Release – through authoritative prayer to bind the power of demonic forces and to drive them out in the Name of Jesus

Renewal – full after-care and support and building up in discipleship. Deliverance should be an ongoing process, with continued growth in grace and as part of a holistic approach to Christ-centred healing.

At each and every stage FAITH is vitally important in the Great Deliverer, Jesus. If you believe, you, and others, can be delivered!

If deliverance has been effective there will be clear evidence establishing this in the coming days, if not immediately. Dickason summarizes helpfully what the Scriptures indicate might be expected: demonic reactions during the deliverance session followed by clear cessation of the same or an obvious departure of spiritual entities (Matt 8:32; Mk 1:24-6; Lk 4:35; Mk 9:25-6; Acts 8:7); physical cures effected (Matt 9:32-3; 12:22; Lk 13:10-13); a loss of psychic or occult powers (Acts 16:16-18); the restoration of normal bodily/mental faculties and functions (Mk 9:17-29; Lk 13:11-17; 9:38-42); the restoration of social integration and acceptance (Lk 8:35); the healthy redirection of and new sense of purpose in life (Lk 13:13; Mk 5:18-20). Other accompanying benefits should include freedom for spiritual growth, with an increased sense of love, joy and peace, and a new dimension of faith, gratitude to God and deeper reverence and worship of Christ; greater ease in decision making; healthier self-worth; reduction or absence of previously experienced depression and/or self-destructive thought patterns. Both Martin and Jane enjoyed a number of these 'post-deliverance-benefits' in clear measure; and their new level of freedom brought great joy to those who, under Christ, helped them in this way.

 

‘Victims or Victors’: More than Conquerors through Christ

We must constantly remind ourselves that ‘the one who is in (us) is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4), and that ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Rom.8:27). We are called to be victors, not victims. We are called to bring his victory to those who are still victims of oppression.

We have received a commission from Christ, the one who was victorious over sin, sickness, Satan, death and all the powers of darkness. The weapons of our warfare have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). They are not carnal, like the weapons of this world, but include:

  • Prayer (Eph 6:18-20)
  • The ‘sword of the Spirit’, which is the Word of God (Eph 6:17 and Heb 4:12)
  • The ‘blood of the Lamb’ and the ‘word of our testimony’ (Rev 12:11)
  • The ‘anointing’ of God (Acts 10:38) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5-8 and 1:8)
  • Standing firm and the full ‘armour of God’ (Eph 6:10-16); and, resisting the devil (James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:8-11)
  • Binding and loosing (Matt 16:18-19), and casting or driving out of oppressing spirits (Mark 1:21-28; 5:6-13; 3:22-27)
  • Proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel of Christ: spiritual and social transformation, preaching and being Good News (Mk 16:15ff).

We must understand and proclaim that ‘If you believe, you can be delivered’! We must also be agents of deliverance for those who are oppressed. This is our responsibility, our God-given mandate and our right; and it is a pressing need in our fallen world, until the Great Deliverer himself returns!

AMEN!

 

Clive Burnard.

Clive Burnard is senior pastor of Andover Baptist Church.

 

NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY

It is important to distinguish between the different terms that are commonly used in this context. Some are biblical, but others are extra-biblical or even utilised in an entirely unbiblical way. Scholars such as Grudem have recognised the unfortunate mistranslation of Greek words in the new testament that have been interpreted by Bible translators as 'demon possession' or 'possessed with the devil'. Some writers depict a kind of sliding scale of demonic influence, whereby all Christians are subject to temptation and an intense level of temptation may become a demonic obsession; obsession may further intensify until it becomes oppression; and the most extreme level of influence (involving a situation where as Michael Perry puts it 'the person's will is taken over by an intruding alien entity') is described as possession.   Dickason, however, writes: 'Some writers refer to four stages of demon control: (1) simple subjection, (2) demonization, (3) obsession, (4) demon possession by an indwelling spirit. The Bible knows no such differentiation; it merely classifies the demon's working as either external or internal. If it is internal, it is demonization, the proper term for the commonly misused “demon possession".'  When we ask, then, what is meant by demonization, our simplest response should be to say that it describes the process whereby an individual has come under an influence of one or more evil spirits which goes beyond the levels of spiritual conflict (eg temptation, persecution, deception, external physical attack) to which all Christians are prone  (see 1 Peter 5:8-11; James 4:7-10; Ephesians 6:10-18). Thus a 'demonized' person is one who needs to be 'delivered' from the deeper effects of these dark forces through some kind of 'deliverance ministry', as was employed to help Jane and Martin.

I do believe that great caution must be exercised in use of this terminology, particularly in a practical pastoral context, and that we must beware of attaching the term 'demonized' to individuals whose condition is much less severe than that of demoniacs described in scripture.  As Nigel Wright observes,  'it becomes dangerous and pastorally irresponsible in the extreme to suggest to people (who may be very open to suggestion) that they have a demon problem'.

It may also seem unusual that we are not using here the term 'exorcism' (the act of driving or casting out evil spirits from a person).  But the ministry of 'exorcists' is found only in Acts 19:13 in its root form, and certainly not describing the ministry of Christian disciples. There are a number of reasons for preferring to focus on the term 'deliverance ministry' rather than exorcism. The term is drawn from a biblical expression, but the roots of it are unfortunate in terms of describing Christian deliverance ministry. To describe someone as an exorcist carries with it the concept of making pacts or oaths in order to set people free. It implies some utilisation of spells, magic formulae or shamanistic invocations. Therefore, many object to use of the term, preferring to use deliverance. Another reason for avoiding the term ‘exorcism’ is that non-Christian 'exorcism' is not uncommon and has been witnessed in the African context and various other cultures and societies throughout history. Mediumistic and magical or ritualistic approaches are well documented in anthropological and sociological studies of different cultures. We must all be aware of the dangers inherent in developing a pattern and form of deliverance ministry which depends more on ritual than upon faith in the Name and power of the One who actually sets people free. (Nigel Wright even warns us fairly strongly against a sacramental approach to deliverance ministry; he frowns on 'the use of holy water, crosses, sacred objects, communion wine, anointing oil or the Lord's Prayer in this context’. Whilst one can understand his concerns regarding 'the use of physical means in a quasi-magical way’, the point is perhaps overstated in light of certain potentially affirming scriptures (see Mk.6:13 and James 5:14).) Equally, we must not surrender a valid ministry of deliverance into the hands of those who would practice some non-Christian counterfeit and who are only too readily, willing and available to exercise a ministry of 'exorcism', by whatever name they call it. We should not surrender wounded and vulnerable people to the clutches of those who might lead them deeper into confusion and bondage, rather than into a full and liberating relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

 

© Clive Burnard.

Divorce (Part 4): Can a Christian divorce an abusive spouse?

Katy Kennedy

Written by Neil Powell

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Although there are many differing views on marriage and divorce among bible-believing Christians the majority of evangelicals Christians continue to maintain that biblical divorce is permissible on 2 grounds; that of adultery (Matthew 19:9) and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. (1 Cor. 7:15).

The leading evangelical theologians of the 1640’s set forth this position in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 24:6, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage.

If divorce is not possible for anything but adultery or desertion then does that compel a spouse to stay in a relationship that is dangerous or abusive?

 

What about an abusive marriage relationship?

Having read numerous books on divorce I have yet to find an author who defends the idea that God calls on us to stay in the home when in an abusive relationship. Don Carson goes so far as to say that if a wife lives in fear of physical harm because she has been threatened or even actually suffered physical abuse the  church is ‘pastorally mandated to secure her safety.’ Indeed in certain circumstances it may even be right to call the police and to seek to have charges pressed.

I’ve personally known spouses who have stayed in abusive relationships sometimes for the sake of the children. But I want to make it clear, if you or your children are in danger of physical harm then the Bible does not tell you to stay.

 

But does an abused spouse have the right to divorce?

Some would say that a spouse in such circumstances does not have a ground for divorce. Rather he or she, having moved out of immediate danger, is to work with the elders of the church to seek a true repentance on the part of the guilty spouse and a restoration of the marriage.

She may change the locks, call in the police, but she is not free from the marriage. Such a view is set forth by Don CarsonJohn Piper and Andrew Cornes to name a few.

But that is not the view of the elders at City Church. Some appeal to the arguments presented by David Instone-Brewer from Exodus 21 (see this earlier post on his view and my concerns). For myself I am persuaded that in a situation where a spouse refuses to repent and reconciliation is humanly impossible that divorce is permitted as a logical and necessary deduction of the teaching we find in the New Testament.

 

How would I justify divorce on the grounds of abuse from the Bible?

I believe that an abusive relationship where there is no evidence of repentance is a form of desertion by an unbelieving spouse. Theologians sometimes refer to it as constructive desertion.

In the church we are to take sin seriously and that includes sin within a marriage. Jesus instructed his disciples as to what should happen if someone refuses to repent of sin as a Christian. We read in Matthew 18v.15-17, If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

What Jesus insists on is that sin, even sin between a married couple in their own home, is the responsibility of the church. The church’s role is to call to account those who are guilty of wilful, deliberate, and persistent sin. And those who refuse to repent are to be treated as unbelievers. Jesus says treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

We also read in 1 Timothy 5:8, If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

There will be times and circumstances where it is right and appropriate to say to someone who claims to be a Christian that by their actions they have denied the faith and they are to be treated as an unbeliever. And that would seem to apply to spouses who abuse their spouses.

Now the goal of such church discipline is their restoration to the faith and reconciliation to their spouse. However where no reconciliation is possible, for example where the guilty spouse wants nothing more to do with the church, it would seem appropriate that after a time of delay and when all prospect of reconciliation has gone then the innocent party in the marriage is free from their marriage because they have been abandoned by an unbelieving spouse.

We considered the conclusion of English theologians of the Westminster Assembly earlier in this post and one of the greatest Puritan preachers of the previous of the previous generation was William Perkins. In his work on the Christian family he said:

Like unto desertion is malicious and spiteful dealing of married folks one with the other. Malicious dealing is, when dwelling together, they require of each other intolerable conditions …if the husband threateneth hurt, the believing wife may fife in this case; and it is all one, as if the unbelieving man should depart. For to depart from one, and drive one away by threat, are equipollent.

As elders at City we would argue that there are two grounds for divorce but the second ground of dissertion may extend to abusive reationships even where both parties profess a Christian faith.  If, after investigation by the church, we conclude that, to use Perkins language, intolerable or abusive conditions are imposed on a spouse and the guilty party is unwilling to repent the innocent party may seek a divorce.

That would certainly seem to cover incidences of violence, threats of violence, it may also include extreme or prolonged psychological abuse or emotional trauma, intimidation, alcohol abuse, perhaps even chronic gambling addiction.

Extending this second ground is fraught with difficulty and there can be few if any hard and fast rules. But as elders in our position paper we will be setting forth three sets of circumstances where we believe that the church is able to recognise a divorce as biblically sanctioned.

1. Adultery within marriage permits the believer to instigate a divorce

2. Abandonment or desertion by unbelieving spouse permits the believer to recognise the end of the marriage (even if they formalise that in a divorce).

3. Abuse which results in constructive desertion permits the believer to recognise the end of the marriage (even if they formalise that in a divorce).

  

Neil Powell.

© Neil Powell. 

Divorce (Part 3): When can a Christian divorce their spouse?

Katy Kennedy

Written by Neil Powell

You can download the PDF of this resource here

Having considered in the previous two parts what God thinks about divorce the next question we face is in which situations does God permit divorce? It’s important that we recognise that Bible-believing Christians have always held a variety of views. Andreas Kostenberger’s God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation provides an excellent summary of arguments for and against various views. Recognising that godlier people than me have arrived at different conclusions suggests that a certain humility and generosity of spirit is required in presenting our own personal conclusions. In fact what gives us the freedom to disagree as evangelicals on secondary issues is constantly remembering and holding dear just how much we do agree on in relation to Christ and the gospel.

The first thing that we can say is that if we take the Bible seriously then we will accept that

1) Christians cannot divorce unless a spouse is at serious fault

In Matthew 19v.3 we read Some of the Pharisees came to Jesus to test him ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason? Jesus’ reply is a categorical ‘no’. In v.8 he answers Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.

What Jesus insists upon here is that God does not recognise the category of ‘no fault’ divorce.  His words also rule out divorce for what we might call ‘irreconcilable difference.’ Indeed, if ever there might be permission granted to separate from a spouse on grounds of irreconcilable difference we might think it would be found in the situation where someone comes to faith in Christ and their spouse does not.  In addressing this question Paul insists that the Bible calls us to faithfulness to our marriage vows, even if we made them before coming to faith in Christ. Paul says to Christians – stay married to your unbelieving spouse.

1 Corinthians 7:12-14 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

Every marriage will go through difficult times but if a marriage can be honouring to God even after one spouse comes to faith in Christ then the gospel calls on us to work through circumstantial changes and remain faithful.

Having seen that we are not free to divorce simply because marriage is hard or circumstances change, what Jesus does affirm is that

2) Christians can initiate a righteous divorce if their spouse is sexually immoral in marriage

In Matthew 19v.9 Jesus says ‘Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.’  The word ‘marital unfaithfulness’ is the Greek word porneia and it is the word often translated elsewhere in the Bible as sexual immorality.

Why does Jesus use the word porneia?  It is a catch all term for any kind of sex outside of marriage – heterosexual sex, homosexual or bestiality. So Jesus rules out any form of sex outside of sex with our spouse.

Why does Jesus single out sexual immorality as the one ground for divorce?  The most likely reason I suggest is that sex with someone who is not my spouse is a unique  violation of the ‘one-flesh’ union. Kevin De Young has said ‘Sexual sin breaks the marriage covenant because sex is the oath signing of the covenant.  Having sexual experiences with someone other than your spouse is like trying to sign on someone else’s dotted line.  That breaks the covenant and is a ground for divorce.’

So, what should we conclude from Jesus words in this passage? Two important conclusions flow from Jesus’ teaching here.

Firstly, it is vital to healthy church life that we remember that whilst every divorce is the product of sin, not every divorce therefore sinful because Jesus permits divorce under this one exceptional circumstance.

Second, Jesus words also mean that marriage is not indissoluble. Never God’s design but A marriage really can end. When Jesus says “What God has joined together, let no man separate” he implies that the couple can be separated. This will become important when we consider in a future post whether or not God permits remarriage.

Is this all that the Bible teaches on divorce? Most evangelicals believe that this is the only ground under which Christians might initiate a righteous divorce. But in that second passage read to us this morning we find Paul giving a second ground in which a marriage may come to an end in God’s eyes. Not one in which the Christian has initiated divorce but one where the Christian has in effect been divorced by an unbelieving spouse.

3) Christians may accept an unrighteous divorce by an unbelieving spouse

Having called on Christians to stay in their marriages with unbelieving spouses Paul goes on to say 1 Cor 7v.15 ‘but if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances.’

Under the Roman law of the first century it was not necessary to consult a lawyer and go to court to get divorced. It was enough to simply abandon the marriage. Walking out with no intention of returning was to divorce your spouse. In our culture we differentiate between separation and divorce but neither the Bible nor Roman law made such a distinction.

Paul teaches that if a spouse is abandoned by their unbelieving partner, and if it is clear to all that the deserting spouse does not intend to return, the church should recognise that a marriage has come to an end even if the innocent spouse is the one who has to legally begin the divorce proceedings.

Some have tried to find an irreconcilable contradiction between Jesus and Paul at this point. But a closer examination of the two passages reveals that far from contradicting each other they complement each other because they address two distinct questions.

Jesus is answered the question ‘when can I as a Christian, under God, initiate a righteous divorce?’  Paul is answering the question ‘what should I do as a Christian, if I have been wrongly divorced by my unbelieving spouse?

Evangelical Christians agree that these are the only New Testament texts that address the issue of divorce but in our next post we will consider the work of David Instone-Brewer and his contention that Jesus held to certain other grounds for divorce found in the Old Testament.

 

Neil Powell.

© Neil Powell.

Divorce (Part 2): What does God think of divorce? He permits it.

Katy Kennedy

Written by Neil Powell

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Having considered what it means that God hates divorce in an earlier resource we now need to recognise that the holiness of God means that he permits divorce.

Although God hates divorce we also find in the Bible that in a world marked by sin God does in certain, exceptional circumstances, permit divorce. There can be times when it might be right to end a marriage and in a future post I’ll say more on which situations God permits divorce.

In Matthew 19 we see Jesus at odds with the religious leaders of his day. As we read v.4-8 the difference in attitude is obvious.

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

Did you notice that crucial difference in the thinking and attitude of Jesus over against the Pharisees?  The Pharisees said that in the law of Moses there were certain circumstances which required a man to divorce his wife. The Pharisees said ‘Moses commanded that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away.’

Now Jesus only agreed with them in part. For Jesus knew that the law of Moses did not command divorce. As John McArthur says ‘God never commands it, endorses it, or blesses it.’ But Jesus says (v.8) ‘because of the hardness of human hearts God does permit it.’ In this statement Jesus affirms that divorce is possible and it is possible to divorce without being sinful.

I guess that means it is really important to realise that if a divorce takes place between a couple who are members of the church, although we can be sure that it is as a result of sin, we are not saying that both parties are to blame. In fact it is quite possible in situations of divorce that one party is innocent of sin. At the beginning of Matthew’s gospel ,1:19, we read ‘because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.’

The church has far too often been quick to condemn all who divorce and we can be quick to judge others with no knowledge of the facts. In the face of wilful, persistent, unrepentant sin it can be the most godly thing you can do to divorce and the single strongest indicator that this must be the case is the fact that God himself initiates divorce against unrepentant adulterous Israel. In Jeremiah 3:6-10 we read;

During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it.  I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.

We saw in the previous post that God’s amazing patience, revealed in his dealing with Israel in the book of Hosea, is a model for our marriages but so also is his radical holiness.

Real love is not a pitiful acceptance of others — sin and all. Lines have to be drawn and they are drawn as an expression of love. Tough love means telling the person you love that there are limits to what conduct is acceptable in your relationship. If someone seeks to mock God by deliberately breaking their marriage vows divorce is a righteous act and one the church should be willing to, with a heavy-heart, support.

The mercy of God means that he permits divorce

Divorcing a spouse does not sound like a mercy but in many instances it has proved to be the only action that has brought about a true repentance. As someone has written ‘helping others to face up to responsibility without protecting them from the consequences of their own decisions is what tough love is all about. Setting limits as to how far we can reasonably go in helping our spouses allows God to work His loving discipline in their lives.’

And that is exactly the principle we find at work in God’s own covenant commitment to Israel. When God divorces Israel he sends her away – for a long period of separation – even as he is at work to see that relationship restored. Back in Jeremiah 3, In the very same chapter where God says he has divorced Israel, the Lord also proclaims, 3v.12 and again v.14 ‘return faithless people for I am your husband….I will choose you and bring you to Zion.. .at that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel.’

And God’s mercy is seen in relation to the innocent victim of divorce as well. God permits divorce out of loving concern for an innocent party in a marriage. We will return to the issue of re-marriage in a future post when we turn to the questions of what are the biblical grounds for divorce and when, if ever, is it right to remarry. But God’s concern for the innocent party means, at the very least, she is not bound to stay in the home with an abusive spouse, nor is she bound to her marriage if deserted by an unbelieving spouse, nor forced to stay in a marriage in which her husband is sleeping with other people.

God permits divorce out of loving concern for spouses who are victims of abuse and adultery.

But whether we are single, married, divorced or widowed – whatever our situation – the extraordinary truth that we rest upon today is that God is a God of complete faithfulness to us. Despite Israel’s repeated spiritual adultery – God’s plan to raise up a saviour for us  from the Jews – is gloriously fulfilled in Jesus. God could have given up on us – but his covenant love and covenant promises remain secure.

Neil Powell.

© Neil Powell

Divorce (Part 1): What does God think of divorce?

Katy Kennedy

Written by Neil Powell

You can download the PDF of this resource here. 

In future posts we will consider in what situations Christians are permitted to end a marriage and if and when the Bible permits remarriage. In this post I simply want to address the question, ‘what does God think of divorce?’

1. The faithfulness of God means that he hates divorce – Malachi 2:10-16

God is a God of faithfulness who keeps his covenant promise with us his people. Would you turn back to that first reading Malachi 2:10-16.  The Lord God hates unfaithfulness in all of its forms and here in v. 11 he accuses Judah of having broken faith.

v.14. You ask why? It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her. She is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.

God is against us when we divorce wrongly. He is against us because we are breaking faith with him when we break faith with our spouse. That is why we read v.16 I hate divorce, says the LordThe Lord is a witness against us when we wrongly divorce.

If God hates divorce then we must do all we can to remain faithful and protect our marriages.

When Jane and I were dating, as a birthday present, she spent far too much money on me when she bought me a bonsai tree.  I was thrilled, really genuinely delighted. I admired it showed it off to others, talked about it at work, but I didn’t have a clue how to look after it. And rather than feed it and water it, prune it and tend to it – as a result of neglect – I killed it. A lack of thought, care and attention and within months it was dead.

Now marriage is a living thing and if you don’t give it the time and attention it needs and deserves you might just kill it. No-one sets out to get divorced. I haven’t met a Christian who’s got married thinking it might not survive. But we ought to fear the death of a marriage.

Look what Malachi says, not once but twice,

v.15 ‘guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.’

How do you know that out of love you fear the break-up of your marriage? It seems to me you will do 3 things:

A. Prioritise your marriage.

Perhaps the biggest threat to a marriage is simply putting other things before it. In 20 years of marriage I can tell you there have been times when that has been true of my marriage. So, block out time for each other, take regular holidays, keep date nights and please pray together. For Jane and I that was not always top of our agenda but for the past 4 years we have prayed together practically every day. Make time for sex in the marriage, speak tenderly to each other – remind each other of what you really like and appreciate about each other.

Feed your marriage or you’ll kill it.  And watch out for the very subtle and hidden danger of mistaking  working in your marriage for  working on your marriage.  Many marriages give the appearance of strength because husband and wife are busy sacrificing and serving but not for the sake of the marriage but for a purpose that ought to be subordinate to the marriage.  That could be building a home, raising a family, pursuing a career. It’s not enough to have a shared goal that keeps you busy if you are not directly working on your marriage, building intimacy, enjoying each other. Being busy together is just not enough.

 

B. Protect your marriage.

Protect it from other good things e.g. church-activity, work-overload, the competing demands of the children. Can I say that it is one of the most important things you can do for your children to demonstrate to them in ways they understand that your marriage comes before their demands. That could be in simple and small ways such as not letting them interrupt a conversation.

Protect it from bad things – by taking sin in a marriage seriously. Have accountability software – men in particular watch out for pornography. Think of Joseph & Potiphar’s wife. Joseph  didn’t go looking for trouble, but trouble in the form of sexual temptation found him and he knew to flee.  Be on your guard against office affairs.

 

C. Find support for your marriage

Most importantly find support from God. As well as praying together it a habit to pray together, make it a godly desire to  pray for your spouse. Giving thanks, praying for spiritual growth. And find support from the church. As a church we want to offer pastoral support at the earliest possible opportunity for any marriage in difficulty.

How many people die of diseases who simply present too late to the doctor. A friend of mine had a growth on his neck. He was a bright student, physically strong, he thought he was immortal and he was naive. But he and I were also doing a summer camp together and a doctor was part of the team. Over the 10 days he kept saying to him, ‘get that checked out,’ because he kept saying it, the message stuck. He got back, got it diagnosed, it was cancer, but because it was caught in time the operation was successful and he made a full recovery.

If something in your marriage is not quite right – get it checked. Don’t be embarrassed. The most dangerous thing you can do in a marriage is think that divorce could never happen to you. In the Bible we also find a second reason why God hates divorce. Not just because he is faithful but also because he is forgiving

  

2. The grace of God means he hates divorce – Hosea 1 & 3

Nowhere does the Bible demonstrate that lesson more than in the book of Hosea. John McArthur in his book The Divorce Dilemma writes ‘the entire book of Hosea is a picture of God’s forgiving and patient love for his people. A love that is dramatized by the prophet Hosea’s forgiving and patient love for his wife Gomer.’

Hosea the prophet is sent to the northern kingdom of Israel and as part of his witness to Israel God calls on Hosea to deliberately choose for his wife someone who will be unfaithful to him.

In Hosea 1:2-3 we read these words ‘when the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.’ So he married Gomer.’ Israel, committed spiritual adultery against God and God is rightly angry with their unfaithfulness. He is angry, like a wife who comes home to find another woman in bed with her husband.

But God’s response to Israel’s sin is not to terminate the relationship. Rather, as one commentator puts it, his tactic is ‘the artful strategy of an ardent lover. He intends to allure her, rekindling the romance they enjoyed in their early years together…He will entice her. He will draw her back.’ The marriage will be saved because of the gracious and forgiving nature of God’s love.

And once again we see Hosea called upon to live this love out in his own marriage. So, Hosea 3:1-4:

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” 4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. 5Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.

God is determined to renew his marriage with Israel.

Martyn Lloyd- Jones said ‘God has never anywhere commanded anybody to divorce’. Even after serious sin, even after repeated covenantal unfaithfulness divorce is not inevitable. Not for the Christian. You see in the gospel God has given you resources to stay in a marriage even when others who are non-Christians might leave. Now this is not to say that Christians should passively accept unfaithfulness on the part of their spouse. This is not to say that we should be indifferent to sin in a marriage. Wherever there is sin we should call on each other to recognise it, confess it and repent of it. But where there is true repentance then restoration is possible and should be worked for –to the glory of God.

Some of you know that at first hand. You’ve witnessed parents working through issues of serious sin. Maybe even in your own marriage. And you’ve found that where there is true repentance – grace triumphs over sin! Just think what a powerful testimony it is when by God’s grace we are able to forgive and forget and re-build marriages on a foundation of grace. It brings glory to God that with the grace of God we are able to overcome sin.

As elders we believe that divorce ought to be avoided if at all possible. And that means that we will always discourage divorce and work wherever possible towards reconciliation because that is our experience of God’s love for us in the gospel. You see the Bible calls on us not just to honour our vows but to exhibit the character of Christ in our lives.

In the next post we will see that although God hates divorce he also permits it.

 

Neil Powell.

© Neil Powell.

Dating Websites

Katy Kennedy

Written by Pete Lowman

 

Life today has moved online. Dating and courtship has moved online.  And sometimes those of us who are wrestling with singleness may do well to look at Christian introduction sites –particularly if you come from and are looking for a partner from a particular background.

But there are many supposedly Christian dating websites; and in fact many of them are not Christian at all.  Two that we have seen receive favourable reactions are www.christianconnection.co.uk and www.friends1st.co.uk.

As we all know, users of introductory sites need to be cautious; even where the site is genuinely Christian, some of its users may neither be Christian nor genuine!  Helpful advice can be found on http://www.christianconnection.co.uk/about, at the bottom of the page; you may also find it useful to look at the advice on http://www.singleroots.com/best-christian-dating-sites/ from across the Atlantic.

Please note that none of the above constitutes a recommendation from Living Leadership, just some possible places for you or people you care for to start looking! 

Redundancy and Unemployment

[Your Name Here]

Written by Peter Hicks
You can download the PDF of this resource here. 

Redundancy and unemployment bring with them a cluster of problems, financial, family, personal and social. 

Most people who lose their jobs go through something like a bereavement process. Having lost the clear daily structure and sense of purpose that a job gives, they are particularly prone to suffer from insecurity and low self-image. 

There is often a common pattern to people’s reaction to being unemployed, though factors such as personal attitude, age, finance and support can make a great deal of difference, and the pattern is by no means a rigid one. The loss of work generally causes a period of shock, which may include a sense of unreality (‘This can’t be happening to me’) and denial that there is any problem. Following this comes a comparatively optimistic period, characterized by activity and confidence that the spell of unemployment will be short. But if no job is found, this can change to a period of discouragement and despair, which after a time may lead to apathetic acceptance and resignation. Clearly, being in either of the last two stages will lessen the chances of getting a job, so it is important for the unemployed person to maintain hope and momentum, both personally and in the search for work. 


Helping those who are unemployed

Make sure everything you say and do shows acceptance, respect and affirmation. Avoid anything that might seem condemning or patronizing. Very few people are unemployed because they don’t want to work. Sadly, some long-term unemployed people become so discouraged and so lacking in self-esteem that they give up trying to find work. But these need extra understanding and encouragement, not criticism and condemnation. 

Remember that many people gain their sense of self-worth from the job they do, so those without work will need extra love and affirmation, and continuous encouragement to find self-worth in their relationship to God and others, and in what they are able to be and do. 

Keep an eye open for particular reactions such as anger, loss of confidence, loss of self-respect, and so on. Many people find the period about six months into unemployment the hardest time. Provide help and encourage them to seek counselling before things get too serious. 

Remember that in a family situation the other family members will be under stress. Keep an eye on them, and make sure they seek help if problems arise. 

Help those who are unemployed to maintain hope, and to sustain the motivation to remain active. Share the pain of job application rejections with them, but help them maintain the determination to keep looking for work. Help them with their decision-making, but don’t make decisions for them. Be patient; there will be mood swings and dark periods; but they need you to remain a dependable source of support and encouragement. 


What could I say? 

Unemployment situations vary greatly, but you may find it helpful to make some of these suggestions. 

Make use of all the help you can get. Accept that redundancy and unemployment can give rise to significant personal and emotional problems, quite apart from the practical issues like loss of income, and that you may have to go through these. To do this you will need all the help you can get. Whatever you do, don’t try and cope on your own. Allow family and friends to help and support you. Get others to pray for you. Find a counsellor or understanding friend with whom you can talk about your reactions and feelings. Join a local support group for the unemployed. 

Keep an eye open for the reactions that are common among unemployed people. Most common among these are anger and depression; do what you can to deal with them as soon as they begin to appear. Be aware that there will be an extra strain on your family; watch for signs of tension and deal with them before they get too big. 

Pace yourself. Combine a hope that the period of unemployment will be short with a realism that accepts it may not be. 

Keep yourself occupied. Never do nothing. Draw up a list of jobs to do round the house. Do the garden for the old lady down the road. Give a couple of mornings a week to the church office or to Mencap. Offer to help in the local charity shop. Join the staff of a playgroup. Do voluntary work in your local school. Take on a new ministry in the church. Take up new hobbies. Grow vegetables. Join a local club. Develop new domestic skills. Do a project on local history, or birds in your local park. Run, swim, walk, keep fit. Offer your skills to your neighbours. Work out your family tree. Every week, plan and do something new that you’ve never done before. 

Structure your day and your week. Aimlessness will quickly lead to boredom and despair. Follow as clear a structure as you had when you were working. 

Use the opportunity to learn new skills. Take advantage of retraining schemes. Do a course in your local college. 

Take it that God is giving you a ‘sabbatical’ from work so that you can do something special for him. It may be some special service, or it may be giving a lot of time to prayer, or study of the Bible. 

Take the opportunity to reflect. Give yourself time to do some serious thinking about your career, your values, your goals, your family, your priorities, the principles that are controlling your life, and your relationship to God. Work out and put into practice any necessary adjustments. 

Use the opportunity to develop a simpler lifestyle, and to have more understanding of the less fortunate in the world. 

Make a point of maintaining and developing your relationships with friends and family. Fight the tendency to withdraw; God is giving you extra time to spend with them. If you have lost many of your friendships because they were work-related, make every effort to develop new friendships to replace them. Get alongside lonely people. Widen your circle of friends at church and in the community. 

If you have financial problems, get help before they become acute. Replan your budget. Write to your mortgage provider. Talk to the Citizens Advice Bureau. Make sure you are getting any state benefits available. 

Make full use of schemes and centres for the unemployed run by the government and churches and voluntary organizations. 

Get advice over letter-writing skills, composing a CV, filling out job applications, and interview techniques. 

Remember, unemployment is a challenge, not a disaster. However unpleasant the experience, be determined you will learn and grow through it as a person and as a Christian. 

Peter Hicks.

This is a chapter from Peter Hicks, What Could I Say?,  published by Inter-Varsity Press UK, www.ivpbooks.com,

© Peter Hicks 2000, and used by kind permission of the author and publisher. 

Childlessness and infertility

[Your Name Here]

Childlessness and infertility are immensely painful issues that will certainly arise within your church unless it is very small indeed.   Here again we at Living Leadership don’t want to reinvent the wheel when there are great resources already available; one particularly helpful short article is this one from Matthias Media:  http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2000/09/a-silent-grief-pastoral-reflections-on-infertility/.

Suicide - When Life Seems Too Much

[Your Name Here]

Written by Jonathan Clark

For many people, particularly some Christians, the idea that a person might choose to end their life seems totally alien, and incongruous with their philosophy and beliefs. 

This has led to denial that any Christians might reach a stage when death seems to be an option, and then act on it.  And it means many people end up suffering in silence, as they do not feel able to talk about their feelings.
Read More

Eating disorders

[Your Name Here]

Written by Helena Wilkinson

You can download the PDF of this resource here. 

Eating disorders can affect anyone – children and adults, male and female. And they cause more deaths than any other mental illness. 

The behaviour of the eating disorder is not so much the problem but the solution, to a whole series of other problems.  The sufferer uses under- or over-eating, and related patterns, in response to unresolved emotional issues. Eating disorders serve a function in the person’s life, and in most cases are a coping mechanism.  

(For a more comprehensive understanding than is possible here of what causes eating disorders, how a sufferer views the world, and the recovery process, see Helena Wilkinson, Beyond Chaotic Eating, details below.) 

Behind eating disorders may lie:

·         Attachment issues (separation, lack of bonding, and disruptions to attachment); 

·         Emotional hunger (unmet emotional needs, resulting in inner emptiness); 

·         Negative attitude towards self (low self-worth, loss of sense of value and identity);

·         Sexuality issues (fear of the adult world, and need for sexual protection);

·         Past or current trauma (physical, emotional and sexual abuse, bullying and loss);    

·         Family issues (unhelpful communication, boundaries, handling of painful feelings);

·         Personal factors (personality and genetics).

Whilst the underlying issues may be similar, there are clear distinctions between the different eating disorders in terms of how they manifest. 

Anorexia nervosa

With anorexia a person severely limits their food intake, has a distorted body image, refuses to maintain a normal body weight, and is intensely afraid of gaining weight despite being below what is considered healthy.  When the anorexic looks in the mirror a distortedly large figure stares back, and fills the individual with horror and disgust.

The anorexic may try to establish a sense of individual identity and independence, and yet fears that without anorexia they are a ‘nobody’. 

Anorexia provides a sense of achievement over one area of life when other areas are considered out of control. There is a strong pull towards perfectionism in this – to attain a life that is ‘nice’ and pure. 

Not eating may become a substitute for expressing anger. This anger may be denied or suppressed because it causes shame, but inner conflicts remain. All the feelings, needs and drives become bound up in shame, and the sufferer looks upon themselves with disdain. This lack of self-acceptance drives them into routines of calorie counting, starvation and self-punishment.

Bulimia nervosa

The main feature of bulimia is binge eating, followed by unhealthy behaviours to compensate for eating and to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting. 

The nature of the illness is about hiding: hiding the truth; hiding feelings; hiding food. Everything is done in secret: the eating, the vomiting and the tears. 

There is a split between the part of the bulimic which is very much in control and copes, and the part which is dependent and does not cope well. The person tries hard to take control of their life, but they are also in a great deal of conflict. They want to present themselves as strong, and yet inside they feel needy and emotionally hungry.  

The bulimic often feels so desperate and in need, yet they fear that these desires, if exposed, will consume everything and everyone in sight. Their emotional hunger drives them to continue looking for love, but nothing ever seems to satisfy.  They turn to food to fill the empty hole, and then get rid of the food to return to a place of numbness. 

Compulsive eating

Compulsive eating is characterised by uncontrollable eating, ‘grazing’ on food, and consequent weight gain. Food is used to block out feelings, and provides a means to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and daily problems.

To the compulsive eater, food means either overeating or dieting. It is also something about which they fantasise a great deal, and which offers comfort.

When the compulsive eater gives an account of what they have eaten that day, they frequently fail to include certain foods. Some sufferers subconsciously believe that if they eat whilst standing up, driving, or walking, it ‘doesn’t count’. 

The compulsive eater may set out on a diet because of the pressure to be slim, but dieting feels like imprisonment, and so they often find themselves making up for those things of which they have been deprived.

The person often eats guiltily and with speed, not really enjoying what they are eating, afraid that others might ‘catch them’.

The process of recovery

Before sufferers can change, they need to look at the advantages and the disadvantages of having an eating disorder. 

In the early stage, they may want and yet fear recovery. This is a normal part of the healing process. 

We are physical, emotional and spiritual beings, and with eating disorders there is brokenness in all three areas.  For recovery to happen there needs to be restoration in all three areas:

·         Physical: eating patterns, weight, and body image

·         Emotional: feelings, thoughts, reactions, behaviours and choices

·         Spiritual: identity, worth, value and maturity     

Helpful tips for those helping

It is important that throughout recovery sufferers are helped to have a support network around them, including medical supervision; nutritional advice; therapeutic input; spiritual counsel; and friendship. Whatever your role in supporting a sufferer, the following tips may come in useful: 

·         Be well informed about eating disorders

·         Don’t make assumptions; ask the person to explain why they do what they do

·         Eating disorders are a form of communication, so ask yourself what is being communicated

·         Maintain clear boundaries, as eating disorders can be all consuming.  Be mindful not to become overly involved and to set out what is realistic in terms of the help you can offer; be specific, rather than saying ‘Phone me any time’, or the person may call at 2 am and then be upset that this is suddenly not OK any more

·         Don’t `rescue`, but rather encourage the person to make choices themselves

·         Help the person identify a reason to get better and work towards goals

·         Affirm healthy ways of coping, rather than doing battle with the person’s unhealthy patterns

·         Work on establishing identity and value in Christ

·         Recognise the spiritual battle

·         Don’t give up hope: ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’ (Prov 3:5).

Recovery

Many people believe that a person has to learn to live with an eating disorder, but we have seen so many times that full recovery is possible.  

Eating disorders are unhealthy and self-destructive ways of dealing with painful emotions, such as guilt, anxiety, and anger. With expert help, the sufferer can learn more positive ways of dealing with the pain of these emotions, and to address the deeper roots underlying their feelings. 

In order for recovery to be both possible and sustainable, it is essential for the person’s thinking to change, as thinking affects feelings and behaviours. The Bible says: ‘Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts’ (Prov 4:23, GNB).

A healthy relationship with food will need to be developed: letting go of the dieting mentality and the fear of hunger, establishing boundaries around eating, and maintaining a normal body weight.  

Ultimately the sufferer will have to let go of the control that the eating disorder has had, and the identity that it has shaped. Honesty, repentance and love are a part of letting go and choosing a new identity - firstly as a child of God, and secondly as a unique, maturing individual.

Steps to change

Some steps on the road to recovery include:

·         Making the decision to get better: looking at the pros and cons of having an eating disorder, and realising that there are more disadvantages to holding on to it than there are advantages

·         Working out a viable strategy: looking at what particular help would be beneficial: seeing a nutritionist, joining a supportive organisation, having counselling/prayer ministry, attending a course, reading a book, etc.

·         Reaching out for help: not bottling the problem up, but being proactive in contacting people and organisations for support and being open and honest with those who can be trusted.

·         Modifying one’s life circumstances: looking at what is hindering recovery and what needs to change - type of job, working hours, mixing with encouraging rather than discouraging or critical people, changing where you live (the location or people with whom you live), reducing stress levels, etc. 

·         Building in emotional and spiritual support: developing friendships with people who understand eating disorders and the underlying issues, and having an outlet to talk and pray with someone when needed. 

·         Facing the pain: not running away from the underlying causes, but being helped to face them, to feel, to cry and to express hurt in a healing way.

·         Developing trust: gradually learning to trust one or two ‘safe’ people, since trust will have no doubt been shattered over the years. 

·         Allowing time to process the changes: remembering that recovery is a process which takes time and not giving up when there are slip ups; getting up again and learning from the mistakes.

 

Helena Wilkinson. 

Helena has worked with eating disorder sufferers for over 20 years.  A recovered sufferer and trained counsellor, she is the author of ten books, including the bestseller Puppet on a String, her own account of recovering from anorexia, written at the age of 19.  She speaks internationally on eating disorders and related subjects. Visit her website.

Residential Courses and Training Days

Helena runs residential courses for eating disorder sufferers which address the physical, emotional and spiritual components of all eating disorders.  They are held at a Christian Retreat Centre on Gower, South Wales, in a stunning location, and are suitable for sufferers aged 16 plus. For further information click here

 

Useful books

Puppet on a String, Helena Wilkinson

Beyond Chaotic Eating, Helena Wilkinson

Insight into Eating Disorders, Helena Wilkinson

See also www.careforthefamily.org.uk/eatingdisorders