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Spiritual Triage: Responding To Abuse, Abandonment, or Betrayal

Operating In An Emergency…

The following advice is given with the assumption that you, your son or daughter, or someone you love is a present victim of abuse, abandonment, or betrayal. The following advice is given to you assuming that you, your son or daughter, or someone you love is falling into a life of sin, with no self-control and no self-discipline as a result of the above actions by others.

This advice is triage. The actions and suggestions given below are what we do on the field of spiritual battle when physical lives and souls are being lost. The following advice comes from years of personal experience in dealing with persons who have suffered from abuse, dysfunction, or betrayal.

I am a pastoral care minister who much prefers leading others to salvation and repentance through an all-consuming experience of knowing the love of Christ within their heart. However, the advice given below is given realizing that many times we must function as persons giving spiritual triage. When a soldier lies wounded on the battlefield, we take care of the wound as best we can, call the medics, and pray. All this happens while the battle still rages around us.

On the battlefield, everyone wants to be a pacifist, but in battle, your choices are to fight or die.

Advice Tidbits…

You can only solve one problem at a time. Letting yourself get overwhelmed is a result of Satanic influence getting the better part of you.

You can work on only one problem at a time. Resolve to solve one issue before going the next.

Your own humility is the greatest weapon against the games being played to keep your off balance.

Keep a written record of progress or lack thereof. Use a diary format if you wish, but keep some kind of written record.

Divide and conquer. Divide your difficulties into tiny bits and pieces. Squish just one tiny difficulty at a time, and one by one, they will all slowly go away.

For legal issues (and sometimes to get the attention of people who make decisions about you and/or the person you love) get a mean Christian lawyer. The meaner the better and demand representation. Always assume that if you are not aggressive with the attorney then the attorney will not represent you in an aggressive manner.

Get the person you love into an MD’s office for a complete check-up including checks for any kind of brain chemistry issues or hormonal imbalances. If you are a parent with a teenager, there is already a hormonal problem that is the result of the normal changes teenagers are going through. Medical check-ups are suggested not to see if there is some kind of problem, but to see if the problem is out of the ordinary. Medication should be used as a last resort ONLY if there are medical issues that need attention.

Find an exorcist through a charismatic Catholic or Protestant church. Use him if he thinks the situation with the person you love is an issue of oppression or possession. This is not a joke. This is war. The chances are slim that in this war you would need an exorcist but never exclude any weapon. Beware of any exorcist who readily accepts the idea that an exorcism is needed. The need for an exorcist is very, very, very rare.

This is war. Kill the darkness. Play offense and defense. One tiny sparkle of light from the love of God can dispel the darkness.

Do all things, think all things, be all things ONLY in the name of Christ.

First, pray for the person who is in the middle of the storm with you. Then pray for your own wisdom, humility, and strength.

Find the Light of His love within you so you can share it night and day.

Demand results from yourself, from your children, from others, and from God.

Giving up is a victory for Satan, not God. It is better to shake your fist in anger at God than give in and give up in the battle against Satan and the powers of darkness.

Keep a record of everything you say and do, and everything the person you love says and does. Keep a record of everything every caseworker says and does, and everything every other expert says and does. When you have a written record of events then people who can help tend to listen. Verbal reports to helping professionals don’t mean much anymore because your verbal report gets lost with all the other thousand verbal reports just like your own.

You are not alone in dealing with the issues of rebellion, lack of self-control, and lack of self-discipline problems. Millions of other people are fighting this same fight. Everything may look good on the outside in our country, but behind closed doors, where no one can see or listen; there is an incredible amount of sin, degradation, inner chaos, and inner turmoil.

Do not expect to work through the problems of your abuse and the problems of the abuse of the person you love all at the same time. You should always put your own difficulties aside and focus on the other person.

Demand a prosperous life in Christ by being willing to give away everything you, property, problems, memories, children, pain, joy…everything must be surrendered up to Him. At the moment of surrender, even when you surrender the helplessness, turmoil, grief, pain, and betrayed feelings, you DO get something back to illumine the deepest darkness.

Count the blessings you have every second or they will disappear before you count them. Counting blessings from within our heart brings us closer to God’s love than anything else we could ever do.

Be a victor over your own difficulties so you can be a help to the person you love.

You cannot save anyone else if you are dead.

There is daylight at the end of the tunnel but take a flashlight with you just to make yourself feel better and/or use on the way.

Use the common sense God gave you. Abuse victims tend to easily lose their perspective and common sense. When the person you love acts out, whatever common sense the person had, evaporates. Get the person you love to show you and others he or she has an IQ rather than an anger quotient.

Arguing about moral issues with someone who does not have Christian morals is useless. What you should be talking about is being faithful and how not being faithful hurts the heart and soul. The person you love knows how it feels to have someone betray them. They need to be shown that a person who hurts them is not faithful to them as a person or faithful to God. One way a victim deals with this pain of betrayal and abandonment is to be like the unfaithful person. The logic here on the part of the person you love and other persons who have been hurt is perverted. Unfortunately, this logic is often the only logic the victim knows how to use.

Apologize. Apologize for whatever part you may have played in any abuse scenario. Even if you were a passive bystander or even if you did something in total ignorance and were innocent, apologize.

Share your grief with the person who has been hurt. If you do not grieve because another person has been hurt then you should soul search the reason why you have no empathy with this other person.

Confronting the real issues (being honest) is often more difficult than living with the difficulty the real issues produce. When being honest hurts more than telling a lie, most people are going to lie. This is why morality is so important in a world, in a society, in a family, and in a person.

Confusion, anger, and being abandoned often produces rebellion within the victim against the people who can help the most.

You and the person you love have to live in the present moment only. It is impossible to forget the past but you can put the love of Christ between you and the past. This will keep the past from haunting you like a ghost (which is what can and does happen to persons who suffer betrayal).

You and the person you love must be honest about what is happening now. You and the person you love must treat yesterday as if yesterday does not exist. Now is the time to be honest, now is the time to be responsible, now is the time in which you and others are living. You cannot live in yesterday’s time and you cannot live in tomorrow’s time. It is this very minute in everyone’s life that counts. All we get from our past minutes of life is wisdom or ignorance depending upon where we want to go in the next minute.

If you do not know where you are going (that is, you are lost) you will wind up in a place where you did not want to be. This is true not only for the person you love but also for everyone else.

For families or individuals that have abuse in the past or present, respect for the individual is nearly non-existent. These persons can act respectful but it is only an act. What lies beneath the surface of these persons is a whole lot of anger, hatred, disrespect, and hurt. In families with an abusive history, family members are seen as persons who are there to hurt and who are expected to hurt back.

In families where abuse has been present, helping hands can be, and quite often are perceived, as a fist that will hit one in the face. This is why persons who need help often do not want to reach up or reach out for help. After you have been repeatedly hit, you do not want to be hit anymore. What you want to do then is hit back. Rebellion is the only way to express the effects or pain from the hitting hurts from the past if you have abuse–related perceptions. Getting professional help does assist the victim in dealing with these issues.

The more honest you can be with yourself, the more honest you can be with the person you love and with others.

Use moments of honesty rather than a lecture to get through to the person you love. When you make a statement about your own life and your own pain there is no defense or rebellion against this kind of honesty.

No one can help anyone else. All we can do is put opportunities in front of others and pray they will see the opportunities and take advantage of them.

I try to help homeless people each week. All of them have been abused by others, by life, or are being abused as a result of their own emotional immaturity. To change their lives, those persons who have been betrayed and abandoned must learn to accept help. The person who needs help must make willful decisions to take the opportunities offered.

If an exorcist cannot get rid of the "hell" in the person you love, then if all else fails, fear can scare the "hell" out of people. There are all kinds of ways of scaring people straight. Remember, this is war.

A kind word and a hug can win more battles than a thousand arguments.

If others will not believe there is bad behavior being exhibited, then buy a camcorder, hide it, and record the bad behavior. As an alternative, you might also try to audio tape any outbursts to help get others to respond to the needs that come out of the person. Remember that this is war.

If only one agency is convinced that something is wrong and the person you love needs help (when other persons or authorities are not convinced of a need) then you should use this one agency to help convince others. Although, convincing others that there is a problem my not be necessary because they may already know there is a problem, they just do not want to be responsive.

When you deal with bureaucrats, as you may now be doing, get to them by getting them to see you as a human being. Get them to help by reminding them of what they are supposed to be doing (in a nice way). For bureaucrats, case managers, and all the other people with whom you are dealing, aberrant behavior is so prevalent that this behavior is no longer unusual.

God has a plan but each of us must be willing to work the plan. Most people expect to get in the car and go along for the ride while God pushes. In real life, where real lives and real souls are at stake, we do not go along for the ride because we are the ones pushing. We cannot remain passive and expect God to intervene in every circumstance because being passive is another way of being lazy.

On the battlefield, there are moments when the fighting stops. In those moments, we can reflect upon the ugliness of war or we can reflect upon the beauty of His peace.


We have all been betrayed in various ways and in various forms. We have all felt the sting of people who abandon us when we need them the most.

Even if you have been wounded, even if you have been abandoned, you have someone who understands where you are and who you are. You have someone who loves you no matter what. You have someone who understands why you are, like you are. That person is Jesus. Jesus was abandoned and betrayed by the people He called His own. Jesus was abandoned and betrayed by the people He loved as family. Jesus was beaten and flogged nearly to death, was then crucified and died a horrible death on the Cross. Yet in spite of all the betrayal and abandonment He suffered, He came back to the people who betrayed Him. He came back to them and still loved them and forgave them and welcomed them into His heart and kingdom. Today, 2000 years later, He is still welcoming into His arms people who are betraying others and the people who suffer from the betrayal. If you, someone you love, or some other person has been abused, abandoned, or betrayed, then Jesus understands everything you are going through and He wants you to let Him into your heart.

Matthew 26: 23 Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." 25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."

Matthew 26:30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: " `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 32But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." 33Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." 34"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." 35But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.

Luke 24:36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."



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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018