Joyce Meyer. Beth Moore. Paula White. Lysa TerKeurst. Christine Caine. What do all of these women have in common?
Yes, they’re all false teachers, but they’re also all victims of sexual abuse.
I haven’t conducted a scientific poll, survey, or longitudinal study, so my observations could be way off base, but I’ve been noticing lately – from hearing these women’s testimonies, reading comments on their blog articles, and talking to women who follow them – that women who have been sexually abused seem to be particularly vulnerable to “feel good” false doctrine.
And it’s not just victims of sexual abuse. It’s women who are suffering from the death of a child or spouse, divorce, infertility, illness, spousal abuse- all of those agonies that strike right at the core of women’s hearts. You’ll find them in droves at the conferences, book signings, and blogs of false teachers.
Why is that?
Because those things hurt. I mean, “I want to crawl under the covers and die,” hurt. “My life is over,” hurt. “An elephant is sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe,” hurt. These precious, beautiful souls God created for joy are walking through something no human being should ever have to experience.
And Satan, that evil beast, is right there to exploit their pain and make things worse by molesting them spiritually. He sends false teachers to whisper sweetly in their ears, “It hurts, doesn’t it? But I can make all that pain go away, now.”
Let’s just be honest for a minute. That’s what we all want. I don’t care how doctrinally sound and spiritually mature you are- when excruciating pain explodes into your life, you don’t skip through the tulips to meet it with a smile on your face and a giddy tune on your lips. You just want it to go away. And like a confidence man with a wagon full of snake oil, false teachers are at the ready to offer a magic elixir that will miraculously cure what ails you. Instantly.
“You’re God’s masterpiece- His princess!”
“It’s never God’s will for you to suffer.”
“Just declare the things that are not as though they are!”
“God will give you back what you lost a hundredfold.”
“Sow a seed into my ministry and God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out His blessings!”
“Your words create reality. Just speak out what you want and you can have it!”
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper!”
“God wants to do the impossible in your life, so dream big dreams!”
In other words, “Just do or believe X. You’ll feel better and your situation will turn around. I suffered just like you did, and look what God did for me!” The only problem with that kind of teaching is…well…the Bible. The Bible doesn’t make that sort of promise to anyone, in fact it says just the opposite. Jesus promised us tribulation. James, various trials. Paul, persecution. Peter, suffering.
The truth is, since the Fall, we live in a broken, sinful world. We’re going to suffer. It’s often going to be long, painful, and messy. Sometimes, there won’t be a cure this side of Glory. God’s promise to followers of Christ is not that He will eradicate our suffering, but that He will walk through it with us.
So how do we provide chemotherapy for the soul to an anguished woman who just wants a pretty Hello Kitty Band-Aid for her emotions or life circumstances? How do we impart hard, healing truth when she’s being seduced by an easy, deadly lie?
1. Be honest.
Don’t be tempted to “compete” with false teachers by telling her God’s going to fix everything the way she wants it. She might die from the cancer she was just diagnosed with. She might never be able to get pregnant. Her estranged husband might not come back. Things might not get better. They might get worse.
2. Walk with her.
Joyce Meyer isn’t going to be there at three in the morning when she can’t stop crying. Beth Moore isn’t going to go to court with her and hold her hand when the verdict is handed down. Christine Caine isn’t going to pull her hair back when she’s vomiting from chemo. You be there. You comfort her. That’s why God put you in her life.
3. Set her mind on things above, not on earthly things.
Help her keep her eyes focused on Christ, not her situation. Pray with her. Sing songs of praise with her. Remind her of the gospel. Lead her to be thankful. Take her to church. Recite Scripture together.
4. Shut up.
Some of us are fixers. We want to make people feel better or fix their situation by doing something, saying something, teaching something. And a lot of times that’s not what a suffering woman needs. She just needs a hug. Someone to sit and cry with. Someone to eat raw cookie dough with. Hush. We don’t have to talk things to death all the time, and we’re probably not going to be able to fix the situation anyway.
5. Rehearse God’s real promises.
The false teachers are throwing sparkly fake promises at her. You give her the real ones. They’re so much better.
6. Suffer well.
Suffering is going to come your way, too, or maybe it already has. Set an example by being real about your own struggles and failures, yet testifying to God’s faithfulness during tribulation. What did you learn from your suffering? How did it build your trust in God and draw you closer to Him?
Ask God to give you wisdom about what to say or do to help and comfort her. And intercede for her and her situation, as well, because, ultimately, regardless of your words or actions, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to comfort her heart and give her peace and trust in God. (Hmmm…maybe that’s why He’s called the Comforter?)
The desire to escape from suffering is normal and in no way an indication of a lack of faith. Even Jesus prayed in the garden that if there were some other way than the cross, God would “let this cup pass” from Him. But sometimes, as difficult as it is to understand, suffering is part of God’s plan for our lives. It’s not His desire that we escape it but that we depend on Him, rest in Him, trust Him, and obey Him as He carries us through it. When we love our sisters in Christ, this is the truth we will impart to them, not the heal-all salve of improved life circumstances and feel good-ism the used car salesmen of evangelicalism are hawking.