The Link Between Illness and Abuse

This post was written by a friend of mine and she communicates it so well, I am copying the post in its entirety.

This is such a huge issue, which is still almost completely unnoticed in the church’s ignorance of abuse. And it is affecting many, many people sitting in our pews.


By Sharon Merhalski

I am a survivor of childhood abuse: every kind of abuse from my mother (22% of pedophiles are women) and sexual abuse from my brother. As an abused child I experienced a childhood of illnesses. I now understand illness is an expected scenario given the constant internal and external stress an abused child (and children raised in domestic violence) carries. And I now understand until abuse issues are dealt with and healed, that internal stress cannot be alleviated, resulting in continued illness in the adult years.

I believe the Bible gives plain affirmation on this subject (words inside parenthesis are definitions for the previous word from the Strong’s Concordance).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire (longing) cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

A victim living in an abusive situation constantly hopes the abuse will end. When they are separated from the abuse by age or living situation there is usually an internal longing (especially with child abuse)–hope for a healthy relationship with the abusive parent. When hope longed for doesn’t happen the Bible says it makes their heart (feelings, the will and even the intellect) sick (be weak, sick, afflicted, cause to grieve, diseased, put in pain, be wounded) If our feelings, will and intellect are sick we are under extreme stress and on our way to physical illness.

In spring of 1984 I was 35 years old. I had severe allergies requiring weekly allergy injections and a lot of allergy medication. I was always fatigued, in bed a lot of the time, fought sinus and bronchial infections and yeast infections constantly and was an overall miserable mess.

In September of 1984 I came to a crossroad in my spiritual and emotional life that ended in my allowing God to take my very damaged heart and emotions and heal them with His Word. About six months into this lengthy process my allergies were so minimal that I no longer required allergy shots and I seldom took allergy medications. By mid-1985 the sinus infections and yeast infections were few and far between. The bronchial infections maybe happened once a year.

At this time I began to see a licensed physician who is a dear Christian man. He was the first doctor I asked about the ‘coincidence’ of my emotional healing and healing from allergies and infections. I remember clearly his saying to me it was no ‘coincidence’ and then teaching me about inner stress. He assured me what I experienced was a normal reaction to my internal healing. Since then I have asked two other physicians the same question and received the same answers.

In the last twenty-plus years I have been entrusted by God to both counsel and work with many women who are survivors of abuse…child abuse and/or domestic violence. The pattern I have observed is almost all of the women with unresolved/unhealed issues have been physically ill in some way…from allergies to cancer. And, those women whom I have observed through their personal spiritual and emotional healing process have experienced a lessening, if not total healing of their physical illnesses, i.e. arthritis, allergies, repeated infections, stomach and/or bowel problems, Candida/yeast infections, etc. I have always been very thankful I can share with each woman why their health was improving…using the words of my physicians—my Heavenly physician/Jehovah-Rapha and my earthly physicans–spoken to me. (The Bible has much to say on this subject.)

A few years ago I began to find research on this perceived ‘phenomenon’ of relieved stress and healing. Recently there has been much research done on this subject. I now understand fully the reasons for an increase in health when there is a decrease in stress…internal stress and external stress.

If you are a survivor or victim of abuse, or know a survivor or victim of abuse, I hope you will assimilate this information for yourself and/or pass it along to others.

Links to articles:

Physical Abuse Raises Women’s Health Costs Over 40 Percent The implication of this is that there are all these women suffering long-term health problems as a result of abuse.

possible link between sex abuse and Interstitial Cystitis

Child abuse ‘impacts stress gene’

Facial Fractures Speak Volumes

Childhood Abuse Raises Psychosis Risk in Women

Teenage Stress Has Implications on Adult Health

In this search page there are a couple posts about studies on domestic violence and ill health.

Can God Hear Our Prayers for Our Nation?

Waneta Dawn wrote an excellent post in answer to this question. Ironically, this is something the church in general is not thinking about. We call for prayer for our nation – but will God hear and answer? Does the church have issues that make our prayers unanswerable? There is a very clear answer in the Word to that question!

The Cost of Domestic Abuse

These numbers don’t lie! According to a long-term scientific study of over 3,000 women, women experiencing physical abuse from intimate partners spent 42 percent more on health care per year than non-abused women.

The study also revealed that the cost doesn’t end when the abuse does. The study showed that women who experienced abuse for five or more years, continued to spend 19% more on health care per year than women who were not abused.

Now remember — this study only encompassed physical abuse and didn’t even look into verbal and emotional abuse, which are just as deadly.

Even more important is to grasp that these numbers represent real women living in chronic illness and pain due to domestic abuse. These are lives damaged by an growing epidemic, which is just as real inside the church as outside it.

And to the physical pain of these women is added the financial strain. If they have gotten out of abuse, it is highly likely that their financial circumstances are constrained – and they are having all these medical costs on top of their financial strain and physical pain. The physical problems may also have a concrete impact on their ability to provide for their financial needs!

This is a large, complex problem which is daily reality for many women! It’s more than just an interesting statistic and an insurance issue.

The Last Curse

One of the things I feel so compelled to communicate to people who are in abuse, and to the church which is supposed to stand for their protection, is the very real danger of death as a result of verbal abuse. God is not speaking figuratively when He says in the Word that death and life are in the power of the tongue.

I have written two more installments of my personal journey, directly related to this issue of death by verbal abuse.

The Last Curse

The Breastplate of Righteousness

They are intended to be read in the order given since the second is dependent on information in the first.

Child Abuse Alters Brain Genetics

New research supports something I have long suspected – child abuse alters brain genetics.

This fascinating article by BBC News says, “Analysis of brain tissue from adults who had committed suicide found key genetic changes in those who had suffered abuse as a child.” The article then goes on to explain these changes.

Be sure to read the article – it is very insightful. Yet another support for the contention that this matters. Doesn’t the Word say we are to stand for the afflicted and oppressed? Where is the outcry in the church?

Evicted From the Church

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Revisiting an issue I’ve written about previously, there is a great analogy that gives a good picture of what is happening when abuse victims leave the church.

Everyone knows that a landlord can evict a tenant for a variety of reasons. If the tenant persists in non-payment of the rent, violates the terms of the rental contract, destroys the property or engages in illegal behavior on the premises the landlord is legally allowed to evict the tenant.

This landlord right and process of eviction is analogous to the church’s right and process to remove someone from fellowship for persistent, unrepentant egregious sin.

Another appropriate analogy here, is that there are limits to the reasons for which a landlord may evict a tenant, and there is a legal process that must be followed. In the same way, churches do not have a Biblical right to evict a member for just any reason – like speaking up against unbiblical practices, resisting ungodly authority, not giving enough or serving enough, etc. The Word has a specific list of things for which church discipline is appropriate.

There is also a Biblical process for accomplishing a church “eviction.” The pastor or elders cannot just call someone in the office and pressure them out of the church or kick them out. Matthew 18 outlines a very specific series of events which must be followed – without twisting the concept to serve the objectives of the human leadership.

However, there is another type of eviction in the world of landlords and tenants. It is called constructive eviction. When a landlord fails to maintain the property to the point that life, limb or health are endangered, a tenant may abandon the property without financial penalty or process of “giving notice.”

The church is constructively evicting abuse victims and other members who don’t “walk the line.” The church has made itself so toxic to these people that their spiritual, mental and emotional well-being are endangered by the church. Church leadership maintains innocent bewilderment about the reasons for the steady stream of people disappearing. But instead of assuming this absence can be attributed to “normal” attrition, the church needs to look closer and find out why there is a common theme to the reasons these people are leaving.

Chalking the disappearance of an entire block of Christianity up to attrition and back-sliding is foolish and short-sighted. The numbers will only get bigger and the voices of protest louder. Can the leadership of churches receive correction? Those who would be willing to learn would find their church life radically empowered – because the answers to the problem will change everything. And people are hungry for a church body that actually lives and practices a Biblical model of life in Christ.

A Look at Why Abuse Victims Stop Attending Church

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

There are quite a few of us out here now – people who have experienced abuse in the church and are not able to attend church as a result.

Unfortunately, we are then looked upon as back-slidden and everything we attempt to say to the issue of abuse in the church is discredited because “we are not in church” and, therefore, so out of touch with God we couldn’t possibly have anything valid to say. I have been openly discredited on this blog because of my church status, not to mention in private e-mail. I have also seen others in the same situation receive the same treatment.

However, this perspective turns reality upside down.

What has really happened is that the church has put us out of fellowship with its treatment of abuse.

How can I attend a church which predicates my acceptance on the idea that they will forgive me for getting a divorce since God does? It is not true that “God forgives me for getting a divorce” – since He directed me in taking that action. My behavior wasn’t sinful and doesn’t need forgiveness. This statement also blames me for the failure of my marriage. To attend a church under this presupposition, I have to live a lie – a lie that violates my conscience before God.

How can I attend a church which views me with disrespect? Because of my divorced status I am excluded from teaching in the church or using the gifts God has given me (except singing). This means the church is saying I am less than what God says I am. The church is also limiting me from doing what God has called me to do. So to attend that church I have to deny God in my life.

How can I attend a church which teaches and fosters unbiblical gender role stereotyping when I know that this teaching is both unbiblical but also leading to the abuse of other people in the church? To attend that church I have to compromise my conscience, call evil good, and give tacit consent to the continuance of abuse in the church.

How can I attend a church where I know an abuse victim will receive the same treatment I received? The result of this treatment is literal physical abuse, and potential death, to the lives of people in the church, at the insistence of the church and its erroneous doctrine. And I know better! The church may be acting in ignorance – but I would not be! To attend that church I would again have to compromise my conscience and I would have to be an accessory to the crime of abuse – because I do know better.

These are the reasons I cannot attend any evangelical church I know of. It is not because I refuse to attend church or do not want to attend church. The church will not let me worship with them in good conscience.

So, instead, I have to go the heart of the Word and remain “in fellowship with believers” through more unconventional means – which I do.

And I am not alone. I am merely one of a very large and growing group of people that the church is barring from fellowship through their actions. But, in true church irony fashion, guess who is being blamed for being “out of fellowship?”

[Now, the next step is for us to bond together in church relationships where we are accepted and acceptable. Something I’m praying about…]