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Your Past:

Will it Ruin Your Future?


a Christian Perspective

by Reiter Buchmann

2015 Reiter Buchmann


reiterbuchmann@gmail.com

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Praise the God and Father of our Lord


Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the
God of all comfort. He comforts us in all
our affliction, so that we may be able to
comfort those who are in any kind of
affliction, through the comfort we
ourselves receive from God. For as the
sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so
through Christ our comfort also overflows.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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Table of Contents
Preface: The Christian Experience........................................5
The Problem..............................................................................9
The Goal...................................................................................11
The Essential Acknowledgment..........................................14
Is the World your Courtroom?............................................17
Living in the Now...................................................................21
A Case for Humor..................................................................26
Cause and Effect: Effect, or Cause?...................................29
The Main Issue: Control.......................................................34
Faith, Affliction, and Healing..............................................36
People are Waiting.................................................................40
Some Possible First Steps.....................................................43

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Preface: The Christian Experience

Every Christian, having experienced rebirth, knows


that a change took place.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;


old things have passed away, and look, new things
have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 HCSB
We know, of course, that the most significant aspects of
the change are spiritual in nature, for we have been brought
from death into life: whereas we were formerly dead in our
trespasses and sins, we have now been made alive in Christ!
(Ephesians 2:5). But then comes the required reckoning,
which seems to be the hard part of the Christian existence.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed


unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our
Lord.
Romans 6:11 KJV

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So the realization of this new creation in our daily


lives is apparently partly contingent upon our own
participation. In other words, it is clear that were we to
simply say, Thank you, Jesus, for saving me from hell, and
go about our way, we would leastwise miss out on the wealth
of provision God has for us to facilitate our own recovery
from the consequential damages of sin in our lives, to say
nothing of blessings in eternity.
Have you ever talked with a brother or sister in Christ
whose life just seems like a massive train wreck? Their heart
is in the right place; they want to honor God; they want to do
what is right, but their life just seems so out of control that at
every turn they struggle. Life is a continual struggle for them
because of
1. old habits (which may not look like sin) that they can't
seem to break,
2. old attitudes and points of view that they can't seem to
shake, and
3. other people's words and actions, either past or
present.
It seems that although we know that we are a new
creation, many of us struggle daily to make it realto
realize the new man in an old and familiar world. Who of
us has never asked, Why, if all things are become new, am I
still dealing with all this old stuff in my life!?! I think it has
to do with our own will, the renewing of our minds (Romans
12:2), and the working out of our own salvation with fear and
trembling (Philipians 2:12).
There is work for us to do within the context of our
relationship with God, and that work is, I think, the central
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Christian challenge. This work is what God has set before us


as our number one priority, ahead of evangelism, ahead of
witnessing to others, ahead of our public testimony. It is the
primary process that necessarily ensues at the inception of
our friendship with Christ. The Christian walk is an
intensely personal experience, and if Christ is Lord of our
lives, then He is the first one whom we wish to please. It's
not that we don't care what others think; it's that we care
more, and we care first what God thinks.
But in the long run, if we fail to realize God's new
creation in ourselves, either by willful stubbornness, or by
lack of diligence, endurance, perseverance, etc., then surely
our relationship with God will be compromised. And if our
relationship with God is compromised, then how will our
interpersonal relationships with others not be compromised
as well?
When we come to Christ, we come as broken
individuals. We come to Him knowing that we are not
whole, for it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the
sick (Luke 5:31). Jesus Christ is the great physician. For the
Christian, He, and only He, offers us true recovery. This
includes recovery not only from the damage caused by our
own sin, but from the damage to ourselves caused by the sins
of others as well.
So now, to the point of this writing, we know that the
sins of our past would surely ruin our future, were we to
persist in them. Can the sins of others committed against us
ruin our futures as well? We know they have damaged us.
Must the damage persist, or can it be repaired, or at least
abated? Especially in the case of child abuse or spousal
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abuse, must our past, over which we had little or no control,


ruin our future? Or has our Great Physician provided us
with a path to recovery from the damage of other people's
sins as well as our own?
I think the answer is, Yes! God, being God, has the
answers to our great dilemmas. He is God, and to Him, our
great dilemmas are small, for He is God. The only
alternative to this sentiment is either that God is small and
impotent, and thus unable to assist me in my great trials, or
that God is evil, and thus unwilling to assist me, though I
have cast my fate into His hands. Of course God, in His own
infinite wisdom, has left the determination for ourselves, to
ourselves. In other words, You Decide. In so doing, you
decide your own fate, as well as (to some degree) the fate of
others, especially of those who love you.
Your past can certainly ruin your future, but only by
your own allowance. In Christ Jesus, The Lord has provided
fully for our total recovery from our own sins, as well as from
the sins and trespasses of others against us. It is up to you,
whether you decide to realize this recovery in your own life.
And in that decision, and from that recovery, you may then,
and only then, be able to bless others with the comfort with
which you have been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Note: This is written to those who are not


facing current abuse. The presupposition
here is that you are not in an abusive
relationship. This is for those seeking
recovery from past abuse.

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The Problem

As I was growing up in the sixties and seventies, I


perceived what I thought was a kind of societal awakening to
the fact that child abuse was a rising problem. Perhaps it
was only my own awakening, and society was already well
aware of the problem. In either case, looking back now over
the past ten or twenty years, it seems that abusive behavior
has only risen exponentially, for it's almost all anyone ever
talks about nowadays. This has led me to wonder
1. If a societal problem exists and is little-known, does a
broader awareness of it actually help to solve it?
2. Does a person's awareness that they have suffered
abuse help them to avoid abusing others, or is
something else needed?
3. At what point should we cease concentrating on the
cause and the perpetrators, and focus instead on
finding and providing tools of recovery to the abused?
Someone has said, The best we can hope for is that we
will damage our children less than our parents damaged us.
I believe there is some real truth in that, for none of us is the

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perfect parent. If you believe you are, or if you believe you


can be the perfect parent (or the perfect wife, or the perfect
husband), then this writing will be of no use to you. I think
that we should strive for perfection, knowing that we won't
make it. This is not fatalism; it is acknowledgment of this
reality: that I am not perfect, but this fact shall not dissuade
me from my pursuit of excellence.
So will I never abuse my children? I probably will be
abusive at some point, though I pray that God will quickly
correct me, so that I may speedily take reparative action.
And I am thoroughly resolved to do so.
Now, the only reason I express the foregoing thought is
that our world is now so replete with observations and
accusations of abuse that any reasonably introspective
person will surely realize, at some point, that they have
abused their loved one(s). The narcissists are the ones who
will not come to this conclusion. To find out who they are,
just look at what they say. Is there a vestige of contriteness
or confession of the sin of abuse; or is there a staunch
disagreement with what I have said thus far?
This brings me to my fourth question:
4. For the one who has suffered past abuse, can he or she
have a full and healthy life going forward?
We know intuitively that the answer surely must be
yes, else the God of our existence is surely a cruel being,
having provided us no escape from this prevalent evil. Then
the question becomes, How, then?

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The Goal

First, what is the goal? I think that too often human


nature holds us hostage to our past when we acquiesce to the
attraction of morbid self-affirmation, wherein we choose to
cling to the shallow comfort offered by the voice saying,
What they did to you was wrong, and you have a
right to be upset and indignant about that. You are not
wrong in feeling unjustly slighted by their words and
actions. You deserve better treatment than that, and others
should acknowledge this fact as well.
While this is probably true, the victim must ask
himself: what really is the goal, here? Now that I know I
have been mistreated, what is my highest goal in life? Is it
simply that the world should call a general assembly and
acknowledge my plight, or is it something higher, such as
this: that I might use my insight to bless others?
The hard question, too seldom asked of the victim, is
this: Do you wish to remain a victim, or do you earnestly
seek to rise above your own abuse, triumph over it, and go on
in life, blessing others with your kindness and grace?

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Because here's the thing: as long as you are a victim,


you have nothing to offer others, no matter how much you
love them. See, the victim of a crime comes to court seeking
reparation. He is there to exact justice. He is there to
receive something. He is not there to give something, and
he's not there to make concessions or to forgive his offender.
He is there seeking justiceand deservedly so, unless his
case is invalid or frivolous, which the court will decide.
Hopefully justice will be served, and then he can go on in life.
And there is a certain and definite satisfaction in seeing
justice rightly served, not only for the victim, but for the
onlookers and the rest of society at large. Interestingly,
however, that satisfaction for the victim often seems to be as
elusive asif not more thanwas the justice originally
sought.
For the abused child who is now an adult, the justice, if
it has not yet come, likely will never come. And even for the
abused child who is still a child, the justice, if it comes,
typically has such damaging side effects that it really is no
justice at all. If there is such a thing as a victimless crime,
then surely child abuse is a victimful crime, for it ruins
everybody's lives, from the victim himself to his future loved
ones, and even the perpetrator, whose life was likely already
ruined by abuse. All in all, child abuse is a horrible, horrible
thing, for it is a symptom as well as a crime.
So where does that leave us: a society of previously
abused individuals, all seeking reparation? To whom can we
appeal? In this vast societal matrix of the abusers and the
abused, many of whom even love each other, who can set the
record straight, putting into motion a plan of recovery? How
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can we possibly become a happy people in the midst of all


this violence?
But for each of us, as individuals, the question is more
focused. It is more localized, and comes, for example, in the
following forms:

How can I make my wife love me, like it seems like


she did before we were married?
How can I get my husband to talk to me? Why is he
so reclusive?
Why do I feel so disenfranchised in my relationship
with this one whom I love?

Strangely, these questions will be asked by the


previously abused, as well as by those (who have suffered
little or no abuse) in relationship with the previously abused.
This is because abuse affects everyone.
Therefore, the goal must be something greater than
ourselves, greater than the solution of our own hurt feelings.
Since the problem is obviously farther-reaching than our
own personal damage, the goal of recovery must therefore
reach beyond ourselves, touching not only ourselves, but all
those around us as well.
For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so
through Christ our comfort also overflows.
2 Corinthians 1:5 HCSB
Could it be that God intends that our suffering of abuse
should lead to blessings upon others, as God's comfort to
ourselves overflows into the lives of others, particularly to
those whom we love? Shall this not therefore be our goal?

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The Essential Acknowledgment

I believe that there is one essential acknowledgment


that each of us needs to make, before we can discover the
answers to the deep questions that represent our
interpersonal difficulties. Do you face difficulties in your
relationship with someone you love? Is someone, who
should be open with you, withholding themselves? Is your
child keeping secrets? Does your husband seem aloof or
disinterested? Is your wife seemingly unhappy in her
marriage to you? And do you have a short list in your mind
of offenses committed against yourself by this person? Then
there is an acknowledgment you must make before things
can get on the right track, that acknowledgment being:
I am the offender. I am the abuser.
This is the only path to recovery, and this is the only
path to a full and happy life, loving and being loved by those
around you.
Now please do not mistake what I am saying. I am not
saying that when someone abused you, it was your fault. I
am not saying that if a husband strikes his wife, then she

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must have had it coming. Please! This is not what I am


saying. What I am saying is this:
An unfortunate yet unavoidable element of
human nature, intrinsic within each and every
one of us, is the capacity and propensity to be
abusive to others, and it is therefore likely that
each of us has, consciously or otherwise, been
abusive.
The Bible calls it our sin nature. It is part of the old
manthe person you were before Christ came into your life
and made all things new.
You see, just because you have been the victim of abuse,
doesn't mean you've never been abusive. In fact, looking at it
objectively, whom among us has seen a case of extreme
abuse wherein it is not discovered that the perpetrator had
been abused as a child? If anything, the evidence would
support the notion that the abused have a higher likelihood
of becoming the abuser.
This requires humility on our part, leading to things
like asking for forgivenessthings we don't like to
contemplate, especially if we perceive ourselves to be the
victim! It seems all backwards, doesn't it?
The point here is not that the tables are exactly
reversed, as though you are the only one being abusive and
no one else is abusing you. Rather, in admitting to yourself,
I am the abuser, you are simply willing to admit that
everyone is abusive at some point, to some extent, and I am
not exempt from this conviction. Only by this admission are
we able to arrive at an objective and truthful assessment of

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our interpersonal difficulties. And if we do not arrive at an


objective and truthful assessment of our interpersonal
difficulties, then what do we have? We have a subjective and
biased assessment of our interpersonal difficulties. We are
living a lie. Too many people live in this myopic, imaginary
world, ever cognizant of the offenses of others, but never
seeing their own offenses to others.
Indeed, without making the essential acknowledgment,
we are never able to honestly ask of ourselves, What part do
I have in this? What might I be doing wrong?

If we say, We have no sin, we are deceiving


ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8 HCSB

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Is the World your Courtroom?

Were you abused as a child? Do you, as a result, see


issues of personal abuse from a broader perspective than
most others? You might, then, find it important to nip signs
of impending abuse in the bud, before they have a chance to
develop. But here's what your loved ones might like to say to
you, the previously abused:
I am not the one who abused you. Someone else did
that, but you seem now bent on exacting justice in this
current circumstance, based on some principle, which I find
only marginally applicable. For though I perceive that you
are deeply hurt, the level of your pain is not consonant with
the magnitude of my offense, and it is thus clear to me that
my repentance will not suffice in quelling the pain of your
injury.
Those who have suffered abuse, no matter how long
ago, have a choice to make: You can choose, knowing better
than most what is right and wrong, to draw the lines for
everyone else, and hold them to a standard of behavior or
you can choose to take life as it comes, receiving love,
blessings, along with challenges and difficulties as they
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come. The former is safe. It will protect you from harm. It


will not bless anyone. It gives nothing. It especially imparts
no grace or love. It only calls others to account. The latter,
however, gives space for others to find their place in the
cosmos, their place among others, and their place before
God. In the former, you are the victim, and the world is your
courtroom. In the latter, you are not the victim. You have
left the courtroom, regardless of whether justice was served,
regardless of whether you received just recompense from
your adversary. You, nonetheless, have emerged triumphant
over your trial and the anguish of your abuse. You are now
equipped to bless others with grace and love, irrespective of
their behavior toward you. You now have the power and the
resource to do this as you please, according to your pleasure.
See, as long as you are the victim, you are also the
judge, and your sensibilities therefore prohibit you from
cutting them some slack in any given circumstance. See, it
is hard for a judge to forgive, for he must uphold the law.
That's his job. And if you see the world around you as a
courtroom, then you may not realize it, but you are setting
yourself up as the judge. You might think of yourself as the
victim, but you are also the judge, and this reality does not
escape the unconscious notice of others. They will eventually
come to the conclusion that you are judgmental. They may
know nothing of your own personal history. They may not
know anything of the abuse you have suffered. But they will
know that you seem rather judgmental, drawing decisive
conclusions that seem far-reaching and non-intuitive to
those without your own personal experience. You will feel
increasingly alienated from those who just don't seem to get

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it, and you will begin to feel the aloneness that every judge
experiences.
On the other hand, you might have transitioned out of
victimhood at one time. You might now say, No, I am no
longer a victim. I know right from wrong, and I know what
was wrong, and I know now how to avoid it. But do you still
face the prospect of abuse? Now that the danger has passed
(for it is in your past) are you nonetheless vigilant in its
prevention? Then you are still in the courtroom and you are
now the judge, and everyone around you are defendants.
They are all on trial, though they love you, and you love
them. Is the tension not obvious?
Will your past ruin your future?
You decide. The choice is yours. You can choose to
remain a victim; or you can renounce your victimhood and
seat yourself as judge. Either way, you choose to make the
world your courtroom, and every action of every other
person comes under judgment. In this case, your past will
surely ruin your future; and if not yours, then it will at least
wreck the lives of everyone who invests themselves in a
relationship with you.
Or you can choose to leave the courtroom. Whether
justice was or was not served must therefore become a
simple matter of objective recorded history. Either way, you
must put it to rest. Perhaps it shall remain just another
testament to the failings of mankind. There's nothing really
surprising here, given the record of the failings of man, God's
fallen creation. This is the point at which some validity is
imparted to the noxious sentiment expressed by those who
say, Can't you just get over it and move on? The one who
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says this surely lacks understanding of your affliction, surely


has no idea how deep the wounds have cut, and probably
wishes there could be a short cut or fast track to your
recovery. He may be selfishly motivated, not wanting to
invest himself into the deep and lengthy process of your
recovery. His question is, nonetheless, the required end
game. You must, in fact, eventually get over it, and move
on. The only problem is that some thingsparticularly
child abuseare exceedingly difficult to get over.

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Living in the Now

Why do the twelve step programs talk about living in


the now? I believe it is because there is an imperative
mandate from God, Himself, to do so!

Look at the birds of the sky: They dont sow or reap or


gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds
them. Arent you worth more than they? Can any of
you add a single cubit to his height [Or add one
moment to his life-span] by worrying?
Therefore dont worry about tomorrow, because
tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has
enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:26, 27, 34 HCSB
Those are the words of Jesus.

Right now, whether we like it or not, now is happening.


People who struggle with living in the now are the ones
who just don't know what to do with it. You might be stuck
in the past, or you might be lost in concern for the future, but
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the hard, cold reality is this: right now is right now. It's
what's happening. Furthermore, though past events surely
can effect the future, there is no more powerful effector of
your future than what you do with your now, right now. If
you put this book down right now, then you will not have
read any further ten minutes from now. If you read on, then
in the future, you will have read it. Pretty simple stuff, huh?
This is one major reason that it's important to live in
the nowbecause properly handling your now is how you
make your future what you want it to be, not by fixing your
past, which you cannot change.
But here's the counterintuitive part: sometimes it's
better to disregard the futureto take a break from itin
order to improve or enhance it. If you were abused as a
child, you probably have few fond memories of the past.
Your present, which was your future back then, would be
better today had you had a better experience then, which at
that time was your now. Likewise, today your future will be
improved if you could get some of those fond memories
which you currently lack, wouldn't it? But you cannot get
them, no matter how hard you try, by fixing the past, for the
past cannot be changed. You can't fix it.
See, the way you get fond memories (and thus enhance
your future) is by making them NOW. But if you are
unable to live in the now, you'll likely waste all of your now
on efforts to fix your past and build your future, and it won't
work.
You can only create fond memories now.
Now is the time for making memories.

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Everyone wants a happy and good future, and


sometimes it is proper and fitting to plan ahead. If winter is
coming (which it always does), for instance, then now might
be a good time to chop firewood. But many of us get so
fixated on next winter that we never seize the opportunity to
enjoy this summer, which is also an opportunity that can be
missed (the enjoying part). If all you do all summer is chop
firewood, then you will not be able to look back next winter
on the good times you had at the lake last summer,
swimming or barbecuing.
And neither will your loved ones, because you weren't
there. Okay, maybe you were there physically, but were you
there mentally or spiritually? Were you living in the now, or
were you chopping firewood the whole time everyone else
was having a good time? If this is you, then guess what No
one will be able next winter to look back on the good times
you shared at the lake last summer; because you didn't share
them. You were chopping firewood instead.
And what is it that drives you to chop firewood when
everyone around you is enjoying the now? Ten bucks says
it's your past. Is your past ruining your future? Your three
and a half cords of neatly stacked splits out back might speak
to this. Note also that you can (indeed, you must) do both.
It's a matter of balance. You must enjoy life in the now, and
chop firewood in preparation for next winter. There is a
time for everything, and everything has its time
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
So if the problem is that your life appears to have been
ruined by your past, and your future looks bleak as a result,
then why attempt to enhance your future by somehow fixing
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your past, which cannot be fixed? We do this, I believe,


because of misplaced regret. We regret our past, and we
think, If I had done this or that, then things would be better
today. Therefore I will do that or this now, so that my future
will be better. When we think this way, we are not living in
the now. We fail to simply relax and enjoy the moment,
those with us sense our absence, and there will be no fond
memory of this current experience. Not only is this regret
misplaced, for our past was not our responsibility, but it
drives us into a persistent mode of thought which serves only
to remove us from the now, thus removing us from our loved
ones. Misplaced regret is a mental habit which must be
broken if we are to stop our past from ruining our future.
If, on the other hand, you have regrets about things you
did wrong in your past which were your responsibility, then
that is a different matter. This kind of regret is useful in
bringing us to brokenness before God in light of our own
sinfulness. This kind of regret leads us to repentance, and it
leads us to ask for (and hopefully receive) forgiveness from
those we have sinned against. This kind of regret also
prevents us from living in the now, but it does so rightly,
while offering to us a clear, obvious, and simple path to
recoverynamely, repentance.
God's primary call to a lost humanity is simple and
straight forward: Repent, and be saved from the
consequences of your sin (John 1:23, Acts 2:38, Luke 13:5).
If, therefore, we find ourselves unable to enjoy the moment
(to live in the now) because our conscience is convicted that
we have done wrong, we should see this as a gift, for this is
none other than God's Spirit speaking to our hearts (1
Thessalonians 1:5). And if this is the reason you cannot live
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in the now, then the solution is easy: repentance is all that is


needed. Amazingly, one product of repentance is the
dissolution of regret. Having repented, and having been
restored, we can say, I no longer have the regrets I once had,
and I can now simply enjoy the moment. I can live in the
now, and I will look back on this day with a fond memory of
it.

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A Case for Humor

Some who suffered an abusive childhood use humor as


a coping mechanism. Some become professional comedians.
Others simply turn every life situation into a joke, which is
just a thin veneer covering their deep cynicism.
A more common (and perhaps more honest) response
to childhood abuse manifests as a reduced or nonexistent
sense of humor. Humor is a thing you enjoy in the moment.
But for the child living in an abusive environment, there may
never be a now. This is what child abuse robs children of,
for it fills their minds with reflections of the past and
concerns for the future. The abused child never is able to
relax, for his existence has no security, no opportunity to just
relax and enjoy the moment. Perhaps you can identify with
this.
Do you find yourself annoyed by your friends'
propensity to laugh in the face of a serious situation? Is
humor an alien science or art to you? Are you unable to
enjoy the irony of a situation that failed to unfold as planned
or expected? Do your friends observe that, though you are a
loving and kind person, you can sometimes be rigid,
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unyielding, inflexible, or unforgiving? Perhaps you have


made the world your courtroom, for one thing we don't often
see is the judge acknowledging or making jokes.
Many have commented on the value of humor for a
healthy life, but clearly, for the abused seeking restitution,
there is no room for humor. Could it be that those who lack
a sense of humor do so because they are more intent on
restitution than they are on simply enjoying life with those
whom they love? Could your lack of humor be a carryover
from old habits, from a life that was treacherous, whereas
your life now is not so treacherous, though the habit of
seriousness persists? This is another way that your past can
ruin your future, if you let it.
Why do we have a romantic picture in our minds of two
lovers laughing together? It is because we know intuitively
that if they are laughing, then they are happyat least in the
moment. Now, we could wax sober and question whether
these lovers are really happy deep down. We could question
the deep, underlying quality of their relationship, or of the
true quality of their lives, and we could cynically comment,
I'll bet their lives aren't really that great. We could even
decide that they are probably just putting on a showand we
might be correct.
But we might be wrong. What we do know is this:
Right now, in this moment, they are enjoying each other, and
they are enjoying themselves.
Please consider that this scene could never happen if
either of these lovers had no sense of humor.
I am the abuser, admitted the man who could not

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laugh. In my quest to set the world straight on the things


that really matter, I have deprived my wife and children of
the joy of ever laughing with me. I have never allowed
myself to simply enjoy the 'now,' and thus I have deprived
my loved ones of the same experience.
What I am saying is this: Humor is essential to human
happiness, and every one of us therefore has a moral
obligation to develop our own sense of humor. Our refusal to
do so is tantamount to abuse of those we love. Furthermore,
a lack of humor in your life, and in your relationships is
likely indicative of your past ruining your future. You might
not think that ruin is taking place, but if you lack humor,
then something has been ruined, and something is being
ruined.

There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and


enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from
Gods hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy
life apart from Him?
For to the man who is pleasing in His sight, He gives
wisdom, knowledge, and joy, but to the sinner He
gives the task of gathering and accumulating in order
to give to the one who is pleasing in Gods sight.
This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 HCSB

-28-

Cause and Effect: Effect, or Cause?

I find it interesting that central to our development


from childhood into adult functionalitycentral to our
development as intelligent personsis our learned ability to
discern cause from effect in the world around us. If we are
unable to figure out what action causes which effect, we will
go through life like a bull in a china shop, wondering what
this continuous sound of breaking glass is all about,
wondering why all these people don't understand us, etc.,
etc.
But even more interesting to me is our tendency toward
pride in having figured it out, and how that pride serves to
fixate us on a mode of thought, effectively limiting our
development by locking us into our own self-made cage of
causality.
What I'm driving at is that once we understand a given
causal relationship between two situations or phenomena,
we tend to get locked into a steadfast belief that because A
causes B, then...

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1. If we observe A, then B will likely follow.


2. If we observe B, then A likely previously occurred.
3. If we observe A, then B was not its cause.
4. It is useless to try to use B in order to achieve A.

As I will explain, 1 and 2 are reasonable assertions, but


3 and 4 are not necessarily true, though they may seem
obviously true to our conventional thinking.
See, we tend to see causalities as being strictly
unidirectional, whereas upon closer inspection it is not at all
uncommon to discover a counterintuitive bidirectionality. In
other words, what we think is a one-way cause and effect,
can often work backwards, or be a two-way street. Often this
is really because neither causes the other, but they are both
symptoms of a third hidden cause.
For example, I discovered in my early twenties this
most fascinating bidirectionality: I was playing racquetball
regularly, and I observed that when I began to lose a game
that I thought I should be winning, my attitude would begin
to degrade, causing my demeanor to fall, causing my wits
and skill to go downhill, causing me to lose even more
miserably. It was a death-spiral of causal responses, the only
intuitive solution (given the causalities involved) being to
not begin to lose to begin with.
Then I made a discovery. What I found was that if I
pasted a smile on my facewhether I felt like it or notmy
demeanor somehow improved, my wits and skill returned,
and I began winning gamesall because I smiled. In other
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words, smiling during play improved my game. I think this


is significant. It is also noteworthy that smiling when I was
losing was not only counterintuitive. It also cut across the
grain of my will, for I did not want to do it! I had to swallow
my pride and train myself, over and over again, to smile and
make happy each time I lost a point in the game.
And what was the goal?
The goal was to win more games, but ultimately the
goal was being happy about winning. Oddly enough, I
discovered that the shortest path to the ultimate goal was to
circumvent the intermediate. See the irony? I thought, If I
win more games, I will be happier, but in the end I learned
that, If I'm happier, I will win more games. This was a
landmark experience for me. What I learned at that time
was this:
You can make yourself happier by acting happy.
Call it denial; call it faking it; call it whatever you
want, but you cannot deny the reality of it. It works,
and I have experiential proof.

But what was really going on there? Was losing the


game the real cause of my unhappiness? No, the reason that
the causality worked backwards was that losing was not, in
fact, the real cause of my unhappiness. There was a third,
hidden cause going on, namely, my own response to losing,
which was a choice I was making. But when I made the
choice not to be unhappy about losing a point, everything
turned around. I had more power than I thought over my
own happiness, as there was a choice that I was making.

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The experience of having suffered abuse causes


unhappiness. This is an indisputable truth. Every victim can
rightly say, Because I was abused, I am unhappy. The
obvious path to happiness, then, is to somehow remove or
revoke the effects of the abuse, so that happiness can be
restored. This is intuitively obvious, given the apparent
causalities involved. But I would like to make a suggestion: I
suggest that the causalities can be bidirectional, thus I assert
that
If happiness is somehow restored, it can revoke and
remove the effects of the abuse.

If you are one who suffered abuse in the past, you may
be living with daily painful reminders of why you are
unhappy today. It is likely that friends, coworkers, and
family members seemingly dish up these reminders nonstop. And, knowing that it is your past abuse that causes
your present unhappiness, you might think, If only I hadn't
suffered such abuse. If only God had given me a decent
childhood, then I would likely be happy today.
If this is you, then I believe you should seriously
consider the possibilities and the power of bidirectional
causalities: that purposefully finding happiness today can
cause your past abuse to loose its grip on you.
Must your Past Ruin your Future, Really?
I will repeat what I said previously: If your fractured
past, over which you had no control, must ruin your future,
then God is surely a cruel being. It must logically follow

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then, that if God is good, then we are notwe must not be


bound to a ruined future due to our past.
If you do not believe in God, then you're on your own in
your quest for a fulfilled life. As for me, that prospect is
simply untenable, for I cannot imagine the prospect of
navigating the turbulent waters of life without the help of His
benevolent hand. And since I have decided to accept as valid
the presupposition that God is good, then I have at least the
opportunity to receive the benefits of causalities which are
non-obvious or counterintuitive to myselfif, in fact, they
exist. My racquetball experience stands as a small yet
significant indicator that these reverse causalities do, in
fact, exist.
If, then, I am to find happiness in the wake of abuse, I
conclude that it will likely come to me through counterintuitive or non-obvious ways. In other words, my path to
happiness will not be something that I conceived or designed
all by myself. It will not come as a result of my careful
planning and control. I therefore cannot escape the fact that
my own pride likely stands in the way of my happiness, for
counterintuitive ideas can only enter my mind from outside;
from the voices of others; from the voice of God, Himself.

I know, Lord,
that a mans way of life is not his own;
no one who walks determines his own steps.
Jeremiah 10:23 HCSB

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The Main Issue: Control

So here's the problem: for those who were abused as


children, control is now the main issue in life. One thing
every abused child learns is that what they need in life, more
than anything else, is control over their environment. Every
kid grows up looking forward to having complete control
over his own life, but normally control is an issue of
convenience, not survival. For the abused child, however,
control is an issue of survival. If they cannot control their
environment, then they will surely die, sooner or later. Is it
any wonder, then, that an abused boy will likely grow up to
be a tyrant? Is it any wonder that an abused girl will not be
able to submit herself to her husband, as the Bible says she
should?
These are examples of how your past, if you let it, will
ruin your future. The abused boy grows up knowing that in
order to assure his own safety, he must maintain control over
his environment, which includes the activities and behaviors
of those around him, including his wife and children. He has
learned to regard his own survival as essential (which it is),
but he lacks balance in his threat assessment mechanism. As
a result, activities of others that fall outside his preconceived
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plan pose as threats to his sense of control, which


automatically indicate the possibility of life-threatening
forces. Perhaps I'm exaggerating, but I think this is real.
Consequently, the man becomes a controlling tyrant, and his
past ruins his future, along with the futures of his wife and
children.
Similarly, the abused girl grows up to be a woman who
finds it impossible to submit her will to that of her husband,
for who knows to what destructive ends that might lead?
The last time she was submitted to the will of a man (who
also implicitly claimed to love her) she was abused. Over the
years of marriage, her husband's failures each have served to
bolster her need for control, whereas his successes may be
relegated to a list of insignificant non-offenses. As long as
she maintains her need for control, her past continues to
ruin her future, along with the futures of her husband and
children.

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Faith, Affliction, and Healing

Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof


of what is not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 HCSB
Daughter, He said to her, your faith has made you
well. Go in peace and be free from your affliction.
Mark 5:34 HCSB

Take a look at the first sentence up there: This is the


Word of God speaking; God is the one saying this... faith is
the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not
seen. Let His words sink deep into your mind.
Do you long for a better lifea happier lifethan you
have had? Is this life something you can maybe visualize,
but only wish you could make real? And have you been
unable thus far, no matter how hard you try, to bring your
vision of happiness to fruitionto reality?
Our natural tendency, of course, is to try to realize our
vision of happiness which we hope for through control of our
circumstances. God's statement about what we hope for,
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however, doesn't mention control. According to God, the


reality of what we hope for is faith, not control. Note also
this subtle distinction: We think that control will lead to, or
result in, our realization of what we hope for, but according
to God, faith IS the reality of what we hope for. It already
is!
By the way... You want proof?
There it is: proof. No faith, no proof.

Look at your faith.

But of course faith is a two-way dynamic, hence our


own vision of our happy life might well be inaccurate in its
details, so an essential part of faith is in our leaving the
details to God (i.e., releasing our own control).
To you, the previously abused, it's probable that your
loved ones wish only to say, We know you were abused in
the past, and we wish only to offer to you a better
environment; a healthy environment; a safe place to live.
And to you, the previously abused, one of your loved
ones might be saying, For years, now, I have been trying
tirelessly to provide a safe environment for you, even though
at times I have voiced my own wants and desires. But I
never have wanted my needs to come at a cost of damage to
yourself, though it seems you have interpreted my intentions
that way.
But as Christians we understand that we do not control
our own salvation or our recovery from the consequences of
sin. We don't find approval with God by our own strength,
nor by our own good works. No, we find salvation through
faith. It is by grace, through faith, that we are saved
(Ephesians 2:8, Romans 11:6). And I would assert that,

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similarly, it is through faith that our interpersonal


relationships are repaired and preserved. Everyone agrees,
for instance, that a marriage devoid of trust is a marriage
doomed.
What the previously abused husbandthe controlling
tyrant husbandneeds to do is trust. He needs to stop trying
to control the outcomes, and trust in God, his wife, and his
children to find their own way, and he needs to trust that
they do, in fact, have his interests in mind, leaving the
outcomes to God, in faith.
Likewise, the previously abused wife needs to trust.
She needs to stop trying to control the outcomes, and trust in
God, her husband, and her children to find their own way,
and she needs to trust that they do, in fact, have her interests
in mind, leaving the outcomes to God, in faith.

Were you abused as a child? If so, then you have an


affliction. You must see it as this. You have an affliction, and
all of your loved ones know this, for it affects their lives daily.
But your past doesn't have to ruin your future, nor must it
ruin the futures of all those whom you love. If you let it, it
will ruin your future, to be sure, but the choice is yours.
Those who love you are powerless to change the situation, for
it is a choice that is up to you, you alone, for it is a matter of
faithyour faith, not theirs.
Daughter, He said to her, your faith has made you
well. Go in peace and be free from your affliction.
Mark 5:34 HCSB
In faith, you can be free from your affliction. And your
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loved ones can be freed, at the same time, from your


affliction. In the absence of your faith, we are all afflicted,
but through your faith, we are all freed from the affliction of
your abuse.
And is not faith the pivotal issue for each and every one
of us? Herein lies the grand exposition of the amazing,
immense, inestimable power of faith for every individual!
We need to know that our faith (or lack thereof) is the
determinant effector of more lives than just our own. Your
faith determines the outcome and quality of life not only for
yourself, but for all who are connected to you. Let us see this
as an awesome responsibility, conferred to us by God,
Himself.
Is it therefore incongruous in any way to understand
that faith is the determinant effector of our salvation and
restoration from the consequences of sin? God's grace surely
stands, but there is a required response of faith from
ourselves in order to actualize His grace to effect our
salvation, and even that faith is a gift from God.

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is


not from yourselves; it is Gods giftnot from works,
so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8,9 HCSB
And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe that
he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek
him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV

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People are Waiting

For the previously abused, there may be a framework of


grace presented to you by your loved ones, and if that
framework exists, they are waiting. They are waiting for your
expression of faith. Your loved ones are patiently awaiting
your release of control over your environmentyour
expression of faith: faith in them, and faith in God.
But if you persist in being the victim (of a crime not
committed by them) and thus, the judge (continually calling
them to account for someone else's crimes), then you exhibit
no faith, thus they continue to wait. They are waiting. You
see, it might be your pride that prevents you from expressing
said faith. You know right from wrong. You know every
infraction, and you can indict them all, for of course they
have each failed somewhere along the line.

I wonder how many benevolent husbands would plead


to their wives, I understand that your upbringing was
dangerous, potentially destructive, and risk-filled, but I have
planned and determined to 'take you away from all that' and
give you a safe place to live.
-40-

But will you avail yourself of this improved


environment? No, for the risk of destruction is too great. In
your pride, knowing the causalities, you have determined
that the risk is too great to allow for faith in the good will of
your husband. He is thus frustrated, for his only desire is
your happiness, which seems simply unattainable. If you are
still married, he is waiting, but meanwhile your past has
successfully ruined your future, and his, as well.

I wonder how many loving wives would plead to their


husbands, I really only want your happiness, but your need
to control my behavior is only destructive to our relationship,
for it completely disregards any acknowledgment of my good
intentions while robbing me of my personal dignity.
But will you then maintain your death grip of control
over your household, refusing to acknowledge that you are
choking the life out of those under your own roof? Yes, for
the risk of embarrassment and shame is too great, should
they misbehave or misspeak. In your pride, knowing the
causalities, you have determined that the risk is too great to
allow your wife to make her own decisions. She is thus
frustrated, for though she loves you, you are robbing her of
her own sense of identity. If you are still married, she is
waiting, but meanwhile your past has successfully ruined
your future, and hers, as well.

But the choice is yours. You decide. Will your past ruin
your future? You may believe that the answer is up to the
actions of others, but you are mistaken. You decide, and no

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one can make the decision for you. It is up to you. Meanwhile those around you are waiting.

And God is waiting, too, for all of us to avail ourselves


of His grace and provision.

Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy,


and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the LORD is a just God.
All who wait patiently for Him are happy.
(Isaiah 30:18) HCSB

-42-

Some Possible First Steps

I have here some suggestions of what you can do get on


the road to recovery from past abuse. Now, you might be
thinking, My abuse happened a long time ago, and I have
long since fully recovered, else I wouldn't still be here. But
are you truly happyaside from any reference to your past?
Are you happy and content today, or do you face difficulties
in your interpersonal relationships? If so, then you might
consider these assertions of mine. They are my opinions:

As sinners saved by grace, every last one of us is in


need of recoveryrecovery from the damages of past
sinnot only our own, but from the sins of others
committed against us as well.

The pathway of recovery is as varied and individually


distinct for each of us as is our own unique life story.
Therefore it is wrong for us to impose our own
convictions upon the hearts and minds of others.

The goal for each of us must only be to become whole


ourselves, not to make others whole. With God's help,
we can fix ourselves (actually, God does the fixing),
but God has not called us to fix others.
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In light of these assertions, a similarity comes to light


between the damaging effects of personal abuse and the
damaging effects of alcohol or drug addiction. They are
strikingly similar afflictions, and interestingly, the same
course of recovery is effective for both cases. I therefore
would suggest that anyone interested in overcoming the
stronghold of childhood or past abuse should, as a first step,
get in touch with any of the various recovery programs that
are out there. Say to a counselor, I do not have a substance
addiction, but I am seeking recovery from my past history of
personal abuse. If he says he thinks he can help, then he
probably can, especially since the root causes of addiction
often are found in a history of personal abuse.
For music lovers, I can personally recommend a
website: www.radiorehab.com, which is an expansion of
the now traditional twelve-step program, with an emphasis
on faith in Jesus Christ.
Note, also, that recovery takes time, not only in the
sense that it won't happen immediately, but more
importantly this: you must be willing to devote some time to
the process, almost daily. Yes, urgent things might go
unaddressed. But are they important, or simply urgent? You
must be willing to consider your recovery more important
than the urgent things. Most husbands, given the prospect of
gaining intimacy with their wives, wouldn't give a rip about
some dirty dishes. And most wives would care less about the
bank balance than whether they might get a weekend
walking hand-in-hand with a husband who seems just happy
to be with themin the moment.
Here's a suggestion for anyone wondering if they have
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been complicit in the ruination of the future of themselves or


others: Ask a loved oneyour wife, your husband, or your
adult childone of the following questions. You may need to
emphasize that you seek a perfectly frank and honest answer,
since they might well have adopted the habit of telling you
what they believe you want to hear, rather than the blunt and
naked truth

1. Do you think I am more judgmental than the average


person?
2. Has there ever been anything you felt you could not
share with menot because of personal
embarrassmentbut because you feared or loathed
my predicted reaction?
3. Do you think I have a good sense of humor, or could I
maybe take life a little more lightheartedly?
4. Do you ever observe that I seem to get overly offended
by someone else's behavior, that you would simply
pass off as thoughtless or knuckle headed?
This is important: Ask them for a simple yes or no
answer. Don't make it into a discussion. Tell them you just
want a yes or no, and that you're going to go away and think
about their answer. And you must promise them no
repercussions to their answer, else they may not answer you
honestly.
Note that these questions do not beg an answer that
amounts to a summary statement. This is key, and you must
understand the importance of this! You do not ask your

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husband, Do you think I'm a good wife? You do not ask


your child, Do you think I'm a good parent? Questions like
these put an awful burden on the recipients, for they might
well be confronted with the dilemma of whether to be honest
or kind. You are therefore likely to get an irrelevant answer,
just like the wife who asks, Do these pants make me look
fat? Everyone knows what the right answer is, and it has
nothing to do with truth!
And why is that? Why does the objective truth not
matter in these cases? It is because love trumps objective
truth. And is this not the case in our own relationship with
God, in Christ? Yes, the objective truth bears witness to our
own sinfulness, along with every historical transgression, but
God's love says, No, you are not rotten, you are not suitable
for, and thus destined for, hell. Because I love you, you are
beautiful in my sight.
So the purpose of questions 1 through 4 is not to arrive
at a judgment of your character. No, the purpose of these
questions is to help you on your personal journey to
complete recovery. They are posed simply to give you some
microscopic clues as to how to proceed. In asking them, you
are seeking information, not approval. Most likely, in the
moment you are asking these questions, you already have
their approval, and they will be happy just to hear you asking
them.
At this point we come to a habit which, if you have it,
you must break. A common thread amongst those who grew
up in an abusive environment is this: lack of approval. Some
may have grown up hearing from their parent, You're
stupid, or, You're irresponsible. These individuals might
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carry into adulthood an internal audio tape of this summary


statement that plays itself every time someone voices
disapproval toward them on any level, no matter how small.
If this is you, then unless you find a way to shut off the tape,
you will forever be intolerant of anyone who disagrees with
you on any level, no matter how small or how detailed. If
you don't break this habit, your past will ruin your future,
and it won't be their fault, it will be yours. The tape is in
your head, not theirs.
Realize that your inability or unwillingness to shut off
the tape will eventually make you into a narcissist. Anyone
who disagrees with you becomes your most vehement
adversary. They simply disagreed with you on some point,
but in your mind you heard them say, You're stupid, or
You're irresponsible. They didn't say it, but you heard it.
What else have you heard, over the years, that they never
said? Has your past ruined your future?
If you let the tape play, it will lead you into sin
particularly the sin of bearing false witness, and of accusing
an innocent person of wrong doing. For your sake and for
theirs, you must shut off the tape.
I would like to offer this prayer as a means of defeating
the old tape reel. Of course, you must substitute the
appropriate names of your abusers where they apply:
Dear God:
Strengthen me, I pray, to resist listening to old voices of my
past, which I know were invalid then, and do not apply to
me today. In faith today I make this proclamation to my
loved ones:

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'I will not call you to account for [my parents']


shortcomings. I will not presume that you are complicit
with [my dad's] abusive behavior toward me. And if I do, I
pray that God will quickly show me my sin, that I may
quickly repent.'
Yes, Lord, it is sin for me to call someone to account for
someone else's crimeit is false accusation, and I don't
want anything to do with that. Help me, Lord, to stop
seeking restitution from those who have not damaged me.
Give me strength, Lord, to leave the court room in
triumph, regardless of whether justice was served, even as
Jesus endured unjust punishment at the cross, yet rose
again not to call judgment upon me, but to redeem me to
Himself.
And help me, O Lord, to forgive even those who have
damaged me, even as Jesus, on the cross, forgave those
who scourged Him unto death.
O Lord, I take my sense of self worth from You, and You
only. Let me not derive my own worth from the comments
and opinions of others, but let me be entreatable to their
criticisms when they are valid. Let me be not proud, but
humble before God and men. Let me find my strength in
You, Lord, as I release control of my circumstances into
your hands.
Father, I understand that you have placed in me a new
heart; that I am a new creation. Now, Lord, strengthen me
to be involved and fully engaged in your renewing of my
mind. Give me an appropriate sense of humor, that I may
laugh with those who are joyful. Place in me a right spirit,
O Lord, that I may go forth and be a light to others, and a
blessing to those whom I love and those who love me.
Help me, O God, to get over it, and move on.

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Thank you, God, for the next good thing you are about to
do with my heart and mind. I offer them up to you, for
your will, O God, is better than mine.
Amen.

So may it be. May the Lord shine the light of His


goodness into your heart. May He, in response to your faith,
heal you and thus free you from your affliction of past abuse.
May your future be better than your past, and each day, may
your face shine brighter with His reflection than the day
before.
And may your loved ones be daily blessed by the
transforming work which God is doing in you. For as the
sufferings of Christ have overflowed to you, so through
Christ may your comfort also overflow to them.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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