PODCAST: Untwisting Toxic Views of Suffering feat. Rebecca Davis

by | Sep 7, 2023 | Faith, Podcasts | 21 comments

Untwisting Suffering Podcast with Rebecca Davis
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Should we endure suffering because it makes us holy?

We have a distorted view of suffering in the church today, and it keeps so many women feeling guilty for wanting to make their lives better. 

Why don’t you just put up with what you’ve got, because look what Jesus put up with! What’s wrong with you?

How often have arguments like that been made to keep women in abusive marriages; to stop adult children from addressing toxic issues with their parents; to keep people in destructive churches? 

Today Rebecca Davis, who is passionate about “untwisting scripture” to show us what Jesus really said, is joining us to talk about her new book untwisting our theology of suffering.

This was one of my favourite conversations I’ve had in a long time, and I think you’re really going to love it!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

​0:35 Rebecca Davis joins and explains the history of her work
9:10 Does God want you to be broken?
18:50 How do boundaries come into this?
25:05 We glorify God through our suffering or by our suffering?
37:15 The idea of victim mentality
48:45 Imitating the actions or mind of Jesus
54:15 How this thinking plays out + closing thoughts

What if our ideas of suffering have been twisted?

Rebecca Davis’ passion is “untwisting scriptures” and helping us see what the Bible actually says about issues that keep women especially in bondage. Today we’re going to be taking a sneak peek at her new book on suffering–the fifth book in the series. 

But Rebecca has tackled a lot of important issues in the first four, including sin leveling and wolves in the church; patriarchy and authority; emotions; and bitterness. Is it okay to speak up against problems in the church? If you’re being mistreated and you say something, are you just being “bitter”? These are such important works demolishing some of the toxicity we’re often taught, and getting to the heart of Jesus.

Untwisting Scriptures books by Rebecca Davis

Today we’re tackling Book 5 in the series, which launches on September 11. In it, Rebecca takes a close look at our theology of suffering.

How often have we been taught to welcome suffering, even pursue suffering, because it makes you holy? How often have people been taught to endure suffering because Jesus did–even if there were actually a way to escape such suffering?

What if our view of suffering is wrong? What if God can use our suffering, yes, and can redeem our suffering, definitely!, but that does not mean that we should needlessly endure it when people hurt us?

In today’s podcast I focused on some of my favourite parts of the book and asked Rebecca to elaborate, including her section on how God doesn’t actually break us. He wants us to mourn our sin, but God does not break us–He rescues us! Yet Rebecca shows how teachers like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth not only teach that God breaks us, but that having boundaries is wrong.

We walked through this idea and Rebecca broke it down in the podcast:

(Quoting Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth):

Brokenness is the shattering of myself so that the life, the Spirit, the fragrance, the life of Jesus may be released through me…it’s a lifestyle that requires also that I live with the walls down in my relationships with others.

Rebecca Davis

Untwisting Scriptures Book 5

She talks about how the idea that “no one is really a victim” is so harmful, and also just objectively untrue. In her book, she quotes John MacArthur saying this, and then deconstructs it:

(Quoting John MacArthur):

Let me make it clear. In God’s eyes–listen–no one is a victim. We are all perpetrators of open rebellion, scandalous, blasphemous sin against God.

Rebecca Davis

Untwisting Scriptures Book 5

Rebecca and I talked about how that idea that no one is really a victim is used to hurt people and to sin level. It’s truly toxic, and not biblical at all.

I really enjoyed this interview, and I think you will too! It touched on so many themes that we often talk about on the blog, and gets right back to Scripture.

In fact, that’s what I appreciate most about Rebecca’s books. She takes quotes from other books that preach a problematic message, but then she takes a thorough look through the Bible to reveal how this message has been badly distorted.

And that brings freedom!

Untwisting Scriptures 5

Untwisting Scriptures Book 5 launches September 11! Rebecca will be giving out the Kindle version for FREE for a few days. Get notified when it’s live by signing up to her mini-course on reading the Bible again, even if you’ve been through spiritual abuse. 

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Things Mentioned in the Podcast

Untwisting Suffering with Rebecca Davis

Were you taught a toxic view of suffering? Were you taught that it’s bad to complain, that we should just endure? Let’s talk in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to The Bare Marriage Podcast. I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from BareMarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage.  Let’s focus on healthy and biblical today.  We are going to talk about what the Bible really says about suffering.  And to do that, I’m going to bring on one of my good friends from the online world, Rebecca Davis.  So here we go.  Well, I’m so thrilled to welcome to the podcast Rebecca Davis.  She is a trauma informed book author and book coach, so you help other people write books too which is so awesome.  Hello, Rebecca.

Rebecca: Thank you so much for having me, Sheila.  I’m excited about this.  I’ve known about you for years.  And I’m just so happy to be able to be able to talk with you in person.

Sheila: I know.  Me too.  I mean I think I’ve been following your blog for—gosh.  It’s probably a decade.  Yeah.  Do you want to tell people about heresthejoy.com, right?

Rebecca: heresthejoy.com is my ministry blog.  And then I have my book coaching blog, and it all comes together under rebeccadavisinfo.com.  So you can go to rebeccadavisinfo.com just to see everything.  But my Here’s the Joy is the ministry where I started out in 2009 just talking about the Christian life and—because the Lord had shown me some things about the Christian life that I thought were so exciting and amazing.  And I wanted people to know, and nobody was reading my blog.  And then when I started talking about twisted Scriptures, then I started getting lots of attention.  And I realized along the way how much Scriptures had been twisted, and that has led to a series of books called Untwisting Scriptures, which book 5 of which is coming out in September.

Sheila: Yeah.  I love that.  I love how you started blogging as—it’s a very similar story to me actually.  You started blogging because—yeah.  You just had these things about Jesus you wanted to share, and then you realized, “Oh my gosh.  Things are really bad out there, and we need to do something about it.”

Rebecca: That’s right.  Yes.

Sheila: I think when you get out there in the online world and you start seeing how bad stuff is it’s like, “Oh, wow.  This is not good.”

Rebecca: That’s it.  That’s it.  Yes.

Sheila: So yes.  So this is book of Untwisting Scriptures, and they’ve all been great.  What are some of the other ones about?  Before we get into this one.

Rebecca: Book one is—was the one that launched everything.  A friend talked to me about how she was told she needed to give up her rights as a child, and she was being abused.  And I was seeing online about how people accused me when I spoke out about abuse of being bitter.  And so I thought, “I’m just going to study it throughout the Scriptures and see what the Bible says.”  So book one is about bitterness and giving up your rights and taking up offenses, which is a big Bill Gothard thing.  Bill Gothard is in that book a lot.  Book two is about patriarchy and authority.  So patriarchy in the home, authority in the church, so I was addressing both of those arenas. Home and church.  And Bill Gothard shows up in there a lot too.  Book three is about your words, all those admonitions in the church world to stay quiet and don’t say anything.  All the Scriptures that were used to keep people silent.  And your words and your emotions.  So in the second half of the book, I address all of the emotions that people are, “Oh, you’re just angry.  Oh, you need—your depression is a sin,” things like that.  I address all of those that I could find anyway.  Book four was going to be subtitled righteousness and wickedness because that’s what I address.  But it ended up being subtitled sin leveling, hypocrisy, wolves, and righteousness.  Something like that.  So I was addressing all these Scriptures—“Well, I’m the worst sinner I know,” and things like that.  That’s not a Scripture.  All these sayings from people who twist the Scriptures and going back to what Scriptures did they use to support this saying that’s unbiblical and what do the Scriptures really mean.  And then book five along the same lines, I have the proof copy here.  It hasn’t been published yet.  But here’s the proof copy.  Book 5 is brokenness and suffering.  And so two of the people who get top billing in this book are Nancy Leigh DeMoss and John MacArthur.

Sheila: Right.  Yeah.  By the way, as you are listening to this, it has been published.  When we’re recording it, it hasn’t been.  But right now, as you are listening, it is now out.  I think it was out on September 11.  Yeah.  And I really enjoyed this.  What I really love about your whole series and what I want all you listeners to understand is that Rebecca isn’t just saying, “Okay.  Here is a theology that I don’t like, and here’s why I don’t like it.”  Rebecca does word searches throughout Scripture.  She looks up the meanings of words.  She tells stories in context.  These books are so heavy Scripture in a good way.  She’s saying, “Okay.  This person had this theology that it is wrong to speak up about harm being done to here, and here is all these stories where people spoke up about harm being done to them.  And they were praised, and here is why people were told to be silent, when people are told to be silent, when they weren’t told to be silent.”  So you take it thoroughly through Scripture.  And that’s what’s so great.  So that’s what you mean by untwisting Scriptures is yeah.  They’ve been twisted.  But we don’t just argue against the theology.  We can go back to the Bible, and we can see this is actually wrong when you go back to the Bible.

Rebecca: One of the things that disturbed me the most back in 2014 when I was first starting to understand this—I was feeling this indignation when I was finding out how the word of God was being misused to harm people.  I was just so angry about that.  That God was being misrepresented.  The Bible was being misrepresented.  And people were harmed because of it.  It’s hard to believe, but this was the first I knew that it was happening but it was because of social media.  If we hadn’t had social media, I may never have found out except for an isolated case here or an isolated case there.  I wouldn’t have found out it was systemic except for social media.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I was the same way too.  And that’s when I became so passionate is when you start seeing all these people defending stuff as if it’s from the Bible that’s really, really bad.  Because sometimes you can be in a healthy church or a relatively healthy church, you can have your Christian friends.  Everyone seems really nice.  And you don’t realize how bad the stuff is out there until you—

Rebecca: Yes.  That’s exactly it.  Yes. 

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And as Christians, we need to care about the people who are stuck in these super toxic places claiming Jesus’ name.  And we need to rescue them.  That’s what Jesus came to do.  He came to set the captives free, and He does not want people enslaved especially by people twisting His words.  So let’s jump in to book five.  And I hold this quote out of chapter one which I think defines—and you can tell me if this is right—defines the thesis of this book.  And it’s this, “Wicked people work wickedness, and the innocent suffer.  But the actions of abusers need to be separated from the actions of God.  Abuse is not God’s tool to deal with us.”

Rebecca: Yes.  There you go.  The topic of this book, of course, was brokenness and suffering, so I address brokenness in the first two chapters and then suffering in the other chapters.  Various kinds of suffering.  And what I would see—and what I’m sure people listening to this get what I’m saying that when abusers are breaking them they’re conditioned to think, “God is the one doing this.  God is in charge of this, and that’s God breaking me.  And it must be because I need to be broken for some reason.”  So I separate out and I go to look at the story of King David, who wrote a psalm—Psalm 51—where he talks about the bones that You have broken.  And I have a broken heart, broken spirit, and I don’t shy away from that.  I look at that closely and say, “What’s going on here?  Why did David write this psalm?  Is this the way we’re supposed to live all the time?  And if not, why not?”  So all of those I walk through and I quote Sheila Gregoire several times in the book because she has this great, great article about suffering that had to do with Debbie Pearl.  So if you happen to know who Debbie Pearl is, that is really good.

Sheila: It’s kind of funny when people quote me on something other than marriage.  On theology.  I think this is the first time I’ve ever been quoted on theology.  That’s great.

Rebecca: It was good.  You had a great take on Philippians 2.  I thought, “Oh, I was going to do this, but she’s already done it.  So here it is.”

Sheila: Okay.  So you open the book with these song lyrics, and this—I have to admit.  This kind of caused me to go—I was like, “Oh my gosh.  I have never seen this before.  I’ve never noticed this before.”  But you tell the story of a woman who was really abused, really traumatized, had really been broken.  And she goes to church, and she just wants to hear that God can heal her and restore her and that God cares about her.  And then she hears these song lyrics and so many of them that we sing in our church are about how God wants to break us and consume us and wreck us.  And she’s like, “I don’t feel like I’m seen.”  And let me read you some of these song lyrics, and these are all from different songs.  But, “You consume me like a burning flame running through my veins.  You invade my space.”  And we sing that as a love song to God, but that’s actually describing God as an abuser.

Rebecca: It is.

Sheila: You invade my space.  You consume me.  Here’s another one.  “Wreck me for Your glory.  Holy Spirit, crash into me like a tidal wave.  Crash into me like a hurricane.  Come crash into my heart.”  Or, “Then You crash over me, and I’ve lost control.  But I’m free.  I’m going under.  I’m in over my head.”  So someone is drowning.  God has caused them to feel like they’re drowning.  “Break me, Lord.  I need You to break me.  Consume me from the inside out, Lord.”  And I know that the—I know that when these song writers wrote these songs they were meaning them as I want to be whole heartedly devoted to God.  I want to feel this passionate love for God.  But the language that we use is actually—yeah.  It is really about crushing people and—yeah.  I’m concerned.

Rebecca: Yeah.  I wasn’t familiar with some of these songs.  And I was familiar with a few of them, and they had bothered me.  But when she talked to me about them, I really got the picture better of how they came across.  And I thought, “Well, that is what they’re saying.  I understand that people want a whole hearted love for God, and they’re trying to express it the best they can.”  And I do not think intended to portray God as abusive.  I don’t think they did.  But when they say these things, like if I were to say to even my husband, “Invade my space,” I don’t know.  That doesn’t sound healthy.  Instead how about, “Invite me into your space.”  It doesn’t sound as passionate as these songs want to come across.  But I think in their desire to be passionate, they end up normalizing this kind of language.  It’s the language of abuse.  

Sheila: It is.  And okay.  So then you switch to Nancy Leigh DeMoss that—yes.  You did look at a lot of her writings on this topic.  And I want to read you a couple of quotes that you pulled out of her book about brokenness.  

Rebecca: It was actually a talk that she gave.

Sheila: Oh, sorry.  Yes.  A talk.

Rebecca: And the talk is available online, so people can make sure to know I’m not pulling the quotes out of context.

Sheila: Right.  Okay.  So she said, “Brokenness is not a feeling.  It’s not an emotion.  It’s a choice that I make.  It’s an act of my will.  And brokenness is not primarily a onetime experience or a crisis experience in my life though there may be those.  But brokenness is rather a continuous, ongoing lifestyle.  It’s a lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my life and my heart as He alone can see it.  It is a lifestyle of unconditional, absolute surrender to God.”  And what does that look like?  And she goes on to say, “Brokenness is the shattering of myself so that the life, the spirit, the fragrance, the life of Jesus may be released through me.”  Okay.  So we’re supposed to live a broken—brokenness is supposed to be our continuous, ongoing lifestyle of the shattering of myself.  

Rebecca: Yes.  That’s exactly what she is teaching.  And for many people who read this—because I sent it to my—my beta readers are among my email subscribers to my website.  And some of them said, “Well, yes.  This is exactly what I thought.  This is what I’ve always been taught.”  And yet, it’s not what the Bible says.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  And I find this really fascinating.  With most things, there is a truth, and then there is a twisting, right?  So what’s the truth here?

Rebecca: Humility.  We want to be humble before the Lord, but she substitutes the word broken.  We want to be continually broken.  And I draw out the distinction between, of course, we want to be humble before the Lord.  But that does not mean we’re going to be continually broken, and that is an open door to invite abuse to say that.

Sheila: Yeah.  I love how in the book you go through—you did a big word search of broken and brokenness and break throughout Scripture.  And how when it is used over and over again, it isn’t God doing the breaking.  God is doing the rescuing when people are broken.

Rebecca: Yes.  He does do breaking when it comes to the wicked.  He does a lot of that kind of breaking.  But that’s very clear who He is breaking there.  It is the wicked who come against the righteous.  God is going to break the wicked.  So I was—I didn’t know what I was going to find just like when I started studying bitterness in book one.  I didn’t know what I was going to find.  And I didn’t know what I was going to find when I started studying brokenness, but I thought, “Oh my word.  It is so clear.  So clear in the Scriptures.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  So we’re supposed to have this humble attitude towards God.  We’re supposed to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Think of the Beatitudes, right?  “Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  But that doesn’t mean that we’re supposed—broken is a very—that’s a very laden term.  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  It is.  And when I looked at these Scriptures used to support the concept of you should be broken, you should be constantly broken, you should be asking God to break you, you should be breaking yourself, I thought, “Here they all are.  I’m going to address every single one of them and see what they really mean—how they’re really—what the Lord says about them and who they really apply to.”  So I do my very best to address every single one in there.  There was one that I missed.  I will tell you this.  There was one that I missed.  Somebody wrote to me at the last minute when it was too late to change the book.  And she said, “Well, what about Hosea 6:1 where it says, ‘The Lord has torn us, and how He’ll heal us’?”  Something like that.  And I thought, “Oh, stink.  I missed that.”  And so I put a footnote.  I was able to do that.  I put a footnote in the book, and I wrote a blog post about it.  And it was—again, once you look at it in context, it’s very clear.  So there is a blog post about Hosea 6:1 on my website, Here’s the Joy, that is supplementary to the book.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because God wants wholeness for us.  God wants abundant life for us.  

Rebecca: That’s right.

Sheila: And yes.  That doesn’t mean that we ignore sin.  We need to be—like you said, humility is the goal, right?  We need to walk humbly before our God.  But that doesn’t mean that we’re not walking in wholeness.

Rebecca: Right.  That’s exactly right.  And I do say that in there.  He is not a breaker.  He is the healer and the restorer when it comes to His faithful people.  He is not going to break His faithful people.  He breaks the hard hearted, which was David in Psalm 51.  And He breaks the wicked.  So there is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that He breaks or wants us to break the faithful people of God.  

Sheila: Last month on one of the first podcasts when we came back for the new season—I think it was the first.  We talked about a Desiring God article where they were saying that you’re not supposed to have any expectations on your husband except that he be a sinner.  That he is a sinner and that that is his identity.  And so you can’t expect anything else.

Rebecca: How did I miss that article?  I needed to reply to it.

Sheila: Oh yes.  Oh gosh.  It’s a hot mess.  It’s a total hot mess.  But it’s this idea that our identity is still in being a sinner as opposed to—no.  Our identity is—we are saints.  Once we know Jesus, we are saints.  We are the priesthood of believers.  And that doesn’t mean that we don’t sin but to say that our identity is still in being a sinner is really problematic.  And that’s actually what Nancy Leigh DeMoss is saying here is that we need to have our ongoing identity as one that is broken.  We need to always be broken.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  That’s right.  And her—the totality of her lengthy talk she makes it very clear that that means we’re going to be constantly looking at our sin.  That is our job to constantly look at our sin and be broken over our sin all the time.  Day after day.  Every day.  And if we’re not, then we will become proud.  That’s what she says.  And I challenge that way of thinking.  That focusing on something other than our sin all the time does not mean we’re going to be becoming proud as long as we’re focusing on the right thing.  And I make the case we should be focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ instead of on our sin.

Sheila: Yes.  Looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith.

Rebecca: Yes.  Yes.  Amen.

Sheila: Yes.  Exactly.  Okay.  There was a really concerning quote from Nancy Leigh DeMoss as well in this section on brokenness that I want to read.  And she said, this, “Brokenness is a lifestyle that takes me in two directions.  It’s a lifestyle vertically of living, so to speak, with a roof off in my relationship toward God as I walk in the light and transparent honesty and humility before him.”  I don’t have a problem with that.  That’s good.  But here’s the next part.  “But it’s a lifestyle that requires also that I live with the walls down in my relationships towards others.”  So she’s arguing for no boundaries.  

Rebecca: Yes.  That’s right.  And this was an old talk.  It was the beginning of the brokenness teaching back in 1995.  It took off everywhere.  Recently, somebody sent me a photo of the card—pride versus brokenness card.  These are all the contrasts.  That she got back in the early 2000s.  So she said, “Here it is.”  But Nancy taught this very same thing, which she gave a similar talk in 2016.  She’s still teaching this about walls down. Walls down in our relationships with others.  There you go.  That is opening the door to abuse.  And I mention there, of course, when we’re on the Bare Marriage podcast we’re immediately thinking about abusive marriages.  But I also have many people in my life who have abusive parents.  Parents, who were very, very—extreme abuse with them.  In some cases trafficked them.  And she is advocating that they have the walls down in relationship with parents.  And she even mentions parents.  Who have never come to terms with the truth of what they have done with their children.  Never turned from their sin.  That can be such a dangerous place just like going back in an abusive marriage.  Such a dangerous place to be.  Such a dangerous teaching.  And boundaries.  I do have a chapter on boundaries in this book.

Sheila: Yes.  Yeah.  You do.  Rebecca Davis’s book actually launches September 11, and so this podcast is going live four days before the book launches.  But you can preorder it now on Amazon, on Christian Books, wherever you buy books.  And when you preorder, you’re guaranteed the lowest price from Amazon.  And it’s a way to help the sales of the book because when you preorder it goes up in ranking.  And then more people see it.  And so if you are interested in this book, please get it now.  Amazon, or wherever you buy it from, will ship it out as soon as they’re able to, or it will show up in your Kindle as soon as it can go live.  And it’s just a way to help authors and—hey, this is an awesome book.  So the link is in the podcast notes.  And I just want to say—okay.  Here’s Sheila’s little pet peeve.  Church, we need to be a lot more discerning because I hear so many people say things like, “Oh my gosh.  Okay.  I have two absolute favorite books in Christianity.  Okay.  Boundaries and Love and Respect.”  You cannot like the book Boundaries and also Love and Respect because they’re polar opposites.

Rebecca: I don’t get it.  I don’t get it.

Sheila: It’s the same thing here.  If your two favorite books are Boundaries and Lies Women Believe, you have a problem.

Rebecca: Lies Women Believe is by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Sheila: Yes.  And we’re going to be looking at Lies Women Believe, I think, in October on the podcast.  But you have a real problem because they’re preaching two very different things.  And there’s a huge swatch of the church that teaches that having boundaries is unchristian because we are supposed to give up our rights, give up everything, lay everything down, become broken so that God can glorify Himself in us.  And that simply is not what Scripture teaches.

Rebecca: That’s right.  That’s right.  Yeah.  So that’s what it’s all about.  When I meet with my early readers, I hear that from all of them.  “This is what I was taught.  I was taught we’re supposed to be broken.  We’re supposed to suffer.  We’re supposed to have the walls down.  We’re supposed to give up our rights.”  And that’s what got me started on the journey of writing all the Untwisting Scriptures books and to see this is not the Christian life God promised us.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  And, of course, one of the bigger ones too is, “Well, Jesus suffered.  And Jesus put up with suffering, and so you must also put up with suffering.”  And you deal with that one a lot in the book.  We’ll touch on it briefly in a sec.  I do want to do this one quote about brokenness before we leave that chapter.  And it’s this verse, “A bruised reed He will not break.”

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: That’s such a beautiful verse.

Rebecca: Isn’t that something?  With all of her many, many Scripture verses about—well, not that many actually.  All her references to brokenness, it doesn’t mention that one.  She doesn’t mention some others that are very pertinent.

Sheila: That God is not trying to break us.  God is wanting to heal us and restore us and lead us forward into wholeness in Christ.  That’s the point of the cross is that we can be in wholeness in Christ, in relationship with God.  And this thought that—yeah.  That we need to be crushed, broken, hurt is—there’s a problem with it.  The verse in John which says, “Unless a seed dies, it cannot,”—what’s that verse?

Rebecca: Bear fruit.  Yes.

Sheila: “It cannot bear fruit.”  That’s not referring to us losing ourselves.  It’s saying, “No.  Unless you allow Christ to be prominent in your life,”—it’s like when John the Baptist said, “He must increase, and I must decrease,” right?

Rebecca: Well, the seed that went into the ground and died and bore much fruit was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  He did that for us.  He accomplished that for us.  I’ve written about John the Baptist’s talk too.  That should go in a book sometime somewhere.

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s like yes.  Jesus is to be paramount in our lives, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t matter.  And we are actually so precious that Jesus died for us, and I think this idea that we are nothing but worthless worms really does a number and cause awful spiritual trauma.  So let’s move on to the suffering bit.  So there’s so much talk in the church about how we glorify God by suffering.  And what is the suffering between glorifying God by suffering and glorifying God in our suffering?

Rebecca: The point I made because logic is important to me.  And when people aren’t logical, it can make me feel crazy.  So one of the points I want to make is that suffering is not intrinsically glorifying to God.  Intrinsically means in and of itself.  Because then people who leave the faith who are suffering would be glorifying—that suffering would be glorifying to God.  And they’re leaving the faith because of their suffering, because of the hard hearted attitude of Christians toward their suffering, and that isn’t—that’s just a tragedy.  That isn’t glorifying to God.  What is glorifying to God is the faith—the faith that’s developed in the suffering, and that’s emphasized over and over in the Scriptures.  As our faith is refined in suffering or in hard circumstances or in whatever the Lord—whatever the Lord works through, whatever our lives bring us, that is very glorifying to God to see our faith being strengthened.

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And as our faith strengthened, others see that.  And as our faith is developed, others see that we’re still praising God in the midst of suffering and that can make others see God in a new way.  And so all of these things can bring others more into the kingdom, and that’s a wonderful thing.  But suffering, in and of itself—I mean God does not rejoice when a child dies.

Rebecca: Right.

Sheila: A child dying does not bring glory to God.  

Rebecca: Right.  And this is—it’s part of—I think I can use the word broken legitimately here.  It’s part of our broken world.  It’s broken through sin and through the natural course of things.  But I do talk about how in suffering there are very specific ways—I think I listed four or five specific ways that the Lord can be glorified through suffering and to say God is glorified when a child dies is twisted.  Instead, let’s step back from it.  What does the Bible actually say about this?  And what the Bible emphasizes is your faith is what’s honoring to Him like my faith that the Lord is in this.  The Lord is my comforter.  The Lord is caring for my child.  All of these things.  Those are honoring to the Lord.

Sheila: When our son died 27 years ago now, I guess, we had so many people say the stupidest things because people say really stupid things then, right?  About how, “Well, we can rejoice because this was God’s will,” or, “We need to align ourselves with God’s will in what is happening.”  And it was like if you saw your child dying as a bad thing, you were a bad Christian.

Rebecca: Instead of just being able to say, “I am so sorry.  This is terrible, and I can’t even imagine how deep your grief must be.”  To be able to sit in the grief, there are so few Christians.  It seems like such a rare thing to just sit there without a pat answer.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  It’s like did we not read Job.  Have we forgotten all of the lessons from Job?  But I just—I want to say to the listeners.  God is not pleased when suffering increases because I think sometimes—and this is definitely what Debbie Pearl says and so many other really toxic authors that because God uses suffering to refine us we should almost pursue suffering.  Or we shouldn’t try to save ourselves from suffering because that is the tool that God is using.  And so God is actually happy when we suffer because in the end we’re going to end up better.  And so—

Rebecca: There’s a chapter on that.  How suffering will make me more holy, and I address that in the context of the Scriptures.

Sheila: Yeah.  So what would you say to someone then who is being told that they’re supposed to stay in a toxic church because, “Well, community is how we grow, and this suffering is helping us grow.  And so you can’t leave these toxic places because this is the suffering that God has appointed in order to refine you”?

Rebecca: I would say bless your heart.  Get out of there.  I’m from the South.  So I’m going to say bless your heart, all right?  That isn’t the God of the Scriptures.  That is a misrepresentation of God that He doesn’t say stay in this place of this suffering unless—and I do look at the exceptions.  For example, Paul.  I looked at Paul.  He talked about suffering.  The Lord told him through Ananias at the beginning of the book of Acts when Ananias went to speak to him.  He said, “The Lord will show you what great things you must suffer for His sake.”  And Paul did suffer a lot, but his suffering was in the process of taking the Gospel where the Gospel had never been heard.  He was suffering at the hands of the Jews.  And I have all this Scripture in there.  At the hands of those who hated him and didn’t want him to spread the Gospel, in shipwrecks and storms, and snake bites, and false brothers.  There were so many means by which he suffered, but he wasn’t saying, “I’ve got to stay in this suffering because it’s refining me.”  He’s saying, “I’m going to go through the suffering because I’ve got to take the Gospel to where it’s never been heard.”  So he was willing to endure, and I draw the distinction between enduring suffering and embracing suffering which some people tell you you’re supposed to do.  You’re supposed to embrace suffering.  I say endure it for the sake of—not for the sake of your marriage because marriage is more important than a human life or something like that.  But endure it for the sake of a greater goal like taking the Gospel somewhere like missionaries.  Missionaries have gone through a lot of suffering to take the Gospel to places that are—to primitive tribes or places where the Gospel has never been heard, places where people are antagonistic.  But it’s with that goal, not just because staying in a toxic church is going to refine you.  It’s actually going to mess you up.  It’s going to beat down your soul being in a toxic spiritually abusive environment.  There is evil permeating that environment.  And that’s a place to escape from.  It is completely different from the suffering Paul endured to take the Gospel.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  When God has a calling on your life, a specific thing that He has for you to do and that thing may require suffering, right?  And so you need to walk through that suffering because of the bigger purpose of what God has called you to do.

Rebecca: Right.  Enduring suffering.

Sheila: On the other hand, when suffering is different from that—let’s say it’s suffering at the hands of an abusive spouse, okay?  That suffering is not helping you pursue God’s calling on your life.  It’s actually stopping you from doing that because that abuse is breaking you.  That abuse is taking so much of your emotional and spiritual energy.  That abuse is causing trauma.  And now the things that God did have planned for you to do you’re not able to do because of the suffering.  So it’s—

Rebecca: You stay in a toxic church, and you might watch your children walk away from the Lord because they say, “I don’t know why you’re staying here.  I am getting out of here.  This place is bad.  This place is unsafe.  And this place represents God, so I’m walking away from God too.”  I have seen it.  I have seen—it’s a tragedy.  This is a tragedy.  This is not God’s will.

Sheila: Exactly.  And so I think that’s what we need to realize is that sometimes suffering actually takes us away from God’s will, not towards God’s will.  And we need to be discerning.  Suffering, in and of itself, is not a good thing.  And when we believe that it is, we kind of make God into a monster.  

Rebecca: Yes.  He seems like an abuser.  That’s why I want to write Untwisting Scriptures to—and it’s the same work you’re doing to show people this is not who God really is.  He is not the abuser He is being represented to you as.  He is really—when you come to Him in faith through Jesus Christ, He is a good and gracious Father.  He really is.  One woman told me there is a song that says, “I’m running to Your arms.  I’m running to Your arms.”  And she said, “That song terrifies me.  I would never want to run into God’s arms.”  And that’s just such a tragedy because that abuser that she was led to believe God is is not who He really is.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because our theology about suffering has really made God seem very unsafe for so many people.  And that’s why it’s so important to get this right and especially with our kids as we are raising our kids.  We need to be careful of the language that we use and how we talk about this stuff and the example that we’re setting.  Are we putting up with suffering in a toxic work place and a toxic church with a toxic mother because we think we’re supposed to endure suffering as opposed to saying, “No.  God has something for me to do, and this is holding me back.  And I do not have to endure this”?  I think, too, one of the other things about suffering that we see in Scripture is when Paul endured suffering and when he just kind of laid down and took it it was from people that weren’t believers who were trying to stop him in his mission.  When he got pushback from believers, he dealt with it.  He didn’t just lightly over and take it.  And that’s the difference.  We’re not supposed to be having suffering from believers.

Rebecca: From people who claim that they love God, they are supposed to be causing suffering?  They’re supposed to be toxic?  Stay in your toxic church because that’s a godly place.  So that is supposed to be the gathering of people who love God.  And if they are toxic, then that’s not a gathering of people who love God.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And if your marriage is toxic, we’ve all heard it.  So many people are told they go to their church.  They’re in a abusive marriage, and the pastor says, “Well, there is no grounds for divorce because they haven’t had an affair.  And just remember that God is using this in your life.”  Yeah.  Yeah.  This is being used in your life to cause trauma.  It isn’t being used in your life for a good purpose.

Rebecca: And one point I make is that even when people get out and maybe get out with their children they still endure suffering out of the marriage.  They’re away from the abuser physically, but they may still be enduring suffering from the abuser through different means, from their church congregation, which can be terrible, and in other ways having to do with the abuse that they escaped from physically.  They still are suffering because of it.  It’s not like they totally escaped the suffering.  They’re just doing the best they can to take the next right step.

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  Let’s move on to more a politically charged subject, which is the idea of a victim mentality.  So one of your chapters deals with this.  And we hear this a lot in evangelical circles about the whole problem is that society is all set up around victim mentality and the person who has the most victimhood has the most brownie points.  And they end up winning, and we need to get away from this victim mentality.  And you use John MacArthur a lot in this section.  And here is a quote from John MacArthur that you use in that chapter.  “Let me make it clear.  In God’s eyes, listen.  No one is a victim.  We are all perpetrators of open rebellion, scandalous, blasphemous sin against God.”  Well, so tell me what you think of that.

Rebecca: I actually have two chapters on victim mentality.  One of them is directly addressing this whole John MacArthur, I would say, toxic teaching.  And then the other one is to distinguish what—is there ever a time that the term victim mentality is accurate.  So in this chapter, John MacArthur, I might say, spews the Nouthetic counseling teaching.  I recognize it a mile off.  It’s called biblical counseling now, but the original name was Nouthetic counseling.  Jay Adams started it.  And I quoted in this book Voddie Baucham and Paul Tripp, John MacArthur, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and several others who come back to this bottom line point.  Your problem is your sin.  Stop talking about anything else.  And that is what many, many, many people have grown up with, have seen throughout their marriage.  They think, “I’m not—I can’t talk about what anybody else is doing because my problem is my sin.  My only problem.  My greatest problem is my own sin.  And how dare I talk about anything else?  And if I do, then I must have a victim mentality.  And victim mentality is bad.  So I can’t talk about anything.”  That’s what it leads too.  That means—and, of course, I make the point if people follow John MacArthur’s teaching about this they will create environments where abuse thrives.  And I’m sure you’ve heard, as I have Sheila, of many churches headed by John MacArthur followers, Masters Seminary graduates that are extremely toxic churches, who are leading people the same way that John MacArthur did with the infamous Eileen Gray story, which Julie Roys broke.  And I have that footnoted in the book.  That you should stay with your abuser even if he’s also abusing your children because you don’t have any other choice.  That’s what you have to do.

Sheila: And in that situation, John MacArthur excommunicated Eileen Gray, who was asking for help because her husband was abusive.  And he is now in prison for child sexual abuse, and they are still supporting the pedophile.  Yeah.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Yes.

Sheila: So that just shows—I’ve written a lot about biblical counseling on the blog.  And we’ve done some podcasts on it.  But this is really—this is the essential difference between biblical counseling and other licensed counseling, other forms of counseling, is the root belief that biblical counselors learn is that all problems are caused by sin or lack of faith.  And so when you are sinning—

Rebecca: And it’s yours.  It’s your sin.  It’s not somebody else’s.  It’s the counselee’s.

Sheila: Right.  And so when you are seeing a counselee, the goal is to figure out how they participated in this, what lies are they believing about themselves, what lies are they believing about God that is continuing to make them feel bad.  

Rebecca: Well, it is important to find out lies we’re believing about anything.  That is always important.  

Sheila: But not everybody is believing a lie.

Rebecca: My own experience—but if we are, it would be good to find out what they are.  But my own experience is it always—not my own—I’ve never been to a biblical counselor I don’t think.  But in all the many people who have talked to me, it always boils down to where is the sin in this.  I got my start in the Bob Jones University world.  It’s a fundamentalist college.  And the people who would go there for counseling—it was always—it was the sexual abuse survivors.  It was always, “Where is your sin.  Is your sin bitterness, lack of forgiveness?  You had on—your skit was two inches above your knees, so no wonder you were raped.”  Things like that.  That always goes back to your sin.  You do not point at the other person because you have to point at your own sin.

Sheila: And this is what that Desiring God article—I really need to send you that that we were critiquing on that podcast, and I’ll put a link to—I think it was Episode 201 of the Bare Marriage podcast.  That was another point that she made is that we need to get rid of the myth of superior righteousness.  That anyone is more righteous than anyone else, and we need to remember that we are all sinners.  It’s like yeah.  Okay.  All of us have sin that separate us from God.  The Bible is so clear over and over again that some people are more righteous than others.  And some people are more evil than others over and over again.

Rebecca: Now that you’re describing it, I think I have seen that one.  And I believe I corresponded with the author of it.  

Sheila: When I think to about biblical counseling is this whole idea, “It is your sin or your lack of faith,” is that what it ignores is trauma and abuse.  It treats trauma and abuse like they are not real.  And what we know is that trauma affects the body, and you can’t just think it away.

Rebecca: It also—I agree with you 100%.  I think it also ignores the fact of wickedness.  There is wickedness in our world, and wickedness is in the Scriptures.  You can see it.  But I’ve written about this before that when I was younger I used to read the Psalms and think, “Wow.  There sure are a lot of Psalms about the wicked, but I don’t know any wicked people.  And maybe someday I’ll know some wicked people, and then I’ll be thankful for these Psalms.  I guess people in other countries are thankful for these Psalms.”  But I actually thought that.  I thought wickedness is not part of my world.  Well come to find out it was very much part of my world.  It was just never talked about as part of my world.  The people who were victims of it didn’t talk about it.  The wicked people certainly didn’t talk about it.  And it was just—I was in one of those twilight zone experiences where it was right there, but I didn’t know it.  Once I became aware of it, I thought, “Oh, wickedness is something we really need to be talking about.”  And biblical counseling does not allow for that at all.  It doesn’t allow for the spiritual battle, the battle of light and darkness that is always going on around us.  It’s just all about your own sin.  That’s all it’s about.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  Speaking of untwisting teachings, how about if we untwist our teachings around parenting?  A lot of what we are taught in the church is about how to control our kids and how to mold their external behavior.  But what if we’re supposed to parent in a different way?  What if we can actually see the heart of God for our kids and learn how to parent through connection and through kindness along with firm discipline?  So it’s not about punishment.  It’s about creating connection and guiding our kids in a way that really works.  That’s what we want to help you with next week.  Wendy Schneider from Fresh Start Family who was on our podcast last week is hosting a free webinar for all of my listeners.  It’s going to be 10:00 a.m. Pacific, 1:00 p.m. Eastern.  Completely free.  The recording will be available, and we’re going to be looking at—she’s going to share actual strategies of how to parent in a way that connects rather than that punishes and alienates.  So if you’re feeling frustrated, if you feel like you yell too much, if you feel like you’re at the end of your rope and you really don’t know what to do, and you need some creative solutions, Wendy is here to help.  So sign up.  The link is in the podcast notes.  You said this in terms of helping victims.  You said, “One of the most healthful things,”—healthful, not helpful.  I love that.  “One of the most healthful things we can do for victims and survivors of abuse, I believe, is helping them understand that they were victims of abuse.”

Rebecca: Because people are so afraid to use that word because the word has been stripped of its actual meaning, and it’s—and so I actually go through the meaning of the world.  How the meaning of the world is changed throughout the centuries.  And I talk about how it is an absolutely appropriate word to use under these circumstances.  And people are afraid of it.  They’re afraid.  “Oh, if I use that word about myself, then I’ll have a victim mentality.”  Well, that’s a shame because it is a true word, and it really does apply.  If your husband abused you, if your husband trafficked you, you were a victim of your husband’s abuse.  That is the way it is.  That’s the definition of the word.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And why is it important for some people to know that?

Rebecca: Well, because we want to believe truth and not lies, right?  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.  

Rebecca: We want to see what is real, not how—what we’ve been gas lit to believe.  But what is real.

Sheila: And I think that when you know that you’re victim then you know it wasn’t your fault.  All this stuff that’s happened to you it’s not your fault.  

Rebecca: I end up saying that over and over to people.  I’m assuming you probably do too.   Say it a lot.  Say, “This was not your fault.”  And I’ve even said, “The fact that your trust relationship with God is broken is not your fault.  It’s because of what these people did to you.  Yes.  The trust relationship needs to be restored for sure.  But don’t keep blaming yourself that you didn’t do something right, that you sinned in some way for this trust relationship to be broken.  Instead, let’s look at reality.  Let’s look at what really happened and how it wasn’t your fault that it happened.  And then we can work on rebuilding it from there, from a foundation of truth.”

Sheila: Exactly.  Because Jesus is the truth.  And when we stand on the foundation of truth, when we acknowledge truth, then we invite Jesus in to do His healing.  But when we try to obfuscate truth and ignore it and try to cover it up, then we’re really pushing Jesus away.  

Rebecca: Oh, I love that.  And I love that you used the word obfuscate.  That’s a great word.  But the emphasis we keep coming back to Jesus.  And that’s what I loved about the quotes that I took from your work.  That your emphasis was on who Jesus really is and how that affects us in our lives.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  So let’s—yeah.  Let’s move on.  We can move on to how you did quote me then because it was really in the section, I think—I don’t know if it was on boundaries or right before.  But the argument that people often make is that Jesus didn’t stand up for His rights, right?  He went to the cross.  He laid down everything.  And so if Jesus was willing to do that, how could you do anything less?  How can you stand up for yourself?

Rebecca: So in Untwisting Scriptures book one, which was about giving up your rights, I do talk about that a lot in there.  And I make the case—I think I make a pretty strong case that Jesus did not give up His rights.  He still had His rights to the end.  He just didn’t make use of them.  He could have still called 12 legion of angels down, but He—it was His right to do that.  But He decided not to make use of it.  So in this book, my emphasis is on—the book being number five.  The emphasis is on His boundaries.  The boundaries that Jesus had and how He dealt with people throughout His ministry.

Sheila: Yeah.  

Rebecca: And that’s where I quoted you, I think.

Sheila: Yeah.  Here’s the point that I was making.  And I’m glad you thought it was a good one.  Is that when we’re told to imitate Jesus what we’re told is to imitate the mind of Jesus.

Rebecca: I loved that.

Sheila: Not the actions of Jesus.  Okay.  So our point is to imitate the mind of Jesus.  And so if you look at everything that Jesus did, so what was Jesus’ goal?  Okay.  Jesus’ goal was to have people have a closer relationship with God.  Okay.  That was always His goal, right?  To bring the kingdom of God to earth, to help people be reconciled to God.  What was His action?  That often differed in the circumstance.  And then what was the response?  And so His goal was always the same, but His actions very much differed based on context.  So yes.  He went to the cross, and He didn’t call the 10,000 angels, right?  Because at that time, the way to accomplish people being reconciled to God was for Him to go to the cross. 

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: But at another time, He took a whip out of cords and drove people out of the temple.  Or at another time, He called the Pharisees white washed tombs.  So it’s not like He always just let people walk all over Him.  

Rebecca: Right.  So important.  So important.  And what people are doing—they might accuse me of cherry picking Scripture.  But what they are doing is they’re narrowing down—Jesus didn’t have any boundaries—narrowing it down to these last few days when He allowed people to harm Him and went to the cross.  And I said, “We can’t just look at those last few days.  We have to expand it to the whole entirety of His ministry and even His life.”  But, of course, His ministry is three and a half years of ministry or what we have the most Scripture about.  We have to look at all of that.  And that’s what you addressed as well.

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And I just think if we could get a proper idea that the goal—that there is an end goal, right?  And the end goal, we pray it in The Lord’s Prayer.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  That the earth and the human relationships look more and more like the kingdom of God.  That we are all transformed into the likeness of Christ as Romans 8:29 tells us.  That love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—that those things become more and more evident in the world.  That is God’s will.  And if what we are doing is working exactly against having that happen, then we’re missing the boat.  And by allowing people to walk all over you, often what actually happens is that their selfishness is enabled.  

Rebecca: Oh, absolutely.

Sheila: And I’m not trying to blame victims of abuse for their abusers becoming more in sin.  And so this is a really tight line I’m trying to walk here. 

Rebecca: But it’s because of how they’ve been brainwashed though.  And also I want to add to what you’re saying.  So often people who are being abused—well, maybe always.  Their relationship with God is so unstable that they feel like they have to keep doing and doing and doing to try to get God’s pleasure, to try to get God’s smile, to try to get Him to not be angry with them.  And maybe if I give up more, God will then be pleased with me.  Maybe if I submit myself to this abuse, God will be pleased with me.  And instead of being able to come to the joyful understanding that God is pleased with me in Jesus Christ which is huge.  I can step away from any sort of works to find God’s smile.  God is smiling on me because I have put my faith in Jesus Christ, and now He wants to transform.  But I have to first get this ground level understanding of who I am in Christ, and that’s what I try to weave that in throughout my books.  But this is so important.

Sheila: Yeah.  And it’s really the opposite.  We did a podcast last season on the book, The Power of a Praying Wife.  And in that book, it almost seems like Stormie Omartian is trying to turn herself—twist herself into a pretzel like the more I abase myself, the more suffering I put up with, the more I realize it’s all my fault, then maybe God will work and change my husband.  

Rebecca: It’s very sad.

Sheila: Yeah.  So you put with all of this suffering and become nothing so that maybe God will notice what you’re doing so that He will finally take action.  And it’s like maybe the action that God wanted was for you to know you didn’t need to put with this.  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Yes.

Sheila: And even in non abusive situations, like we’re talking so much about abuse, but I think this whole theology can impact us in all kinds of other ways too like our husbands doing something that maybe isn’t that bad.  But we just don’t like it.  But we don’t say anything because we think, “Well, it’s not my role.  And I’m being selfish if I say anything.  And so I’m just going to put up with it.”  And by putting up with it—maybe it’s something not even a big deal.  Maybe he just comes home late, and he doesn’t call.  And he does this constantly.  And so you’re always running around with dinner and trying to get the kids—the kids are hungry.  And you don’t know if you should let them eat or wait.  And it’s causing a big problem, but you don’t say anything because you don’t want to.  And then over time, he just comes home later and later because it obviously doesn’t bother you.  You’re not saying anything about it.  And he becomes disconnected from the family.  That is not pursuing God’s will, right?  God’s will is for human flourishing in our families whereas if you had just said, “Hey, this isn’t good.  Please call if you’re going to be late so that I can make change.”

Rebecca: And I think a key word you’re emphasizing there is—or a key thought you’re emphasizing is encompassing the word relationship.  God wants relationship with us which involves communication, and He wants us to have relationship with others who love Him which also involves communication.  And we want our—the New Testament gives clear guidelines for what our communication should look like.  But it is supposed to be communication.  And one of the things over the years of writing the Untwisting Scriptures books as I’ve grown as a believer, I have just seen that emphasis on relationship with the Lord over and over and over.  That what He wants to do is He wants to break through any barriers that are keeping us from a loving relationship with Him.  And often the barriers are this toxic, twisted Scripture that has been presented to people so that I feel like I can’t speak up when my husband is doing something that’s causing chaos in the home instead of saying, “I have a close relationship with my husband, and we can communicate with each other.”  I think it’s really important.

Sheila: Exactly.  Your last chapter in this book is kind of like a rallying cry.  I really hear your heart in it.  Do you want to share that with our listeners?

Rebecca: Well, yes.  It’s called an Invitation: The Lord has a Greater Capacity Waiting for You.  My heart is for people like me who didn’t understand abuse, who want to help others, and for people who have gone through abuse but they are healing and ready to move forward in whatever God has for them to consider opening your heart to the Lord, not to say, “Well, now I’m,”—I mean not to necessarily say, “Well, now my next step is I’m going to become a licensed counselor or something,” which are all good things.  But to say, “Lord, I want to open my heart.  What do you want me to do in this good work?”  And I did get a very negative response to that last chapter from someone who said it felt manipulative like my ministry was the only ministry that anybody should ever do.  And if you don’t do this, well, then you’re not legitimately serving God.  And I thought, “Man, I don’t want to be manipulative,” so I looked back through it.  And I tweaked some wording a little bit here and there to try to avoid being manipulative.  But I thought, for the most part, I really do want to invite believers—not believers who already have a ministry that they’re doing.  I don’t want to pull them out of that ministry.  You have to do my ministry.  But to say to them, “If you’re looking for where the Lord wants you, consider this.  Consider the great need among the abused.  And it’s not like you have to be a licensed counselor.  Can you just be a listening ear?  Can you sit with them?  Can you sit with them without pat answers?”  Like the pat answers you received, Sheila.  To just be able to be with them even if what they have to tell you is really overwhelming.  To ask the Lord to increase your capacity which He has done for me as I’ve asked Him to do and to receive that.  And I’ve had people tell—because I work with Satanic ritual abuse survivors and some people have said to me, “Oh, I could never, ever do that.”  And I said, “Do not say that because the thing you say you never could do the Lord might call you to.”  So I would say don’t ever say never about anything.  Just say, “Lord, where You have me, what You want me to do, I want to follow You.  I want to love You because You’re a good God.  And You love Your people, and You want to rescue Your people from wickedness.  And You want them to live in wholeness.”  And even though there is suffering in this world, we do not deny that.  There is suffering in this world.  And there is suffering at the hands of the wicked.  To say what the Lord wants for us is wholeness and righteousness in the Lord Jesus Christ.  And He wants to bring us into a ministry for others whatever that may look like for you.  I’m just saying in that last chapter consider this might be where the Lord is calling you.

Sheila: Yeah.  I love that.  That’s one of the reasons that we created The Great Sex Rescue toolkit too which you can download.  I’ll put a link to it, but it’s got all of the stats from our work and ideas of how to talk to people in your church about some of these issues.  Yeah.

Rebecca: That’s great.

Sheila: So that we don’t go in unarmed but yeah.  We need to be speaking up when things are being twisted.  This isn’t of God.  And God’s work—He came to set the captives free.  And we can all be a part of that in whatever way.  And often, sometimes you don’t even need to dream big or make something big.  You just need to open your eyes and ask God to help you see what’s right in front of you because there might be stuff right in front of you.

Rebecca: And that’s what I did.  That’s what I did when the Lord first brought me into this, and I had to start researching things.  And I would say, “Why am I researching this?  I don’t know these people.”  And the Lord—I’ve written about this on my blog.  The Lord spoke.  The Lord has spoken to me less than a handful of times that I’ve been able to discern.  And He said, “You will know them.”  And faithfully, He brought them to me one by one to teach me more and to give me opportunities to be a friend to them and to walk with them on their journey.  It has just been an amazing journey, and I’m so grateful.  I didn’t want to—John Piper wrote a book called Don’t Waste Your Life.  And I can resonate with that title.  I don’t want to waste my life.  

Sheila: Yeah.  

Rebecca: So I’m very thankful for what—the way the Lord has led and the way the Lord is leading others to have their eyes open and to participate in this good work.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Exactly.  Well, again, I just want to really commend this series of books.  They’re not super long.  They’re easy to read.  They’re filled with stories.  And easy to understand.  They’re not heavy, theological tomes or anything like that.  But you just keep coming back over and over again to what does Scripture actually say.  What does the person of Christ show us?  You keep coming back to the fundamentals, and it’s just really helpful.  And so do check out Rebecca Davis’s books, the Untwisting Scriptures series, and this last one, which is about—yeah.  Suffering.  I find it really interesting.  Really well done.  So thank you for your work.

Rebecca: Thank you so much, Sheila.  And you can find me at rebeccadavisinfo.com.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  And I will put links to the new book as well.  So thanks so much.

Rebecca: Thank you.  Thank you so much, Sheila.  I appreciate being on here.

Sheila: I’m so glad Rebecca Davis could join us.  Just a really interesting conversation and I highly recommend all of her books on untwisting Scripture.  She just does a great job of taking us back to the Bible, seeing what it really says, and seeing how a lot of these teachings that have been so warped end up really hurting us.  So take a look at her books.  The links are in the podcast notes.  And also please remember.  Sign up for that free webinar with Wendy Schneider from Fresh Start Family.  That is going live next Thursday, September 14th, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time.  Again, totally free.  There will be a recording available.  But if you show up live, you can get some door prizes.  It’s time that we get back to evidence-based, biblical, healthy advice for parenting too.  And we can do this well for the next generation.  So check out that link in the podcast notes.  And I will see you again next week on the Bare Marriage podcast.  Bye-bye.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Jo R

    Before even listening, I’ll believe men when they teach that suffering is good when those same men agree that husbands not getting orgasms on demand (“suffering”) is good.

    As for John MacArthur, what sins do men in his church perpetrate that they’re ever held accountable for? A wife (and children) getting abused by the man who theoretically promised to love, honor, and cherish her is told she can’t divorce her husband’s sorry a$$ but instead must go back to him.

    Sheesh! 🤬

    • Elle

      Lol! If only men could see the twisted logic and imbalance of their orgasm teachings and suffering. It is NOT all about them!!

  2. Codec

    No one is a victim in the eyes of God? I get that all of us sin but that does not compute.

    God vindicated Tamar after she was victimized.

  3. Healing

    With the suffering: The people that feel it is good for women to suffer by having sex when they don’t want to (in order to glorify God by satisfying her husband). Yet the men suffering in sexless marriages or suffering by not getting “enough sex” aren’t considered suffering and glorifying God??? Like, why is it ok for one group to suffer but not another? Sexless marriages in theory WOULD be glorifying according to this warped theory.

    • Codec

      You can actually take that twisted logic further.

      By that idea it can glorify God if socially maladaptive people seek to harm those who are healthy. After all that suffering could give them perspective right?

      It also means that those who use masochism as a way to feel safe enough to enjoy things should not try to understand the reasoning behind their actions and seek to understand them in a constructive way.

      This kind of mentality stunts people and leaves them either ashamed of seeking help or fantasies that help may come in a way that doesn’t really make sense.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great question!

  4. Elle

    I am a woman in a depressing job situation and am not able to get another job with similar pay and benefits despite my best efforts (five years of efforts). I get tired of church people saying how God will use the situation. I am also tired of false promises that God has the “perfect job for me.” Finally, I am tired of those who tell me I am in a “period of waiting” and I “need to surrender to God.”

    Why is it so hard for church people to acknowledge suffering and lament alongside loved ones? Why is it so hard for church people to acknowledge systemic issues that hold people like me back in job searches despite our best efforts? I also think they are tired of praying for the same situation over and over again despite no results at this time.

    Sometimes I think about leaving the church. I am so fed up!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Elle. So many of the Psalms were laments!

  5. CMT

    Theology question: how much of this twisted perspective can we attribute to a rigid belief in total depravity and predestination? I know, I know, not all Calvinists. But that JMac quote makes me wonder. After all, if someone believes God’s predetermined doom of most of humanity to ECT must be accepted as morally justified, how are they going to see ANY suffering as unjust? I know that many folks don’t go that far, but it seems to me that this theology can destroy empathy, and/or draw people who don’t have much of it in the first place.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think a lot of this does stem from Calvinism (and, yes, not all Calvinists). I would agree.

  6. Cynthia

    Great podcast!

    A big point that seems to link a lot of this is this idea of telling people that they aren’t deserving of self-worth.

    Yes, valuing others and doing things for them is important! The Bible talks about treating others as we would want to be treated, loving others as ourselves, treating strangers well because we were strangers in Egypt. In other words, going back to your parenting podcast from last week, developing empathy. If we can understand that we are important and don’t like to suffer, we can apply that lesson on how we treat others.

    Embracing suffering and teaching that we should put ourselves last seems to be the opposite. Teaching this means that some teachers and preachers are telling other people that they are worthless and should suffer. That is the opposite of being selfless and caring for others.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great thoughts, Cynthia! Thank you.

  7. Cynthia

    I also wanted to share my sympathy on the 27th anniversary of Christopher’s death. It’s so upsetting to think that well-intentioned people so often say things that just makes the mourners feel so much worse. I wish everyone could get the message that sometimes, the best response to someone suffering is a hug and a meal train. Nobody needs a sermon about the meaning of suffering or God’s plan, and you don’t need to have the answer to the question of “why?” Like you said, if the book of Job teaches us anything, it is that we are not God, we are not qualified to answer the question, if we try to answer it will be get it wrong and be hurtful, and that makes God upset.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for that. I think people say stuff because they feel like they have to. But it’s so awful.

  8. Taylor

    The “no one is truly a victim” mentality has alot in common with Karma. The idea that suffering is either overtly or covertly deserved, and the bad stuff has to be worked out through suffering in order to achieve a higher state of being.

    This doesn’t sound like the gospel. At all.

  9. Angharad

    I wish people would get that there is a difference between expecting we will suffer at some point (because we live in a fallen world, and if we follow Jesus closely, we are going to get attacked for it) and actually seeking it out. I also think people forget who those NT letters that talk about suffering were originally written to – they aren’t saying “Hey, you really should make yourself suffer because it will make you better Christians”. They are encouraging believers who are ALREADY suffering for their faith that it’s worth persevering and that God can still work for good in their situation. And the kind of suffering the early church experienced was suffering they could either not avoid (e.g. slaves being abused by their owners) or suffering they could only avoid by denying their faith (being beaten or thrown into prison for refusing to deny Christ).
    So it’s telling them how they can continue to glorify God in spite of the suffering they have no way of escaping from. Whereas we do have a way of escaping from suffering that comes from an abusive parent or spouse or employer!

  10. CMT

    Spot on. I think most 21st century white middle or upper class American Christians (a group which includes me, btw) are so far from the original context of these scriptures that we don’t readily grasp how few options many of the early Christians had. People who are comfortable and secure don’t have any business telling OTHER people to choose to suffer for the sake of Christ. The NT writers themselves didn’t do that. Paul wanted believers to avoid getting in trouble with the secular authorities wherever possible and advised enslaved Christians to buy their freedom if they could. Why don’t we approach things now with that same common sense?

  11. JG

    My parents, especially my dad, are sometimes toxic to be around. My dad manipulated us into going to a family reunion and a vacation which we financially couldn’t afford. He basically told me that I was dishonoring my mom with misapplied Scripture. To him it didn’t matter that we believed that it wasn’t in our special needs daughter’s best interest not to go. Now we are paying the consequences of letting him get his way.

    My dad believes that his counsel is “good and godly.” There has been several times in the last few years that it has been bad, and it has cost us quite a bit financially. He has even asked me about tithing. How can I do that while I am trying to dig out of the problems that he helped us to create.

    Please understand, I love my parents, but my husband and I have had enough.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You can say no to your dad. I know it’s hard, but you don’t have to listen to him.

      • JG

        Thank you. It has been hard setting boundaries with my dad. He doesn’t respect them, but my husband says that we can’t allow him to dictate our decisions. I have also decided to limit my time around my parents. When we are around them, it is in a group setting. Dad tries manipulation when he is one on one with us or our older children (he doesn’t try with our daughter with autism, she wouldn’t cooperate anyway) or my sister’s family.

        Please pray for us. The rift with my parents has been very hurtful.

  12. Laura

    This is such a great podcast! I downloaded all of the Twisted Scriptures series on my Kindle so they could be there for me in the future. I cannot keep track of how much of the Bible was used to beat me over the head in my first marriage, to make me feel condemned for struggling with mental illness, and that I must believe a certain way or I’m going to hell. Recently, I have done some research about ECT (eternal conscious torment), dispensationalism theory, and End Times prophecies, and have discovered that maybe what we have been taught in the last 100-200 years is not accurately biblical. I need to get more into that research after I finish my graduate studies in a year. What I want to say is that I think, based on some of that research, is that maybe some scriptures about hell have been twisted to evangelize people to become Christians. The Bible speaks more about Heaven than hell, so why do evangelists get so hung up on hell?

    Another thing in charismatic and pentocostal circles that gets me a bit riled up is spiritual warfare and too much focus on the devil. I used to be into this warfare stuff, but I just cannot go there right now. In these last few weeks, classes at some of my local churches are offering classes about this stuff and I just cannot get into it. So, I think reading Twisted Scriptures fits me more at this time in my life.


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