Abuse and Our View of God

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4: 16).

The image we have of God is greatly influenced by the childhood experience with our own fathers, and the men who – willingly or not – filled that role in our lives. We view God as possessing all their faults while, at the same time, blaming Him for those faults.

Abuse necessarily darkens the lens through which we see God.

If our fathers were absent, chances are we will see God as absent and unconcerned for our welfare. If the men with whom we had relationships as children were hard and critical of us, we are likely to see God as harsh and judgmental.

If our fathers were cruel and sadistic, or molested us under the guise of “love”, we may see God as cruel or deceptive, and turn our backs on Him entirely. After all, He turned His on us first. Didn’t He?

Incest survivors may be threatened by the very concept of God as a “father” [1]. It speaks to us not of love and protection, but of violation. The Bible though uses many different images for God. These include our Shield (Ps. 3: 3), our Rock (Ps. 18: 2), our Shepherd (Ps. 23: 1), our Healer (Ps. 30: 2), and our Protector (Ps. 78: 23-29).

The Gospel is transformative for abuse victims, in this regard. The lens is wiped clean. We can for the first time see God clearly.

And we can see ourselves in a new light. Our true value, long clouded by abuse, is suddenly clear. For many of us, the impact of this is akin to forgiveness and equally powerful.

Forgiveness is like rain in the desert to abuse victims. We long for it, as if parched. This is not because we were, in any way, at fault for the abuse. We seek expiation for the sins inflicted upon us. Picture a child continually scrubbing at a non-existent stain.

With God, our lives are recast in a different mold [1]. A new paradigm applies. We can lay down the burden of abuse, and head in a new direction.

That, by itself, could make re-examining our childhood view of God worthwhile.

[1] God may heal our wounds, but will not always remove our scars. Our lives will no longer have to be centered on abuse. However, the emotional and psychological damage done to us can linger. God will uphold us, despite this.



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

21 responses to “Abuse and Our View of God

  1. VaSanganyado

    I once had a conversation with a high school kid. We were both coming from a public library. I just felt in my spirit that I should buy him something (I was also a student, but in college).

    I talked to him about general things until he led me to the gospel. Excited of the opportunity, I began showing him how God was a glorious father. He was not moved, but only said, “If God was a father, he did not want anything to do with him.”

    Shocked, I asked him why. I later learnt his father emotionally abused him. He used to buy gifts for the neighbor’s kid and nothing for him. His view of a father was completely distorted. Portraying God as a father put him off.

    I was only 19, but God gave me wisdom that day (I wish that wisdom had continued to this day :)). I showed him what loving fathers do. I asked him about the men in his life who he respects and I showed him he respects them because they show him the true picture of a father. But God is a better father than all.

  2. Great post, Anna. Fathers have such a big responsibility.

  3. This is yet another great post from you Anna and one that I can identify with having been in the same position as you as a child/young adult. I never really made the comparison between God and my father, but I did question how it was that a loving God could allow my father to batter and molest me. Perhaps that could be the subject of another post from you? x

    • I am glad I managed to strike a chord. I truly value your opinion, Marie. The issue of innocent suffering you raise is one of the most profound human beings face. All abuse victims wrestle with it. I am not certain the issue can be fully resolved in this life. Someone else though said that the victims of child abuse provide us a truer image of Christ (the sacrificial lamb, and Suffering Servant) than any other here on earth.

  4. megangail

    Reblogged this on megangail's Blog.

  5. When I became a Christian at 49 I absolutely could not call Father God “Father.” He patiently proved to me that He is not like my earthly father but to this day I absolutely refuse to call Him “Daddy.” No way, no how and I cringe inside when I hear others refer to Him as “Daddy.” Will reblog to my Cyber Support Group. Thank you, this is so very true for those of us of incest.

  6. How can we hear from God?

    • Hi Mr. Godwin: God speaks in a variety of ways. Some hear His voice audibly. He also speaks through His Word. What that means is we might be reading the Bible and something on the page just “jumps out” at us. He can also speak through songs and through other people. That “gut feeling” we might get may be God speaking to us. Or a feeling like, “I shouldn’t do that.” That’s His Spirit within us. If we are in a relationship with Him, be assured He will speak to us. We just have to stay “tuned in.” It is His Holy Spirit that testifies with ours. We must use our gift of discernment to know it is God speaking, the enemy of God, or our own soul. I hope this helps. Blessings to you.

    • You ask a very important question, Isreal. God speaks to us through the Bible, which is His inspired word; through the Holy Spirit; through godly people; and through circumstances. Not many of us hear Him speak audibly. Most often, as we pray, He speaks to our hearts.

      Nothing God communicates is ever at variance with the Bible. God, in other words, does not contradict Himself. He would never instruct anyone to commit murder, for example.

      At times, God may use disappointment or failure to get our attention. Even during tragedy and loss, however, He is with us.

      When the Jews were held captive in Babylon, God had the prophet Jeremiah send them this message: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29: 11-13).

      You see, He’s really waiting to hear from you.



  7. This was a great reply to Israel, Anna. As for your article, My own father often spent months away from home when I was growing up, so I was raised by my mom and grand mother. As a result I have an easier time relating to women than I do with men. As I got older my father found employment where he was home all the time, but that was not so good either because he was emotionally distant to us and when I did get his attention, it was not always a good outcome. My mom nagged at him to spend more time with me, and that often made him do so begrudgingly and that was not fun.

    Anyway, you are right about how our fathers affect how we see God. I have spent my whole life seeing Him as distant and harsh and someone that it was best to not get the attention of. My Catholic upbringing did nothing to improve my idea of who God was either. There was no grace and tender love in the God I learned about in Catholic school so it fit my upbringing quite well.

    In my twenties I came to Christ and I had a great relationship with Him because He was the big brother I always wanted. Then one day He said, ‘Michael, I have someone I want you to meet.” I said, “Who could that be, Lord?” He said, “I want you to meet my Father.” I said, “But Jesus if I start having a direct relationship with Him, that will leave you out.” Then He said something I will always remember. “Michael, don’t you understand that this is what I am about? I came to the earth to live and die so that all men might be restored to my Father and know His love.”

    Well, that was over 40 years ago and I am still having a time of it drawing close to our Father, but at least I can pray to Him now and call him “Father.” Calling Him a warm and affectionate term like “Daddy” has been my latest challenge. I force myself to do it, but it is not with deep affection that I can do so yet. “Daddy, my Daddy, help me to know you as a loving and affectionate Father to me. Amen”

    Thanks for your writings, dear Anna,

    • Often, our experiences hide the true nature of God from us. Your story, Michael, illustrates how long the journey back to God can be. But it is worth the effort.

      Your friend,


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