“There is nothing quite like the pain of being hurt by the church.” This is what my new pastor acknowledged to me when I first visited him after leaving the church where my husband and I raised our boys and served for over fifteen years. Boy, was he correct — there really is nothing quite like the pain of being hurt and disappointed within the Body of Christ. It is disorienting and confusing to say the least.
I’ve concluded over the five and a half years since we moved on that the church is an odd place to be sometimes. First a disclaimer: I love the church. I was raised in an active and loving congregation and, with the exception of a year or two as a young adult, have been a member of a local body my whole life. In spite of the heartache, I truly believe it is the place where God wants us to serve and impact others for the sake of the Gospel. It is an equipping station where we learn and grow in order to drive off of the church parking lot on Sunday afternoon to the place where our “real ministry” begins.
However, as they say, the church is made up of humans and we often do not do conflict well. We become so close to one another through all the ups & downs of life– then we get upset and do not know how to let people go when God is clearly calling them elsewhere. The relationship is severed and we have to start all over again with a new group of believers!
Seriously? Is this really how God wants it to be? How do we do this without getting hurt or hurting those we are leaving behind? Why can’t we be more kingdom-minded and understand that we are all on the same team, no matter whose bench we are sitting on? And there is a deeper question: How do we learn to trust fellow Christians again?
In my experience, we first need to look at ourselves and the part we have played in any conflict. I am confident that when we ask God to show us our sin, He is faithful to answer! We need to cry out to God as David did:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23-24.
It is from that posture of humility that we can then ask Him to help us forgive, heal and trust again.
Although you may be tempted, do not abandon the church! The Lord has chosen the Body of Christ, His bride, to meet together regularly to be the incubator for growing, developing Christians – and, in case we are tempted to think we don’t need the incubator anymore, I recently heard a pastor say, “If you’re not growing, you’re dead!”
Hebrews 10:25 states, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”
It is important for us to remember to not confuse God with the behaviors of His children. In truth, people are always more helpful than harmful. Grace-filled, loving, and forgiving people can be found in most every church. Seek them out. Spend time with them. Keep searching until you find them and be one yourself! The church is God’s idea, and He protects it faithfully even though He is often saddened by its behavior.
Sweet sister, have you been hurt and are fearful of trusting again? Begin today by knowing that this can be a maturing experience and in the end bring you to a deeper walk with your Savior. During my season of hurt and confusion, there was a sweet surprise – my relationship with Jesus grew. When I think of those days when my heart was broken, Matthew 11:28-30 comes to mind:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Laura Acuña is leading a Catalyst Community Group for members of Ignite Women. To join her group, click here.