It’s easy to allow church hurt to define you. Not only define you, but define the course of your relationship with God. You can look at the actions of the church and use it as justification to live however you want in response. The church is suppose to be the hands and feet of Jesus, so if the Church hurts you, then why continue in a relationship with Jesus if He has the potential to hurt you as well?
I remember when I went to the church admitting my same sex desires. I was desperate for help and was looking for any guidance on how to maneuver through these affections. Instead, I was treated like an outcast. The Church brought condemnation instead of loving direction and in that moment, I was on a course towards rebellion. However, let me be clear: the Church didn’t set me on the course of rebellion, I walked there myself.
Did the church give me a map with directions? Yes, absolutely, but they never forced me to go. I willingly went down the path of rebellion myself and grew bitter in the process. Church hurt is real and the pain can be agonizing. The bitterness one can obtain by experiencing pain at the hands of the Church can be overwhelming. However, we must remember that those who make up that particular Church community are only man. They are not and will never be your Savior. There is only one who can fill that role and His name is Jesus. So if those individuals disappoint you, they are only living up to what they are: men and women in need of a Savior which you are as well. Will they have to own up to their mistakes? Yes. Will they own up to them when the time comes? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s not my job to make sure justice is served. Regardless of what the next course of action is for that faith community, you can only control how you respond to the pain they throw at you.
Today, as a woman who has committed a moral failure in my past (click here if you haven’t read my testimony), I still receive judgement by the church. I’m not sure that will ever change, but I also know that even if it doesn’t, I will still serve the Lord. Even in the face of great pain and suffering, I will choose to praise Him because the path of rebellion isn’t the only course on the map that you’ve been given. Jesus makes a way when it seems like there is no way, a way even if it’s hard to see because pain, bitterness, and rejection cloud your view. Jesus makes a way because He is the way. In spite of what has been done against you, He is the light that will lead you home. Jesus is the one who will set you free from the pain and suffering. Jesus is the one who can and will bring your story full circle.
We must not let sin against us produce a sin in us. I know it is easier said than done, but it can be done nevertheless. Yes, you might be completely justified in your hurt, anger, and frustrations, but don’t let that pain rob you of intimacy with the Father. He cares for you. Believe it or not, He cares for the person who has hurt you. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to deal with indifference, but we live in a fallen world where indifference is the norm. The Church may hurt you because of indifference, but God can bring healing to all parties involved. I know that it can be extremely hard to forgive those who hurt you. Whether it‘s the Church that has brought forth the pain or someone else, God doesn’t ask you to forgive them as a means to “let them off the hook.” God will ask you to forgive so that YOU can be let off the hook. Most of us believe that forgiveness is a one time decision, when in reality it’s a daily action we must walk out. They’re days I wake up and I don’t want to forgive where the day before it was easier to do so. They‘re days where I want the anger to be seen and felt by those around me, especially those who have hurt me.
At the end of the day, holding onto unforgiveness only hurts you. It’s a poison you drink hoping that the other person falls down in agony. It brings you to a place of despair where you question God’s judgement and if He’s truly good when deep down you know the answer to that. The Church whose hurt you or that person whose damaged you in so many ways, make the daily action to forgive and to move forward. You don’t have to hang around them, entertain them, fake friendship, and everything else. In fact, I would encourage you to guard your heart whatever that may look like after you prayerfully sought God on the matter. But walk in forgiveness and allow God to heal the broken parts of your heart and redeem your story. Don’t take matters into your own hands, it will only hurt you.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
I have learned in time that in every circumstance there is something I can learn and grow from. I might feel incredibly hurt by others, but I also know they’re things in every situation that I could have done differently. It takes a level of humility that can be uncomfortable to identify what those things are. However, I’m called to step outside of my comfort zone in order to grow as an individual and to grow His Church. I never want to live in such a way where I carry a pride and believe myself to be guilty free in all situations. Even when all arrows point towards me being the one wronged, I truly believe we can all identify something within us that could use some attention and growth.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3
If you have been hurt by the Church, please know that Jesus is still good even when you feel the opposite is true. Humanity gives room for error and fleshly intentions, where God is firm in His Truth and His attributes. He can’t fail, He doesn’t lie, He holds firm to justice and will fight on your behalf, He is close to the broken hearted, His burden is light, He lights up the darkness, and again, He always makes a way. You are not alone in your pain, but you don’t have to stay there. You are free to walk away and choose forgiveness and healing over bitterness rage. You are free to put it all in His hands instead of seeking revenge on your own. I know it’s hard, but you are capable because of the one who lives in you. He was capable of destroying death, hell, and the grave so He is more than capable of redeeming you and your painful circumstance.
Be blessed and remember our God is for you!