I paused for a moment at the end of the driveway. I was supposed to head south. South was our church, where I was supposed to sit with my children in my usual place and listen attentively as my husband preached. I reached for the gear shift as tapes replayed in my head:
“You know they’re trying to get your husband fired, don’t you?”
I thought about another Sunday of smiling while my heart was breaking and worshipping while watching my back.
I headed north. And as I drove north toward a place where I didn’t have to worry about causing a stir because the pastor’s wife was crying through church, my heart vibrated in rhythm with the thump of the tires on the asphalt.
Lord, loving your people hurts right now.
What are we to do when loving God’s people hurts? Sometimes it will. This church thing is glorious when we get it right, but when we get it wrong it goes deep. What was meant to be a place of healing becomes a place of wounding, and it hurts all the more because we know it wasn’t meant to be this way. What do we do when reaching out in love feels like pushing through the flames?
Look to Jesus as your healer.
I’ve been bruised by God’s people, left struggling to keep my soul-fire from burning out. Our Jesus is the one who will not crush a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. He knows what it feels like to be rejected, betrayed, and forsaken, and it is by His stripes that we are healed. It helps to remember that my wholeness depends not on other’s repentance but on God’s divine restoration. I may want those who have hurt me to fix the wounds they have caused, but Jesus is the healer of my soul.
Remember who the real enemy is.
In Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss is reaped to face the Hunger Games for a second time. Before she enters the arena her mentor warns her to remember who the real enemy is. When we are wounded by God’s people we face the same challenge. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Satan can’t stand against a united church. That’s why he tries so hard to destroy it. It is only in the strength of our life together that we can storm the gates of hell.
Replace bitterness with blessing.
The dangerous roots of bitterness worm their way into the bedrock of our hearts. They creep their way in with every argument we let play out in our minds and work their way deeper as we nurse grudges and vent to well-meaning friends. Left unchecked, bitterness slowly poisons our souls. The antidote for bitterness is blessing. Ask God to show you his heart for those who have wounded you. Pray blessings over them — joy, peace, repentance, a kind heart, the willingness to change, a teachable spirit. When we learn to bless those who have hurt us, we begin to see our circumstances from heaven’s point of view. It is in that place that our healing begins.
Learn to love the Bride.
The church is not an accident of history but a part of God’s eternal plan. Christ died for the church and has chosen her for his bride. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. When we respond to hurt by removing ourselves from the body it damages the church. We are part of this kingdom story, and our hurt should not stop us from loving well.
Time has passed since that tearful Sunday morning, and I’ve found healing. Being wounded by God’s people tastes bitter, but I’ve also tasted the sweet power of the church dwelling in unity. Hebrews tells us to “keep on loving each other as brothers” (13:1). Loving God’s people can hurt. But that doesn’t mean we should quit. Keep reaching out. Keep loving. Keep holding on to hope. Together we are the church; the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our unity is worth fighting for.
Hi Leigh. I was blessed by your post. I’ve been dealing with some similar issues lately. Thanks so much for sharing and being transparent. 🙂
Thank you for sharing. I’ll be praying that God surrounds your heart with his peace. ((hugs))
I’ve been dealing with the same thing. It’s so much harder getting hurt by people who are Christians, because we expect more of them than betrayal, gossip and back-biting. My pastor said a few weeks ago, “Church is unique in that it’s the only place where we shoot our wounded.” That’s what it feels like sometimes. Like people are just waiting for you to screw up so they can finish you off.
You’re so right. We expect Christians to act like who they are and it hurts when they don’t. We are bad about shooting our own wounded. But I am convinced of this: Jesus heals our wounds. All of them. And he has intended better things for his people. We can find them if we have the courage to press on.
This is such a great post. I don’t know anyone who HASN’T been hurt by someone in the church, which is so sad. A great reminder to remember who the enemy is…and that just because we are inside the church walls doesn’t mean we won’t experience hurt.
Like this: http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com/2013/09/sunday-school-smackdown.html
So, I loved this: “It helps to remember that my wholeness depends not on other’s repentance but on God’s divine restoration.”
And this: “It is only in the strength of our life together that we can storm the gates of hell.”
Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks for sharing your story. Yes, I think it’ s so important to remember we have an enemy and he doesn’t play fair. When I am hurt, keeping that in mind helps stop me from falling into his trap. Jesus heals our wounded hearts.
I think we ‘expect’ God’s people to, somehow, only reflect Christ and His unconditional love for us. But, unfortunately, we are human and fallible. Fallen and yet forgiven. My only RL meet-up (at the other gal’s home) ended up with the her ‘dropping me’ (as a friend? sister in Christ?), after a few get-togethers, via her e-mail explaining she was going to be too busy to get together from now on.
Why? I guess I’ll never know. But I do know that all I did was love her the way Christ loves me. Unconditionally and without judgment. Transparency is required, but it hurts!
It still hurts (over a year later) to be rejected. For whatever reason(s). So I take comfort in knowing that I can pray God’s blessings for her. And that for me, by His stripes I am healed.
Reflecting on Jesus’ friends and how He was treated by this world, He came to love others and to give others the Greatest Gift. That is what my purpose is – to reflect Him and love others as He loves me.
Rejection will happen. Even in the Church. Amongst Brothers & Sisters in Christ.
Because we have yet to personify Christ.
To be so utterly filled with the Holy Spirit, that what spills forth is just Jesus.
Being rejected does hurt. I find it’s when I get to that point I can pray blessings over the other person that God moves in and brings healing. Thanks for sharing.
Donna R. says
Thank you for the section on “replace bitterness with blessing”. Very timely post. Has been a struggle for me.
Ric "The Turtle" Ryan says
At almost seventy years old this is an old. old story that happens over and over. People take offense where none was intended to be given and they nurse. Just a few years back I had to help close the books on a church that died from attrition. There was plenty of money in the bank but the elders did not want to spend it. In my sixties I was still the junior member in the church. When I did finally rise to the top all we could do was close the doors and give it all away. I really enjoyed helping give away over a hundred thousand dollars. It is a small town and when I asked people to attend they would tell be about so and so and how he hurt them, or what kind of people were in my church. Many of these things happened thirty to forty years ago. Since then I have joined a real caring and outgoing church and it is actually fun to go to church again. People who “take offense” can destroy a church. Sometimes it is hard to do, but the Bible says the truth will set you free. I have seen it happen many times in my life, taking the time to confront and remove the issues leads to healing. Not dealing with issues gives Satan a foothold in your church. Really enjoyed your post.
Thanks for sharing, Ric. You’re right–when we refuse to confront issues it gives Satan a foothold. And that inward focus and protection of resources is one of the top warning signs of a dying church. I’m glad you have found a church that is caring and outgoing–that’s how it’s meant to be.
I love your writing style and especially the reality that you encourage each of us within the Body of Christ to not let hurt stop us. “We are part of this kingdom story, and our hurt should not stop us from loving well. ” Thanks Leigh for reminding us that Unity truly IS worth it!
Excellent article Leigh! You’ve got a lot of wisdom, I love the example you gave in how to pray for those who hurt us, I will be implementing that in my prayer life immediately!!
From today forward I will practice replacing bitterness with blessing.
Thank you for this thought.
Amen and Amen!
Thank you for expressing these truths in such a God honouring way.
I have been a part of the Church for more than 50 years. In that time I have been hurt and slandered but have also been loved and affirmed. I have been lonely and afraid and also welcomed and encouraged.
Right now I’m part of a wonderful expression of Church.
I pray for the day the Church here on earth reflects heaven and remembers her God given identity as the beloved Bride of Christ. It is only as we know that intimate love relationship with our heavenly bridegroom that we can relate to one another with that
It is that hope that keeps me going when I get it wrong and that motivates me to seek the unity that is found in community.
Sorry to ramble!
What a great post! It really hit home for me as I was hurt many years back from some Christians who decided it was their job to judge me as I divorced my abusive ex-husband. But today I no longer hold bitterness or anger towards any of them. I have handed them over to the Lord in prayer.
your wisdom in your comment, of blessing those who hurt us, is about the only way it heals us as well, and having “been there and done that”, with a big church, it does leave a scar, but am so glad that Jesus does give us grace and allows us to continue to love and bless those … He has scars from loving us, so why should we be different! I pray continued grace on your heart, your memories and those who need to be blessed still… from your heart to theirs.. and for mine here as well… it is an ongoing process, isn’t it?!
I too am a pastor’s wife. It has been the most difficult job I have ever had (I am a nurse) because of the hurts I have experienced from members of our church. I am especially vulnerable to those attacks on my husband. Many tears and prayers and more forgiveness than I ever thought possible have been my life story, but the Lord has given me grace and an extreme amount of love and reminds me that the forgiveness that He gives us is meant for us to give to others. Leigh, thank you for your story, sharing helps the healing.
Thanks so much for sharing! I agree with what someone said above, that church is the only place where we shoot our wounded. I have experienced this so many times in the church I attend, and have been at the receiving end, it just breaks my heart. When someone is going through tough times, really tough times, we shouldn’t try to take them down, or judge them, we should love them and come alongside them, like Christ does… Because i have been ill with so many health issues for so many years, people start to think I’m making it up, I’m told I don’t have enough faith, and to get over it, and then they (shoot the wounded) so to speak. God has the power to heal anything, but sometimes He chooses not to for reasons unknown to us. Not every illness is because of sin in your life, although it can happen. In my case, I just have many health debilitating health issues. And when I need\needed support and prayer, i received a shot to the side. It is so much more hurtful and heartbreaking when you are wounded by brothers and sisters in Christ, and makes it hard to trust anyone, but like you said, I believe there is healing for it. Christ can always heal our emotional wounds when we let Him in to help. Praying for those of you who have been wounded also!
Liz Jones says
I loved this post. I have been a member at my church for over ten years but have not felt connected in quite some time-mostly due to my own issues- a tendency to isolate, to self-protect rather than get too close or too personal- and not to mention two kids, a husband in school and working and working FT myself. I have found excuses not to love the bride because it makes me feel “safe”, I know this is a lie straight from the pit. This past month I stepped out and started a fellowship group for Moms at my church and I am also planning on speaking with the Pastor about expanding this somehow-maybe doing a MOPS group. I am done holding back from the church- I need the church- and the church needs me! I know I have gifts to offer and I finally WANT TO more than I FEEL FEARFUL of the rejection or not “fitting in” that has kept me distant in the past. Once Sunday we were on our way to church, just me and my boys as my husband does not attend regularly (another hurt and struggle that sometimes has kept me back)- my 6 year old asked me- “Mom -why do we go to church?” And I told him that the church was part of our FAMILY and that we BELONGED there and that Sundays were a power source for us-just like plugging in to recharge our phones- we have to plug into the Body of Christ. Anyways, just thought I would share this. I hope my son will not only hear these words but SEE his Mom stepping up to connect with the body of Christ and also he himself experience the power of this connection!
Teresa Camp says
Thank you so for your post! I would love for all our churches to add this to their church bulletin! I think it will be so uplifting for those of us who have been hurt and those of us that have allowed the lies of satan to hurt others…I have been on both ends….I have been hurt deeply and know I have hurt others at times by words and actions, deceived by satan…it is hard when you have been hurt to forgive and pray blessings over them. But, oh how The Lord fills us with his Love and compassion that overflows…..and the freedom we experience when we forgive others…Your words of wisdom have been such a blessing to me… So thankful for Grace ! So thankful for you my friend…..I am sending this post to my 30 year old son.. He is angry at the church. My prayer is that this post will speak to his heart.. Realizing we are all human, perfectly imperfect, needing the only perfect man, Jesus Christ! To love and forgive others as he loves and forgives us….Looking forward to your future post!
Glenda Mills says
I wept when I read this! Thank you!
Beth WIlliams says
I hurt when people mention that church has hurt them. I have a nephew who won’t go to church anymore due to being alienated along the way. Why can’t people just love each other and forgive as Jesus did. Why gossip and back bite all the time?
Prayers for each of you here today!@
G. Smith says
This is right on time for me. Unity is worth fighting for. Amen.