In the beginning we sat near the back. I would have said it was because of our young son — just in case we needed to go to the nursery to check on him. But if I’m honest, it was because I wanted to be closer to the exit.
My husband and I were visiting a new church for the first time in many years. We’d been at our previous church for over a decade, and when we left, it had been under painful circumstances. As I considered joining — really joining — a new church, I couldn’t help but wonder, What if we commit ourselves here only to be hurt again?
We continued to show up week after week, but I continued to plant one foot squarely by the door. Sure, on the outside I chatted warmly and even agreed to help lead a women’s Bible study. But on the inside I felt stiff — like I was wearing a suit of armor.
And then I met Jessica.
She was about my age with searching eyes, a gentle voice, and a set of difficult circumstances. She came to Bible study each week with an eagerness that was palpable. Jessica wanted to learn, and she knew she needed Jesus.
One week when we divided into smaller groups to discuss a passage from 1 Corinthians, one of the women stated how grateful she felt for the sanctification process. Most of the others nodded in agreement, except for Jessica. Her eyes clouded with confusion, and she began pouring over her Bible.
“Ladies, let’s back up a second,” I said. “Let’s clarify what sanctification means. Who would like to explain it to us?”
For the next few minutes, the women shared their understanding of the term, opening to different passages in the New Testament to illustrate. At first Jessica listened quietly, but then she began asking questions, and soon, a wave of understanding crossed her face. She smiled and left the study that morning with fresh confidence — in both her understanding of the Bible and in Christ’s promise to make her more and more like Him.
And that’s when it hit me: Church is not about me. It is about sharing the love of Jesus with others.
In my hurt and disappointment, I had made the church into a community that owed me something. If I pour out my time, energy, and heart, then I expect good in return. However, this was not Jesus’ approach at all. Rather, He chose to love the Church no matter the return.
And if I really wanted to be the Church — the very body of Christ to a broken world (1 Corinthians 12:27) — then I would need to love it as He did.
I drove home from Bible study with fresh eyes. Yes, there would be pain in the Church on this side of heaven, but I could trust Jesus to carry me through any circumstance. As Isaiah 49:10 declares, “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Piece by piece I began to lay down the walls of defense around my heart, asking Jesus to heal the tender places. And for the first time in a long while, I exhaled — not because I felt better, but because my awe in the goodness of God outweighed the hurt that had been holding me back.
Maybe you’ve experienced pain in the church, too. Maybe you find yourself reliving past hurts, reluctant to step wholeheartedly into new relationships or serving opportunities. If this is you, I encourage you to lay your wounds before our heavenly Father and lean on His promise to heal the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). You may need to meet with a counselor, seek to resolve a past hurt, or set a boundary for your safety. Whatever it takes, your brave work toward healing will be worth it.
And when you are ready, ask God to fill you with courage for the good work He has set before you (Ephesians 2:10). Stepping out may feel vulnerable and hard, but because of our Savior — the One who upholds us — we can choose lives of courageous love over self-protection.
The Sunday after Bible study that week, I slid into my usual pew toward the back of the sanctuary, but something in me felt lighter. I was free — not from the sting of hurt but from the weight of shielding myself from it. Trusting Jesus with my heart, I took a deep breath. Lord, I’m all in.
Thank you for this post. It is so true and a good reminder for anyone who has ever been disappointed or hurt by people in the church. Such a great reminder that it is ALL about Jesus and not about us. Blessings to you today!
Thank you Judy! Amen, it is all about Jesus. Blessings to you, too!
Ruth Mills says
Amen sister! Our church is in a difficult season yet I see this lesson being taught & learned within our body. The lesson is hard & painful but the end result of more dependence on Jesus is SO SO SO worth it. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.
PS Grateful for those willing to give their lives for our country & freedoms but even more grateful to The One Who frees us from our sin! HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY whether you’re in the USA or elsewhere.
Our hard lessons are always SO worth it! Happy Memorial Day!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Yes Church is not the building. It’s is us being the hands and feet of Jesus helping people not all walks of life praying for them and loving them like Jesus did when on earth. We can go to a church for the sake of it then say na don’t like this church it does nothing for me. Or say why am I hear no one talks to me or I don’t like the Pastor. Or the people in this church. Then we can be people that move to another church thinking it will meet our needs. No we find out it doesn’t either. We stayed a while in all the different types of churches trying to get them to be the perfect church for us. Then we find none of them our perfect. We will never find that perfect church for us as there is not one. They all have falts. As we are people who are not perfect and never will be. Only God can make us perfect. We never be perfect this side of earth. No never. Me and my Husband did all of the above years and years ago. We thought all of thoughts I just said. We stay in this or this Church for so long. Then we say the things I just said. Then leave and try to find a perfect Church for us both. We went on trying so many different Churches. Then one day God spoke to both us. Said all this church hopping from one church to another. Your both never going to get the perfect church you can keep on trying. But no you not find it God said to us. Then God said if you went to a church with your hearts prepared probably to get out the word that is preach in that church don’t look at all the flaws you see and all the things you think are wrong. Plus look at your un perfect lives. You will see you are just as in perfect as the people in the church no matter were you go. Go to get out of the word what I want you said God out of it and remember the church is not the building. It is us being the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost world and living as God would have us and helping people in need and praying for them. That is the true church. You will see a difference light in the church God said to us both. Then we did that before we went to church we got our hearts right. Dond what God told us. Asked him to forgive us for all the wrong throughts we had about the church and trying to find the perfect church which we never did and never will this side of earth. So we did that and our attatude changed to the way we think about church and seeing the fults in it. We now go for the right reasons and pray for the church. What God is saying to us through the word they speak. We now are happy in the Salvation Army that we go to. Thank you so much for sharing this word today love it. All in my prayers all incourage. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little God bless xx
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Meant to say of all walks of life not the word not forgive me xx
Thank you, Dawn, for sharing your story! Praise God for the way that He gently leads us.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Yes Leagh thank God for the way he leads us. Thank you for your reply. God bless. Enjoy your kids my God richly bless them and you. As they grow up far to fast. My sister Eldest is 22 next month. I don’t have any not that brave. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
I am sorry. There is a typo in a verse reference. The verse quoted should be from ISAIAH 41:10 NOT Isaiah 49:10. I love and claimed this particular promise as a teenager up till to date. Thank you for making the necessary correction.
Thank you, Angie, for your careful eye! Please forgive me for the typo! This is such a precious promise.
I think you need to be a little careful with the simplicity of this. I was going to a church for 17 years, and when my husband started an affair after 30 years of marriage, the pastor said a man having an affair is probably my fault as the wife. An elder offered to support and help my husband move out, because HIS second marriage was a better experience than his first. Another elder said “God made women beautiful, and sometimes as men we can overcome the lust, and sometimes they can’t.” My darlings, this IS NOT church. Simplifying these behaviors as something I must forgive makes NO SENSE. There are dangerous issues here, in this church, that should not be overlooked. I of course forgive their unbiblical responses, but this is not a leadership team ANYONE should be under the authority of, biblically speaking.
Stella, thank you for your message. I am grieved by the abuse that you and so many others have suffered at the hands of church leaders. These are not simple matters, and in many cases we need to set firm boundaries, confront abusers, seek counsel, and even take legal action. My heart here is not for easy forgiveness, but courageous steps toward healing. Thank you for sharing your story and bringing up this important point.
Beth Williams says
So sorry for what you have been through sweet sister. That particular church isn’t reading the Bible in the proper context. The leaders are not Godly men. Prayers for you as you travel this journey. Asking God to guide your steps & give you the wisdom needed to make decisions. Remember this also in the end God will ultimately judge everyone for their actions. Sending hugs your way. ((((((((((Hugs))))))))
Thank You for your Wonderful
I know they are what I needed
Day after Day!
Thank you, Sandy! God bless you!
Ariel Krienke says
We’ve been hurt by every church we’ve joined but think we were forcing because we really wanted to be part of a church. Now waiting for God to tell us when and where. I trust Him to know what’s best for us.
Ariel, I am so sorry that this has been your experience. I am pausing to pray for you right now. Amen that God is trustworthy, and He cares so deeply for us.
Wow this was something I really needed. My father was my pastor for my entire life, and when he went to heaven the church I had been so involved in just didn’t want me (or my family) any more, so we all left with a lot of pain.
Like you my husband and I searched for a new church family and I made the mistake of comparing everyone to my father. And everyone fell short.
Finally I heard God speaking to me and saying, “This is not about you….”.
It wasn’t until I accepted this that I realized I had something to offer just in a new location.
So happy to hear that someone else out there has had a similar experience.
Thanks for sharing!
Renae, thank you for sharing your story! Your courage in the midst of great loss and hurt is so beautiful and encouraging to hear. Praise God for the way He gently leads us.
Jillian DeBritz says
So grateful for your beautiful, gracious words here, Leah! Thanks for your courage to share such a vulnerable story that so many of us have experienced on different levels. I definitely relate to the feeling of self-protection that is a normal response to past hurt. Thanks for your gentle invitation to step forward anyway, trusting Jesus to do a new thing wherever we are!
Beth Williams says
Many churches today have become “entertainment” for their congregants. The members/attendees expect to have food, drinks, padded seats, nice music, etc. Throw in a sermon & there you have it. People aren’t generally going to church with a reverence for Almighty God. They want a good time & then they can check off their to do list attended church. It was never meant to be about us. Church is about God sending His only son to die a horrible death for us. Taking our place on the cross. It’s about the love of God not the ease of comfort of attendees. We need to rethink our ideas of church & go back to the fundamentals of courageous love.