I was exhausted and worn out from a long day, and my bed was calling my name when my youngest child started to throw a huge temper tantrum. His screams were piercing, and my head was pounding. After he went on and on for what seemed like an eternity, I finally had enough! My patience ran its course, my cool was lost, and so I shouted, “SHUT UP”! Regret immediately filled my heart as hot tears ran down my face. I crossed the line, and my son passionately confirmed it. He exclaimed, “How could you Mom! You are supposed to be a Christian and a pastor”. It was then, that I decided not to continue the screaming match. Instead, I took a deep breath and prayed a quick and quiet prayer. I petitioned God to settle my heart and emotions. Although I was embarrassed at myself, I knew God was giving me and my son a “teaching moment”. I explained to my first grader that even though Mommy is a Christian and a leader in the church, I am human. I make mistakes and need God, just as much as everyone else! After spending some time talking, praying and cuddling, my son and I returned to being “best buddies forever”.
As I finally went to bed that night, it dawned on me; there are many Christians that need to experience this kind of “redeemable moment”. You see, many Christians are dealing with “church hurt” and they don’t know how to get past it. Church hurt is when you have been a victim of ill-treatment by people in the church. Church hurt can be intentional, but more times than not, it is unintentional. Whatever the case, too many Christians are walking around crippled because they are upset with the church. The hardest thing about “church hurt” is most people are blindsided when it happens. For some reason, we fail to understand Christians aren’t perfect and we make mistakes. We particularly get offended when Christian leaders disappoint us or fail to meet our expectations. Most people expect the world to wound you, ignore you, or talk bad about you behind your back, but not the people in the church. Brothers and sisters, we must learn that we live in a fallen world and the church is full of broken people. We must realize everyone everywhere, is in need of Gods’ grace and everyone everywhere makes mistakes.
Friends, I am going to let you in on a little secret. Pastors and leaders have “church hurt” too. Often times their hurt is deeper than you can even imagine. When families leave the church, the pastor feels hurt. When people go through a crisis, church leaders hurt. When people misunderstand or misjudge, or talk bad about the pastor, he or she hurts. Just as you are human, so are pastors. I believe the reason “church hurt” tends to catch us off guard is because the church is family, the family of God. But just like in any natural family the church has brokenness and pain. There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect pastors. There is only one perfect savior and his name is Jesus.
The Lord wants us to realize there is a purpose in our pain and healing for our hurt, even our “church hurt”. We can overcome this bait of Satan, and we can let go of our offense, hurt, bitterness and pain. Unfortunately, as long as our churches are made up of imperfect people we will continue to have church hurt, but we can learn to respond to it in a godly way. I want to share with you three steps I have had to take in my own life to overcome church hurt.
Three steps that will help you overcome Church Hurt:
- Step one, allow God to be your defender!
Several years ago I went through an extremely tough season of heartache and pain that could have caused me to resign the ministry. On top of health and financial problems, I had to work through some “church hurt”. There were people who viciously gossiped and slandered my character as well as our church. I knew there was no truth in what was being said, but I wanted to stand up for myself and my church. Rather than taking matters into my own hands, I chose to keep my mouth shut and to trust God to defend me. After all, my Savior knows more, understands deeper and is always good, just and merciful. Although I wasn’t perfect in this season, I learned a difficult lesson…God is my defender!
The Bible says in Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Lord is your mighty defender, perfect and just in all His ways; your God is faithful and true; He does what is right and fair.” As leaders, there must come a time in our spiritual development where we can give God those who offend us and allow Him to deal with them. We need to understand and trust that only The Lord truly discerns people’s intentions. God’s timing is perfect and He can convict and restore much better than we can. Instead of trying to clear your name and defend yourself, pray for those who mistreat you and watch God vindicate you!
- Step two, recognize the tactics of the enemy.
Recently I was told a former long-time member of our church said we don’t bear any fruit in our ministry. At first, I was truly upset. I couldn’t believe this person would say something like that after all the things my husband and I personally did for him. But by God’s grace, my eyes were opened and I remembered that people are not my enemy. The devil is the enemy, so instead of falling victim to his accusations, I decided to expose Satan for what he is – A LIAR!
The Bible reminds us in Eph. 6:12 that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil”. Many times people are oblivious when they say and do things that hurt our feelings. But you’d better believe the enemy knows what is going on. Part of the tactic of the enemy is to get you mad at your Christian brothers and sisters with the intention to divert you from the real war! The devil’s desire for us is to waste our time being offended at people instead of warring against him in prayer. Prayer is one of our greatest weapons and the enemy will do whatever it takes to distract you from praying. He desires to bother us with petty frustrations from the body of Christ because he hopes you will eventually give up on church and maybe even on God. Be careful friends, don’t let the devil deceive you and cause you to get stuck because of church hurt. Don’t allow the devil to immobilize you and keep you from completing the work God has called you to do. Now is not the time to shrink back. Instead, pick up your spiritual weapons of warfare and aim them at the real enemy! (Eph. 6:10-17)
- Step three, give grace to the body of Christ.
My dear friend, Laura, recently prayed me through some of my own church hurt. Through my time of prayer, God revealed to me that I had to release grace and forgiveness towards someone who hurt my feelings. I recalled the words of Jesus on the cross when He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Forgiveness may be the hardest thing we have to do as Christians. It is particularly hard after we spend too much time rehashing what caused us pain and wallowing in our anger. Though it is difficult to forgive, it is required by God. It is our Father’s will for us to give grace to people and forgive them so we can mature in the Lord. Give your brothers and sisters in the Lord the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they did not know what you were going through, or maybe they were caught up in their own brokenness. It is very likely they have no idea how much hurt they caused you. Whatever the case, it is our responsibility to follow our Lord’s example and forgive others just as we have been forgiven.
If the church has hurt you in the past, please forgive her. Don’t give up on the church because God still loves her and uses her to reach hurting people, just like you and me. Church hurt is real and it is painful, but there is a purpose in our pain. Trust God to give you the strength you need to forgive the church of all her misdeeds and join with us again in this imperfect walk of grace.