It’s a sad fact of life, but people can get hurt in church.
I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.
And what’s worse is the pain we experience in church hurts more because we expect to be safe in church.
“Church folks are (mostly) Christian people, right? Shouldn’t they be loving and kind, like Jesus?“
The reality is, if you’ve been in church any length of time, you’ve probably been hurt. Either by a pastor or another congregant. Maybe they said something judgemental, or they gossiped about you. Or maybe it was neglect, rejection, backstabbing. There’s no shortage of ways humans can hurt each other and churches are no exception. [sigh]
So if you’ve been on the receiving end of pain caused by a churchgoer, let me tell you how very sorry I am for you. I’m so sad you’ve been mistreated at the hands of those who claim the name of Jesus. (and he’s sad about it too).
Your feelings are valid and your hurt is real.
It may be difficult to know how to move forward.
Should you leave the church?
Should you confront the people who hurt you?
Or maybe you should just forgive and forget.
There are 3 universal human responses to pain: fight, flight, and freeze.
- FIGHT- Some of you are ready to go at it if someone causes you pain. Whether you express your frustration in an argument, angry emails, or texts, you will NOT allow yourself to be mistreated without a fight.
- FLIGHT- You’ve been hurt and so now you’re avoiding the situation, the person(s), and maybe even avoiding the church altogether. After what you’ve been through, you can’t get out of there fast enough.
- FREEZE- You feel paralyzed by the situation. You may keep going to church, but you’re not fully engaged or truly present. Your church experience has been reduced to going through the motions with little to no engagement.
- The reality is, none of these 3 options is the Jesus way through church trauma.
What should you do instead?
Find loving relationships to help you process your pain and begin to heal.
The pandemic was particularly hard on pastors. A friend of mine who’s in the ministry decided to have monthly meetings with his staff during the pandemic. They would share some wine and just spend time holding each other’s pain. He said that those meetings were the highlight of his year. Just getting together with his colleagues and being gut-level honest about their bad experiences at church left him feeling cared for and whole again.
The beginning of his healing from all the chaos and hurt of that season started with that group of people.
“Carry each other’s burdens and in that way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:2
Find comfort with God in prayer.
There is a supernatural power that fills the longings of our souls when we go to God in prayer. The Holy Spirit is able to minister to our souls when we stop doing and just sit in His presence. When he has our undivided attention, He can then begin to bring perspective, peace, and calm to places where those things are in short supply…or don’t exist at all.
Stillness can the most challenging posture in a season of pain. Staying busy and in constant motion can sort of mask the hurt that’s just beneath the surface.
But I promise, if you find the courage to sit with the Lord in your pain, He will bring the sweet relief of healing to your soul in ways that only He can.
Bring meaning to your pain
Once you’ve been through a painful experience, you are uniquely gifted to help another going through the same thing. Seek out those who may have experienced hurt in church and just sit and listen to their story.
Some of the most powerful words in the English language are: “Me too.”
To come alongside someone and relate to them and their story lets them know they’re not alone. Others have experienced the same pain…and even lived to tell about it.
You could be the reason they don’t quit on church, or on God.
Using woundedness as motivation to bring healing to another is the ultimate smack in the devil’s face. He wants us to live in bitterness and resentment. Don’t allow your bad church experience to bring you down in the pit of misery. Choose to find healing for yourself and then bring that healing to those around you.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” -1Thessalonians 5:11