Hurt. Wounded. Injured. From friends, family, neighbors, employees and even from strangers. Emotional and sometimes physical.
But how do we handle hurt when it comes from the church?
I remember the first time the church hurt us. Tony and I were serving in our first church staff positions. We were naive, fresh out of seminary with only a few years of full time ministry under our belts. Blissfully, we lived out the New Testament “one another.” We loved one another, served one another, and did life with one another.
At one point about three years into our new place of service, it became evident that two of the staff members were not working well together. Despite attempts to resolve the situation, it was not resolving itself in a way that satisfied both parties.
What was behind closed doors soon trickled out to the people causing a storm of differing views and developing opinions. Words were spoken. Relationships became strained. Sides were taken. Lines were drawn. Common ground forgotten.
Relationships were severed. People left the church. Deep hurt was felt on every side. It was sad and gut wrenching. We were left with our first experience of… “What do we do when the church hurts us?”
Like a sudden tornado ripping through a sleepy town unaware or the warning of a pending hurricane, the initial outcome after the storm hits is chaos, confusion and carnage. Even if you feel your actions were God led, it never feels completely right when unity is broken within the church. Surely there was something that could have been done differently? How do we move forward? Will we recover?
Church hurts have many layers because the church equals people and people inevitably hurt other people. Church hurts on deeper levels because of our expectations of those in the church. When the people of God do act like that, do say that, or really do that thing which cuts deeply we are left heartbroken and confused.
There is a church leader type of hurt stemming from inappropriate behavior towards another that is atrocious. This blog series is not directed at this type of hurtful situation. Please find a trusted therapist and the right group of people to help you work through this type of hurt.
If you are currently in the middle of a gut wrenching church ordeal, How to Recover from the Heartbreak of a Church Split on ChurchLeaders.com has helpful insights applicable to most any situation.
Here are a couple of don’ts and one do, I suggest:
Don’t Gossip. Find one or two trusted godly people preferably NOT attached to the situation. Seek their wisdom and prayer support. Otherwise refuse to talk about the situation. If you find yourself talking about it and end up tearing others down rather than building them up, you know you have crossed the line. Trying to get to the truth of what happened can leave you more confused and frustrated.
Don’t Leave Immediately. Give your emotions time to settle. God is never in a hurry and you want to make sure your decisions are God led rather than emotion driven. Find constructive ways to deal with your anger, sadness and hurt. Leaving in a huff is not God honoring and usually adds to the hurt and regret. Be careful not to make it your mission to take others with you as this is divisive. If you do leave, leave well.
Do Pray. Pray continuously along with reading God’s word. God’s prompting often does not match our emotions. What He calls us to do supersedes what others may say or what we may feel. Those who remove themselves from the discussion and seek God the most are the ones who will experience less hurt and walk more confidently in their decisions.
The next four blogs will look at the aftermath of church situations that have left you in a world of hurt. We will look at
- Moving from Hurt to Healing,
- The Discipline of Forgiveness,
- Popping the Reconciliation Bubble, and
- Learning to Trust Again.
Let’s stand firm in our faith and not allow any hurt, especially church hurt, to sideline us from all that God has intended for us!
(What does the Bible say? I Corinthians 3:3-9, 13:4-7; James 1:5)
Thank you for reading my blog. I have also written a Bible study for women, Image Wearers to Image Bearers. Gather a couple of your friends together and join me in learning the truth of what God’s Word has to say about who you are and who you are meant to be!