Is it possible to heal from church hurts? Will the hurt ever go away from Christians who wounded me? You may be asking yourself a string of these questions. And while the healing is never easy, I hope this series has at least infused you with a slight possibility that hope for the healing is possible both here and here.
As I’m coming back from my hiatus away from the blog, both Michael and I are ironically experiencing fresh wounds from a new body damage from the church. I won’t detail the incident in depth, but I will say this, my husband Michael and I haven’t even been able to go to a church building for awhile now because of our health.
The last time I went to church was almost four years ago now. I went into anaphylaxis from the surrounding chemicals unsuspectingly hidden in the formulas of people’s perfumes clustered around me in the pew as well as from the noticeably detectable mold (at least to me) in the air.
My husband Michael, last tried to go to church over a year ago. Tremors shook his body forcing the same reaction from him: he was unable to concentrate on the message and he was equally unfit to fellowship- his personal favorite part of church.
Now, with all of this said, we still have the church in our life by listening to sermons online, reading the Word together, and having God’s people in our lives. Things have gotten ugly in this last area recently as someone from the church who is in our life has demonstrated immense insensitivity. But as our good God would have it, other people in the church have banded together to provide for an area that this very person was attacking. If we were sitting together right now, just you and me, I think you would have to agree that it was a God thing.
But yet, the hurts are still there and we’re going to have to go through the healing process with God. Here are some of the steps we will be taking and some steps you can take and modify to heal from church hurts.
1.Don’t hold back the hurt from God as you initiate your healing from church hurts.
It can be easy to assume the righteous response would be to suppress our emotions (I talked more about this here) and to stop our tongue from ever sharing our words of hurt. But God doesn’t want just pious prayers, He wants all of us, including our hurts. Flip through the Psalms and pray the prayers of lamentations, tailor-fitting it to your situation.
2.Assess when and where you were wrong.
I know, I know, they were the ones who wronged you. This is all true, and they are not off the hook from God. But it’s always a good practice to examine our hearts to see if we did anything in the situation that was unpleasing to God. Did your righteous anger become hateful anger? Did you counter their vocal judgments towards you with silent judgments about them inwardly? I will be completely honest with you and say that if someone judges me, I have a difficult time restraining myself from judging them. This is where I can go wrong and need to ask forgiveness from God.
I do want to mention that it is good to get a proper handle on what’s judging and what’s not. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions and even that those actions shouldn’t be exposed in the light of day. Paul named the names of his accusers, but for a good reason: to warn the church of wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing. He didn’t do this to belittle them and he didn’t make assumptive judgments. But as I was just talking about, we have to ensure that a godly desire to be a truth-teller in these church hurts doesn’t overreach to slander.
3.Find safe, Goldy people to help you heal.
Typically, if you’ve been hurt by words, it will be words that will salve the hurts and help you heal. If it was an action that wounded you, many times, it will be an action that will help you mend. But notice everything I mentioned has one thing in common: people. Even though I know that community with people can sound downright terrifying right now if your church hurt was fresh, I think we all also know that choosing to be a hermit isn’t emotionally healthy. I mentioned in our current church hurt that God is providing people to beautify the ugliness. It has been immensely healing to see God’s hands and feet help to bandage what other hands have wounded. As a caveat, please guard your heart. You may be in a more vulnerable place and as such, may perpetuate the church hurt cycle.
4.Prayerfully consider the psychology behind why you ignored the red flags.
We all see those red flags waving, giving us that warning indication that a situation or a person is not completely right. But why do we miss them so many times believing a person or situation is safe when in reality it was posing a huge danger to us?
One, we may ignore these red flags masked as safe, healthy individuals when in reality they’re church hurts in the making because the payoff of ignoring the warning flag was more valuable to us than recognizing it for what it was. I’ll give you a fictitious example. Say the pastor of your church seemed a little off to you because, in his messages from the pulpit, he never shared any of his flaws, but instead, only his highpoints. In confidence, you share with him a struggle about your home life asking for prayer and counsel, only to hear your very confidential talk inappropriately disclosed from the pulpit in his sermon. But you ignored this flaw because he was such a dynamic and entertaining speaker and the church itself had great programs, so why leave? You see how easy it can be to ignore the signs? You can learn from this scenario by being alert to your red flag moments and reframing your mind to recognize that the true payoff is emotional and spiritual health.
You could also ignore the signs that there are church hurts brewing because of your family of origin. Were you in a home filled with belittling remarks and arbitrary rules? You may be attracted to a church out of familiarity that’s legalistic and views grace as a curse word. Or, you may go to the other extreme in the attempt to heal by involving yourself in a church that redefines grace as a license to sin.
There is most definitely a psychology to our beliefs and it’s up to us to prayerfully consider this factor for healing so we don’t replicate church hurts. I plan on talking about this later either in another post or in a short book. But in the meantime, have you examined why you hold to the beliefs you do? Could it be that your family of origin played a role positively or negatively in your church hurts?
5.Heal from your church hurts by adopting the exact opposite behavior of the person/people who hurt you and be intentional helping someone in this specific area.
Several years ago when I was experiencing hourly seizures, lost my mobility almost completely, and my family was fearful they would lose my life, my husband was encouraged by others to ask for help at the local megachurch he was attending to ask for help, explaining our story and my need to see a doctor which was hampered by our recent insufficient funds. The woman with a noticeably expensive outfit and perfectly coiffed hair coldly sent him away. On my husband’s way out, he couldn’t help but notice that the lobby was filled with massive Christmas trees and decked out ornately. It felt like misplaced priorities where the church building is taken care of more than the church body.
The experience shook my husband and me so much that someone would turn away a congregant of the church that we decided we wanted to be the hands and feet that church wasn’t for us. Our vision when we become more functional in our health is to have a church plant that serves people in need, especially those with chronic health issues.
But it doesn’t have to be something this major. Did the church hurts you endure include slander? Adopt an attitude of an encourager and intentionally go out of your way to lend hope through your words. Did the church hurts include judgment and shame? Go out of your way to ensure an outsider is included and take the time to ask them for their story. You get the point, be the change to someone that you wish they were to you.