Nearly every day, our family is in contact with hurting and wounded individuals who are going through anything from relational issues, to physical challenges, sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, financial strain, and many other tough issues. We hear many “heart-cries” as they struggle to make sense of the devastation and pain they are going through. And nothing causes us to rejoice more than when we see them walking toward healing in the midst of their painful journeys.
Every painful event we face is hard. Life in a sin-filled world will always be hard. But I believe some of the hardest wounds to heal are the ones caused by the church. The body of Christ.
I believe this is one of the most effective weapon Satan has for driving a person away from God. After all, since Christians are supposed to be followers of Christ and a reflection of Jesus, isn’t He, in some ways, responsible for this hurt? And why would I want anything to do with a “body” who condemns and disdains others who they think are inferior or who don’t apply the Scriptures in quite the same way they do?
But wait a minute. It’s vital that the “truth” of God is proclaimed and not “sugar-coated,” right? Are WE responsible if someone is hurt or offended by our blunt proclamation of the truth? And what about the authority of the church? Aren’t we commanded to make sure those in our “flock” obey those “who have the rule” over them?
Numerous times, we’ve heard from people who have been deeply wounded by the “body” of Christ–those who should be representing the loving, (yet just) heart of Jesus. And we find that these wounds go much deeper than the wounds caused by other people.
When you receive the news that someone from church has been talking about you behind your back, or you begin to feel like you are being manipulated by a fellow church member, or when harsh condemnation comes from a “brother” or “sister” in Christ, it is like receiving a backstab. You experience more than just the pang of the act…you also have to deal with the sting of betrayal that takes you by surprise.
You see, we can expect strife, conflict, condemnation, and even hatred from nonbelievers, but we expect the church to be a place of safety. A second “family” where we can be encouraged and strengthened and where we can regroup before going back into the harsh “battle.”
Now, I am aware that there are those who blame the church for being insensitive and judgmental, so they have an excuse to continue in the pleasure of their sins. But I’m not referring to them. I’m talking about sincere “babes in Christ” and other committed Christians who’ve been deeply hurt by a fellow believer.
I was recently talking with a friend who is going through a difficult situation in their church. As I heard how the leaders of this church were misrepresenting what it means to be under the authority of the church, I became angry at the misinterpretation of scripture, the manipulation, and the guilt they were putting on members simply to keep things under their control. On top of that, it wasn’t even about a church issue, but was regarding a personal family situation.
When those within the authority of a church (or ministry) abuse their “power,” the church becomes a dictatorship, which often leads to many individuals being hurt and eventually leaving the church. Hopefully, this doesn’t cause them to also walk away from the “body,” as a whole.
Since there will always be hurts and misunderstandings caused BY each of us and TO each of us, we need to be equipped to know how to better deal with them. So what are some ways for a person to find healing when they’ve been wounded by the church? There are no step-by-step instructions or an easy, clear-cut path, but here are several things that God brought to my mind:
~Remember that church members and respected leaders are just as human as you, and are not without sin. Unfortunately, there are leaders who struggle with pride and have been taught that they need to appear as if they are “above reproach” in order to be respected. (In fact, don’t we sometimes put expectations on them, putting them on a pedestal, and making them feel like they should be perfect?) Many of us who are parents, have found that our children have more respect for us when we acknowledge our failures, (They see them, whether we acknowledge them or not!) repent, and ask for forgiveness rather than trying to appear as if we’re never wrong. Now this certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t try in every way possible to be as Christ-like as we can.
~Rest in the fact that this isn’t God’s heart. This isn’t who He is. Don’t blame Him for His children’s faults…We all know of families who have raised their children in much the same way, and one grows up to be rebellious, wayward, and unproductive while another one is godly and well-respected in the community. Should we judge the parents by the wrongs we see in one of the children?
~People who say or do hurtful things are hurting and need YOU to pray for them. As you think of the situation that you’re struggling with, use this as a reminder to pray for that individual(s). Satan hates when you use this as a reminder to pray for them, and he will think twice before he brings it to your mind again.
~Keep in mind that just because the church misrepresented or twisted the “truth,” it doesn’t invalidate what is TRUTH. Don’t throw it away just because it was portrayed wrong. Dig into God’s word and ask Him to show YOU what His plan is for you.
~Don’t ever judge the whole “body” by those who’ve hurt you. Find those who truly are obeying the commands of Christ and walking with Him. Having a mentor who can keep you accountable is very important in your walk of faith. But always be aware that anyone can and will fail you, because we are fallen people.
~Take the time to identify the root cause of your pain. Instead of focusing on what someone said or did to you, determine to stop rehearsing it and start finding healing for your pain. When you spend all your time reliving the event and the hurt it caused, you will never find healing. Is your anger caused because you feel rejected? If this is the case, find your identity in Jesus and ask Him what He says about rejecting you. Allow Him to fill your needs rather than looking to others to do it.
~Remember that God doesn’t hold you responsible for others’ wrong choices. It’s not your responsibility to make sure someone else is “set in their place” and their wrongs corrected, but He holds YOU responsible for any root of bitterness, anger, slander, or hatred in your heart. This is one of His commands for you….”Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)
May each of us freely repent of our own wrongs, willingly forgive those who’ve hurt us, and graciously extend the love and heart of Jesus to everyone we meet.
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)