Healing from church hurts

Picture of the inside of a church

Unfortunately, a good number of people raised in church have left the church, and most often, not because of theological disagreements but rather because they’ve been deeply hurt. They’ve been told they’re too much or not enough, and have been shut down when they honestly express their emotions and struggles. Others have experienced the toxicity that almost always comes when the unhealthy and emotionally and spiritually immature are placed in leadership positions.

Quote from post on tan background

A few weeks ago, the lead minister at my church and another pastor discussed the pain many have experienced in the name of religion and then apologized for wounds they, intentionally or not, inflicted on others. And while I thought briefly of various hurts I’ve experienced throughout my faith journey, that wasn’t the primary message my heart received. Instead, God brought people to mind that had scars because of me. Those driven from rather than to Jesus, because of my behavior. Caused by fear, defensiveness, and pride. 

I knew God wanted me to follow my pastor’s lead, and so I did. I began reaching out to those I knew I’d hurt. Women who, through my actions, words, or lack of, I’d made feel unvalued and unseen. And it didn’t matter whether or not I’d had provocation. If their sin or dysfunction had triggered the sin and dysfunction within me. Granted, there’s a time and place for honest discussion, when wounds remain. 

But mine had healed. And besides, in these situations, I’d been the leader, the one who was supposed to model what it looked like to live and love like Jesus. To get my needs met by Him, to find my identity in Him. Ultimately, to receive strength and encouragement from Christ and a close circle of mature and Holy Spirit empowered peers.

I neglected both, people were hurt, and God wanted me to take responsibility for the pain I’d caused. To make it clear, though I may have represented Him in my role, my behavior had not.

He wanted me to live out His commands in Matthew 5:23-24, where Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against  you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (NIV).

Words from Matthew 5:23-24 on tan background.

And so I did, and I can only hope my honest apologies helped heal those wounds my words and actions created, wounds that may even have driven them, for a time from the church. At the very least, I hope they were able to see Christ’s love and grace more clearly.

We all have a responsibility to create safe, healthy places where people can experience God. And we all have areas of dysfunction that threaten those same safe places we’re prayerfully trying to create. This means, you and I will hurt people along the way, and we’ll also get hurt. When others wound us, may we seek comfort and healing from Christ, refusing to retaliate and grow bitter. And when we’re the ones to cause pain, may we own up to every behavior that taints the image of Christ within us. 

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’ve experienced church hurt, you might find the latest Faith Over Fear episode helpful.

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

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