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 Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82 Faith Over Fear

At times, God’s call to love others persistently and sacrificially can feel confusing, especially if the individual we’re reaching out to behaves in unhealthy and hurtful ways. How can we love well, in a way that is healthy and emotionally and mentally safe? In this episode, Jennifer discusses ways our insecurities and past hurts can pose personal challenges, how God uses those challenges to create increased beauty within us, and the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in all our interactions. 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 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails here: https://bit.ly/3l1eAYs Resource mentioned: Becoming His Princess Bible Study Video Week One: https://bit.ly/3o5qHFG Group Discussion Questions: 1. What did you find most helpful in today’s episode and why? 2. How often do you pause to evaluate your reactions to particular people or situations? 3. In what ways have your insecurities or past hurts colored your perception during disagreements or relationally tense moments? 4. Consider someone with whom you often experience difficulty. How much of your ongoing issues might be exacerbated by unresolved hurts from your past? 5. When, if ever, do you find yourself getting sucked into someone else’s drama? 6. What are some ways you can avoid this? 7. How well do you “shake off” rejection? 8. What might healthy boundaries look like in your situation? 9. What do you find most challenging when it comes to establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries? 10. What is one action step you feel God is wanting you to take after having listened to this podcast episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/LinaDes
  1. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82
  2. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 1) – Ep. 81
  3. The Love That Casts Out Fear – Ep. 80
  4. Anchored in Christ When the Storms of Life Hit – Ep. 79
  5. The Courage to Grieve – Ep. 78

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