When You’ve Been Hurt by the Church
Hurt. We’ve all experienced it, right? We each are familiar with what it’s like to experience heartache. You and I understand the pain that accompanies the hurt. We also know it can be difficult to maneuver through.
Especially when it happens in the Church and by the people who make up the Body of Christ.
I find it interesting how often I come across people who have been hurt by the Church. I hear snippets of stories in conversations and painful testimonies of the real-life heartbreak some have experienced in their churches. From others, who like they, love Jesus.
I’ve heard this group of people be described as the “walking wounded,” or “church damaged.” I don’t particularly care for these descriptions, but they may be the most appropriate. Can we come up with something better though? These are people just like you and me, and they’ve experienced something personally through the Church to cause them pain and heartache.
How do I know? Because I am one of these people.
And I often unintentionally run into others who fall into this group.
I am continually reminded the Church is comprised of broken people, just as the world is.
And I may be the most broken of them all. God uses these broken people to relate to and reach other broken people. Understandably, wreckage can take place in the Church, just as it can in the world around us.
But maybe we have different expectations of the Church? Maybe we think it’s a safe place, and in all reality, it should be. But so often, it isn’t. When damage occurs from this “safe” place, deep wounds filled with pain and heartache result and oftentimes remain exposed for a very long time.
I know how it feels to be treated as an outcast by another who loves Jesus.
I understand the pain of watching evil destroy what was once beautiful and holy.
And I get how difficult it is to walk away from an unhealthy environment that at one time encouraged you and strengthened your walk with the Lord.
The day I walked away from the Church, I wasn’t sure I’d ever return.
Because the hurt was too great, and I had experienced enough.
After all, I didn’t expect this.
I didn’t expect to experience such evil in and from the Church. I didn’t expect to feel the knife from a fellow Christian stabbing me in my back. I expected it out there in the world, but in the Church? No way. And I didn’t expect the pain that accompanied walking away from a church family who I once cherished so much.
Would we ever return? I doubted it. Would I ever heal? I wondered. Would the heartbreak ever go away? I didn’t think so.
Three years passed. Our family still loved Jesus, but we didn’t particularly care for His followers. We still worshipped Jesus and read our Bibles, but we had no desire to attend a church service ever again.
Until God opened a door to do so.
In looking for a new job, a friend suggested I apply for the office position at her church, saying, “You’d be great!”
You can imagine my hesitancy. “A church? I don’t think so.”
But for some reason, I went ahead and applied. A prior church that once met in their building was a pleasant part of my history, and if for nothing else, out of curiosity I wanted to check it out.
A week later I was hired and two weeks later I found myself sitting behind the desk in the office at this church. In a church! I was working for a church! What???
Isn’t it just like God to immerse me in the Church through employment so He could restore and revive my perspective of it?
Six years later I’m still employed by this church. In a different role, but I’m still serving God and others through it. We slowly became a part of this church family as God helped us see this was our place to grow in our faith. This is the place He wanted us to be.
No church is perfect, and neither is the Body of Christ. Christ is perfect, but His followers are not.
His followers are broken, imperfect people, who are flawed and who sin. And I’m one of them. Even as much as I disagree with it, there is hurt and pain in the Church, just as there is throughout the world.
It’s no wonder Church hurt happens because it’s comprised of imperfect people. This doesn’t make the hurt okay, but it may explain why it happens.
I can’t say I’m fully healed from my painful Church experience, but I can confidently say God continues to strengthen me and to bless me through trusting Him with His Church. He’s carried me from heartbreak to strength and continues to do so as we walk this out together.
I realize not all church-hurt stories end in this way. I know wonderful people who have been hurt by the Church and have not returned. And I also understand how stepping into a church for some opens deep, painful wounds all over again.
If you’ve been hurt by the Church, or know someone who has, may I remind you God sees, He knows, and He cares.
The ways to deal with the hurt may vary, and your path may differ from mine, but His hope and strength are available to us as we trust God through the pain.
I am praying for us all in this today and believing God’s best for you.
Julie Lefebure helps women live encouraged in our real lives so we can shine bright and make a difference in this world. She hosts the Encouragement for Real Life podcast and writes regularly at julielefebure.com. There you can receive access to her free Resources which are designed to encourage your heart and lift your spirit. She is also the founder of Bring Your Own Bible and Bestie, a quarterly evening of encouragement for women. Details of her next event can also be found on her website. You can also connect with Julie on Instagram.
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