When Church Hurts
As a believer, when tragedy strikes we often seek comfort, encouragement and strength from our church. We walk through those familiar doors expecting our fellow Christians to rally around us and bolster our faith. And after gathering at church, we should be filled with the strength we need to face another day.
In most cases, this is what happens when we gather with fellow believers. Being in the same room as a bunch of people who are there to connect with God can bring our perspectives into a bigger focus instead of just on our pressing problems.
But what if that’s not your experience?
What if you leave more confused and anxious than before?
What if you’re told the cancer destroying your husband is the result of sin? And that simple confession would remove the deadly disease. “Does your husband not want to repent and let go of his sin?” they ask the soon to be widow.
What if people say you must “have more faith” before God will fix your problems, even though Jesus said even if our faith is as tiny as a mustard seed we could move mountains.
What if you have consistently tithed and have been generous with everything you have, yet someone tells you greed is why you still have an empty bank account?
Those, my friends, are just a few of the pain-filled experiences people have shared with me… or have happened to me. I’m sure most of you have had something like this happen to you as well at some point or another.
When we are going through a hard time and have been wounded by the church, I recommend asking 4 questions:
1. Why do I attend church?
Yes, we need to connect with the people at the church, but our main motive for attending should be more focused on God than the people. When we show up hungry to see more of God, asking Him to align our hearts to His ways; we end up being encouraged and encouraging those around us as a bi-product. It has more to do with time spent in God’s presence than anything else.
2. What does God really say about tragedy and struggles?
There are a lot of teachings out there that aren’t exactly Biblical. Sure, they sound good on the surface, but dig deeper and you’ll see the flawed structure of that message. These skewed interpretations are dangerous because they are found everywhere from TV to magazines. Maybe even a Sunday School teacher in our own church! And generally, the message resonates with a struggling heart making it super easy to get sucked into flawed theology. After all, if your spouse is dying, the “name it and claim it” way of preaching makes it sound so simple. Have enough faith, pray the right way and then sit back and see God work a medical miracle. Or, if you’re struggling to make ends meet, the prosperity preacher seems to have the words of wisdom you need. “Sow your seed” by giving to their ministry and get ready for God to pour out His blessing!
If we allow our hearts to shift toward interpretations that are incorrect, what happens when we don’t get what the formula says we should get? At best, we are left confused and at worst, we begin doubting everything we’ve ever read in the Bible.
3. Will I let the sin and confusion of others undermine my faith?
People say stupid things. People hurt others when they say those stupid things. And the stupid things those people say often cause us to do stupid things in response. Are you following me? The point is, just because someone you know, and even respect, says something that shakes you up, it doesn’t mean you should let it continue to shake you up.
When stuck in a situation where confusion and sin are being thrown your way in the form of advice or helpful opinions, we need to draw some very clear boundaries. Their issues need to remain theirs. It’s hard and it’s a challenge, but we should constantly remind ourselves that what people do and say is their responsibility, and how we respond is ours.
If for some reason you have been so hurt that you cannot bear to attend your regular church anymore, find another one! But don’t give up completely, and most of all, don’t let foolish people be the catalyst that causes your faith to shrivel up and die.
4. Am I expecting my fellow Christians to be something they can’t be?
This question was the one that saved my sanity as I went through my darkest days. I had longings and desires for my church to fill in the holes and gaps where despair was trying to take root. But not every person in your church has the ability to meet you where you are. And not everyone who actually does meet you there was sent by God, and so they lack the things you need most. We must be very careful in our time of vulnerability, because this is when we are most tempted to look around and feel unloved by the ones who are not there and disappointed in the ones who are.
Ultimately, God is our healer and helper. And when we get too focused on the people around us, expecting them to provide the soothing balms we need, our hearts can be broken even more. Simply because we expect people to be what they were never meant to be.
Jesus never said we wouldn’t have struggles in this world. In fact, He said “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) So whatever it is that you are facing- or have faced and still feeling the effects- be encouraged because it won’t last forever! And with the right perspective and a willingness to forgive, you can fully recover from any hurt you may have experienced at church.
Find more inspiration at www.choosejoy.co