Dealing with church wounds
Why Should I Stay When It’s Easier To Leave?
The grace to forgive and the love to endure
If you’ve been experiencing traumas, abuse, or any sort of manipulation in your current church community, is it time to look for another community or fellowship that will help you grow in your walk with God?
Have you thought about these before?
- “Why am I still here if I’m being neglected? They always ignore me.”
- “The people you look up to are the same people who will hurt you.”
- “People who’ve sworn to love me tend to hurt me a lot. I think I’ve had enough!”
Leaving church when things get painful seems the right thing to do, doesn’t it?
Ever since I got saved, I knew the vital role of the church community in my growth, especially in my walk with Jesus. Apart from them is an express lane for backsliding.
So, I embraced the church community as my new family. I have established relationships with people I know will help me follow God, intentionally building relationships and creating a safe environment with others who also want to follow Jesus.
During those years, I encountered the word “church wounds.”
Church wounds was an ironic term for me. How is it possible for a Christ-centered community to hurt somebody?
I never believed that church wounds were possible until I experienced them myself.
It’s the constant feeling of pain and shame that follows you wherever you go; an endless trap of insecurity and anxiety. It broke my trust in people; I became so afraid to speak up. I felt like I was not enough and I don’t belong.
Church wounds are real.
Dealing with church wounds takes time, energy, and a lot of prayers; moreover, it could lead to complete hatred towards the church when not treated.
But the most unfortunate things about church wounds are:
- Sometimes those who did the damage are unaware of what they’ve done. They don’t know that they’ve hurt, neglected, marginalized, and alienated someone.
- The person hurting is left to live a life with wounds that affect all levels of his/her relationships.
After I was hurt I considered staying as far away from the church community as possible. I even considered not going to one.
What made me stay?
1. Navigating my pain rather than try to overcome it
Pain is inevitable. You’ll get tired of trying to overcome it from time to time. The best way of dealing with pain is to navigate it. Pain will be there, and it will occur, but it depends on how you navigate your pain so that God may use it for His purpose.
Just like how Joseph navigated all the pain and harm he experienced and used it to honor God.
In Genesis 50, after the death of Jacob, the other sons who sold Joseph to slavery, leading to a tragic experience for Joseph, were afraid of their lives, and thought that he would now get his revenge. But that’s not what Joseph did, instead, he said to them,
19 “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19–20, NIV)
Joseph navigated that painful experience to be used by God and led to saving many lives.
2. Relational discipleship
Discipleship is more than just a mandate. It is a life following Jesus and communing with others who followed Him. It is through discipleship where we — the church — reflect God’s character to the world, but it doesn’t mean we’re perfect.
There are conflicts in every relationship. You agree or disagree; it’s a guarantee. Sometimes there will be disappointments or miscommunications, but we must let the relationship win over any pain that was made in order to navigate church trauma.
The church is full of broken people, hurting like you, wounded like you, and hoping for a better future like you. Relational discipleship moves us an inch closer to a future hope without pain and suffering.
The grace that will make you stay is deciding to put the relationship first, then any pain and wounds.
Coping with pain is complicated and sometimes messy, but it’s possible. You may never forget what they have done, but the good news is, there’s freedom from that pain and shame.
You can experience freedom by:
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).
I stayed because of Jesus.
Jesus experienced a greater wound. He was wounded by His own people, and not just that, wounded by His friends.
Those people that He called to follow Him, those whom He healed, saved, and those whom He called brothers and sisters. And in the most crucial time of His life, they ran away, and Peter, one of His closest disciples and a brother, denied Him three times. Yet Jesus prayed for them and forgave them.
If Jesus didn’t leave us when we fail to follow Him continually, who am I to leave the church community?
Jesus loves the church. He even called us His bride. In His grace and love, Jesus chose to stay and even died for our sins. And through discipleship — life following Jesus — God made me see that His grace is sufficient in my weakness. It’s ok to feel hurt, sometimes even when that hurting comes from the church community.
You can always go to Jesus for healing, even if it takes a daily prayer of grace to forgive and love to endure because Jesus relates with our pain and wounds.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3–5, NIV).
So, why should you stay when it’s easier to leave?
I hope you will stay because of the grace and love of Jesus and of those people whom God placed in your life.
Are you having a hard time navigating the pains that you’ve received from your brothers or sisters? Ask God today to open your heart from His love and power, that He may give you enough grace to forgive, confront, and restore.
I hope you see the perfect patience of God that was displayed in your life.
Discipleship is first a relationship with God, relationship with other believers, and relationship with the unbelievers. This is a life following the Savior of the world.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34–35, NLT)