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When Church Hurts9 min read

Finding hope and home in the church, when you don’t want to anymore.

I have been there. I have been hurt by the church… in fact, by multiple churches. Whether it be by wrong teachings that had lasting impact, spiritual abuse, lack of care, or other things—church can hurt.

We can be taught things from the pulpit that damage us, make us see God incorrectly (i.e. as a vengeful God who can’t be pleased), or things that make us heavy and weary. And thanks to social media, we don’t just experience the hurt of our own local churches, but we get to see the damage inflicted on others from churches around the country and world. I know firsthand, It can become incredibly disheartening and wearisome.

Taking a Pause

I know many who’ve been so deeply wounded by their church, especially the church leaders, that they wonder two things: “If these people represented God, and they treated me this way, can I really believe in, trust, and love God?”or “I am so deeply wounded, the thought of walking into a church again gives me real anxiety… what does this mean for my Christian walk and faith?

So they take time away, time to reorient themselves, asking questions and digging deeper, seeking to know truth and comparing it with what they have been taught.

Some would mockingly call this “deconstruction” or say you are wanting your ears tickled and sneer, making off handed comments such as “you can’t love Jesus without loving His church”, or “don’t expect a perfect church when it is full of imperfect people… only Jesus is perfect.

While these are true statements, they don’t take into account that the true church doesn’t abuse. Wolves are most certainly a part of the visible church, and the expectation of “perfection” isn’t the issue, but rather seeing the fruit of the spirit displayed in those who claim to be a part of the Body of Christ.

“Whatever is, has already been, and whatever will be, already is. However, God seeks justice for the persecuted. I also observed under the sun: there is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness. I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, since there is a time for every activity and every work.”” —Ecclesiastes 3:15-17

It is hard to separate authority from its misuse—To borrow a phrase from When Home Hurts, a book about responding wisely to domestic abuse in your church,

“My husband once said ‘If I beat you with a baseball bat, it may take a long time before you can look at that bat and not be triggered. But in time you do understand that the bat is just a bat and when used properly can be a very great thing.'”

I loved that. Taking a short time away from church can be helpful. Having distance between us and the triggers can be beneficial. But hopefully the goal is to see the “bat” as just a “bat.”

I exhort you to not take long away from the fellowship of the saints and the means of grace provided in the church. Take time away, but during that time, seek out people to help you, to love you, to pray for you, and to guide you toward a new church. I absolutely understand the need for healing—but it has to be for a time, not forever.

While you’re taking time, read the Psalms, Gentle & Lowly, The Lord Is My Courage, and know that Jesus is the good shepherd who leads us beside still waters and gives us rest.

Find a church that will remind you of that every week. There are good churches out there. I know because God lead me to one. We need the Body. We need the means of grace. We need the gospel preached to us every week. We are only healed by the gospel. We need to be reminded that no matter how sinful men treat us, Jesus died for us because he loves us. Because he IS love. And because he said,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” —John 10:11

4 things I want to make sure you know

•You are not alone.

•Your hurt is real and valid.

•Healing will come.

That is promised. Healing may not look the way you expect, nor come in the way you want, or in the time you want. But healing will come. Because someday, everything will be made new.

•Justice will be served.

This is also a promise. God is a God of justice. The cross shows us that. He didn’t just pardon our sins, he paid the penalty for them. He didn’t let our sins slide, he demanded, and paid the price. Justice means so much to God.

I pray this psalm comforts you,

“Save me, God,
for the water has risen to my neck.
I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing;
I have come into deep water,
and a flood sweeps over me.
I am weary from my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Those who hate me without cause
are more numerous than the hairs of my head;
my deceitful enemies, who would destroy me,
are powerful.” —Psalms 69:1-21, continue reading.

One resource I constantly recommend, is worth taking a social media break and listening to while you heal: The Place We Find Ourselves podcast looks at how our brains are changed through trauma and how that affects how we see God.

Yet just as our brains can be damaged and that changes how we see God, our brains can be healed and that also changes how we see God, and how we believe God sees us.

Wishing you peace on your journey,

Written By

Jennifer Moodie

Stay at home mom of four children, wife to Brad, and a lover of the body of Christ. Central WI, member of the PCA.