This is a challenging topic to write about because it is so personal, but that’s also what makes it so important. Sometimes the church hurts us, and that pain can directly affect the way we see religion, relationship, and God Himself. Depending on the situation, “the church” could represent a physical place, or it could mean the church as a body of believers.
A little over two years ago, it felt like the church completely sucked the life out of me. I was a new mom, working full-time in ministry, and working on a second church plant with my husband. I’m not going to go into all of the details here, but within six months, it felt like I had been punched in the gut and my heart was in pieces. I don’t think there was any malicious intent behind the hurt—in fact, I think that is very rarely the case—but it didn’t make the pain any less difficult to cope with.
I found myself shutting down, emotionally and spiritually. All of the passion I had for ministry and God’s word completely dried up. I started dreading Sundays and avoiding my Bible. For our family, we realized that we needed to make some difficult decisions to get us out of the situation we were in, but even after those changes were made, healing came slowly.
For me personally, healing looked like starting a blog. I began to write about the things I was struggling with and God was faithful to give me insight as I went through that process. In fact, I began to look forward to that time with Him again because He was consistently helping me change my perspective and sparking new ideas. Last November, after I had been blogging for about five months, I felt like He was leading me to commit to writing one post a week. The idea was a little scary, since I was already struggling to come up with new topics, but I decided to take the leap of faith. I asked a few close friends to help hold me accountable and started making a list of things I wanted to talk about.
Not one week has gone by since I made that decision that God hasn’t given me a topic to write about. In fact, I have hardly been able to keep up! Several times, I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night with an entire blog post in my head.
It felt like I was healing; I was cherishing my time with the Lord, I was excited about church on Sundays again, and I was spending time in scripture daily as I prepared my blog posts. Then last Sunday, God revealed that I was still withholding myself from Him.
We were in the middle of worship that morning, and I felt a gentle conviction about not putting my hands up in the air. I know everyone has different styles of worship, and many people choose to not put their hands in the air, but three years ago I had my hands up every single Sunday, every time I sang in the car, and every time I found myself praising Him. I had discovered a freedom in that action that made me feel so connected to God, and I reveled in it. But this Sunday, I began to look back and realized that I hadn’t once put my hands up in the two years since I’d been hurt.
The thought brought me to tears, and I heard God gently ask me, “Why are you holding back from me? I’ve never hurt you.” And I cried out in my spirit, “God, you’ve never hurt me, but your church did.”
When we are hurt, how often do we end up withholding ourselves from the wrong person? With our spouses, our friends, our families… how often do we hold back from them because we have been hurt before? Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”
Who deserves our surrender more than the one who gave up everything so that nothing could separate us from Him? (Romans 8:38) Who deserves our complete love and devotion more than the one who raised us from death to everlasting life? (John 3:16) Who deserves our worship and praise more than the one who rejoices over us with singing? (Zephaniah 3:17)
The church may hurt us, but God doesn’t. Sometimes it’s hard to separate what He has done with what people have done in His name, but don’t let the enemy convince you your pain is from God. If you’ve ever been hurt by something or someone in your life related to the church, I encourage you to ask God to reveal any part of yourself that you are keeping from Him. Let Him show you where you are holding your hurt, so that He can help you release it.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”