Anyone who has experienced church hurt would agree that it is ones of the most hurtful kind of pains they have ever experienced. Why that is the case is another discussion entirely. For our purposes here we are going to define “church hurt” as any sort of emotionally damaging pain felt because of something done or said by another professing Christian. Sometimes these words or actions even have undesirable physical consequences/affects on our personal lives due to the kinds of unhealthy and ungodly situations they have the possibility of creating. How do we deal with these hurtful situations?
1. Lower Your Expectations
It is important to note the term “professing Christian” in our definition. Always remember that just because someone claims to be a Christian that does not mean that the same Holy Spirit that lives inside you also lives inside them. Not everyone in church is a born again Christian.
Even those who are truly born again are still people. Fallen, broken, sinful people still going through their own process of sanctification. We have a tendency to expect more from our brothers and sisters in Christ then we do from other people. That is usually why their wounds hurt more than those inflicted by others.
The question we should ask ourselves is: Should we really have higher expectations for our Christian brothers and sisters? It’s understandable why we do but is it biblical? If they are true disciples then they have made a commitment to live by a higher standard than the rest of the world. Because of this it is a natural human inclination for us to expect more from those who have made a commitment to follow Christ. But it is not biblical. The entirety of God’s commands to us in relation to fellow believers is to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our expectations do more to hinder our ability to love than they do to help.
2. Remember Who You’re Dealing With
The Bible tells us that God chose the foolish, the weak and the despised people of the world to be His children (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). It’s so easy for us to look at statements like this in the Bible only as poetic metaphors. Anyone who has been a Christian, and involved in any sort of Christian community, for any decent length of time should know by experience just how true this statement is
Christians are broken, selfish, prideful, gossipers with little integrity. It’s sad but true. We are some messed up people. But what do you expect to find when God brings together the foolish, the weak and the despised people of the world? We often turn to the church like we expect it to find a country club full of morally good people who are going to go out of their way to help us make our lives more comfortable. That’s like walking into the cancer ward of a hospital and expecting the cancer patients to get up and serve you.
It also exposes your own selfishness. Did you come to serve or be served? The irony of standing around pouting about how others don’t serve us because of their brokenness while we’re also not serving them because of our own brokenness. Remember who you’re dealing with. Broken, jacked up, selfish, prideful people. People just like you.
3. Pray, Pray, Pray
Dealing with any kind of hurt is never easy. Having a knowledge of the practical steps to take towards healing is not the same as having what we need internally to carry out those steps. Unfortunately, the knowledge is almost always easier to find then the internal fortitude to put that knowledge to good use. Praying for healing from the wounds inflicted by others is not only praying, “Lord, heal me.” It is also praying for God to give you everything you need to keep you on the journey towards healing. Here are some good prayer points for your journey towards healing:
1. Pray for Mercy
Mercy is not receiving the punishment rightly earned for offenses. Being merciful towards others in word and deed is critical to finding healing for the offenses committed against you. But often we find that the strength to be merciful in action is beyond us. Stay in prayer continually, asking God to give you the strength to practice mercy in action, even when there may not be any mercy in your heart. This will help you stay plugged into a divine source of mercy and God’s mercy is limitless.
2. Pray for Grace
Grace goes above and beyond mercy. In dealing with offenses committed against us mercy says, “I will not punish you for how this offense made me feel.” Grace says, “I will be a blessing to you even though this offense has hurt or angered me.” If finding the strength to be merciful can often be beyond us, then finding the strength to also be gracious is even further beyond us. We must stay plugged into the source of divine grace by praying for God to give us the internal fortitude to be a blessing in word and deed even when that is the farthest thing from our hearts.
3. Pray for Them
This does not mean praying for God to change them or strike them down for what they did to you. This is praying for their welfare and for God to bless them. It is hard to hold onto anger, hate and bitterness when you are praying for the welfare of another. Regardless of what they have done to you. There is something divinely powerful about it. The deeper the wounds are, the more persistent you will have to be in praying for their welfare. Your heart may not be in line with your prayers in the beginning. But eventually you will discover that you genuinely want good things for them and not harboring ill will towards them will help you on your healing journey.
4. Pray for Conviction
When others hurt us it is very easy to see everything they did wrong. Oftentimes the pain inflicted by their words or actions blinds us to two very important things. It can blind us to our own contributions to the situation. And it can blind us to good intentions on their part. Self examination is also important when dealing with offenses if we are to find healing. How could I have handled that situation differently? What could I have done to be more Christlike in that particular situation? Am I overreacting? Did they have good intentions but the way they carried them out hurt for some reason that’s not their fault? These are all good questions to ask ourselves. Among others. The challenge is being able to see the answers to these questions without blurred vision caused by our pain. Praying for God to help us see the answers to these questions requires humbling ourselves. Because we’re basically praying for God to convict us if we were anything less than Christlike in the situation or weren’t able to see good intentions that came out in words or deeds that still hurt.
4. Count Your Blessings
This is really just a good rule of thumb when dealing with anything that is hard to endure. Specifically though, when dealing with the hurtful words and actions of others we are presented with an opportunity to grow and that is a blessing. We can look at the pain as a hurtful hindrance to our spiritual growth or as an opportunity to become more like Christ. God incarnate hung on the cross, completely innocent, put there by the people He had healed and ministered to, enduring the most painful and humiliating death known to mankind’s history and He prayed for God to forgive the people. We are never more like Christ than when we handle unjust affliction caused by others with love, grace and mercy. We can stay focused on how much it hurt or we can turn our eyes to heaven and say, “Thank you, Father, for this opportunity to practice being more like Christ.” Obviously that’s easier said then done but it can be done.