When Church Hurts

True confession:  Sometimes church people are rude.  Am I allowed to say that?

God, I hope so.

I desperately long for a place where I can sort it all out.  I need to make sense of the pain.  I am trying very hard to move past the wounds.  Are you?

I am not mad.  Nor am I being petty.  Neither am I the thing I fear most:  Not christian enough.   I draw two conclusions from the words I have shared:  I am a human, and my emotions are real.  So are yours.  The trademark slogans so eagerly used by our church-dwelling neighbors can’t make that less true.

Sometimes the most Christian thing a person can do is say this:  “That’s a real thing.”  It’s a posture of the heart that says, ” I see you.”  When I’m struggling with something, I’d rather no one notice my blunders.  I have skin, and it bleeds.  This is awkward.  It helps to discover that the person peering into the truth in my eyes is unafraid of the pain that leaks out of me.  That my obvious discomfort doesn’t offend them.  When I’ve exposed myself and this person still saves me a seat, something shifts.  Suddenly I know I don’t have to hide.

Isn’t that what Jesus does?

People need space to exist where their afflictions can be what they are.  We can’t be free of our sorrows without bringing them to Jesus;  Pretending the heartaches aren’t there will never make us free.  But Jesus does.

What does it mean to call yourself a Christian?  Consider that question with me.  “Follow Me.”  It’s an invitation Jesus extends to us all.  What does He mean by this?  Is it not by example He leads and then calls?  He shows us the way because He is the Way.  He draws the broken to Himself.  That’s where the ragged and worn find mercy and peace.  Weathered souls like you and me are made whole in His arms.  Finally we see there’s no other way.  And we weep.

It begs me to wonder why we’re so quick to expect weary travelers like ourselves to be cured of their issues the second they walk through our church doors.  They need time.  They need time spent with Jesus just like us.  He changes us.  Why do we shoot at people with verses that make them feel less than Christian for having struggles or doubt?  Does Jesus do that?

Let’s consider Lazarus.  Jesus knew He had power over his friend’s death.  He’d already spoken that, “This sickness will not end in death.” (NIV John 11:4).  He was not pretending that Lazarus wasn’t dead either.  He made this clear when He corrected the confusion that revealed itself among His disciples thereafter.  They assumed Jesus need not make an appearance since Lazarus was merely asleep.  Jesus clearly stated to this error that his cherished friend was dead.  Thomas makes a radical point to this reality of physical suffering by claiming they should die with him.  It shocks me to see that there’s no record in the text of Jesus correcting him for that feeling.

Soon after this, Martha is discouraged because hope of future resurrection isn’t enough to comfort her.  Jesus wants her to understand that He’s concerned about not just eternal suffering but present too.  A few short moments later, He weeps.  He does so knowing that in the next breath His friend will be more alive than he’s ever been.  Note that Jesus endures a bold accusation from His dear friend Mary as well.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  (NIV John 11:32b)

Still He weeps.

He understood that His friends didn’t get it yet.  They were people, like us.  Jesus came as a human, and He wept.

Could we do likewise?

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  (NIV Matthew 5:4).  Jesus comforts His friends with His tears.  Let’s be reminded of that when we’re confronted with people in need of that comfort.  Even if this person is on the other side of recovery, their pain was once very real.  It might still be.  I hope we’re sensitive to that.  We’re allowed to be fragile.  It isn’t a sin to feel the sting of our wounds.  Let’s remember what it’s like to be human again.  Sit next to the strugglers.  Give them grace.  Give them Jesus.

Has it happened to you?  Have your feelings been stepped on by a well meaning Christian?  It doesn’t have to be an intentional blow to sting when it lands.  Bruises hurt.  Tell me in the comments how it happened to you.  It’s an honor to hold this space with you, my friend.  Consider sharing.  Your story is just the thing someone like you needs to hear.

Will you be brave?

Let’s start a conversation that has the power to restore.  The Church isn’t well if you’re not, Loved One.  When even the smallest part of a body chafes, the whole person feels the heat of that burn.  For every tender place in your heart, rubbed raw from the insensitivity of a tactless saint, I am sorry.  Believers are people;  People are flawed.  All but one of us are prone to injure another.  That’s why we need Jesus.  Christ and His Bride want you well.

The same people that struck can love you to wellness, if you let them.  It’s true.  Who hasn’t been jabbed by the same brother or sister that faced off with bullies over them?  Siblings are rude.  But they love you.  They can be rather amazing if they’re not too busy being a pain in the neck.

Come back to Church.  Jesus is wooing you back to His house and His people.  Don’t miss out on the blessings of brothers and sisters because you can’t get past an offense.  There’s a lifetime of goodness still ahead for you in coming back home.  That’s where you belong.  You can pick things up right where you left off, no matter how far you’ve drifted away.  There’s still a place for you.  I promise.  This will never change.  Even if you have to sit next to a huge pain in the neck.

Come back home.

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear where you are in this story.


ComeWithMe.Live where we use what we have to invite others in, to all that God’s doing

6 thoughts on “When Church Hurts

  1. I wouldn’t be in the Kingdom today if I hadn’t learned how to be patient and forgiving when offended by the people in my church. Sometimes, we expect more from the Pastor, church staff, church leaders, and other church members than we do from God. That will always lead to frustration, hurt and offense. We must remember that the church is the House of God and Christ is the head of the church, and if we are a born again believers then we are part of the family of God. Pastor, leadership and church members are imperfect people and thus make mistakes, and we must keep know that includes ourselves, that we aren’t perfect either and make mistakes. We are all in different places spiritually, some people think its their role to correct or admonish. Some are babes in Christ and still learning the Word. Others may not even be born again believers at all.

    Its a tragedy when people stop attending church because of an offense. I’ve been hurt by the people in the church, and I still have to make an intentional decision that I will not not allow the enemy cause me to walk in unforgiveness and bitterness. We must look to the Word to know how to handle offense, the scripture says when our brother offends you go to them and tell them their fault, if they don’t hear you then take a mediator, if they still don’t hear you then take it to the leaders of the church (Matthew 18:15).

    1. Hey Kim! You make a lot of great points, thanks for sharing. That’s exactly why I felt compelled to send out this message. Like you, I’ve come to learn the advantage of persevering through hurts. But that’s not where I started. I fear many are missing out on the benefits of coming back to church and sorting things out. Which is what I hope this message encourages them to do. We do put a lot of unfair pressure on the people at church to be what only God can be. I agree. We are people after all. “All but one of us are prone to injure another.” Thank you for starting the conversation Kim. Your thoughts might help someone shift perspective. Talking things through just like this is exactly how that happens.

  2. Sometimes as Christians it is easy to live life a certain way without thinking that much about it. Perhaps it is time for us to put ourself into the other person’s situation.. We need to start listening to ourselves. Watching ourselves and more so consider the other person’s feeings.
    And if you’re the person who has given up on Christianity and church. Perhaps you need to remember even Christians are not perfect. Give it and us another chance. Perhaps if we all try a little harder we could make both of us better and fulfill the role God has given us.

    1. Hi Pat H! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The purpose of this message is not giving up on church by any means. And certainly not Christianity. Rather it’s an invitation to use how we’ve struggled ourselves to increase our sensitivity toward others. I hope to start a conversation that draws wounded people out of hiding so they can start healing. With the Church. They need to know it’s safe to do that. Would you partner with me in that prayer Pat? We’ll move mountains together when we speak up for the people who can’t find the words. That’s what this is about. I hope you’ll join me in this vision.

Leave a Reply to Kim Petitt Cancel reply