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.


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