Not long ago I attempted to become more connected to people at my church.
Because of having to work every other Sunday, working 12-hour shifts, and traveling often, I’m unable to attend church every week. I can listen to church online, but that’s not the same as being connected to people.
A while ago I was involved in a Sunday school class. The people in that class were my points of connection, and whenever I attended the class I felt connected to my church again and could find out everything that was going on. Unfortunately that class has disbanded.
So recently I decided to go to a prayer meeting that meets on Monday evenings.
I felt awkward—like an outsider—because of my disconnection.
And then something else came to my mind as I battled discomfort when I first went to the prayer meeting.
A part of me wanted to remain disconnected because of traumas I and my family had experienced at church.
I brought this up in the prayer meeting, and instead of expressing empathy and saying, “We’ll pray that you get over your traumas,” people proclaimed, “you need to move on” and other trite phrases to that effect.
When I tried to pray about something I discerned was a problem in the church—racism–certain individuals said, “That is not a problem in this church!”—even though I had seen it in action in church members.
One even said, “Racism is not a problem in our society” even though this was in the midst of videos playing repeatedly on the news showing policemen killing unarmed black citizens.
So I stayed away from the prayer group and felt myself moving back from being connected to church people.
Even though I knew there was power in forgiveness and felt I had forgiven, for some reason the things that had happened at my church still tormented me at times. What happened at that prayer meeting weighed on my mind.
Then I realized why God allowed the moments of torment.
There are scores of Christians who have been traumatized at their churches. God wanted me to know how they felt and reach out to them with comfort them as I write about this issue. Even though the church is doing some things right, there is much that is wrong with the church and God wanted me to be part of making things right by speaking truth and being bold in praying and saying as He led.
I had even thought of writing an article that had to do with my traumas. The title would be something like this: “Five Traumas That Made Me Want to Quit Church Life; Five Reasons I Stayed.”
One thing I know as a writer is that God allows me to have experiences that scores of others have, so I can write about them and bring hope. This is why God would not allow my hurts and heartaches to subside completely—because He wanted me to write more about this subject.
So many of the people who have been through hard times in church life have left the church and never returned. Some of have even turned away from God. I meet them on a regular basis. Some are my own relatives.
Not too long ago I read Wounded by God’s People; Discovering How God’s Love Heals Our Hearts by Anne Graham Lotz and more recently Soul Survivor; How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey. These books helped me to feel connected to others who have been hurt in the church and to know that I am not alone. My delusion that godly people like Anne Graham Lotz would never be wounded by church people evaporated.
This is what she writes, “I too have been wounded by God’s people. Some wounds have been deeper than others, some seemed to come out of nowhere, some have been provoked by my own bad behavior, yet all of the wounds have been deeply painful. And they seemed to hurt even more when the wounders wrapped their behavior in a semblance of religion or piety.”
I realized that some of my rejections from church people were based on one of the reasons they rejected her—she spoke hard truths based on the Bible when people preferred lies and living like they pleased instead of in ways that would please the Lord.
So yesterday I went back to that prayer meeting. I realized Satan was trying to get me to stay away from church life, and my feelings about what the people in the prayer group said weren’t important. What was vital was me being in the prayer meeting praying about things they could not or would not see and perhaps to help them break through denial. I could also learn from them about the spiritual condition of our church and where prayer was needed. I could repent there of how I have fallen short as a member of the body of Christ. I could grow by being with people who viewed things differently than me.
When I first joined my church, God communicated that I was to be there to pray. For quite a while I prayed for an hour each week in the prayer room for our church, its leaders, members, and attenders. Then traumas that occurred in the church and in my family life drew me away from diligent prayer for too long.
But I’m back in the prayer room, and I’m back at my church with a determination to be connected. God healed one trauma (See last week’s blog), and He’s continuing to do a work in my heart in regard to my relationship to my church as I continue to pray.
I confess the sin of neglecting to fully answer God’s call to pray diligently for my church—to pray without ceasing.
Lately I’m being reminded that healing does not come from withdrawing from church life or holding on to bitterness or even trying to fix things in my own strength. God wants to heal each of us, but a saying that someone told me years ago holds true: “If you have been hurt by church people, healing must come through church people.”
When we leave the church or our connection to church people, we lose the opportunity for healing.
I want complete healing from the effects of traumas inflicted in my church life. The church is a place where hurt people hurt people, and I know that I will be hurt again. Also, I have to confess that I may have unknowingly traumatized others in the church. But on the other side of hurt is God’s healing. What a beautiful thing that is.
What about you? Have you been hurt by people in church? Are you ready to bring your hurts and heartaches to the Lord and receive healing and spread the truth about God’s healing power?
Will you join me in looking to the Lord–“…who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)–for hope, help, and healing?
Listen to this song by MercyMe: “The Hurt and The Healer”