7 Steps to Heal a Church Hurt Broken Heart
Oh but a tangled web we weave when the church kicks us in the knee. Yes, let us go there, church hurt.
And no, I am not picking on any one denomination. Especially since I could pick on several. I have been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and then got a book published about it. Yes, I stole Jesus from a YMCA. And yes, the Mormon church no longer has a record of me. Although, I think they read this while it was being composed in Google Docs.
The mean, the powerful, the corrupt, the unjust, they are not congregating in any one specific pew.
I have news, it might be old news to some, new news to others, but, ickiness is everywhere.
Regrettably, that is just the way the ball bounces or the chalice spills over onto the crusty old red carpet.
I remember a homily, from back in the Catholic days. Oh wait, some protestants might be reading this. A homily is the Catholic “sermon.” Maybe you knew that, or maybe I wasn’t supposed to tell you, or is it the Masons that tell no secrets? Whatever, the priest was talking about the Holy Spirit. And as most homilies and sermons go, you get the endearing “anecdote” followed by the 12-45 minute teaching, depending on the corresponding denomination.
The 45-minute version is the reason I have never darkened the door of a reformed Baptist vestibule.
Don’t judge me. I have ADHD. Truly I could not sit at Jesus’ feet for that long without a heavy dose of Adderall.
Darn it. I should have taken some. Where was I?
Oh yes, the homily. Not to be confused with hominy, a corn-like substance used to make grits and my sister’s famous casserole.
So the priest tells the story of a woman, who during worship raises her hands in the air and begins to sing, loudly in tongues. And no offense to the Catholics, but the priest paused, and explained the gift of tongues because that would have left a few Catholics stumped.
So the woman is singing with her hands raised high and chanting, humming, and making a “spectacle,” and the usher walks up to her and says, “Ma’am, what are you doing?” And she says, “I am overcome with the Holy Spirit!” And the usher says, “Not here you aren’t.”
A few weeks later the priest publicly apologized during the homily for the story because apparently several people were offended by the tale. At the time, I was offended that people were offended and wondered how and why. And then I became an author, blogger, and speaker and I totally get why he HAD to apologize.
No offense comes from the Lord… and I am not Him.
I have received my fair share of tongue lashings or violent emails. My favorite ever read: You will burn in hell. Sincerely, Your Sister in Christ, Wanda.
Dear Wanda, do sisters in Christ burn in hell together?
Inquiring minds want to know.
And I know, from experience, sometimes apologies are in order. But I got gun shy pretty quick. One time I flippantly said, “I nearly had a stroke.” And I got a 2,000-word essay on my inconsiderate verbiage to stroke victims, how much Jesus hated me, followed by the inevitable “UNFOLLOWING!!!”
Looking back on this, I used gun shy, which may or may not be politically incorrect now… Lord, this gig is impossible.
And a voice from the heavens echoes… “You’re telling me?”
Here is the thing, no offense comes from the Lord, and the offense of church hurt is not His fault.
If you got past the offenses above, and haven’t started to email your manifesto because I heard a voice from heaven or UNFOLLOWED me, hear me out.
I have church hurts too.
There are millions of walking wounded. But the thing I most hate to see is for church hurt to morph into God hurt. Above all else, let us not blame Jesus for the ways of the world. He knows about how unfair it seems. This God has tasted injustice first hand.
It isn’t uncommon to hear the dreaded words, “I hate Christians…” These days to hate Christians is like a badge of honor. And if you are a “Conservative” Christian, duck, and roll. If you are a “Liberal” Christian, do the same. I don’t get political. I rarely even expose much more than my love of Jesus, simply because, He is enough. And if nothing else, I want my “ministry” to be a place where any struggle is met with, “I am just so sorry.”
The top three church hurts I hear about from readers are:
- Poor treatment because of a divorce. (100% of these have been the husband cheating and leaving his family and the church handing the wife a scarlet letter.)
- Families were asked to leave the church because of their young adult- adult child’s sexual orientation. (Side note: our children are wholly a part of us and wholly apart from us… steps down from soapbox.)
- A sexual violation
I cannot testify to any of these three things, well, I got groped once by a creepy usher, but that is another story. Hurt is hurt is hurt, no matter if you agree with the wound or not. So I have made it my business to be a safe landing for any mother, foster mom, aunt, granny, neighbor, or next of kin to say, “this hurt…”
I am just so sorry.
And I mean that.
So if you have been church hurt, that is my response. I am just so sorry.
Still, I am following it up with this; those people, that group, that person did wrong by you. Jesus has never and will never let you down.
It was not Him.
And it was not the entirety of Christianity.
Two thousand years of love shouldn’t be undone by an 80-year-old church lady in Tulsa that said you dressed like a hooker. But if it humiliated you, made you feel less than, or robbed you of a place or community you loved, I am just so sorry. I propose it hurts more because one would like to hope, Christians would be better humans. I am sure that is what Jesus hoped too.
When one of my older sons was about 9 he ran down the hall of our church and tripped, fell, and dropped his Bible. An older man yanked him up by his shirt and SCREAMED at him for ten minutes about his disgruntled behavior. “Do you know where you are? Have you no respect? That is the Word of God! And this is HIS HOUSE! How dare you?”
Then the man took the Bible and said, “You can have this back when you apologize to your God for your disgusting behavior!”
In the words of my friend, Katie M. Reid, “Oh my wordeth.”
We comforted him. Sure, we tried to make light of it. But he was truly humiliated. I wish I could tell you it rolled off him, never giving it another thought. But it didn’t.
No, he shouldn’t have been running in the church. But he was just a little boy. And sure, the Word deserves some respect, but in all fairness, it was a paperback English Standard Version Student Edition. We got it on clearance at Mardel for $4.99. Maybe if it had actually been an original scroll or stone tablets we would have required more from the child.
But he was just being a boy, eager to get to the potluck before all the fried chicken was gone.
And some who read this might say, “Well, being scolded by a crotchety old dude is nothing compared to my violation!”
But that is the point.
If you were hurt it is your hurt.
My child’s hurt was his hurt.
And my hurt, actually, make that hurts, are mine.
But none of those hurts came from Jesus.
They came from the stench of humanity. And there are some lousy Believers just like there are some lousy unbelievers. And there are some really good and decent Believers and unbelievers just the same.
The Church, Christianity was born of Jesus. Church hurt was born of man.
And that is number one in the list of recovery.
- The Church, Christianity was born of Jesus. Church hurt was born of man. He came to bind up the broken, not break us.
To recover from church hurt that will be the mantra,
- The Church, Christianity was born of Jesus. Church hurt was born of man. He came to bind up the broken, not break us.
Oh my gosh, seriously? Mantra offended someone?!?!?
Which brings me to number two.
If at all possible, instead of fighting against the Church fight for the Church. I invite you to join the ranks of the calm, patient, loving, faithful that doesn’t rage against the unseen. The pews are all filled with the broken. Some of them are just bigger jerks than the rest of us. This is why Jesus came, to show us what the fruits of the spirit look like. He was gentle, patient, and kind. And because of that, your sorrow can be turned into dancing. (Assuming that is allowed… geez.)
I have found that the stories I hear start and end with the elite and pompous. If you are wounded, now is your chance to behave like the Founder, not the Pharisee. Yes, He flipped a table or two and got to the end of His wits. I have to ask, does anyone else imagine that table was a six-foot, white plastic folding table from Costco? And Girl Scout cookies went flying?
Oh, I guess it is just me.
Tell your story.
Jesus was a storyteller. He used parables, but if you can speak from experience, do it. Trust that your story might be the story that brings someone back from the trenches. When you are calm, when you are ready, tell your story. Maybe it will just be to a counselor or friend, or maybe you need to write a book too. But don’t hide your experience from the world.
Too often our hurts turn into indignant rage. It festers and mutates. If you don’t want to tell the world, tell someone you can trust. And remember number one, please don’t blame Jesus.
Retrain your brain.
Scripture, even bargain bin finds, tells us we have the power to renew our minds. When something traumatic happens to us our brain catalogs the hurt and then it goes on red alert, fight or flight. And if you have told your brain, even indirectly that Church is not safe, it will work hard to keep you away. I have created a download in my Etsy shop to help with this. But even if you don’t go that route, write a new church story.
Write it out. What do you need to trust again? What is the perfect community for you? Be specific, but write it as if it has already happened. Write it out like a prayer that has already been answered.
Ask, believe, and receive, that is what Jesus told us. And our brains are easily tricked. Like the placebo effect, imagine yourself worshipping in a new community where your soul is fed and your friendships are rich. And then give thanks that God heard you and will answer if you only believe.
Cut the Guilt, Gladys.
Guilt only breeds more guilt. If you have walked away from the Faith because of your church hurt a simple, “Hey God, sorry about that,” is all you need to be completely aligned with Him again. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, Nope, nothing. Not even skipping Sunday services.
Jesus didn’t die on contingency. This is perfect love. To the thief on the cross, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Had He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise but first you gotta…” this would be a very different blog post.
The blood worked. It is finished. And now nothing can separate you from Him. The enemy will use any means to stifle this relationship, unfortunately, he uses the church more often than not.
Which brings me to Grace, my favorite pastime. Grace is so abundant, so all-consuming, that it is completely ridiculous. You don’t HAVE to do anything. And so, here is your ticket. You don’t HAVE to go to church to experience Jesus. Go ahead, ask a Christian in North Korea how their church community is thriving. If you need a break, take one. But refer back to number five, there is no condemnation in Christ. And number one, don’t blame Jesus.
Jesus is all in for your restoration. And He alone knows what you require.
No, dear One, you don’t have to go to church. But please don’t let one person or congregation, rob you of community and fellowship forever. Your hurt does not have to be the hill you die on. In the midst of your freedom in Grace, ask to be led to restoration. Friends, fellowship, worship, study, growth, and redemption are waiting for you. Ask, believe, and receive. Again, remember number one. Jesus didn’t hurt you. And He knew the World’s church would occasionally smell like bad egg salad. But He also said to ask the Father for Earth to be like Heaven, He didn’t say that to hear Himself talk.
He also knew that the body or the church would be important. He valued the church or He wouldn’t have bothered with it. A Bible Believing, Grace based church can be an important piece of your restoration story.
This will look different for everyone. On the 7th day, God rested. In my mind, this is the evolution of the Sunday nap. If all the above are applied and you need to grieve, nap, and eat frosting out of the can… okay. Go ahead. If you need to jump in and find a new Church home, rage on. But don’t look at it as work or righteousness. Take it easy. I hate to use the term, and not just because I will get an ugly email or 500, but Post Traumatic Stress is a real thing.
Your trauma is your trauma. And when you are wounded the body and mind require rest.
Ask yourself what that rest needs to look like.
And then, lean in. Fall into the arms of the God who is most careful with you. He died for the person or persons that got you to this place. He wants none of that mess for any of us. But His wrath was settled on Calvary. It is finished. The veil was torn and for the first time ever the High Priest sat down.
So can you.
Write letters to your offender, even if you don’t send them. And then write letters to your Creator, give Him thanks for the good work He created you for and ask Him to lead you on to the next big thing.
The end of any season or belief is always the beginning of something new.
He knows the plans He has for you. Plans to prosper, not to harm you. Above all, He is not the culprit. The world is. The Good News is He overcame the world.
Jesus be all over you. Love, Jami
I have created a download with beautiful scripture cards, memories verses, unique sayings, worksheets, and original art to retrain your brain and walk with you on this healing journey. My downloads support my ministry and help me donate my other programs to Foster Families and Foster Care Agencies. You can find out more about this download by following this link. I pray it will bless you. And more than anything, I pray that you find great comfort in the Father who adores you. If you would like me to pray with you or if you have any questions please free to email me at email@example.com
Grab the I am Healed of Church Hurt PDF HERE!