Having moved often, I have attended many churches in my life… and to be honest, I have experienced church hurt. I didn’t expect that, because I thought church would be the one place where I was safe from being hurt.
If you can relate, you are not alone; God sees you and wants to comfort you. He is with you in your pain. He is not the cause of it.
His design of church will never be perfectly implemented until Jesus comes back to rule it; but it’s so important that you are part of the church in the meantime. You and your gifts are needed.
We all will at some point experience church hurt because the church is a place run by imperfect people like you and me. Understanding this is crucial to healing from your church hurt.
The Effects of Church Hurt
It’s important to recognize that you are struggling with church hurt, and then deal with it. You don’t want to distance yourself from the church or develop bitterness and resentment toward it. Church hurt can allow you to do this.
Don’t let it fester in your mind or heart. That can cause you to want to cut ties with the church or have ill feelings toward the church as a whole. God designed us to be a part of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
You don’t want anything to separate you from God; Jesus didn’t cause you hurt, people did.
People are not the enemy, though, and neither is the church. A church—one that seeks to fulfill God’s word of what the church should look like (as outlined in the Bible)—is a place for people who are imperfect, coming with all their sins, hurts, etc. like you have.
Going in with the right perspective, tapering your expectations, relying on God, and seeing the good in people is necessary.
God will never hurt you; people will disappoint you. But this shouldn’t stop you from attending church because the right God-loving church helps draw you closer to him; it uplifts you, encourages you, and empowers you.
He uses people to do this… but unfortunately with the fall you will experience pain. You just can’t let the hurt take you away from church. You need to accept that it will happen at times, and learn to deal with it.
How To Heal From Church Hurt
As believers, we are called to serve in the church and use the gifts he has given us to further his kingdom. But sometimes in the process, you get hurt by church leadership.
Maybe you have been hurt by a relationship you have in the church or you don’t agree with everything the church is doing. This can happen, so you have to learn how to deal with it.
The most important thing to do is go to God. He wants to hear your hurt and pain. This will allow you to get the wisdom you need, to understand you are seen, known, heard, and be able to let go of the pain to move forward—to keep investing in church and people.
You need perseverance to not give up on the church. Relationships can be hard but you have to learn how to practice good conflict resolution skills, too. This might require talking to the person who hurt you, or someone in leadership, to help.
After you recognize you have been hurt, and understand that it wasn’t Jesus that hurt you, then you can move forward leaning on God to allow you to know what to do.
Healing in this way always includes sharing your feelings with God and maybe a close, safe person. Having someone speak the truth in love to you can be helpful; someone to listen to you, who won’t badmouth the institution of church as a whole is beneficial.
You need to forgive and let it go. Surrender it to God. At times you might have accumulated years of church hurt… or your church hurt might have been so traumatic that you may need to see a professional for help.
Seek God; he will guide and lead you. Don’t ever stop pressing into Jesus. You need to deal with your hurt by going to God right away with it in prayer. Acknowledge that someone or something hurt you.
5 Ways To Deal With Church Hurt
The Church is God’s institution; he ordained it to be a certain way but with imperfect people it has fallen short.
We as individuals need to take accountability to help the church be what God designed it to look like. Healing from your church hurt can allow you to do that. Below you will find 5 ways to find healing from church hurt.
1. Know the Purpose of the Church
Have you ever heard that a church is like a “hospital for sinners?” Well it’s true. A good church welcomes all and accepts all because that is how God wants it to be.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7, NIV)
With this will come people who are struggling with sin and hurt. Hurt people do tend to hurt other people.
Knowing this—and understanding that you are one of these people too and have probably done the same to another—allows you to put down your guard to embrace the healing you need.
It allows you to have compassion for others in their hurt, to let go of pride, and to have empathy to forgive as well as let go.
The church is meant to accept all, to help by showing people Jesus and pointing them to him as the answer, always. When you know it’s all about Jesus, you can embrace the church as it is.
2. See the Good in the Church
A good, Godly church seeks to live out his word and follow him, which is his design. In a healthy, Jesus-seeking church, focus on the good things that the church is doing, letting go of your negative outlook.
Focusing on the negative aspects of church is toxic and will mire you in anger, bitterness, hurt and resentment toward the institution. Fixating on the negative experiences you have is not good for finding the healing you need.
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13, NIV)
Changing your perspective to focus on the good in church will help you find the healing you need by allowing you to move forward to let go of the hurt.
3. God Is Still Present in the Church
It’s important to remember that, despite the pain and hurt that you personally experienced, God still loves the church and is present.
“… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NIV)
He is moving and working in those institutions that are committed to seeking him, serving him, and following the Bible. He has not left.
Knowing this allows you to place your hope in him and find restoration. He is changing the hearts of individuals who might have hurt you if they are seeking to be more like him, and that’s the same for you, too.
4. Know God’s Attributes
God is almighty and committed to the individuals who love him and serve him. He sees your church hurt and if you are seeking him for restoration he will come through. That is who he is.
He will use your pain to make you stronger, and help others too. Knowing who God is—that he is with you, loves you, is sovereign, and is always present—allows you to remember he keeps his promises and will bring you to the other side of your hurt.
“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:17, NIV)
Trust who he is for healing. Keep going to him.
5. Have Faith
Sometimes you do not see how God is moving, but he is. You might still feel bitterness and anger even though you are praying for God to take away your pain… but you need to remember that God is still working.
Having faith means you believe despite what you don’t see: “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV)
God is bringing healing to your heart and working it out; you need to just have faith that he is.
He will bring justice. He will bring revival to the church and change things. Later on you might see it… but it’s important to have faith now in your pain to move forward for healing.
It’s so important to be in a good, Jesus-loving church community. Church hurt happens but it’s not Jesus who hurt you. You can find healing by knowing the purpose of the church, seeing the good in it, remembering he is still present, understanding his attributes and having faith.
You can love yourself well by healing and finding a renewed perspective. The church needs you and you need it.