How many times have you heard someone say they are not stepping foot inside a church again because someone hurt them? The reality is that far too many people are have been hurt inside the walls of a church. The church was meant to be a healing place, but for many has become a hurting place. I do not believe it is part of God’s plan for a person who was hurt by others to remain outside the fellowship of other believers, God’s love must shine through. People who are injured by others must not allow their pain to overtake their relationship with Christ. God is calling his people home to heal, be restored, and be renewed in his image.
Everyone has pain.
If you have spent a short period in the church, you will have experienced pain. I still remember the day when a church member yelled and cussed in my face because I did not follow her instructions. After she stormed out, I sat shell-shocked for at least thirty minutes, trying to figure out a way to repair the damage she said I had caused. At that moment, I realized that everyone has pain, but some share it in high-stress moments or moments where they feel they are losing control, while others remain silent, allowing it to build up. That day, the board members’ pain was not what I had done, but the pain of past failures of others, and I happened to be on receiving end of the abuse. I recognized that day that we all have pain, but we have a choice when, where, and how we share it with others. Be someone who extends understanding and not judgment when the pain of others is shown, and realize that everyone has pain, and we need to love them anyway.
Everyone carries pain their way.
On any given Sunday, there are members in your local church who bring with them pain from the past. For some, they will leave it at the altar. For many, they carry it around, some as a badge of honor of what they have overcome, for others scars from the past attacks, and others hide the pain just below the surface, ready for it to come out when they feel wronged or threatened. Feeling pain is natural but living in pain is unhealthy. Christ taught his disciples to forgive and move forward by not allowing the situation to overtake them. What excellent advice for us today. To live for today, and not in the past. Carrying pain is a choice that God is asking to take for you. Do not permit the pain to be carried forward. Release it and move forward with God’s help.
Everyone releases pain in some way.
The pain that people experience will come out one way or another. The person in pain must choose to release it in a healthy way or the worldly way. Some try to remove their pain through drugs, alcohol, overeating, exercising, sleeping, etc.; one must ask themselves what God has to say? I believe that God is calling for us to give everything that is holding us back from being the very best that Christ has created us to be. He wants all the guilt, shame, anger, and envy. If a person does not release their pain, it will come out in unconstructive and damaging ways that will harm relationships and hinder their life in Christ. Be intentional and release the pain through prayer and positioning yourself to heal.
Everyone needs to give up on what others think.
If you think back to your early memories, you have been told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The mentality of being directing has harmed many people’s ability to think constructively for themselves. This lack of thinking for ourselves has hurt our God-given talent to be who God has called us to be. I am not saying that you should not care about what others who love you have to say, but far too many have allowed the voice of others to override the voice of God. God has created you in his image, not in the idea of a parent, spouse, or friend. Permit yourself to say no. Permit yourself to analyze and think through something before you react. Too many relationships break down because one of the parties has not broken free from the negative mindset of what another person placed on them. Value what others say, but do not let it dictate who you are to become. Honor God by honoring his wishes for your life.
Everyone needs to love themselves as Christ loves them.
God loves you. Read that again; God loves you. God has created you in his image with giftings and unique characteristics that no one else has. Be proud of who you are, where you have come from, and where you are going. Love yourself as Christ loves you with an overwhelming touch of his grace, mercy, and love. Those that carry the burden of pain from their past are struck in not moving forward. Through Christ’s love and touch on the person’s life, God can help the person heal from the pain caused at the hands of others.
To overcome church hurt and heal, you have to overcome your own identity found in pain. You have to move from a victim mentality to a victor mentality to grasp what Christ has for your life. The church needs you. Do not allow a person to steal your joy of serving God within the church. Instead, be a joy giver by leading through the example of God’s grace by extending it to others by being who you are in Christ.
Desmond Barrett is the lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky, and is the cofounder of the Rural Revitalization Network