By Michelle Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
During an altercation with people from church, our pride got the best of us. We traded insults, exchanged hurtful words, and in the end, brought glory to ourselves and not God. Looking back, it made us both look silly. But each of us sat on our pedestals and judged each others’ actions as worse than our own. Both of us left the argument feeling like wet dishcloths: wrung out from all the strife.
Churches can be messy, can’t they? We as imperfect members of Christ’s body get things wrong. Our pride, rebellion, and past wounds infiltrate our present and skew our view of our brothers and sisters as those we were meant to win an argument over rather than people with whom we can best demonstrate the love of Christ. We’ve all been hurt by churches. But what do you do when those wounds fester into bitter hearts and infected scars?
What the Bible says
1 Peter 3:9 says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because this to you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” This may seem like an ordinary verse, but it is ironic that Peter is the one who said it, since he was the first to cut off the enemy’s ear in Jesus’ defense! It is obvious once the Holy Spirit got a hold of him, he was transformed into a gentle, kind person rather than one that lacked self-control in every area of life.
If there is hope for Peter, there is hope for us! Sometimes the worst hurts come from those who are supposed to love us most. But when those trials come, we have been equipped with the perfect tools to transform the situation into one of hope and blessing. Here are six ways to let go of church hurt:
1. Write it Down
Get a blank journal. Write down all your feelings and emotions associated with your hurt. Get real. In order to put our past behind us, we must efficiently process our emotions. Don’t be afraid to write down even the rawest feelings. When you are ready, rip out the pages and throw them away. It’s a symbolic gesture to rid yourself of anything that hinders you from living the abundant life Christ promised us.
If you are concerned about someone seeing what you wrote, write it down with dissolving paper. This paper is thin and transparent. Use an ink pen and write down all your thoughts linked to the pain. Get a large bowl of clear water and place the paper in the water. The ink lifts off the paper and into the water! Take a spoon and stir it around. Within seconds the ink is completely gone. This is another way to symbolically rid yourself of your cares and concerns and give them to God.
2. Bless Them
Nothing turns a sour heart sweet again than the opportunity to bless someone who has wronged you. Not only will it be a surprise to them, but it will also pave the way for you to live in the freedom afforded to you in Christ Jesus. You can choose to bless them in your prayers, in your thoughts, or in your actions.
3. Forgive Them
One of Jesus' last words, before he was crucified, was, “forgive them, father, for they know not what they do.” If Jesus can forgive the most heinous crimes committed against him, then so can we. We often think we are fighting for justice or defending the word of God. But our self-righteous anger often gets in the way of what we are fighting for in the first place. Forgiveness gives way to gentleness. And we can’t exhibit the other fruits of the spirit without it either.
4. Glorify Him
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems they are strong on opinion but weak in the faith department. Remember they have their own journey to deal with. Treat them gently" (Romans 13, The Message). This is by far the hardest lesson for me to learn. When someone hurts me verbally, the easiest revenge tactic I take is to punch them back with my words. But this is not why Christ came. Christ came to bring peace and in so doing, bring glory to His father. When we take a moment to bless someone who has hurt us, it makes way for the Holy Spirit to work, and unbelievers are more attracted to us as a result.
5. Reconcile with Them
Believe it or not, leaving a church is not biblical. Yet, it is our first coping mechanism when we get hurt or things don’t go our way. Jesus promised, “I can only do what I see my father doing” (John 5:19). Although we are called to live at peace with everyone, we can only do our best to achieve that peace within our own hearts, not the hearts of others. Pray for opportunities to resolve the issue between you and the offender. As long as God gives you another day, peace and freedom are possible, even if reconciliation isn’t.
6. Leave it at the Cross
God is sovereign. He has been, and always will be, on the throne. He was present before, during, and after the conflict. Even if you don’t handle the situation as you should have, God is a God of grace. His cross atoned for that conflict, and every other conflict you ever will have with others. Even when the situation looks bleak and impossible to resolve peaceably, God is still full of second chances. We are called to forgive others seventy times seven. It doesn’t matter if they forgive, you are not responsible for them. Leave your conflict at the cross. Let God handle it. When the opportunity for reconciliation arises, take it.
Although we receive deep wounds from others from a place that is supposed to be a safe refuge, we are human beings and make mistakes. By processing your emotions, letting God take control, and leaving the resolution to Him, you will receive a peace that passes all understanding.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/tepic
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. A two-time Children's Book of the Year award winner, she is also a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her newest release, I Surrender All (Sort of) helps readers lay down the parts of their lives they are holding onto, so God can do the impossible. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and crazy dog, Cookie. For more information, please visit her website here.