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  • Writer's pictureNicci Smith

How to Begin Healing from Church Hurt

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

People are broken. Broken people are hurt. And hurt people hurt people. Unfortunately, pastors and their wives are often on the receiving end of that hurt. It’s easier for people to place blame and fault on others than to take responsibility for their own thoughts or actions. Not everyone is capable of confronting their own hurts, beliefs, or struggles. Even now, as you’re reading this, there’s probably something you’re struggling to cope with or confront.

People are broken. Broken people are hurt. Hurt people hurt people.

put your faith in God - not the people

I recall walking into our church one Wednesday Evening, dreading any interaction that I might have to partake in. This was absolutely the last place I wanted to be that evening and that thought crushed me. This was a place I once sought out for solace, for comfort. It once filled me with joy and energized me.

I sent my kids off to their Wednesday night classes and decided I would go sit by myself for a while in the sanctuary. It was empty and dark and I needed to hear from God. I needed to know that we hadn’t made some terrible life mistake by dedicating our lives to the church. I needed to know I wasn’t walking alone, that He was with me.

I sat on the burgundy cushioned pew and stared up at the stained glass window at the front of the church. Like a rebellious child, I refused to move when I knew I needed to fall to my knees. I wasn’t going to budge. God was going to meet me here, I had done my part by showing up in a place I felt rejected by.

However, like most rebels, my resistance was coming from a place of hurt and brokenness, so eventually, I gave in. Slowly, I made my way to the front of the sanctuary. I dropped to my hands and knees and had myself a good ol’ sob fest on the steps, at the foot of the cross.

It was in the midst of that sob fest that I was gently reminded that I had been putting my faith in people and not in God. I naively thought that people in the church would naturally love each other and be full of humility. I believed they would be kind and gentle. I believed they would encourage each other and lift each other up.

The truth is, people in the church are just as broken (if not more) than those who are outside of the church. And our calling, as both Christians and ministry leaders, is to love them through that. This means we sit with our own hurts and struggles so that we can sit with others while they work through theirs.

Learn to set healthy boundaries

Does this mean we simply have to take it? NO. Absolutely not. This is a prime opportunity to learn how to create and set healthy boundaries.

For a while, I had to distance myself from some ministries. I needed to heal and that healing took time. I took hold of my spiritual life jacket and held on for dear life. I sought out bible studies and worship services at other churches so I could continue to be spiritually fed.

I gave myself permission to say no and not feel guilty about it. I didn’t attend certain events because it would interfere with my healing process. I would no longer subject my children to people who would challenge my parenting choices - especially in front of them.

Give yourself permission to not receive unwelcome attitudes, advice, or pressure from those who surround you. Just because someone says it, doesn't mean you have to give it life. Remember, hurt people hurt people. If you don’t feel strong enough yet to voice that, smile and nod - then LET. IT. GO.

I gave myself permission to say no and not feel guilty about it.

Secure yourself in Christ - And grow a thicker skin

The honest truth is that ministry requires a thick skin and the ability to bite your tongue. The challenge is not becoming jaded in the process. The only way to do that is by securing yourself in Christ. The more secure you are in who you were created to be and what you were created for, the easier it will be for you to let go of the things that were never meant for you in the first place -like the misplaced opinions or criticism received from others.

don't become jaded

It's okay to feel all the feelings. It's okay to be mad for a little bit. Just don't stay there. If you feel yourself becoming stuck, know that you're not alone. I've been there and so have so many others. Connect with those who will understand your hurt and help you walk through it. Those who will validate your pain and not dismiss it - because it is valid.

Finally, know that you have been called to this life.

Ministry life is tough. Loving people is hard. But you didn't simply stumble upon this path, you were placed here on purpose.

You are worthy.

You are capable.

And you are loved.

When I said, "My foot is slipping," your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. - Psalms 94:18-19

Have you experienced hurt within the church? I'd love to hear from you.

For a list of verses that helped me in my journey, check out this post here.

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