I don’t remember when it started. It was subtle and sneaky.
An odd look here. A whisper there. A greeting that went unacknowledged.
Something changed. And I had no idea why. I remember walking around feeling very confused by the whole thing. Didn’t I just spend an afternoon smiling and laughing with this person just a week earlier? Weren’t my children running around calling them grandma So and So??
I had no idea of the web that was being spun against me. The lies that were being spoken behind my back. Once I found out the heartbreaking truth I longed for the days of walking around in confusion.
When The Church Wounds Us
There’s something about church hurt that’s hard to comprehend. I had grown up in that church, faced a lot of criticism and ridicule for the way I chose to live my life. Not that I was doing anything sinful, I just chose to do things differently. In my heart, I was sure that my church only had my best interest at heart. That underneath that criticism they were just concerned for my soul.
I could deal with that. But this …
To have my character called into question in that way was just more than I could bear. At just 25, I sat in my mom’s arms and cried my eyes out. I just couldn’t understand how anyone who knew me could think so low of me.
It wasn’t the entire church. In fact, most of the church came to my defense. I remember sitting in the pew while my pastor stood in the pulpit defending my honor. It was sweet. But the damage had already been done. Church no longer felt safe.
And when my pastor passed a year later, I knew that it was time for us to go.
Dealing with your Church Hurt
The decision to leave was not an easy one. I loved my church. And I loved many of the people there. I spent weeks in prayer. I asked my mom to help walk with me as I made my choice. And when I left, I did so quietly. I chose not to confront the people who had betrayed me. I spoke with the new pastor about my decision and stopped attending.
We didn’t go to church for a short time after that. I needed some time to rest and heal.
It took me a long time to feel safe in church again: I was highly suspicious of everyone, including my pastor. It took me many months to reach out to him for help and it was a very rocky road. It took me about 9 months to really trust him a little bit.
As I felt more comfortable at my new church, I reached out to others there. My biggest step forward was when I worked up the courage to ask for a mentor. One of the sisters in the church said she had someone in mind. She prayed and asked the person and they said yes.
Baby Steps Toward Healing Church Hurt
I had prayed for a mentor for almost 10 years! The relationship grew slowly. I didn’t know her or trust her. She would text me encouraging verses and ask how we were doing. She called sometimes. And any time I went for prayer at church she was right there with me. Still is. She’s like a second mom to me now.
A few months later, I took another step and started attending prayer training at my church. Two ladies there have really adopted me as well. They love me and pray for me all the time.
Healing takes time. And the key is learning to trust God first. For a long time I didn’t, because I didn’t know Him well. Even after being saved for decades I didn’t have a truly deep relationship with Him. As I learned to trust Him I began to trust myself and then others.
I had to remove myself from toxic situations and people. And spend lots of time in prayer and studying my Bible. I made lots of mistakes along the way. I still stumble at times. The important thing is to always get back up.
I know that overcoming church hurt can be so hard, but you can do it! You may have to leave the church that’s hurt you. Go to a church where you don’t know anyone. Remember, God is with you. When you learn to trust Him then you’ll be able to start trusting other people.
Have you ever experienced church hurt? How do you move forward?
LaToya Edwards, Women Finding God
LaToya Edwards is a Christian life coach and writer. She helps Christian women overcome fear through bold and courageous faith so they can walk victoriously through trials, knowing God is with them, every step of the way. You can learn more about LaToya on her blog, Women Finding God.