I’d been out of the church I loved for nearly a year. I was so hurt by what had happened after my divorce. So angry at how I’d been treated. I couldn’t bear to walk through the doors at times. But over that time, as I lashed out at God and everyone around me for what I was feeling, I discovered something I didn’t want to admit. I began to get a sneaking feeling, then a solid understanding, until I knew in my heart that the church wasn’t the problem.
When the pain of my loss subsided a little and I was able to look back more objectively, I started to understand that my church had actually tried to be good to me. They offered me wise and loving counselors who helped me work through my heartbreak, though I didn’t realize the impact they had until much later. But in the midst of my grief — when my heart broke as my life fell apart and I struggled to grasp for help — I felt let down by “the church” somehow.
I was angry at everything they stood for and everything I had once believed about them. Because what I had believed about them was not who they were meant to be in my life.
As a whole, my church was not the problem, but there were some within it that were certainly part of it. A neighbor I’d introduced to that church, and had gone out of my way to help during her time of need, had turned on me and spread rumors that were completely fabricated. Others in my community, who I knew were Christians, were isolating me in social situations and aiding my ex in the harassment that nearly sent him to jail for a year. To make matters worse, every article I found online in the initial stages of my grief were filled with judgment and an uncomfortable piousness toward those in my situation.
I became guarded and bitter toward anyone from “the church” (and by that, I mean any Christian) who neared the subject of my loss.
You see, I’d watched my church help others. Others with problems that seemed far greater than mine. Others who approached them as the shell of a person I felt like, and grew to be restored. And yet all I seemed to do was fall apart more each day and wonder why God wasn’t using the church I loved — the church I’d dedicated myself to — to heal me.
Nearly a year went by from the time I decided my church had done serious harm to my fragile heart until the time I returned with the humble realization that it wasn’t them. Nearly a year before I realized that I wouldn’t find my healing there.
And it was then that I realized this as well: They are not the Church alone. They are not my God. And they are not my Healer.
The Bible talks about broken hearts specifically. And clearly tells us that God will heal those wounds.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. –Psalm 147:3 (NIV)
But before a wound can be healed, it has to be offered up. It has to be shown to the healer, no matter how ragged and broken. So the healer can take an assessment of the damage and know what it will take to make it better, and understand the type of binding necessary to bring true healing.
True healing can be found only through reaching out to the One who offers it. Without bitterness and resentment getting in the way. Without anger and blame for others. But with an earnest heart that wants to find it.
The wound can’t be healed when we hover over it in anger, hiding and protecting it from the world. Because that is what causes a wound to fester. To become infected. To cause further damage to the wounded than the initial wound.
If you’ve been hurt by the church and are blaming your specific church for your pain, maybe what you’re actually feeling is more of a longing for healing from your pain that you can’t seem to place. Maybe a few in the church have caused you pain, and as a result, you flinch from the others who truly want to help you. Maybe, like me, you’ve recoiled in hopes of healing on your own, only to discover that you were looking for healing in all the wrong places.
Reconsider your position, sweet friend. Turn to the One who has offered to bind those wounds, and forgive those who may have tried with the best of intentions but didn’t quite reach what you needed, or what God hoped they might be in your life. The church alone or as a whole can’t heal you. The sooner you realize that — and the fact that they were never meant to — the sooner you will find the clarity to reach toward the One who longs to.