“Church Hurt” is a colloquialism used to describe the damaging impact that the church (leadership or members) has on a said individual.
Someone once told me that church hurt wasn’t real! They said: “there is no such thing as church hurt, all hurt is the same”(paraphrasing). This angered me because the last thing anyone should do is diminish another’s experience.
So here’s a piece of my story and how I managed to overcome it:
I was a new believer in Christ who just joined a church and wanted to have a clearer understanding of Christianity and salvation. I remember struggling with the idea that a man died for the sins I’d committed. Like what? How did that even make sense? What is this whole Christianity thing about–I just didn’t understand it AT ALL. I assume the smell of vulnerability and doubt must have been exuding from my pores because I was introduced to someone who desired to “help me find Christ”. They came across as a genuine individual who was super passionate about God and had a great level of wisdom about Christianity. I was drawn to THEM because of my desire to learn/want more. What started, as a simple prayer call became a subconscious dependency on an individual that I should’ve had on God alone. I was coerced into being in attendance for this weekly “prayer” call. Through this prayer call, I was brainwashed into believing things about God and Christianity that were against anything I now know about God’s truth. I was manipulated into believing ideals about salvation, sin, and judgment that were far from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I began to look up to this individual for “spiritual advise”, wisdom, tips on how to hear God, and guidance on how to pray. I was vulnerable with this person about my fears, my insecurities, and my doubts. This individual had me exactly where they wanted me. My mindset about the gospel became twisted with legalism, tradition, and religion. I began to have this haughty and judgmental disposition that warded off anyone that “smelled like sin”. I cut of anything and anyone that didn’t “look like God”. I became righteous in my own eyes. God became this judging, “no-nonsense”, and unforgiving God because of the influence that this individual had on me. Do you know how damaging that is to someone’s mental and spiritual well-being? The most alarming part of this whole ordeal is I had no idea what I was experiencing while I was in it. This was my normal and my first real taste of God and Christianity.
To this day, I still don’t know what this person gained from all of this but what I was losing in the midst of it was the Sade that God created. When I came to grips that I’d been brainwashed, by this individual, to the point where I started to talk like them and even think like them; something in me started to feel very uncomfortable. I felt like I was losing the essence of who I was.
So when did it all come to a head?
One day, I was running home to jump on this “prayer line” because I couldn’t miss it. As I was heading upstairs I was greeted by a friend who I randomly jumped into conversation with about this “prayer call” (nothing God does is random). I don’t remember the exact conversation word for word but I do recall him saying: “something about this doesn’t sound right Sade”. At that very moment, I believe God spoke through him to me . I ran upstairs and this same line: “something about this doesn’t sound right”, kept ringing in my ear. It was as if I had a moment of complete clarity and the walls began caving in on me. What had I believed that whole time? How had I fallen for this? I couldn’t separate what I’d experienced with the truth because my truth lied in them. I no longer knew who God was because everything I “knew” about Him, to this point, was through that individual. The next few days were complete darkness for me. This was probably the lowest point in my Christian journey–I felt utterly lost and hurt. I felt what it was like to really live without God—it was a very dark place. I didn’t want anything to do with God, prayer, church, or Christianity–I was done but God wasn’t done with me.
What happened next showed me the true unfailing love and power of God.
Someone I knew passed away and the funeral was being held at my church. God knew this was the only way I would step foot in the church again. I didn’t want to run into this individual nor face them for what they had done to me but God knew I wouldn’t skip out on this funeral. I went and sat way in the back of the church cringing. In my head, I was trying to make sense of everything. As I sat in deep thought, God began to flash my entire life before my eyes. “I’ve been here with you since the beginning; I will never leave or forsake you”, He said. I mean He flashed my entire life before my eyes! I cannot explain the fullness of the vision in words because it would do it an injustice but I felt instantly comforted by His love. The irony of that entire experience was that God chose a funeral to speak to me.
In that moment, God showed me that HE was bigger than anything that anyone could do to me. There’s a scripture that says: nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; this is so befitting for that moment.
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37
The hurt from what that individual had done to me couldn’t separate me from God’s love. Their manipulation couldn’t separate me from God’s love. The brainwashing couldn’t separate me from God’s love. He showed His unfailing love for me in that moment and nothing has been the same. I cannot say that I was fully healed in that moment because a lot of healing has taken place since but that was my release. That moment showed me the compassion that God has for me. I now know that I needed to experience the hurt and betrayal from that individual to be able to understand and experience the fullness of God. I cannot say that this was the last time I was “church hurt” but that time began the process of understanding who God truly is and what HE stands for. God is love. God is compassionate. God is sovereign. God is just. God is forgiving. God is merciful. If anyone tries to tell you something other than what the word of God says, don’t believe him or her. This is why it’s so important to read the word and know who God is for yourself.
What makes “church hurt” different is that it has the power to separate your heart from God. Anything that has the power to separate your heart from God is utterly damaging. I share this testimony with you today out of of sheer compassion for you. If you have been hurt by the church, what you’ve experienced is real but there is hope for you. The hope is that God is what His word says He is! The hope is that you too can be healed from the stain of “church hurt”. Don’t let the enemy use people to keep you from God. Don’t let the enemy run you out of the church. Don’t let the enemy use people to influence you into rejecting the redeeming, compassionate, forgiving, and nurturing love that is God. There are some people who’ve decided to do Christianity without church, I get it, but there is nothing like being connected to a house of prayer and fellowship with other like-minded individuals. I am praying with and for you.