Everywhere I look there seems to be someone loudly proclaiming that it is the church’s fault they walked away from God. “Leadership hurt me … Leadership let me down … No one cared to get to know me … No one knew how to deal with my pain”. These are very valid reasons to want to walk away from a church- I do not blame you, I get it. But to say the church’s shortcomings are the cause of your fallout with God is actually a reflection of your inability to take responsibility for your choices.
Allow me to explain.
Like many others, I have been hurt by church leadership. I have been let down, I have been spoke ill of, I have had leaders choose to believe rumours instead of believing in my heart. I have also been a leader, and I have no doubt that I too have let people down and possibly hurt individuals that looked up to me. Do you know why this happens? Because the church is run by humans. Imperfect humans, actually, that do wrong, get angry, don’t always set priorities straight, and at times fail at understanding the true reason behind our emotional expressions. Beings that will never fully understand our individual pain, that will never fully fill the need we have for love and acceptance. This is why it bothers my core when people blame God for what the church has done. The church is meant to be a reflection of God, but it is not a replacement for God. God is love, God is understanding, and He is true acceptance. God is the spirit that leads you, that convicts you, and that lifts you. God is the one that can truly mend your broken heart and quiet the pain while giving you peace. God is the one that will forever cheer for you every time you fail or succeed. He will listen to you without judgement and forever be calling you into His embrace. God will never walk away from you like humans have, He will never speak behind your back, or disregard the pain you have been caused. That is why, to me, God and the church are as opposite as black and white. Human beings will never be able to meet our expectations, they will always fall short.
I will be the first to admit I held anger in my heart towards the church and leadership for many years. I would think “How could they call themselves Christian and treat others like this? How could they preach about love from the podium and so willingly throw dirt on brokenness because it was too time consuming to try and understand? How could they?!” Then I saw my own shortcomings. The pain I chose to give control to, the wrongs I committed in retaliation. How could I point a finger when I myself handed humans the power to control my emotions? Suddenly I saw that I needed to stop blaming and start taking responsibility for my own actions. Yes, the church is supposed to guide us and support us, but my spiritual state is my responsibility. It was my decision to make God secondary to and expect the church to come and fix me. I expected imperfect humans to fill a void that was too complex for them to understand. I put humans in a place only God should hold- no wonder I was so royally let down! God is our salvation from the pain of loss and abuse; God is our salvation from our anxiety and fears; God is our salvation from the torment and hurdles the enemy throws at us in life. Human beings will never be able to save us.
Are you sitting in your room fuming at what you reading thinking “well if the church had not done a and b then maybe I wouldn’t be this way”? Answer me this: would you be this way if you had gone to God with your pain before walking away from Him? Would you be this way if you had sought His guidance before letting your flesh run your decision making? Would you be this way if you had chosen to deal with the situation instead of turning from your beliefs to prove your brokenness?”. I am not disregarding the pain you have been caused. Pain is very real and devastating, especially when we had no say in what was done to us. What I want to do is encourage you to move beyond that pain. Stop looking at the church and start looking at your decisions in handling the aftermath of a bad situations. Focus your energy on healing instead of focusing it on reliving the wrong done to you, instead of continuing to choose a life that degrades your value and keeps you bitter. Our spiritual state is a direct reflection of our spiritual choices. No one can make spiritual choices for you, you are the boss. When is the last time you laid your flesh down and humbly came to the foot of the cross in repentance and with a willingness to listen to a voice other than that of your pain? Maybe that is where we fail ourselves more than the church fails us.
Reflection: What can you do today to move away from pain and the church blame game, and move towards peace and happiness in your life?
I know for dealing with my anger I sought out therapy. I was an angry person because I had this level of expectation that were always failed, I was a people pleaser, and I had situations in my life that I just did not know how to deal with. I had to seek help. Perhaps for you it will be talking to a therapist, or going to a support group. Maybe going to your church for help at this time is not the best choice because there is also a lot of anger towards the church. I know God has called me to seek help from pastors, but only when my heart has been in the right place to receive from them. I know it is a heavier way of looking at our hurt, but I do want to leave you with that reflection. “What can you do today to move away from the pain and the church blame game, and move towards peace and happiness in your life?” Frankly, the only way we will ever move past it is when we say STOP to living in the pain and take the right steps towards healing with God.