Hurt by the church, what now?
|Created by Gerard de Vos|
Category: Faith related
According to statistics, many people have had negative experiences in church. That caused them to leave and stop attending church. Even if people are saved, they are still fallen creatures who make mistakes and have reactions. What advice is there for people who have been hurt in church?
The advice is different for people who have closed their Bibles and turned away from the Lord, and for people who are still praying and trusting the Holy Spirit for guidance. If you have lost your faith, you have fallen into the trap of the devil. Then it is necessary to remember that we will always face trials and temptations. It is normal in the life of the believer, and there is a logical reason for it. God's plan is to gather a bride for His Son, Jesus. All parents would like to be sure that the person their child is marrying is really in love with him or her. God is also like that. To find out if people who will become part of His Son's Bride really love Him, He gives them tests. Tests are not fun and joy (although we are reminded to count them as joy in James 1). For example, Jeremiah complained to God about his trials, and God gave him good advice: 'If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan' (Jeremiah 12:5)? God was warning him to prepare for an even greater test than the one he was experiencing.
If we compare our own sufferings with Paul's, they could be trivial. Paul was flogged, thrown in prison, shipwrecked, stoned, insulted, and in danger from bandits (2 Corinthians 11:23-29) and yet he wrote: 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing' (2 Timothy 4:8).
What advice can we give to those who have been hurt by the church, but have retained their faith? 'Let us keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). We will see God and Jesus with our own eyes one day (Revelation 22:4). We are not to let anything get in our way to rob us of that prize. We can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to forgive the offenders, and to know how to go on. 'Must I go back, find another church, join a smaller church or become part of a house church?' The Holy Spirit is our Counsellor, and His advice is the best. Just do not allow the devil to rob you of salvation so that you 'fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap' (1 Timothy 3:7b), but 'escape from the trap of the devil' (2 Timothy 2:26). The devil is still prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). The advice of the Holy Spirit is apt: 'Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings' (1 Peter 5:9).
Many times it helps to forgive those who hurt you, and go back. God will honor it and change circumstances. Regardless, let this be your motto: don't let the devil have the pleasure of seeing how he tripped you. Prove him wrong and let him witness your faith in Jesus.