"Where there is creativity, there is hope." ~ Donna Karan

New Church Glow

by - Monday, May 20, 2019

Quote by Natalie Snapp, made with Canva.

In January of last year I didn't have a church to call home. The negative experiences I encountered in a church I thought would be my forever church had broken me beyond what I thought possible, leaving me feeling hopeless, worthless and ashamed. I had no church friends to turn to on bad days or to celebrate the good ones with. I was without prayer support and encouragement, feeling isolated and depressed; virtually doing chronic illness alone.

This wasn't because of some minor grievances; I was struggling with significant church hurt where I was so deeply wounded and broken I couldn't set foot in a church for five years.

My struggle with church hurt is something I've kept relatively private for a long time because it's not an easy thing to talk about and it's something that has left me wracked with shame. And then there's the belief that hurt experienced in churches should never be spoken of because it's wrong and fosters gossip. This belief only causes more hurt and isolation, and adds to the aforementioned shame.

Church hurt needs to be talked about with vulnerability and honesty. It's something that pastors and leaders need to address more to build better church relationships and a more caring culture. Experiences need to be shared to help heal and encourage.

Church hurt is very real and damaging. It's not a joke; I was at rock bottom for several years because of it. It catapulted me to a place of darkness, misery and despair I didn't know existed. It shattered my confidence and ate away at my self-esteem. I experienced hell in what should have been a place of refuge and peace for me. Sometimes it was a hell more fiery than chronic illness; one I wouldn't wish on anyone, not even those who do the hurting.

I wanted to share my story briefly for those who may need some hope and encouragement. (I endeavour to share it in full at some point but for now I am just dipping my toes in the water.)

Throughout the difficulties, insensitive words and hurtful actions I encountered in church, I felt completely alone. It appeared I was the only one in the congregation who dreaded attending church. For many years it felt like I was the only person in the world who was struggling to find acceptance, support, encouragement and friendship at church. The hell I endured felt like it was somehow my fault, that there must have been something wrong with me, that I was unworthy and just not good enough.

It wasn't until I had honest conversations with some Christians about my feelings and fears that I discovered I was in very good company. Churches aren't perfect; there are people all over the world who have been hurt by careless Christians. It was an incredible relief to know I wasn't alone in navigating the deep waters of church hurt and comforting (as well as saddening) to hear that my experiences were not unique.

Source: Symphony

It's important to know you're not alone, so I want to let you know that I too understand what it feels like to have your spirit crushed by people who you thought the world of. 

For years I questioned my faith and the goodness of God after finding myself lost and broken in the wilderness because of how a group of Christians treated me. For years I doubted if I would ever enjoy church again and find a place I could truly call home. For years I struggled with self doubt; I felt unworthy, useless, unlikeable. For years I prayed that God would lead me to a more supportive, nurturing and accepting church where I could grow and flourish. There were many moments I doubted the church I was longing for existed.

Just over a year ago I discovered that it existed when I picked myself back up, gathered all the courage I could find, and got myself through the doors of a church I felt God was calling me to. I started afresh and trusted God again by giving another church a chance, and I haven't looked back.

That new church glow.

After several years since walking away from the church that was no longer right for me, God is answering my prayers. I am now connected in an amazing church I feel God has planted me in to bloom. I am surrounded by supportive, kind, encouraging and genuinely caring people. I am meeting the people I've prayed to meet. I'm now receiving the support I've desired my entire journey with chronic illness, and I'm seeing dramatic improvement with anxiety and depression. It makes me proud and happy to say I am finally enjoying church again.

I was scrolling through Pinterest when this quote hit me in the face. Whoa. It's what I've been trusting God for- that he would fix what is broken, make things right and put me back together even stronger. I can already see His hand in bringing me out better off than I was before.

No church is perfect but no church should be a place of immense hurt, struggle, pain, isolation and despair. To sum up my past hurtful experiences in a nutshell: The church I was in just didn't care. They didn't value or respect me like they should have and they sure didn't care that I was struggling with having my life upended by chronic illness. They proved this time and time again but I wanted to believe they cared. I spent years trying to force them to care because the church should care. But you can't force people to care.

It was hurtful to accept that they didn't care but it was also powerful and life-changing after many years of denial. Believing the church that treated me like they didn't care, then walking away has been the best thing I've ever done because I've now discovered a church full of people who genuinely care. I've found my tribe.

If my church hurt experience and my journey to finding a new church home has taught me anything it's this: Your church should be your sanctuary. And if it isn't? Leave. Hightail it out of there. You are allowed to leave. You are allowed to have standards and expectations. You deserve to be heard, supported and valued. You deserve to feel welcome and included. You deserve to belong. You deserve better because you are a loved child of God.

If people are mistreating you, the best thing you can do is believe their actions and believe that you deserve better. It's time to hold your head up high, know your worth, and go find your tribe. God has a place for you out there and there is hope after church hurt. You can get back up again. No matter how broken you are, you are not destroyed.

Though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. {2 Corinthians 4:9}


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