Have you ever been given a bouquet of roses? You get excited as you see the beauty. You want to bring them near to get a good whiff, but then you get stabbed. Brutally, stabbed by those pesky thorns. You didn’t expect it. You believed they would have been removed. Even with the best of intentions, you were hurt.
Church hurt happens in the last place you would expect. It happens while gathering in a building, conference, or environment with a body of believers. We expect a safe space. We expect to be loved unconditionally. We expect for believers and leaders to reflect Christ.
But sometimes they fail. Their lives, actions, or words do not live according to Christ who they profess to love. And they end up hurting those around them deeply, even causing some to believe that it was God who hurt them.
How many of you know a teen girl who has been hurt by someone in the church? If you don’t, I am sure there will be a day that comes and we want to help you know what to do.
What is the root of church hurt?
Church hurt is caused by the shortcomings, mistakes, actions, and words of people. The root of church hurt will always be people, because people are broken and sinful (even those who are in church leadership). And while church hurt can impact one girl, it often has ripple effects on her entire family and those around her. This burdens me deeply, and I hope you feel the weight of it, too.
What do we do when she says someone has hurt her?
Before we even discuss the root of her hurt, it is our job to listen to why she is hurt. Your job is not to try to debate or argue or negate the hurt they are sharing with you. I know that there is often a deep yearning or maybe even an unspoken obligation to defend other believers who might have caused this hurt. But our main job is to listen to what happened, take the time to discover how it made her feel, and learn the results of their hurt.
So what do we do about her hurt?
Some hurt will be caused by minor misunderstandings or poor choice of words. Help her find reconciliation with the person that hurt her. Help her understand the power of forgiveness, even if the person who hurt her isn’t sorry.
Please remember that if she approaches you with any kind of abuse, you must always report it according to your church bylaws and practices. Do not keep any kind of abuse a secret but report it to your pastoral staff immediately and to local law officials as necessary. Follow up by discussing with her (and her parents) how you can walk with her through the process of healing from her hurt.
How do we help someone who blames their hurt on God?
Prayer and love. Pray for her heart that one day she will see that a person hurt them, not the Lord. Pray she finds a safe place to grow in community with believers and in her relationship with God. Then, pray for the person (or people) who hurt her. Pray God will change their hearts so that they may realize the result of their actions or words. Then pray for the whole church body and each believer inside it, that we’d be aware of the impact we have on others. Pray that we live for the sole purpose to bring glory to the kingdom of God.
Then, love her—right where she’s at in her hurt and shame. Love her by walking with her through her healing process. Love her unconditionally and holistically. Love her as Christ loves her, and remind her of the love she will always find in Him. That while people will always mess up and some can cause significant hurt, God’s love for her is perfect and He will never fail her.
Jillian Deaton has a passion for showing people the love of Christ through speaking, writing, and everyday life. She is the wife to second lieutenant Jaxson Deaton. Jillian is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University. She is the author of Powerfully Weak, This is Why, The Four Seasons of Hope, as well as the co-author of A Bigger Purpose. She is passionate about sharing God’s Word with students and women of all ages! She believes no matter who you are or where you’ve been the Word of God is relevant to your life as you strive to live with authentic faith in Christ. Connect with Jillian: Instagram