I paused for a moment at the end of the driveway. I was supposed to head south. South was our church, where I was supposed to sit with my children in my usual place and listen attentively as my husband preached. I reached for the gear shift as tapes replayed in my head:
“You know they’re trying to get your husband fired, don’t you?”
I thought about another Sunday of smiling while my heart was breaking and worshipping while watching my back.
I headed north. And as I drove north toward a place where I didn’t have to worry about causing a stir because the pastor’s wife was crying through church, my heart vibrated in rhythm with the thump of the tires on the asphalt.
Lord, loving your people hurts right now.
What are we to do when loving God’s people hurts? Sometimes it will. This church thing is glorious when we get it right, but when we get it wrong it goes deep. What was meant to be a place of healing becomes a place of wounding, and it hurts all the more because we know it wasn’t meant to be this way. What do we do when reaching out in love feels like pushing through the flames?
Look to Jesus as your healer.
I’ve been bruised by God’s people, left struggling to keep my soul-fire from burning out. Our Jesus is the one who will not crush a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. He knows what it feels like to be rejected, betrayed, and forsaken, and it is by His stripes that we are healed. It helps to remember that my wholeness depends not on other’s repentance but on God’s divine restoration. I may want those who have hurt me to fix the wounds they have caused, but Jesus is the healer of my soul.
Remember who the real enemy is.
In Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss is reaped to face the Hunger Games for a second time. Before she enters the arena her mentor warns her to remember who the real enemy is. When we are wounded by God’s people we face the same challenge. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Satan can’t stand against a united church. That’s why he tries so hard to destroy it. It is only in the strength of our life together that we can storm the gates of hell.
Replace bitterness with blessing.
The dangerous roots of bitterness worm their way into the bedrock of our hearts. They creep their way in with every argument we let play out in our minds and work their way deeper as we nurse grudges and vent to well-meaning friends. Left unchecked, bitterness slowly poisons our souls. The antidote for bitterness is blessing. Ask God to show you his heart for those who have wounded you. Pray blessings over them — joy, peace, repentance, a kind heart, the willingness to change, a teachable spirit. When we learn to bless those who have hurt us, we begin to see our circumstances from heaven’s point of view. It is in that place that our healing begins.
Learn to love the Bride.
The church is not an accident of history but a part of God’s eternal plan. Christ died for the church and has chosen her for his bride. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. When we respond to hurt by removing ourselves from the body it damages the church. We are part of this kingdom story, and our hurt should not stop us from loving well.
Time has passed since that tearful Sunday morning, and I’ve found healing. Being wounded by God’s people tastes bitter, but I’ve also tasted the sweet power of the church dwelling in unity. Hebrews tells us to “keep on loving each other as brothers” (13:1). Loving God’s people can hurt. But that doesn’t mean we should quit. Keep reaching out. Keep loving. Keep holding on to hope. Together we are the church; the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our unity is worth fighting for.