Don’t Ignore It
If only we lived in a perfect world with perfect people then we could have the perfect church! If only… If you’ve been part of the local church for any time it’s likely that you have come face-to-face with the reality of being hurt. People say hurtful words and do hurtful things—sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. So what to do? How do we handle hurt, especially when it comes from within the church?
Hurt happens. It’s real. Hurt is real whether we are talking about hurt feelings or hurt bodies—the old adage about sticks and stones hurting more than words is really not true. It does no good to act like it doesn’t happen. It happens even in the most ideal settings and most surreal circumstances. We are not immune to hurt.
I want to say that it’s okay to hurt but by that I don’t mean that it’s okay to hurt someone. We just need to say that it doesn’t mean that you’re weak or “a sissy” Christian if you get hurt. Hurt happens, don’t ignore it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away; in fact, that’s a sure way to magnify the effect of hurt later in your life and church.
Refuse to Lose
You and I, as the church of the Living God are in a spiritual battle—we are at war. But we are not at war with each other! There is someone who wants us to be at war with each other. I have found that realizing we are in a spiritual battle and refusing to give in to the wiles of our enemy fortifies a desire to refuse to allow hurt to win the day. When confronted with a thought, I find it helpful to ask, “Now who do you think would want me to think like this?” If it is clearly not from the Lord, I want to forsake it!
Communicate our Miscommunication
Words mean something but exactly what they mean is sometimes misunderstood. How many times have you said one thing but meant something else? Why? Unfortunately we live in a fallen world and that’s just the way it works. If you really want to handle hurt take some time to give the benefit of the doubt and go ahead and explore what someone has said or done. Could it be that miscommunication and misunderstanding have led to the hurt? A simple question like: “What did you mean when you ______?” can go a long way to gaining peace.
Avoid Living on the Edge
Watch the sharp edges of your words! Proverbs is replete with the call to be slow to speak. Perhaps our actions should follow the same advice for our actions as with our words. My wife has often provided me with good instruction: “it’s not what you say but how you say what you say”.
Don’t Abandon Ship
Hurt is real and real hurt really hurts; sometimes so much that you may think that they only answer is to separate yourself from the local church. There may be a time for that but let me encourage you to take time to think everything through very carefully. Read more here https://spreadinggrace.com/2015/04/03/dont-abandon-ship/
Learn How to Criticize and Be Criticized
Criticism isn’t bad or even wrong. Sometimes it is very helpful. If a criticism has been leveled against you, even though it may be improperly done, what truth can you uncover? Learn from past criticism that you’ve experienced to help you bring godly concerns to one another.
Take Out the Trash
When you allow things to sit they often sour. Some years ago our family packed up for a few days away. As soon as we opened the door when we returned we were met with a horrible stench. Before we left, I had emptied the trash can. Well, at least I thought I had. I didn’t know that there were a few food scraps in the bottom of the bag and what I thought was an empty bag, wasn’t. Over a few days, those little scraps “flavored” the entire house with their aroma of death and decay.
It is imperative that you take out the trash of bitterness and the tendency to brood over past hurts. When those things stew in our hearts the smell of death begins to waft and soon it overtakes everything else. The only way that I’ve figured out to deal with this is to deal with hurt quickly and to keep adding it to the account of the cross under the sovereignty of God. Remember, “what you intended for evil, God meant for good!”. Here’s another link that might be helpful: https://spreadinggrace.com/2018/04/17/flood-warning/
You are part of a community—that’s what the local church is. The local church really is a collection of hurt people…someone used to say that the church isn’t a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. That’s pretty close to right. Invite your brothers and sisters into your life to hurt with you. They don’t really need to say much…just be there, maybe pray together…sometimes even cry together. But be together.
Pray for Those Who Hurt You and Those Who are Hurt By You
Finally, pray. When I can pour my heart out for those who’ve hurt me, I find a great solace for my soul and relief in the midst of real pain. In other words, turning my mind and heart to the character of the Almighty has an incredible way of redirecting my perspective.