This is something I’ve been grappling with posting for a while, because, well, I feel like it’s a vulnerable one, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, but there are so many stories about people being hurt and leaving the church that I want you to hear one of someone staying in church. I want you to know that there is redemption and that forgiveness is possible.
So many people, including ministers and laymen, have felt the pain of being hurt by someone they loved and trusted in the church, many of these people give up on ministry or church altogether after that. I didn’t; Dustin didn’t. We REALLY wanted to, and who knows if we’ll ever be in ministry the way we’ve always dreamed, but…we aren’t quitting.
Why do those who’ve been hurt want to give up?
I think it’s a mixture of unforgiveness, bitterness, and fear that shroud your thoughts after these instances that cause you to want to give up. The unforgiveness and bitterness are the easy parts to me. The fear of trusting again, putting yourself out there, or even being in front of people again are the harder demons to fight. I mean, just last year my heart was beating out of my chest just getting up to be welcomed as members of our current church. So, needless to say, my post about getting past the fear will come later, but I think sharing this may be a good step there.
However, forgiveness in pain is still a difficult thing to do. I’ve always said it’s a bit more of a practice than a one time act.
I’ve seen the pattern so much, I’ve felt the sting of its blow, and I can tell you that there’s a light on the other side.
I know it’s awful. I know that forgiveness is the last thing you feel like they deserve, and I know that that thought makes you feel like you’re a horrible person too. I’ve seen the pattern so much, I’ve felt the sting of its blow, and I can tell you that there’s a light on the other side. I can also tell you that it’s true when it’s said, “the hardest person to forgive is the one you’ll never get an apology from.”
I’ve been hurt more than once and in more than one way by church people, but I think the worst was a few years ago when it was by people I loved like family. We’re okay now, and that’s great, but for almost two years of my life, I cried nearly every day over that pain, and for nearly two years my heart was bitter, and I felt like the desires I had had for my life or my relationship with any of those people was a terrible manipulation. For so long, I could think nothing except that I was angry at them, hurt that our relationship was ruined, and about what I must have done wrong to deserve it all. In forgiveness, we often have to forgive those that hurt us, ourselves, and even God.
Yes, forgiveness is more than just forgiving the ones that hurt you; it’s also forgiving yourself for whatever thing you imagine makes you deserving of that pain. I have to say that villainizing yourself never helps with forgiveness, and the truth is that you do not deserve it. The truth is that people make mistakes, and they hurt each other; some people mean to hurt others, and some people hurt others out of their own hurt. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop putting yourself down, and forgive yourself for being human and not being able to prevent the situation. It’s not your fault. Even if you believe that you’re at fault because you may not have handled the situation as well as you would have liked, or you feel guilt because your heart ran away from God following your situation (even Elijah ran, and after a great victory no less), forgiving yourself is one of the most healing things you can do. I’ve had to do it more than once. I’m sure I’ll have to do it again.
There are so many scriptures on forgiving others! I won’t go into all of them now, but really, the next best thing you can do after you’ve forgiven yourself is let go of your anger and practice forgiving the ones that have hurt you. It probably won’t happen overnight. Perhaps after a time, you will see their picture and your heart still cringe at the sight of them long after you’ve attempted the process, but that’s what forgiveness is, a process. Continue on; you’re doing so well to have begun. You may need to declare your forgiveness every day. You may go to many altars and prayer sessions where you surrender it again and again, but you will get there. You will be free if you determine not to give up. God wants you to be free; believe that.
It may sound strange to say someone might need to forgive God, as God is obviously not at fault for whatever happened, but you may feel Him to be somewhat complacent. I felt that perhaps God might have just been making me out to be some joke, and I lost all faith in the things I had thought I had heard (He had told me to be connected with all of these people, after all). It was hard to release God from that idea of Him. My concept of who God was had been altered, and I had to (and still have to at times) remind myself that God is who He says He is and that He has good plans for me, to prosper me and not harm me. A lot of times, we don’t even realize that we are holding God accountable for the actions of a person, but it’s important that we don’t attribute things to God that he did not do. Knowing something will happen is not making it happen, but you can be assured that God has plans to turn those bad things into good. Remember this, we were never promised to live lives free of pain or betrayal for His sake. In fact, we were guaranteed the experience if we follow Him.
God is still good!
One thing I know to be true is this: despite people, God is still good. Despite people, God is still faithful, even when His leading appears strange. I can say with certainty that God does not want us to give up on Him, on people, or on being His hands and feet on this earth. This is why He took the ultimate betrayal, so that we might have freedom and forgiveness, that we might also forgive as He did.
Despite forgiving, trust is especially hard for me these days, especially of church leaders, but I’ll keep walking, and I won’t give up on people, because He’s yet to give up on me, and like I am human, they are human too. One day I’ll make a post on trust, but that’s for another day.
God has been doing this thing lately with me where He proves His faithfulness in small things, in little divine appointments, showing me that He cares and is there when I don’t even expect it. That’s the beautiful thing about God: He wants to restore our faith. He wants us whole. We must grab that truth and not let it go. We have to let our faith be restored in the small things and the quiet moments, in the midst of our fears and doubts.
I also want to say this to those who have given up or are on the verge of it:
You matter in the body. You matter to me. You are wanted there. I want you there. You are NEEDED there. Do not let the enemy make you hate people. Do not let the works of man steal the gifts that God has given you to be used by Him. Some of you have the gift of prophecy, of healing, of counseling, of teaching, and many others, but you are not using those gifts any longer, because you have been hurt. That is not God’s way! He did not give you those gifts with no plan for their purpose! Do not give up, and I promise I won’t give up either! We can win together!
The battle is not over. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. You can become what you once dreamed to be. God hasn’t forgotten the desires He put in your heart, and He will be faithful to complete them, if you will be willing to forgive and press on.
P.S Because this song has ministered to be so much over the years and that it’s fitting, I’ll just leave it right here…
“Trust Once More” by Jason Upton