4 Reminders for When You’re Hurt by Someone at Church

Preparing for Hurt in the Church

We live in a fallen world. As glorious and wonderful as life in the church is, God’s people have not yet been fully delivered from the effects of sin. So we need to learn to set our expectations for life in the church aright. Here are four truths you need to start believing right now to prepare yourself for the inevitable disappointment and hurt you’ll experience in your church.

First, every relationship you have in the church is ultimately about the reputation of Jesus Christ. When I am driven by a Spirit-empowered zeal to exalt Christ as Lord and Savior, I will labor to display his reconciling love in the difficult relationships he ordains for me. Such zeal for Christ’s glory must rule my feelings. It must overrule fleshly desires that pull me in other directions. My pain is not all about me. It’s ultimately all about Jesus’s honor as displayed in the church he died to redeem.

What If I've Been Hurt by My Church?

Daniel P. Miller

In this addition to the Church Questions series, Daniel Miller helps Christians understand their moral responsibility when responding to common frustrations in the church.

When hurt feelings become more important than Christ’s honor in the church, sin is certain to shipwreck our relationships. As Christians, we shouldn’t be ruled by our hurt feelings. Instead, we need to cultivate thoughts, words, attitudes, and desires that exalt Jesus. If we allow our feelings, especially hurt feelings, to reign supreme, we will cause damage to his church.

Valuing Christ’s glory above our feelings or personal comforts is hard. Our self-oriented culture trains us to put ourselves first, especially when we’re in pain. Of course, we shouldn’t muzzle our feelings. We must learn to acknowledge and deal with them forthrightly, as we’ll consider in a moment. Still, throughout that process, don’t ever lose sight of the larger agenda: glorifying Christ and seeing his kingdom exalted. The glory of Jesus displayed in his church must remain our primary ambition amid any pain we endure—even pain in the church.

Second, personal offenses are inevitable in a fallen world. Living in a Genesis 3 world doesn’t mean we should dismiss or fatalistically resign ourselves to any offense others may inflict. But it does mean that we—unlike the typical politician, media operative, psychologist, celebrity, or national citizen—believe in human depravity. We should therefore anticipate the ways depravity will make our lives difficult.

People will sinfully offend you. Your feelings will get ruffled if not pierced through by the words, decisions, and deeds of others. When this happens, don’t be shocked. Nothing strange is happening. Don’t buy the lie that your hurt is somehow unique. It’s not (1 Cor. 10:13).

You don’t plan a summer picnic with friends and then fall into deep depression if the gathering is rained out. You knew it could happen. It’s a bummer, but you adjust your plans. Similarly, we shouldn’t despair when sinners sin. We shouldn’t despair when weak people prove inadequate in ways that negatively affect us. Suffering pain due to the failures of others is a given in our fallen world. We should never react to the sins of others as if we missed this memo.

Realizing the inevitability of hurt feelings in a cursed world doesn’t solve that hurt, of course. But it might soften the blow just a bit. It might adjust your expectations and help deliver you from the downward spiral of outrage or shock that someone dared hurt your feelings. The world will not end. You will suffer offense again. But God’s grace will help you journey forward in a manner that proves Jesus is indeed your Savior and soul’s ultimate delight. Wherever and whenever you encounter sin in your community, know that there and then grace abounds.

Wherever and whenever you encounter sin in your community, know that there and then grace abounds.

Third, suffering offense presents a God-ordained opportunity to mature in Christ. Stop and ask yourself, What might be God’s purpose in your suffering, according to Scripture? God has a plan for our suffering—he’s sovereign over it. Surely, Jesus didn’t ordain suffering in your life to give you the opportunity to vent your outrage, retaliate, gossip, spiral into depression, or withdraw from others in self-pitying resignation and wounded pride.

Instead, God promises in the Bible that everything he ordains for you—even suffering—serves to mature your faith for his glory and for your ultimate joy (Rom. 5:3–5; 8:28–29; Heb. 12:7–11; James 1:2–4). This promise applies not only to times of general misfortune but equally to occasions when you suffer offense.

Fourth, human emotions are easily twisted by sin. Emotions are not evil. They are good gifts from God. The Creator, whose image we bear, displays a wide array of holy emotions (Gen. 6:5–6; Num. 11:1; Ps. 2:4; Hos. 11:7–9; Zeph. 3:17; John 11:35) and calls us to do likewise (Josh. 1:9; Ps. 100:1; Isa. 22:12; Eph. 4:26; Phil. 4:4).

At the same time, our emotions have been corrupted by sin. They can sabotage us, compromising our fellowship with God and his people.

Our emotional lives are complicated. Even well-meaning Christians disagree on how to think best about and counsel negative emotions. But for our purposes, let’s just focus on the fundamentals. Scripture stresses our moral responsibility for our emotional responses (Lev. 19:17–18; Pss. 32:11; 37:4; 106:32–33 with Deut. 32:48–52; Matt. 5:22; Eph. 4:26, 31). However innocently feelings of relational hurt may arise in our hearts, we are morally responsible for how we respond to and display that pain. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that often our immediate reactions to offense are rooted in sinful desires lurking in the dark recesses of our hearts.

By way of qualification, acknowledging that sin corrupts our emotions doesn’t dismiss or delimit the genuine suffering that a believer may experience. Feeling hurt isn’t wrong. What matters is how we respond to those feelings. Being hurt by others doesn’t exempt us from moral accountability. Even in the gloom, there is always a visible path leading to righteousness.

By implication, it’s never wise to grant diplomatic immunity to any of our emotional responses to relational hurt. We may lack the power to control every aspect of every emotional reaction that other people’s words or actions ignite in us. But we are responsible for rightly responding to those reactions and repenting whenever they prove sinful.

These four foundations—the priority of Christ’s glory, the inevitability of relational turmoil, God’s promise to edify us through trials, and our moral responsibility to steward our emotions—provide the convictions we need to respond rightly to offenses we suffer in our churches.

This article is adapted from What If I've Been Hurt by My Church? by Daniel P. Miller.

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