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Sadly, church hurt has become an all-too-common topic of conversation. Painful church experiences, which range from intentional abuse to misunderstandings, are very real and, unfortunately, are becoming more prevalent. If you’re struggling with heartache and emotional pain resulting from negative experiences in a church, the depth of this pain should be acknowledged. Many people have shed tears over experiences like this and have watched others walk through the same struggles, which breaks God’s heart. The fact that such deep heartache and emotional pain can come from a place that’s meant to help accelerate God’s restoration and healing is proof of the broken world we live in and Satan’s obstruction of God’s plan.

Unfortunately, this opposition isn’t new, as it was religious leaders who crucified and beat Jesus. So, if you’re struggling with heartbreak and pain from the actions of a fellow church member or church leader, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not alone. Jesus wants to help you heal and can relate to your struggle. You can’t erase the memory of what you went through, but you can choose not to let it hold you back.

Instead, you can receive healing and once again experience the blessings of being part of a healthy church family. The enemy wants you to stay in your pain and give up on church, but God wants to bring you healing and restoration. Here are some ways that you can recover from church hurt and put yourself in a position to accept the emotional healing God wants for your life.

Know your feelings are valid.

One of the most significant things you can do on your healing journey is to choose to forgive. In the midst of emotional pain, this doesn’t come naturally to us as humans, and therefore, it can be overwhelming. The first step to forgiveness is knowing your feelings are valid. If your church hurt you through hypocrisy, legalism, betraying your trust or any other reason, this wasn’t God’s plan. His heartbreak with yours that His body would cause you any harm. However, you don’t have to hold onto this pain. It’s a supernatural thing to be able to release your pain, and thankfully, God expects and wants us to rely on Him for help.

In Mark 11:25, Jesus encourages forgiveness within the circumstance of prayer. If there was a way to be open to accepting God’s strength to forgive when our body doesn’t want to, it’s when we’re in close association with God through prayer, and we can be assured that He’ll answer and deliver when we pray for this and believe. So, if you’re struggling with forgiveness, ask God to help you forgive. When we share the desire to do what He asks us to do, He’ll give us the chance to walk it out. Choosing forgiveness is an opportunity to be like Jesus and positively influence those around you.

Protect yourself from bitterness.

It’s been said that choosing not to forgive is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die. It’s also been said that bitterness is a poison that can kill you. Not only can bitterness add to your emotional pain and exacerbate conflict, but medical studies have shown that unresolved anger can cause severe health issues like damaged lung capacity, weakened immune system, and coronary heart disease. Choosing to ruminate on the anger you feel, wishing ill on those who hurt you, and gossiping to other church members are all evidence of bitterness.

On the flip side, refusing to partake in slander against those who hurt you, talking to a professional about your experience, and praying for God’s help in refusing bitterness are all things that will push your healing forward, so it’s all about perspective. Not being bitter doesn’t mean your experience was okay because it wasn’t. Still, like any root, bitterness grows. You can stop it from growing by emphasizing God’s provision, goodness, and safety instead of those who hurt you. When all else fails, keep Philippians 4:8 in your mind.

Seek compassion.

Extending compassion to people who hurt you begins with praying for them, which can help you loosen your defenses and allow you to look at the situation from a different perspective. If a church leader has hurt you, think about the fact that most people who enter vocational ministry do so because they want to help people and love them. Church leaders aren’t perfect, but they can do things that hurt people. They’re humans and subject to sin like everyone else, but they also deserve compassion like everyone else. Looking beyond the surface and acknowledging the potential pain or struggles behind the actions of others can help you be compassionate to those who hurt you.

For example, think of times when you hurt others because you were in survival mode and couldn’t meet others’ needs or when you were having an extra rough day and snapped at people. This behavior doesn’t excuse your hurt, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t need to repent for their hurtful patterns. Still, it does put it into context and let you see the people who hurt you as human, just like you.

Look within.

When you’re dealing with an emotionally charged situation or a conflict, it’s normal to assume that you’re 100 percent in the right and the other party is wrong, but that typically isn’t the case. Most of the time, we play a role in the conflicts we’re in, even if it’s a small percentage. Regardless of the amount, we can still learn from the situation and grow if we choose to and doing so will help encourage healing. When you step back from your anger and think or pray about the situation, it lets you evaluate your reactions and actions. If you’re open, God can illuminate any actions that didn’t honor Him or added to the conflict. This isn’t to say you deserve to be hurt or mistreated, but rather that God can use that challenging circumstance to help you grow to be more like Him.

Not only does God want to heal the emotional pain you’re struggling with now, but He also wants to heal the heartache and pain from your past that still aches deep in your soul. If you’re not currently part of a church or attending church right now, it may be best to pray about your future church involvement and ask God where and how He wants to direct you.

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