Recently, I was talking to someone who had been hurt by a church leader and they were in tears. “The church should be a place of safety, yet I was hurt so deeply. You would think that God would have seen how hurt that I was, and how that I was ousted by the people who were supposed to minister to me. After all, isn’t the church considered “God’s House”? Why is God’s house allowed to be so dirty?”
I felt it was a fair question…after all, it is one that I have asked myself. So, I thought long and hard for a minute. I thought about all the things that I felt that God had gotten wrong. Children dying, world hunger, crime, poverty and evil in general. It is overwhelming when you really think about it. But I had this person sitting in my office with tears running down their face asking me this question. How is it that God allowed people who were supposed to be spiritual leaders wound me in such a horrible way? And because I’m not God, the only answer I could come up with for certain is “I don’t know”. I can theorize…I can guess, I can grieve with you, but because God had not shared His plan with me, I couldn’t answer their question with certainty. It’s frustrating. God doesn’t always answer our questions. God doesn’t always give us what we want. Sometimes no matter how much we scream and cry and threaten, God is silent. This scene bothered me for weeks. I thought about it over and over because I really wanted to answer this person with confidence.
I thought back to all my unfortunate church experiences and marveled at how many there actually were. The common denominator in all of them was people.
Why didn’t God deliver me from these people? Why didn’t God come to my rescue? I was trying to do good…I was trying to make a difference. Didn’t God care? We always tend to go to this place when we are in pain. I knew that scripture says that God cares for me…then where was He? Why didn’t he take the people that wounded me and just melt them right there on the spot? Here are a couple of the lessons that I have learned along the way:
· We always tend to remember how bad the person who hurt us is and forget our part in it. We excuse it with statements like “My motives were right…I shouldn’t have said this or that, or my attitude wasn’t that great, but my motives were right!” Taking responsibility for your actions in the situation is imperative in order to learn and move on. My motives may have been right, but I still had that attitude. I still said what I said. People often respond to what comes out of our mouths not what our motives were at the time. It’s a knee jerk reaction…I’ve done it plenty of times.
· People are human. I don’t care if you are the Pastor or a seat filler. As human beings, we deal with thoughts that are not always true. We feel emotions when people say hurtful things or treat us a certain way. We want to solve injustices for all, but especially for us and sometimes we have the power to do it…so we respond. Sometimes we feel that the end justifies the means, so we lie or try to make the situation look different than it really is. Yes, spiritual people do it too.
· God sees it all. He knows the truth. He knows who did what to whom and who had the correct motives and who did not. He knows who acted in love and tried to speak the truth and who did not. He also knows who took a hard honest look at themselves and allowed themselves to be humbled and responded correctly.
If you are reading this and you are in the midst of pain, you may ask “I was the one who was wounded, and you are telling me to examine myself instead of putting the focus on those who hurt me…who’s side are you on?” Believe me, I’m on your side. However, since I have been there, done that and have the t-shirt, I know that we can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. To only focus on someone else without focusing on ourselves is counterproductive. We can’t change anyone else. What I know is that there have been many times that I have been wrong without even being self-aware enough to understand how I have wounded other people. Fortunately, God didn’t melt me at the time. But He did see that I couldn’t continue with bad behavior, so He allowed me to experience things, sometimes over and over, until I learned something. God doesn’t work like we work. He sees far more than we can see. And because he can see far more, His mind is far more open than ours. And most importantly, God is our Father, but He’s not the Godfather. It is not His job to annihilate the faith of innocent people in order to settle a vendetta for me against someone that I don’t like. We have no idea the damage that would be done to innocent people if God responded exactly how we wanted Him to. Don’t get me wrong, people initiate their own demise and God may allow it. However, it will be on His time and with the same loving grace that He extends to us when we sin. Do yourself a favor, confess your hurt, grieve over it, get it out of your system and forgive. Why? Because that’s what is best for you. If you trust God, the hardest thing to do sometimes is to step back and let Him do His job…but from what I’ve seen, He’s the only one who can take something that is broken and make it even better than it was.