When church people hurt you it can be a painful experience. Because the church is supposed to be a community of faith. The Bride of Christ. A spiritual hospital for sinners. And yet, the haven for spiritual recovery can also dish out the spiritual hurt. And when you’re the victim, you may feel angry, abandoned, and betrayed. Here are some thoughts to guide in your recovery.
When church people hurt you, don’t blame God
Whenever we suffer it’s natural to ask God why? Sometimes even blame him for it. But it’s not God’s fault when church people hurt you. Why? Because…
God gives us free will
Church people exercise free will like everyone else
Free will and the decisions we make are influenced by a sinful heart
That means when people exercise their freewill–even church people–their words and actions are sometimes harmful. God may have permitted it, but he didn’t cause it. Nor is it His will. So don’t blame him for something people are responsible for.
It’s also natural to direct anger toward the church. And to punish it by dropping out, which only makes Satan celebrate. However, your pain was likely caused by one or maybe a few people. Not EVERYONE at church. So don’t cut yourself off from those who want to support, encourage, and walk alongside you.
When church people hurt you, trust God’s faithfulness and promises
When you are hurting, turn towards God rather than away. You’ll find truth and comfort from his word and soothing encouragement from His Spirit through prayer. The more you seek Him, the more you discover His…
Also, don’t forget Jesus understands unjust treatment. But he endured it on our our behalf. That’s genuine love!
When church people hurt you, ask God for a spirit of forgiveness
Don’t wait for church people to apologize, but actively forgive them. If they are led by his Spirit, he will convict them, and they will seek reconciliation. But not everyone at church is led by the spirit. Some are not even true followers of Christ. So don’t count on everyone at church to act in a Christ-like manner. Even though they are supposed to.
Also, remember that forgiveness is not so much for the offender as it is for you. Yes, you may be an innocent victim of unfair treatment. But after a while, your pain turns into anger followed by a spirit of bitterness that takes root and grows. And that bitterness becomes your sin.
That’s why Jesus commands us to forgive. Because otherwise, the pain and hurt we carry eventually becomes a heavy chain of anger and bitterness that binds us. Forgiveness is the key that sets us free.
Even in the midst of a torturous death of crucifixion, Jesus forgave those who perpetrated evil against him. And he intervened for them to his Father.
Trust God and move forward by faith
Church people can inflict deep, serious wounds that may take a long time to heal. But God is the great physician. While those injuries may slow you down, keep moving forward. And don’t let your feelings guide you because they are unreliable. Especially when they are bruised and bleeding.
Instead, let God’s Word be your trusted guide and faith the engine that moves you forward. God will lead the way, make you stronger, and equip you to encourage and support another spiritual casualty.
The story revolves around the Old Testament Jewish law of redemption.
According to the law, the nearest male relative was responsible for preserving the family name and property when there was death in a family. It included buying back property (Lev. 25:25) and marrying a childless, young widow to preserve the family name (Duet. 25-5-10).
How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times. They fully commit to following the one true God
The book of Ruth occurs during the period of the Judges. It was a time marked by a lack of civil authority and moral disorder (Judges 21:25).
The story begins with an Israelite man named Elimelech who moves with his wife Naomi and two sons to the foreign land of Moab. Then Elimelech dies, the two sons marry Moabite women, and ten years later, they die too.
Elimelech’s widow, Naomi, decides to return home to live near her family and she encourages her two daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth, to go back to their families in Moab. Orpah reluctantly agrees, but Ruth is determined to stay with Naomi.
She explains why with these words: “Your people shall be my people and your God my God.” (ESV Ruth 1:16)
Ruth’s family in Moab worshipped idols. But Ruth had committed her life to following the one true God that Naomi worshipped. She exchanged living among family and friends for living among strangers. Protection for danger. Comfort for hardship.
But that is what God’s people do. Because there is no true satisfaction apart from the one true God. And ultimately, no safer place than covered in the shadow of his hand.
How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times. They pursue righteousness despite an immoral environment
It was a struggle of survival for Naomi and Ruth. Two widows with no means of support. But Ruth remained faithful to her God despite the immoral environment around her. She demonstrated a godly character and walked a path of righteousness.
It was legal for the poor to glean wheat in the fields that was missed by the reapers. And Ruth worked in the fields of a Jewish man named Boaz. Although she did not call attention to herself, her diligent work ethic and reputable character caught Boaz’s attention.
And he invited her to stay in his fields where he protected her from harm. Of course, we acknowledge in today’s environment, there is no complete assurance of God’s protection in this life. And we grieve the injustice when evildoers harm the innocent.
Still, God calls us to pursue Biblical righteousness rather than cultural correctness. To seek His truth rather than social acceptance. And to please God over people.
How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times. They call on their redeemer for salvation
It turns out that Boaz was a distant relative to Naomi, and a potential kinsman redeemer by Jewish law. Ruth 2:1 calls him a “worthy” man. In other words, the kind of man that makes a good husband. And in Ruth 3:11, Ruth is called a “worthy” woman. It’s clear the two are meant for each other. And Naomi advises Ruth on how to move the relationship forward.
When Boaz goes to sleep at night on the threshing floor, Ruth sleeps at his feet as a signal to him she would like to be redeemed. So he takes the necessary steps and marries her.
The story not only shows God’s people how to navigate trouble times, but also weaves a beautiful love story. Because it symbolizes the love of God who sacrificed his son to redeem us from sin.
But there’s a final twist.
Because Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who was the father of Jesse, the father of David. In whose line was born Jesus Christ, the Son of God. A savior and redeemer. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (ESV Romans 10:13)
When God’s people pray He does crazy, amazing things, This was impressed on me when I attended Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Here’s my story.
When God’s people pray He does crazy, amazing things. Especially when we pray in agreement.
I was a first semester seminary student in a Survey of the New Testament class. The professor was about to start class with a prayer and asked if anyone had a prayer request. A woman raised her hand and requested prayer for a friend. Her friend was married to a man who graduated last year and they had moved to California to plant a church.
The woman said he turned down the opportunity to pastor an established church in Texas to follow this calling and didn’t even have support from the Home Mission Board or other parachurch organizations. His plan was simply to canvass neighborhoods, knock on doors, and build a church from the ground up.
So the woman asked us as followers of Christ and future ministry workers to pray. She didn’t say it, but it was written all over her face. The guy was crazy.
When God’s people pray He does crazy, amazing things. Especially when we follow His leading
I related to the guy and was living it myself. A midwestern boy from Cincinnati, Ohio who had traveled to Fort Worth, Texas to attend seminary. When I felt God calling me to ministry I met with my Southern Baptist church pastor who advised me that seminary was the appropriate step for me to take. Southern Seminary was just down the road in Louisville, Kentucky, but I sensed God leading me to Southwestern.
So here I was staying with the friend of a friend. An outsider in this foreign land of Texas where common wardrobe included cowboy boots and hats. And a new language that called long distance a “fur piece” and a crowd of people “Y’all.”
I think my family and friends thought I was a bit crazy too.
But I’ve learned since then that trusting God and exercising faith often appear that way. Just consider Joshua and the Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho for seven days and Gideon taking on a Midianite army of thousands with 300 men carrying torches and blowing trumpets.
What crazy ways to wage war!
Joshua and Gideon both probably felt a little foolish following God’s direction, but they obeyed anyway. And God amazingly delivered on His promise. If this man was truly following God’s will in this church plant, then I believed God would provide. So I joined with everyone else in the class and prayed for him.
When Christians pray God unleashes His power
It was several years later after I graduated from seminary and began working in church ministry that I heard about a growing church in California that was gaining attention in the Southern Baptist Convention. And the name of the pastor was the guy we prayed for in that seminary class.
The church he planted was thriving and growing like…well, crazy.
I was still in Texas and serving at a church too. Nothing sensational like his ministry, But he had followed God’s leading and so had I and that was the important thing. We both went beyond our comfort zone and responded to God in obedience.
I celebrated what God was doing in his ministry. And I smiled to myself as I remembered the distress in the woman’s voice in that seminary class sharing her prayer request.
I’m sure our class prayer was only one of thousands that was lifted up to God on his behalf.
And I remember how the professor smiled at the woman with love and wisdom. That said he also knew we served an Almighty God.
“What’s your friend’s name?” he asked.
“Her name is Kay,” the woman replied. “And her husband’s name is Rick Warren.”
In case you don’t know, Rick planted Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California and later authored the best seller The Purpose Driven Life. He pastored Saddleback until he retired in 2022. Today it averages over 20,000 people in weekly attendance.
How should I respond to angry people? And not just a little angry. But a lot. Like boiling mad to irrational rage? Especially as a Christ-follower. I was confronted with this question in a recent experience that took me by surprise. And here are my thoughts about it.
I was the last car in a line turning left at a traffic light. We all turned on the green arrow although it changed to yellow as I went through. I was in no hurry as I headed towards another light a block away to make another left into a small strip mall.
A short distance from the light I heard the roar of an engine and squeal of tires. In my rearview mirror I saw the incensed, contorted face of a driver tailgating me. He had been waiting to make a right turn on the opposite side of the light and I now gathered, was morally offended by my left hand turn.
So he broke the speed limit to catch up, nearly rear ended me in his haste and now drove recklessly, inches away from rear bumper to teach me a driving lesson. And when I stopped at the red light, he halted inches away from my rear bumper to drive home the point.
I responded in a perfectly calm and reasonable manner by throwing my car in park, jumping out and marching to the driver side window, throwing my hands in the air, and shouting, “What are you doing?”
It was completely reactive and impulsive on my part.
And if a brawny lad got out, it might be a problem. Although in my experience, brawny lads are seldom raging bullies, because they have nothing to prove. And true to form, this aggressive bully switched to victim mode and began video taping me on his phone.
So in case you see me on a social media post, please note my egregious act was making a legal left hand turn at a traffic light. But apparently, this driver on the opposite side of the light knew better.
Since he remained safely in his car, I returned to mine and turned into the strip mall as he now, bravely, continued to tailgate me, steering with one hand and video taping with the other. But drove on when I pulled into a parking space.
And here are some thoughts as I’ve had time to reflect and consider a more Godly response to angry people.
How should I respond to angry people? Maybe by offering compassion
People are on an emotional edge. Overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. Bottled up inside. And hidden so you don’t know who they are, what pressures are internally seething, or when a trivial incident will cause an eruption. Something troubling was already going on in the life of the driver I encountered. I simply triggered the explosion.
But I follow a compassionate God. Who instructs me to share the compassion I’ve received from him with others. It doesn’t mean I’m milk toast. Lay down and let people steam roll me. But to measure my response. And not view them as enemies. But people who are likely struggling. And probably need a friend. I don’t know what’s going on in their life. So maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt.
How should I respond to angry people? Maybe by demonstrating joy
Joy doesn’t mean wearing a dopey grin on my face all day. Telling an angry person I’ll pray for them or have a blessed day. That seems patronizing. But it does include silently asking God for his strength and self-control in the heat of a moment. And the goal to act, rather than react to the other person. Or not respond at all, but merely drive on.
It’s not that I don’t have struggles and bad days. I have both. But joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Something I possess in spite of difficult circumstances. And difficult people.
It’s the result of living with hope. Because I know God is faithful to his promise. And as a child of that promise, I see an eternal future which radically changes how I see the present. And a sense of meaning that extends way beyond navigating the turn at a traffic light.
So I can choose joy. To act rather than react. And let God’s strength be revealed in my weakness.
How should I respond to angry people? Maybe by extending grace
Grace is an undeserved pardon. That’s me as a sinner before a holy God. I don’t deserve his love or forgiveness. But he extends it anyway through his grace. And as an unworthy recipient, I’m charged by scripture to extend it to others.
I forget this sometimes. Probably because I so quickly return anger for anger and seek to defend myself. Grace requires a supernatural response. Similar to compassion but so much more. Because compassion leads to understanding and acceptance. But grace leads to eternal life. Because grace is granted by God to all who believe in and follow Jesus Christ.
And that’s another message I can share. But no one will hear it if I’m shouting in anger.
It wasn’t my absolute worst response to an angry person. But through the power of God, I can do better.
Let’s hear your angry story along with thoughts on Godly responses.
Likeable people are the ones you want to be around. And while virtually everyone wants to be liked, it seems many people never consider how to be likeable.
Our digital interconnectedness keeps growing, along with our anxiety, depression, and loneliness. How can we form relationships that are meaningful and lasting?
Let’s start by making sure we are likeable and then helping those we influence to be more likeable as well. Here are nine helpful behaviors to either practice or avoid. Several of these were suggested in an e-mail from my friend, Dick, a retired executive. He gave me permission to use as I wished.
Likeable people are committed listeners
“Reloaders” stop talking long enough to let you speak, but don’t be fooled. They aren’t listening to you, they are just reloading, waiting for your next breath when they will begin talking once again. One of the primary reasons I was attracted to my wife, Judy, is that she is a great listener. She hears what I’m saying and seeks to understand what I mean.
Likeable people ask genuine questions
Questions are undervalued. You can pump someone for factual information and sometimes that may be needed. You can ask questions that are open-ended and draw the person out. Question-asking is related to listening because as you are sharing your ideas I am able to frame up my next question. I am listening and engaged in what you are saying, rather than merely taking your words as prompts for stating my own views or correcting yours.
Likeable people follow the norm of reciprocity
There’s a natural give and take to conversation. Earlier in a relationship, people are attracted to those who match one another’s contributions. I ask about your work. You ask about mine. I tell you about my family. You talk about yours. The longer you have known someone and the deeper the relationship, the less that the norm of reciprocity must be followed in each exchange. Contributions still need to even out over time, but one conversation may be dominated by a person without the other feeling the relationship is out of balance.
Likeable people are self-deprecating to a point
Confidence is attractive. Arrogance is off-putting. Recognition that you are less than perfect and having the ability to laugh at your shortcomings is attractive, but press this too far and people begin to find your apparent insecurity unsettling.
Likeable people are able to laugh
Having a sense of humor is important, but obviously you need to gauge how your humor pairs with that of others. You love Dumb and Dumber; she loves Annie Hall – these are not the same. Even how you laugh may be important. My boisterous laugh has startled babies and led them to cry. Consider your audience and the setting and know when to rein it in and when to let it out.
Likeable people draw others out so they have the opportunity to fit in
Some people are quiet. While I know Introverts have many thoughts they don’t need to express, I don’t understand this experientially. When in a group, look to draw out those who are quieter by watching for their reactions – evidence they may be wishing to contribute – or by asking a question that is a safe opening into the topic being discussed. Don’t press. Someone may be entirely comfortable listening and isn’t looking for the spotlight to rest on him.
Likeable people don’t overstay their welcome
Benjamin Franklin is credited with the quip: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” When you are first establishing a relationship, start with small doses rather than trying to discuss everything of interest in a single sitting. Know your audience. Be culturally on time and leave before you must be asked. Better to leave the other person wanting more than hoping to avoid you in the future.
Likeable people avoid controversy
Until you know someone, stick to safer topics that draw people together. Even among close friends, there are often conversational paths better left unpursued. In a world that says it values complete transparency, just know that sane people don’t (see last month’s newsletter for more on this topic). The goal is to build relationships not to drive away all but those who entirely agree with you. In my case, I would not even be able to talk with myself since I often don’t agree with everything I say.
Alikeable person doesn’t gossip
Gossip erodes trust. It misrepresents the behaviors, views, and ideas of others. It uses people as objects for our enjoyment. Gossip may be juicy, but the fruit you consume is rotten. Want to be liked? Be likeable. Want to build a work culture people enjoy? Encourage team members to be likeable. Some may need reminders of these nine behaviors to employ or avoid.
About Julian Consulting
Dr. Stephen Julian is President of Julian Consulting, a firm specializing in team health, effective communication, and leadership development. He has worked with leaders and their teams for nearly 30 years in a variety of settings – including Africa, South and Central America.
Join my list and I'll notify you of new blog posts and send you a monthly newsletter. It features inspirational thoughts, writing tips, and a peek into writing projects. I'll also include my article: Exaggerate to Make Your Presentations Funny. It shows you how to punch up presentations with humor and make them more compelling.