Throughout my ministry, I have encountered people who have been seeking consolation and understanding because they have experienced deep wounds caused by Church Leadership or members of the local body. We’re not talking about small offenses that just simply need clarification. We’re talking about feelings of abandonment, control, suppression, and a number of other means. The person feels betrayed, unsafe, and once that has been broken, it’s hard to gain trust again.
Jesus himself understands betrayal. The betrayal by one of his own disciples was part of the course of events that brought Jesus to his appointed time on the cross. However, there is also the realization that Jesus actually expected the betrayal that he experienced. He knew this was a part of the package. As a matter of fact, he prophesied it. Aside from the fact that Jesus does know what its like to feel hurt and betrayed, his betrayal is different. It’s different because he knew it was coming. We, however, are thrown off track and feel as though we’ve been hit by a Mac Truck, blind-sided by Leadership or fellow believers. If you’re reading this today because you’ve been hurt by the Church, I hope that what I share in the rest of this article will be insightful and give you what you need to further the healing process.
Yes, it’s a known fact, we will all experience betrayal. We begin to interact and develop relationships at a very early age. It starts at the very beginning when you’re little playmate steals the toy you were playing with, on that very first play date. We learn to give and take, with mutual sharing and trust as we grow in our friendships throughout our youth to adulthood. However, betrayal by Church Leadership is actually traumatic to the psyche of a person. The traumatized person can’t even be in the familiar surroundings of the church building that they once felt safe in because the attack has come from within their safety net. I’ve seen it many times as I’ve ministered to others throughout my ministry. I have also been there myself and so what I’m sharing is also personal for me too. The whole being, spirit, and soul carry that wound. It will eventually affect the overall well being of an individual who is betrayed. The answer to healing the wounds of betrayal is finding “closure”.
I’m assuming that you have walked through the Biblical steps to reconcile with your offender, and perhaps gone as far as trying to reconcile with the presence of other church leaders to support you according to Matthew 18:15-17. Once the pain will not subside, what are the steps to closure? I know it’s hard to come forward and say, “Hey, this happened to me when you did this. I don’t know if you’re aware, but I just wanted to let you know that your actions really affected me.” Why is it important to say these things? It’s because it sets you free, and sheds light on the circumstances for both you and the one who offended you. From there, you might learn that your hurt was caused by a simple misunderstanding. You might also learn that your offender had no idea that they did anything wrong. When you share with them, they may receive insight and realize that they need to be more aware of their own actions or priorities. It will also give them greater insight as to how they can be a more effective leader and Shepherd of their congregation. A simple practice of immediately addressing spiritual concerns as a priority, more than church activity and busy-ness, can accomplish greater things and bring about a healthier welfare for the hurt individual, the offender, the Leadership and the local body as a whole.
When you bring your concern to your offender and there is no reconciliation, “closure” is still necessary. The closure must take place at the time that you officially withdraw membership or involvement with that local body. This will prevent you from becoming “stuck” in your pain. Speak to the betrayer with a forgiving and non-vengeful heart, and simply express the need to move on so that you can take some time to heal. The simple mention of separating yourself from them to take time to heal will confirm that pain has been caused. A Pastor who does not consider how they have caused their own congregation member pain is not a Shepherd and quite likely has their own set of spiritual problems. God’s grace must be applied and must be the primary focus of that conversation. For some people, this will be a process for you to work through so that you can bring yourself to have this conversation with the offending Leader.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
It’s okay to cry. Psalm 56:8 says, “ You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” How precious are the tears we shed? One day he will wipe them all away when we see him face to face, but he also collects all our tears, saves them and keeps track of all our sorrows.” The Psalmist David is expressing his trust in God, knowing that God will not forget his pain and sorrow.
God is on your side. The Psalmist David also expressed this when he says, in the midst of this troubling time, “This I know, God is for me” (Psalm 56:9, ESV) and “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (verse 11, ESV).
Guard your heart. Do not grow bitter or angry, Scripture says in Proverbs 4:23 that what you hold in your heart, affects your well being and perhaps your own destiny. Take a look ……The New International Version says, Above all else, guard your heart, for “everything you do” flows from it. The New Living Translation says, Guard your heart above all else, for it “determines the course of your life” and the English Standard Version says, Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the “springs of life”.
It’s okay to feel and express hurt. However, guard your heart so that the hazardous wastes such as bitterness and anger and other negative emotions, don’t cause blockage and prevent you from walking in the fullness of your calling and destiny.
Don’t Wallow. When we feel emotional pain, our first tendency is to withdraw. It’s okay to take time alone to process things, but be careful not to become isolated. You know that you have a “Godly tribe” of people you can trust. Reach out to them and ask them to pray with you. If you don’t, it will be easy for the enemy to dig a deeper “emotional grave” for you. If you isolate yourself too much, depression can set in. It then becomes harder and may take longer to be free from the trauma.
Don’t turn it into Gossip. Someone has hurt you but that doesn’t give you the right to tell everyone. You will poison others with words that only reflect your pain. It could paint the wrong picture of yourself and other people involved. You are not the judge of your offender. Let God work out the details of your offender’s own journey.
Remember God’s Faithfulness. Everything that you have experienced in the darkness, is not where you live. In the past, there were times when you experienced his faithfulness and direction. In the times of darkness, don’t doubt, what you have already seen in the light, All those times in your life, when you experienced God’s goodness, they remain a testimony of his faithfulness to you. His goodness is still there in the darkness because he will bring you through. He will dispel the darkness when you focus on him. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When our eyes are on Jesus, and we follow after him, we have the light of life, as John 8:12 so evidently points out. ” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Christ’s example. There is one key that is most important. It unlocks freedom for me and you. Jesus demonstrated it by his example on the cross. The word is “forgiveness.” It’s absolutely necessary that you and I walk in forgiveness so that every step ahead easily brings healing and restoration, and victory.
Recognize the true source of discord. Discord is the opposite of unity and dwelling in one accord. Even when we disagree with one another, God’s love is the common ground of our unity. However, when trust is broken, the door has been opened to one of the enemy’s greatest weapons in the church. It’s called “Discord”. He will stir it in every manner with the most common and only trick in his book. He does this through deception. Don’t be deceived to believe that the only source of your current situation is just the faulty actions of others. This is a good time to examine your own self to be certain that you did not play a part in the situation you’re facing. The enemy works through our own weaknesses, as well as the weakness and lack of discernment of others.
Proverbs 4:7 says that seeking wisdom brings understanding. Truly, this is the most important part of your struggle on the road to healing. There is wisdom and understanding when we realize that within the church, the enemy infiltrates with the Jezebel, Ahab and Leviathan spirit. This is the deception. The church really doesn’t know how to recognize the enemy’s game. This is a more comprehensive teaching for another time, but it stems from the story of Jezebel and Ahab. You can read this story in 1 King 16 and the chapters that follow. Jezebel was a wicked queen who practiced witchcraft. Her chief operation was to have control, while her husband Ahab, as King, failed to rule his district with the proper command of a king. She was a headstrong, self-willed, domineering woman, and with a moral weakling for a husband, and they worshiped the false god Bail. It is worth noting that the characteristics and influence of Jezebel, Ahab, and Leviathan enter through childhood wounds caused by Mother/Father relationships or rape, abuse, and molestation. Leviathan, who twists words of truth, can influence because of pride, rejection and emotional wounds. Whether the person is in leadership or not, the person operating under this influence may not even be aware. They simply act out through the issues that flow from their heart.
There is a failure to genuinely discern that we are imperfect human beings, influenced by the enemy, warring not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, powers of this dark world and against the evil principalities in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
When you have experienced trauma, disappointment, betrayal, and church hurt, it only makes sense to take time to heal …. but remember who the real enemy is.