5 Ways to Support a Friend Who Has Been Hurt by the Church

5 Ways to Support a Friend Who Has Been Hurt by the Church

Sarah* hasn’t been to church in months. Sarah is my friend, Sarah is a Christian, and Sarah is hurting. For Sarah, the church has not been the great hospital St. Augustine described: a place for suffering sinners to heal and rest. Instead, church has been a battleground, the place where she was wounded.

Sarah is one of a number of people I know who, although they love the church, can’t be in church for a while. They remain at home, on ‘bed rest’, so to speak: feeling the tension of belonging to Christ’s universal church but finding it too painful to participate in its local congregation.

In the past twenty years, I have brewed many cups of tea for many Sarahs. In some situations, I fear I may have made it worse: saying too much too strongly, ignoring James’ words to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) There are some Sarahs who no doubt count me among their aggressors; a fact that brings me great grief. From those Sarahs, I would ask forgiveness. Where my words were vinegar on an open wound, I am deeply sorry.

Over the years, though, I have had the privilege of brewing tea for some Sarahs for whom I was a better listener, and who have come a long way on their healing journeys. Just as athletes from a variety of sports can tell you how rest, ice, compression and elevation are key factors in recovering from any sports injury, my Sarahs from a variety of churches repeatedly tell me that these are some of the key ways they needed support as they recovered from their spiritual injuries:

*not her real name

1. Give them time

CS Lewis may have famously described God as the ‘Hound of Heaven’, describing His tenacious pursuit of His beloved and bedraggled wanderers. However, He does not hound, nag, pester or nip at our heels. He is patient and gentle, the one for whom a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day.

Those who belong to God and who have suffered hurts at the hands of fellow believers need the gift of unhurried time. You cannot speed the healing of a bruise: in fact, poking at a not-yet-healed bruise will impede its recovery.

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