Timothy, please come as soon as you can. Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. – 2 Timothy 4:9-10 NLT
I sat in my pastor’s office, shocked at what I was hearing. He and I had spent the better part of an hour listening to someone I had trusted deeply rail against me, saying some of the most horrible things.
A mixture of deep hurt and anger swelled in my heart at what I was forced to listen to. I knew at that moment that our relationship would never be the same. Driving out of the church parking lot that afternoon, with tears streaming down my face, I wondered how I would ever be able to walk onto my church campus again.
Have you ever been hurt by someone in your church? Have you ever trusted another Christian who not only let you down but betrayed you? Have you ever had a pastor or other Christian leader take advantage of you, lie to you, or turn their back on you when you needed them most?
The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy in today’s passage, having gone through just that. Paul had been leaning on a believer named Demas, but when Paul was thrown into prison and put on death row, Demas bailed on him. When Paul was in his darkest hour, he was abandoned by a brother in Christ.
What do you do when you’ve been hurt by another Christian? What do you do when the church, which is supposed to help you with your problems, becomes the problem?
H – Have time to grieve.
Paul didn’t hide what happened to him, and neither should you. Give yourself time to grieve. Cry the tears you need to cry and pour out your heart to the Lord. Ultimately, God will help you forgive those who hurt you, but today’s pain must be acknowledged and processed.
E – Enlist help from safe people.
Paul knew he couldn’t rely on Demas, so he reached out to others he could trust. As you navigate the murky waters of church hurt, find people you trust and ask for their help. Call your friends, look for a counselor, or join a support group. Who will you turn to?
A – Abide in God’s presence.
In 2 Timothy 4:17, Paul writes, “But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death.” Paul had been abandoned by Demas, but Jesus never left his side. No matter who has hurt you, know that Jesus will never leave your side, so don’t run from him.
L – Look for a healthy church.
It’s natural to want to give up on the church after being hurt by the church. As a pastor, I’ve struggled to walk through the church’s doors after the hurt I’ve experienced from Christians.
As simple as it would be to quit church altogether, I’ve learned that I can’t let the people who’ve stabbed me in the back keep me from finding people who will have my back.
There are good, trustworthy people in the church. You may need to look for another church, but don’t let the people who hurt you keep you from those who want to help.
1. In what ways have you been hurt by the church? How has that hurt impacted your relationship with the church in general?
2. Knowing that a healthy community is essential for healing, what’s one step you can take this week to build safe relationships with healthy believers in your life?