When Church Hurts

Today I’m sharing another post from the archives. I’m speaking at a ladies retreat this weekend, and want to focus on preparing for the sessions I’ll be teaching.

I’ve re-posted readers’ favorites before, but those are not necessarily my personal favorites – the ones that came from the deepest part of me, and seemed to bring some kind of healing and truth to my life as I wrote them. I hope you enjoy them, the second time around!



It seems as though there are many people who grow up believing that Church is supposed to be a safe place, filled with kind, loving people who love Jesus and never make mistakes.

Church is supposed to be a place where everyone is welcome, where there is always someone ready to lend a helping hand, and where we are safe to be ourselves.

That sounds fantastic. Really. But I keep hearing about situations where Church has not been those things for people. I just talked with somebody a few weeks ago who said he had “given up on church”. And that makes me so sad.

When Church is working well, it is a beautiful thing. But when it’s not working well, it is a heartbreaking mess.

What do we do with that? Church is full of people. Therefore, there will always be a bit of a mess involved. People make mistakes, and hurt others out of their own hurt, and do things in Jesus’ name that have nothing to do with Jesus.

And then people give up on “Church”, because Church is supposed to be safe and loving and the Bride of Christ. But sometimes the Bride gets nasty.

I used to be angry with Church. I loved Jesus, but the whole idea of “membership” seemed very ridiculous to me. Why would I want to be part of it? I saw a bit too much of the painful side of Church, the side that can destroy lives. I kept attending Church, but I had pretty low expectations. Church hurt me, too.

But there’s a song we used to sing when I was in Bible school. There’s a line in it that says, “Stand up Church with broken wings. Fill this place with songs again…”

Whenever I hear that someone has been hurt by the Church, that line pops into my head, and I have a picture of the beautiful Church, wounded. She was meant to fly, but she lies there broken.

When we see Church as needing to be the perfect place, filled with perfect people, who always meet our expectations in the perfect way, and always know what to say or do, and never make mistakes, or hurt us, or disappoint us, we have made it into something that it’s not.

We will always be disappointed by people, but we will never be disappointed by Christ. When we look for Christ in people, we will have love for them. When we look for Christ in the Church, we will find Him. He’s there, amidst the imperfection and pain. He hurts, too, along with the Church and with us.

When we look to Christ to meet our needs, rather than people or Church, we will be satisfied.

I heard a message by John Maxwell once in which he talked about happiness in marriage. He said that if we look to our spouse to make us happy, it will never happen. But if we look to Jesus to make us happy, our spouse will add to that happiness in infinite ways.

That’s like the Church. If my life is full of Jesus, it makes me so happy to meet with other Christians at Church. But if I’m expecting the people in the Church to meet all of my needs and demands so that I can then find Jesus, I am in danger of being very disappointed.

I believe that there is a place in the Church for people who can’t find Jesus on their own, and they need some help along the way. But true help will only come from being pointed in the right direction.

But let’s be realistic here – with thousands of years of hurt and bitterness involving the Church, a few little words typed out here is really not going to solve the problem. And that makes me very sad. I have a feeling that “the Church with broken wings” will remain that way until Jesus comes back. He will restore His Bride on that day.

And she will be beautiful, the way she was meant to be. Don’t give up on her!


Have you ever been hurt by the church when you were expecting comfort and safety?

Casting Lots, Some Wet Fleece, and a Crystal Ball

I came across a random, interesting fact as I was doing some reading on the book of Acts yesterday.

It had to do with the practice of “casting lots” in the Bible, which I never really understood as a kid. It always seemed strange to me that major decisions were made using different lengths of sticks, or whatever it was that they did, exactly.

As I got older, and had to start making major decisions about my own life, suddenly the idea of casting lots started to look a lot more appealing. An obvious, visible sign of what I should choose to do with my life? Yes, please! Those lucky people in the Old Testament, with their sticks and stones.

But that brings me back to my fun fact of the day:

In the Old Testament, “casting lots” is mentioned 70 times, but in the New Testament, it is only mentioned 7 times.

That is an extreme difference. And guess when the practice came to an abrupt end?

It was when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.

Isn’t that amazing? When the Holy Spirit came, there was suddenly no further need for games of chance. In a moment, everything changed for Christians forever, and we were given everything we need to guide us in any decision we will ever face in this lifetime.

Now that we have the completed Word of God, as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us, there is no reason to be using games of chance to make decisions. The Word, the Spirit, and prayer are sufficient for discerning God’s will today—not casting lots, rolling dice, or flipping a coin. (source)

So why is it still so appealing for us to beg for a sign? We talk about “laying out a fleece”, or joke about lightning bolts from Heaven that will make all things clear.

I could not count the number of times I’ve had conversations with people who are desperate to know God’s will, and don’t have a clue how to find out what it might be. We long for enlightenment, and certainty in decisions.

And yet, I keep thinking about the abrupt ending to “outside” methods of determining God’s will. It became all about the heart, and drawing close to Jesus – growing more dependent on Him, seeking after Him.

I came across an interesting question the other day: Do I really want to know God’s will, or do I just want to know the future?

Do I want to draw closer to God, or am I actually just longing for a gypsy with a crystal ball to tell me what’s coming next?

And do I really need to know what’s coming next, if I’m drawing close to Jesus?

Love DoesI love what Bob Goff writes in his book, Love Does:

I think God passes by me a lot, and it serves to show me the direction He’s going. We don’t always know where He’s headed or what to expect along the way. But I think direction is the point, the part, and the whole of it. He wants followers, not just onlookers or people taking notes. Plus, I think God know that if I found out more than just the direction He was going, I’d probably try to beat Him there. 

If we live life with the Spirit inside of us, and we continue to get really close to Jesus, and we keep asking for His desires to be put into our hearts so that we can follow Him, I think we end up going in the right direction.

And I think it’s okay if we don’t know much beyond that.

Oh, there is a part of me that still longs for a sopping wet piece of fleece, and I’m a little jealous of Gideon, who kept asking for all those specific signs – he got them all, PLUS he got an angel!

But he didn’t have the Holy Spirit. And that makes all the difference.

So these days, I’m trying to silence the questions that want to pop up, because most of the time, they have more to do with wanting to know the future than with getting close to God.

If I live in this moment, in this day, I already know what God’s will is for me:

It’s to know Him, and glorify Him in all I do.

It’s to think about today, and not worry about tomorrow.

His will is for me to care for my family, and for orphans and widows.

His will is for me to love a lot, to be joyful, to pray without ceasing, to have a thankful heart.

It’s to do what is before me, to keep heading in the direction He’s going, and to stay flexible, so that if another opportunity pops up unexpectedly from Him, I’ll be ready to put down the “To Do” list, and follow Him.

If I start with all that, I’ve got enough to keep me busy for awhile. I guess I don’t really need some sticks to show me what to do next!


What do you think? Do you ever wish you could still cast lots, or pray for some wet fleece?!

34 Days of Favorites: Prayer Books

I believe in prayer being simple and accessible. Anyone can do it.

There is no right or wrong way.

I go to my Father, and I talk with Him. He loves me, and He hears me – every single word which comes out of my mouth or that I think in my head.

I believe in keeping praying simple.

So, if I believe there is no right or wrong way to pray, what’s the deal with prayer books?

I have to confess, for many years I avoided books which told me how to pray. I didn’t think I needed to read prayers, and considered myself able to come up with something good enough to say on my own.

Which was true. It worked fine without a book.

But my dear friend and mentor gave me a little book by Germaine Copeland called Prayers That Avail Much, and I have completely loved using it this last year.

One of the biggest reasons why I love using it is because sometimes, I don’t know exactly what to say. I have this heart full of stuff that I want to talk over to God, but I don’t always know how to put it into words.

And sometimes I don’t have to. Sometimes I’ve imagined myself lifting up that whole jumbled mess to God, and just giving it to Him without clarifying in words exactly what it all is, because I don’t even know myself.

But other times, I need words. I need to process it and communicate with my Father in a way which helps me to understand what’s all there.

The other reason why I love using this little book is because it is loaded with Scripture. Each prayer is basically a whole bunch of different verses grouped together by topics, and formed into a prayer.

I love praying Scripture. It’s God-breathed, which means Scripture is guaranteed to be the best choice of words, in every situation.

Something amazing happens when we pray Scripture. I feel it in my heart, although it’s difficult to discribe. It’s combining the power of prayer, with the power of God’s Word. Amazing, hey?

The Bible is full of God’s promises for us, so when we start praying Scripture, chances are good that we will pray for the very things God wants us to ask for.

You could randomly flip open your Bible to any spot, and quickly find something in Scripture to pray for.

Germaine Copland’s book makes it even easier, because it’s a quick reference for exactly which Scripture could apply to certain topics you want to pray about.

This book teaches me about new things I can pray for that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. It broadens my thoughts and my prayers. I love that.

It gives me God’s words for what I am wanting to express from my heart.

I read it aloud, and then I move on to my own thoughts and words, or other passages of Scripture that come to mind as I’m reading the prayer from the book.

So like I said, I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to pray, but I believe there are tools we can use to grow in our communication skills. Prayers That Avail Much is an excellent tool.

And I’ve realized my need for tools. As much as I would love to say I  get up at the crack of dawn to pray fervently each and every morning, I must confess that I’m just not quite there yet! I try to make time for a structured prayer time each day, but on some days, I pray as I go. Which is good, too, but I think both are necessary. My current strategy is to leave this book lying around the house as a reminder to make time for it each day.

What tools do you like to use for prayer or Bible reading? Do you like getting ideas for what to pray, or would you rather go with whatever is on your mind and heart?