rebelling against low expectations

How do I overcome bitterness towards the church?


LIANA WRITES: Our family was hurt pretty deeply by our former church and I have been rejected multiple times for reasons I don’t know by people I trusted in various churches. This has made me very hesitant about getting involved with my church and I struggle with pretty deep bitterness towards churches in general. It can’t continue like this, since my dad is a pastor. I would appreciate any thoughts on this.

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  • Ok, this might sound weird, but I’m gonna say it anyway.

    When I was going through some tough stuff at my last church, I thought of when Peter cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear and what Jesus said to him. I might be totally wrong, but this was my perspective.

    Peter wanted to hurt the servant because the servant was hurting someone who was dear to him. I wanted to hurt the people who had wronged my family by being rude to them because they had hurt people that were dear to me. So, in a way, part of Jesus’ response could apply to me. Just as the people who arrested Jesus’ were wrong, the people that hurt my family were wrong. In the same way, it was wrong for Peter to seek revenge, because he was trying to stop what was the will of the Father, and if I had reacted wanting revenge or bluntly telling those people how wrong they were, then I would have been resisting God’s will for my own life. Finally, just as something much, much greater came out of Jesus’ crucifixion, God has also used my bad experience at that church for good.

  • We need to learn about the Church and how we should work as His people, so that we can do life together. To do that read Acts and Paul’s letters, they show the church beautifully. I’d also suggest reading the 9Marks books — they might even help your dad.

    More specifically to you’re question, I’m not sure what to say but this might help:

  • First off, I’m so sorry that people in the church hurt you. It makes me so unfathomably sad when I hear about this, because it shows that the church is not working as it should. I don’t know your exact experience, so there’s probably some other very specific advice that you need, but here’s what I immediately think of.

    Pray for your bitterness to be overcome by forgiveness to those people. Pray for God to send people you can trust to you in the church you are in that will help heal you, not hurt you further. Do try and get involved in some part of the church, even if it’s just the youth or just the worship or just some outreach ministry. Pray, pray, pray. I don’t know what else to say.

    “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ. ”

    1 Thessalonians 5:15

  • First, I am glad that you are aware of the devastation of bitterness. My family has experienced much the same. Even though we didn’t experience rejection, the bitterness towards the hypocritical leadership of the church was very hard for me to forgive.

    Please know this that God is obviously doing a work in you and that more than likely this will be a long journey. But remember, it isn’t the church that hurt you, it was people. People are people everywhere, especially in a church building. Forgiving takes a long time depending upon your relationship with those persons.

    The church of today is no different than the church of yesterday–notice I used a small ‘c’ in church. Because the true Church of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with a building. The true Church are true followers of Christ dedicated solely to glorifying God. The churches of today may have true Christians in them, but the fact is that most are not being obedient to God and following in Christ’s footsteps.

    Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

    As we once believed, most lost and most church believers feel that there is a saving value if you are attending a church building. To use an old adage, you are no more likely to be a true Christian being in a church than you are a car being in a garage. People have fallen for the lie that being in a building is their assurance of salvation. The churches have fed that message to the world, so that most sitting in church today are duped into a false reality. However, if you meet most of these people outside of the church arena and watched their lives, you would never label them Christian.

    I had to come to realize that the true Church is made up of the truly redeemed despite whether they attend a church or do church at home. Not having a church building was devastating to us. We had always held leadership and teaching positions at them and we felt lost. It wasn’t until I read John MacArthur’s book, “The Gospel According to Jesus,” that I understood what the true Church was. I was challenged to immerse myself in the Word of God to finally bring stability to my thinking in regards to who was saved and who wasn’t.

    People are what hurt us, if we let them, but when I finally realized that the behavior of those that hurt me were only pseudo-Christians, it brought a relief to me and I began to pray for them. That is the only way I could make sense of it and I learned that the majority of churches of today are not the “Church.”

    I am saddened by the hurt that has been heaped upon your family, but I also consider it a blessing. There is a song by Selah called “Beautiful, Terrible Cross.” It is what comes to being a slave to Christ with only His agenda. When we take up His Cross, we take up any joys or sufferings that come with it. Eventually you will see the beauty in this terrible time, but until then, be faithful, be repentant and be in His Word. Don’t give up. God is chiseling you to conform to Christ.

    Luke 9:23-24 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

    I will remember you in prayer.

    James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

    In Him,
    Mrs. Jean

  • I totally understand. We were hurt from a church as well. One thing that has really helped me in moving on is instead of focusing on the negative things that made us leave the church, I try to focus on the good things that happened at the church that made us stay as long as we did.

    Once you have time to step back from the situation, it really helps too. 🙂

  • I have been hurt by churches as well and I know what that bitterness brought on by rejection feels like. I have been going through trying to get over this and one of the things God reminded me was that I can build all the walls up I want but only he can protect me. and I know what everyone is telling you is to trust God but that’s the truth. not all churches are like that. and its okay if you cant get completely involved in this church right away take it one step at a time, one event at a time.

  • You are not the only one to be burned by the church, at all. The thing that got me through was remember that “Just because some of God’s people are idiots, does not mean God is. Just because some people to cruel things in the Lord’s name, does not make the Lord cruel.”
    It still hurts, and the church I grew up in was one I had to leave because of strong rejection not only from people I trust but from staff members. It’s hard, it hurts, and sometimes taking a month off from corporate worship can do a body good… just remember to come back to Jesus about it, ok? Try bouncing between churches for a bit until you find one that God calls you to. So many people choose churches based on things like location, denomination, personal connections, and the like, and while those things have value, they cannot substitute for being a part of a church that God has called you to be a part of.
    So, take some deep breaths, listen to some passionate music, and remember that even though people can be mean, judgmental, and stupid, our God is none of that. He will help you find people who love you.

  • My family went through the same thing a couple of years ago. We were put through the wringer…well, my mom and I were. Not gonna lie, we both still have scars from all of the lies and betrayals by people we trusted. Here are some things God has revealed to us that we would not have learned any other way:

    1) The church is not our safe haven. Okay, I know you’re probably thinking “Wait! Shouldn’t the church be a safe place to fellowship and help us in our times of need?” The answer to that question is yes, and it is definitely a place to go for help–after seeking God first. When we put our security in having a wonderful church life, we are putting it in the wrong place. Our God is a jealous God, so we need to make sure we’re putting more faith in Him than the church. He is our ultimate safe haven.

    2) The church is BROKEN people leading BROKEN people. Nobody is perfect, not even the church leadership-including the pastor. No church is perfect, and churches can be corrupt. Again, this means that we need to put our security in God, not our churches.

    3) Not everybody within the church is a part of the Church. The true Church is God’s people, His believers, not those who “play Christian” or aren’t Christian. Of course, the Church is not an exclusive club…everybody can join, but some have not made the decision yet. The Church is definitely not perfect, and it too is not a good place to put your security, but healing is found when God leads you to members of His Church.

    Time and prayer are the obvious solutions and should not be overlooked; however, there is another important step that helps: Take Your Thoughts Captive. Focusing on what has happened only allows your bitterness to stew like a pot on a hot stove. Pray for those who hurt you and try to FORGIVE. There is freedom in forgiveness, but wisdom in remembrance(basically, forgive but don’t forget). Do not get involved in your church until God leads you to. I know it’s hard to go through, but some of the hardest things you’ll ever go through can turn out to be the best things that ever happened to you. Trust God, pray, and start the process of forgiveness. If you have any other questions, just let me know!

  • Me and my family just got kicked out of a church that we really liked, and we’re really struggling.

rebelling against low expectations

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