Processing through Pain
Pain is a powerful indicator that something is wrong. It’s good that we feel pain because it keeps us from much more serious afflictions, but we also have to face the pain in our lives at some point. Ministry is a road fraught with pain and heartache.
People don’t do what they said they would do and tear you down in the process. Situations don’t resolve like they should have. Leaders and congregation members alike make decisions that are detrimental to themselves and many others. No one or their actions are in a vacuum. We really are a body–connected and intertwined.
I wish Christians were better and we didn’t hurt each other, but living in genuine community is going to be both exhilarating at times and sting other times. Leaders and church members (no matter how mature) living in a fallen world with an enemy trying to destroy us. Hopefully they are fighting hard to let the life of God shine out of them, but we all know what it’s like to fail.
Pain is inevitable (as sad as it is to say), and our expectation of it and knowing how to deal with it will keep us in the right frame of mind and away from disillusionment that wants to set in.
How do you deal with pain in a healthy, constructive way?
These less than helpful but way too common methods can be traded for some better ways.
Option 1: Let people have it with both barrels–rage mixed with righteous indignation! This may seem like a cathartic experience, but the fallout is always more than we want to bear (even if it’s not realized until years later). Our emotions are to be subject to the Holy Spirit. Our conversations are to be seasoned with grace. We are to speak the truth in love. Sometimes the best thing to do at a given moment is to walk away and wait for a better opportunity or to simply let the whole thing go (Anne does a tremendous job in the book talking about the idea of preserving unity).
Option 2: Find your friends, tell them all about the injustice, and work them into a lather with you! More churches experience splits because of things like this. Don’t entertain the accusations and gossip even if you are 100% correct in your assessment of the events. So do you just hold it all inside and let it fester in silence? NO! NO! NO! Find someone who can be objective–someone mature and wiser preferably. If you need to go to a certified counselor to get this, make it happen. Do whatever it takes. Remember the king in the Old Testament after Solomon who listened to his friends instead of the wise counselors? It didn’t turn out so great. Talk it out, but be careful with who it is.
Option 3: Pray fire and brimstone on the one who hurt you then make a list of conditions the other person must meet before you forgive them. It sounds funny, but we often pray for those who hurt us by essentially asking God to get ’em. We prayerfully curse them and think we are justified. Then we come up with an often elaborate plan of how they can earn our forgiveness. We hold ourselves in bondage this way. Even one condition is too many because we are to forgive like our heavenly Father–they may not even say–I’m sorry. God offered forgiveness as a gift paid at the costliest price. We can pray for those who hurt us when we realize they’re hurting too. We have to commit to forgiveness, realizing it’s a long term endeavor and not a feeling we get.
Facing pain is not fun, but letting it rule us to the point of burnout is decidedly not good either. I’ve experienced these hurts before when someone you trusted caused such devastating hurt. I don’t know what exact course of action you need to take, but these guidelines can be a start.
Remember that we can trust God and as His healing works in us, we can trust others (even if it’s been a very long time). The relationship may never be what it was with the person who hurt you or it may be restored depending on how you respond to God and how they grow as a person as well.
We don’t live as unsafe and unwise, but we can be realistic about people and the world we live in while understanding that God is always faithful and true.
Do you have a story about dealing with pain effectively or ineffectively? Have you seen these options above played out in your own life or in someone else? What has been the result?
This is a repost of a discussion of Mad Church Disease. For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some of my favorite posts from past book club discussions as we prepare for the next book. Thanks for your insights!