We were attending a large church, large enough for two services in a big auditorium but still small enough to know people. We had been there a while, and knew a lot of people through Sunday School, mission trips, and adult classes.
A friend from work attended with his family. We never saw each other at work; different facilities and totally different parts of the company. But we connected at church, shared work war stories, sat in classes together, and helped each other through our children’s teen years.
And then – train wreck. For a time, his wife stopped coming to church; he would bring the kids. Then he told me his marriage might be over. And then his wife started attending church with her boyfriend.
I didn’t know the whole story, only having heard one side of it. But it was devastating to my friend, to the children, and to the church.
And then another friend, one I knew professionally, decided she wasn’t happy in her marriage. And she knew God wanted her to be happy. So she walked out on her husband and child. Later we learned she walked out of one relationship to be in the relationship she had already developed with a co-worker.
Then a couple we were in a small Bible study group with broke up. He decided he didn’t want to be married any more. As it turned out, he had a relationship at work.
And then a friend, with whom I worked in ministry for years, told me he and his wife were divorcing. She had told him to leave. This wasn’t a case of infidelity on either side; it was more that their marriage was wrecked and neither saw any hope for trying to retrieve it.
All of these people were Christians. Bible-believing, church-attending Christians. In every case, no one had a clue, even their closest friends. They came to church every Sunday wearing their Sunday smiley faces. With ample opportunities to share their hurting in prayer, classes, small groups, and individual friendships, they had said nothing.
And it made me wonder if the problem might be the church. You’re not supposed to have problems like this if you’re a Christian. It’s non-believers who have these problems. It’s the culture.
And maybe it is the church.
In Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength, Christa Black Gifford says that “Jesus’ intention for us as believers is never to suppress the truth of our emotions and put on fake religious smiles, attempting to deal with very natural things on our own. When life hurts, we hurt just as He did—and that’s simply okay.”
Gifford and her husband went through the agony of losing a newborn child. It could have destroyed them both; it could have destroyed their marriage. They had dark, black days, and they probably still do, but they knew that the depth of their pain was known and understood.
We the church need to do better.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading Heart Made Whole. Today concludes the discussion. To see what others are saying about this chapter, “A Heart Made Whole,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by Lila Frerichs via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
". . . wearing their Sunday smiley faces."
There is way too much of that in the church. We are all broken and should be more attuned to helping one another.
Wonderful observation, Glynn!
Painful, sad stories...and they are all around us. Understanding pain I think is the greatest gift (outside of Salvation) that Christ can give us. It is a gift we need to move through people's lives and help them to the Master healer. Thanks for your thoughts and Merry Christmas!
You are right. And I think sometimes the enormity of the statement, "the church has to do better" can be overwhelming, but if I take it down to my individual responsibility (with the love and work of the Trinity within, of course) and say, "I need to do better," I can see a place to start. It's such a needed discussion in the church to be sure. Thank you Glynn.
And thanks for once again sharing your wisdom and insights on these book club discussions. It's truly an honor to have you with us!
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