The Church: A Safe Place to Hurt

Everybody hurts. But not everybody lives such honest and vulnerable lives that they admit the pain. Why? Because, most often, there isn’t a safe place to do so. The church should be that place (second only to the home). Regrettably, it isn’t.

The Church
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

I heard of a research study where psychologists discovered the top three places where average people “fake it.”

  1. We tend to put on airs when we visit the lobby of a fancy hotel.
  2. We typically fake our true feelings alongside the salesperson at a new-car showroom.
  3. Can you guess the third place we wear a mask? That’s right. In church!

Tragically, in church where authenticity should be modeled, we’ll paint on the phony smiles, slap backs, and shake hands, all the while masking what’s inside our hearts.

In reality . . . we’re hurting.

Everybody Hurts—Including Pastors

I’ve often said that if you could know the pain in the lives of those sitting in front and behind you in church, you’d be shocked. Everybody hurts. We’ve all been wounded . . . we’re all bleeding within.

Including the one behind the pulpit.

Part of what makes a church magnetic is when Christians aren’t afraid to live transparent lives with one another. Paul’s challenge to Timothy pushes past the façade and reminds us to live in reality: “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). I like the simplicity of Paul’s words . . . though they are not simple to live.

In the original language, the phrase, “Suffer hardship with me,” translates a single verb that means, “to endure the same kind of suffering as others.”

  • It’s not a command we can obey on our own.
  • It requires the application of a principle: When tested, the body pulls closer together.

How wonderful it is when this actually occurs! See the word with in the verse? That’s what makes a church so attractive. When one hurts, we all hurt.

Pain in the Church and in the World

It’s like what occurred in the early church. Who would have ever thought so many Christians would have been martyred in those days?

  • Because of the persecution, the church pressed right on.
  • Because they suffered together, their ranks grew.

You don’t find that in the world’s system. When testing comes, folks usually scatter like rats on a sinking ship; you’re on your own!

  • There’s competition.
  • There’s envy.
  • There’s hypocrisy.

But in the church? Grace pulls us together. It’s about considering others more important than ourselves. When someone is going through a tough time, a phone call is made. Somebody shows up at the door. Another brings a bag of groceries . . . sometimes a hot meal.

We cannot endure hardship with someone from a distance. In a contagious church, everybody hurts.

Because nobody hurts or heals alone.

What do you think? How have you seen your church pull together in painful times? You can tell me by clicking here.

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  • Charles Klassen

    Could this be why people outside the church, for the most part, don’t want to have anything to do with the church? As Christians we think we have to have it all together, we can’t show any kinks in our armor.
    We live in a small town of about 7,000 people. The local churches have established a food pantry through the local ministerial alliance. A long-time resident of the community oversees this operation; she is almost totally blind. About a week ago she told me that she hears people open up to her about being lonely. A few days later I saw it for myself. I had dropped by the pantry to take care of some business. It was about closing time and I offered to take the director of the pantry home. There were two ladies in the pantry shopping the used clothing. It became apparent that they didn’t know each other; as they visited they both expressed that they were lonely with limited community connections and before they were done and we closed the doors for the day they had exchanged phone numbers planning on connecting again.
    All this to say that loneliness hurts. When the environment is right people will open up and talk about it. Both these ladies knew that in the pantry building where people received assistance they were in the company of those suffering similar situations and they could speak. Does that environment exist in the church?

  • Harry

    Chuck Swindoll,
    I wish this was true. I pray for this to be true. But … I have been a Christian for 61 years and rarely have I seen this acted out by the church.
    I would be afraid to let anyone know if I were suffering … because they would leave like rats from a sinking ship. Both church members and pastors.
    Learned from hard experience, but will not stop me from trying to pattern my life after Christ.

  • harry: sad that you experienced that. I am a pastor and hope that I have never done that to people whom I have been called to shepherd. May you find a haven for your weary heart.
    Pastor Chuck: good thoughts expressed here. I remember you wrote once about a song Ken Medima wrote “If this is not the place.” Powerful song. If there is one place people ought to feel free and welcome it should be the church.

  • The blog article very surprised to me! Your writing is good. In this I learned a lot! Thank you!

  • Christiane

    “We cannot endure hardship with someone from a distance. In a contagious church, everybody hurts. Because nobody hurts or heals alone.”
    🙂