Why I’m Not Bitter About the Church

I guess I should hate the church. I’ve seen hypocrites. My dad got fired from a church and I was treated badly by the church members. I was ostracized by part of my youth group growing up and I saw my family suffer financially because my dad was in a ministry job instead of something else. I’ve had unrealistic expectations placed on me my entire life by people from church. In the ministry I’ve had good friends stab me in the back. Hurting people have spread vicious rumors about me. I’ve had people slander me endlessly for making what I know to be the right decisions.  I’m used to getting second guessed at every turn and I realize by now nobody likes to be told they are a sinner. I guess I should hate the church… but I don’t

The determining factor is that through it all I saw something real. Growing up my family was far from perfect but I did see a sincere faith in my parents. I was challenged to memorize scripture. I still remember the day out on the swing when I was about four years old and my dad challenged me to memorize John 3:16. I remember walking by my parent’s bedroom and hearing them pray for my siblings and myself (they didn’t know I was listening). I remember the family prayer time where we discussed the bible. It never seemed like we were just going through the motions. There was always something real there.

Then there were the times that my parent’s faith just seemed to bleed out in everyday living. Like when my dad picked up a rough looking hitch-hiker with me in the car. Later I asked him if he was scared and he said something like you should never let something scary stop you from doing the right thing… God is in control. (Years later I would pick up a rough looking hitchhiker named David who would pray to receive Christ in my truck as a result of seeds planted by my parents).

Then the advice my parents gave always seemed to revolve around the scripture. During my passage into manhood my dad encouraged me to read the bible for myself and believe what it said rather than what he or any other man would say. This gave me freedom to form my own theology dependent from my father and have a ready defense for my faith that wasn’t based on a family tradition. Similarly when I went into the ministry my mother said that there are a lot of distractions out there and to keep it about the book. She freed me to love God by loving his word and the singular focus on his word in the ministry lead to my own conversion.

Through the years I’ve learned and continue to learn to forgive people. That church that fired my dad… I walked in one Sunday night a few years later and shared the hurt I suffered and forgave them. Then I laid hands on their pastor and prayed a prayer of blessing over him and the entire congregation. The financial suffering I learned was all a matter of perspective, we were richer in the things that mattered than I had realized. I pulled aside the folks spreading rumors and told them that I forgave them. And the folks who slandered me, I had a conversation seeking reconciliation. With every major hurt I have sought the uncomfortable conversation of reconciliation and by God’s grace, He has won every time. And I remember the words of my father, “don’t let something scary stop you from doing the right thing.”

Yes the church is full of hypocrites and some of them really do have unrealistic expectations of pastors and their families, but none of that negates the work of Jesus Christ in my life. You see He’s real no matter how church people behave. And if we’re telling the truth the best place for hypocrites and backstabbers and people with unrealistic expectations to be, is church. They need to be reminded of the gospel. I know I do and though I wouldn’t like to admit it, there have been times in my life when I’ve been the hypocrite, back stabber and imposed unrealistic expectations on others.

So I’m not bitter about the church, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that all of us will be presented complete in Christ one day. All these little things that have caused so much pain will be purified in the presence of Christ the king. We’ll carry only the scars to remember how the gospel came to us through nail pierced hands and feet. No more pain, only rejoicing.

Everybody hurts sometimes (Ecclesiastes 7)

Sometimes a little pain is good for us. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should pursue pain, just that maybe pain gets a bad rap sometimes. When I touch a hot stove, it’s the pain that tells me not to keep touching the stove or I’ll burn my hand off. When I work out or run after a long time of keeping my muscles dormant, it’s the pain that tells me they are growing (no pain, no gain). The emotional risk of trying something new reminds me that I’m not growing if I’m not out of my comfort zone.

In Ecclesiastes 7:1-15 Solomon is answering the question posed in Ecclesiastes 6:12, “what is good.” Suprisingly pain makes the list.

So you may be having a rough day. Maybe even a rough week. Don’t be quick to say,”woe is me.” be patient and wait for the end (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9). You may find out that the pain was worth it. Don’t judge a situation just because it’s difficult or it’s full of adversity. See what happens. A fool worries about the “what if’s” in life. A wise man deals with the “What is.” sometimes it takes a little while to know what you are dealing with.

Sometimes the good times fool us. We think we have it made. I’ve found that it is the hard times that shape us and really make us who we are.

Again. We don’t need to seek hard things. If your suffering because of a toothe ache… Go to the dentist. You have the power to change that. Of your suffering because of your sinfulness, repent and make amends. If you have no power to change the suffering in your life, then embrace it and know that God can cause something good can come out of it.

The second part of this chapter reminds us that we can’t know everything. We need to be humble and trust God.

Review: Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain

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Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain: Uncovering the Hidden Potential in Life’s Most Common Struggles by Dr. Paul Meier and Dr. David L. Henderson is a great book  for readers who are looking to see a greater purpose in the painful moments of life.   Through out this book the authors challenge the reader to not seek a pain free existence, but rather to learn and grow through pain to see God’s greater purpose. Both authors share keen insights from both personal and clinical experience.

The book is divided into seven sections with four chapters each.  The sections include Injustice, Rejection, Loneliness, Loss, Discipline, Failure, and Death.  Each section is stand alone and the reader can jump ahead to a section without fear of having missed vital information in a section prior.

I appreciated authors’ writing styles.  The use of real life stories and examples helped to insure that this book was an easy read and never boring.  I enjoyed reading the keen insights from two brilliant men who have years of Biblical counseling experience in walking with people through pain.  The credibility of the authors, the easy to reference sectioning, and the readable style has guaranteed this book a spot on my shelf for years to come.

 

This is a very practical and readable book on pain and adversity.   Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain is an excellent resource. The retail price is $22.99 (Hardcover), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $16.55. I gave it four stars.

Disclaimer: As a blogger I received a free review copy from the Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program  (http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ ).  There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for the reviewer to call it like they see it.