We often talk about Emotional or Physical wounds, but what does it mean to be “Spiritually wounded”? Similar to emotional wounding, spiritual wounding can come from an event (inside or outside of the church) that deeply impacts our faith, our sense of self, our hope and trust in the church or the church community, unmet spiritual or emotional needs that leave of us feeling lost, feelings of disappointment with people who are in our religious community (pastors or members) This wounding can cut to the core of our belief system and leave us questioning and unsure how to continue or where to turn for support.
Spiritual wounding can come from outside the church and also from within, for some people, spiritual wounding came from legalistic parents or pastors, for others it can be as someone who works for a church and is finding themselves disillusioned with what is around them.. So what do we do when the place we would hope to go to for healing is also the source of our pain? For many Christians and non-Christians, the church has been a place of deep spiritual healing, but has also been the source of deep spiritual pain; this can leave scars of confusion and hurt that for many will leave them feeling on the fringes. We all experience disappointments, let downs, hurts, and frustrations, but there seems to be a deeper cut in our soul when it is within the walls of our church community. Whether your wounding came as a congregant or as a member on staff, this wounding happens more often than we are aware of, and since most of us don’t feel safe enough to talk about spiritual wounding within the walls of our church community, we walk in silence, or we walk away; either way all around us are the walking wounded. Often these wounds can range from individual hurts with other members of the church, feeling like you don’t have community or fit in with the community that is in place, feeling ostracized for struggles with addictions or past mistakes, going through things like divorce or a teen struggling with suicide. I have also talked with people who have felt the wounding of a church letting them go from being on staff, feeling frustrated with your voice never being heard, disagreeing with the choices of the leadership, making a mistake in your professional or personal life and feeling the weight of being “under the microscope” which could lead to shame, embarrassment, isolation etc..
Philip Yancy (author of whats so amazing about grace) wrote a risky and beautifully honest book called Soul Survivor: How my faith survived the church, where he shares his struggles with legalism and wounding in the church while going through his own spiritual journey. Yancey ultimately provides hope in the church while giving the wounded the space to explore their real hurts. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you feel you are one of the “walking wounded”:
- Allow the wounded a safe space to process their hurt.Be patient , whether it is your journey or you are walking with a friend who has been wounded, even if you don’t fully understand you can still be a support system for them.
- Remember the church is full of imperfect people. We can often place a high expectation of those who work for the church and in our community, and this can lead to disappointments when they let us down or show they are “human”.
- Look to Jesus. This may sound like a cliché churchy saying, but it bears repeating. It is easy when there has been a spiritual wounding to not only turn away from the church, but to turn away from Him. Even if part of your healing is re-exploring your faith, look to Jesus on your journey, read books like Philip Yancey or GK Chesterton or CS Lewis, listen to podcasts like “The liturgist” whose focus is for those who often feel on the fringes of their faith.
- Talk with a counselor. Spiritual wounding may not have been something you think of when it comes to seeing a therapist, but it should be. Allowing yourself to explore your wounding, your faith, your confusion and your own expectations are deep and important issues, having someone like a counselor to journey with you is an invaluable tool.
Wherever you find yourself in this place of wounding, you are not alone. God’s heart for the church and the people in it is evident throughout the scriptures, if you are experiencing wounding of any kind spiritually, allow yourself the time to explore it.