Losing my faith in 2014 was one of the hardest things that happened to me. The hit came when the church I was so embedded in and committed to, closed down. The pastor had been living a double life basically and the church was no longer able to stand. It came as a shock to many of us.
He was someone that I saw as a father, someone that I respected highly and looked up to, I believed in him. There were so many lies, so many ways in which he had manipulated and betrayed many of us. A lot of things came out besides the moral failings of our leader that affected friendships, the knit that we had as a church began to dissolve. My old church was family for me and I lost some friends that I truly loved deeply. It was a very traumatic time for everyone – the levels to what happened are deep and I don’t believe a blog post can do it justice.
God let me down
I thought God spoke to me clearly – why didn’t He speak to me about what was going on behind closed doors, so I could escape this madness? I felt so let down by God. I didn’t want to be in no church, I didn’t want anyone to speak into my life (prophesy) or lay hands on me and I definitely didn’t trust church people.
My desire to know God disappeared bit by bit, the fire and passion I once had to really go hard after Him by reading the scriptures, fasting and praying wasn’t there. I tried to make the effort of reading the Word etc. but I felt like sometimes I was hitting a wall. I had to try and unlearn some of the things that were taught that built this perception that God was always angry with me, or as though I owed Him perfection before I could truly experience Him. I had to learn how to trust His voice again, I didn’t know whether it was me speaking to myself or it was Him speaking to me. It was HARD.
A lot of my identity and purpose was wrapped in the church I once loved and was committed to.
Eventually I started looking for another church, a church that was sound, that was good and/or somewhat normal according to my standards was tedious. One Sunday I cried because it was all too much. I wanted to be part of a community of believers, I knew I wanted to serve God but my heart wasn’t involved in that pursuit at that time. I had every desire to do and be who I was before being in Christ.
A motivational speech hit home more than a sermon. It spoke to the place in my heart that was broken and spoke into where I wanted to be, whole. I didn’t really hear any sermons on dealing with church pain – I just knew that it was required that we all just move on. It was a very dark and lonely time. I still felt like I had to be strong for those around me but that wasn’t a wise thing.
The Church and God
I know something like this can impact your faith, knowingly (Consciously) and unknowingly (Subconsciously) because unfortunately the people in the Church especially the leaders are a representation of who God is. It doesn’t make it right but it doesn’t make that untrue. So, as a result people will benchmark who God is and how He is like according to how they are treated by the people in the church. Period.
That’s why I don’t judge people who have been in church, experienced church hurt in whatever way and don’t want to return and continue to live their own lives. It’s hard to disconnect God from the people that are meant to represent Him. It’s not an excuse but it brings understanding for us and when we learn to understand someone and get on their level we can love them better, we can love them back to God.
You may not have experienced the same exact thing as me but maybe you’ve been misjudged, misunderstood and felt rejected by the church (people) but I want to ask that you understand that how you’ve been treated is not a reflection to how God deals with you. (Psalms 103)
There are a few things that have helped me back on the journey of building my faith:
- Counselling – The only way to overcome any pain is to feel the pain, you can’t just ignore what you feel and expect it to go away because it will resurface in the most unusual times. The process to healing is not an easy one but it is a necessary one. I had to see a professional counsellor because the trauma brought up things from my past that I still had not dealt with. No matter how much I tried to cover it up, the truth is my relationship, job, and whatever else couldn’t cover up my dissatisfaction, emptiness and hurt. Counselling helped to unearth what was really happening within and each time I prayed, I gave God those broken pieces of my heart and allowed him to speak to me. It was a slow and steady journey.
- Forgiveness – One thing that I have learnt over the past few years is that forgiveness is a journey sometimes. For a year straight I can admit I hated my old Pastor (I wished bad on him) and I had deep offence in my heart towards old members. With situations like this it’s hard to forgive only once and it’s scary letting go and it also feels unfair to let go and forgive because it feels like the person doesn’t deserve the forgiveness – I’m keeping it real.However, forgiveness is not for them, it’s for you, cliche I know but it’s true. The unforgiveness I had ran deep, it was breeding paranoia and anxiety, everyone was a suspect as far as I was concerned and it was unhealthy. I had to choose to let go and ask Him for the strength to do so and for him to fill that area that was once filled with hate with love.It sounds so crazy but overtime I found God touched that place in my heart, it wasn’t done overnight, I had to be blunt with how I was feeling. The place that bitterness and hate used to dwell was now becoming rooted in love and it is still being rooted. So I’ve learnt that love is the cure. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
- Understanding that a man’s misdemeanour is not a warrant to live how I desire – Ultimately I live for God and I have to give an account to Him at the end of my days. I can’t deny God on the merit of an imperfect man. I can’t give that much power to one person, I just can’t. I’ve had to relearn who God is, what his heart is towards me and also what is required of me from Him. That information is available to me in the scriptures, don’t get me wrong I believe in leadership and God being able to use our leaders for the greater good in our lives. Yet, what I’m saying is that we cannot put men on a pedestal and allow that to be our standalone bench mark for holy living as is required.Remember that leaders are people like you and I – prone to making mistakes and offending us. Yes, they have a standard to live by but they are not God. (Philippians 2:12)
- Disconnecting from the things/people that were stopping me from connecting with God – I had to separate from my crutches and lean into God. I had to separate from the people that wanted to remain in those negative spaces and that were okay with turning away from the faith. That didn’t stop the love I had for them but it wasn’t healthy having the discussion of our pain with no cure. I can have that conversation with you when I’m in a better place and inspire you to get back up but I can’t remain broken because it’s the easiest thing for us to do. It was hard but it was necessary for me to do to move forward.
- Finding a community of believers – Don’t just attend a church/fellowship because a friend goes there, attend the church because you’ve looked into the ethos and mission of the church, you have people that can give a good reference to the character of the leadership and you are able to see their fruit primarily in how they are with their family. Is the word sound? Does it line up with scripture? Above all, is that where you believe God is leading you?Being around likeminded people will help in the rebuilding of your faith. Having seasoned people around you that will strengthen you, attending bible studies and prayer meetings will contribute to the development of your faith and the desire to pursue God.
I was so fixated on what I used to be, the zeal I had for God etc before the church drama that I didn’t realise that I was bound to be a different person after everything, which meant that it was going to alter the way I lived out my faith and engaged with God. Any experience is going to reshape us as individuals, God knows that and it’s important to understand that He desires to walk with you, step by step. He is not looking for perfection, He is indeed welcoming any imperfection or brokenness. I can’t promise you that it will be easy, at times it may feel like nothing is working but I can say that you will gain your faith back one bit at a time. You just have to hold on to Him. (Proverbs 4:25, Philippians 3:12-14)
This post is a call for you to return back to relationship with God, not for anyone else but for yourself. If you truly want to live your best life, reconnect with God. That’s my heart in sharing my story and I only pray that you might be encouraged to pursue God despite the disappointments, pains and hurts you’ve experienced.
This article is written by Susan Deborahs, a London-based author, speaker and singer. Her book ‘Living Waters’ and the Living Waters devotional on YouVersion give women hope and understanding of what it means to be free.