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Bouncing Back From a Painful Situation

By Gabriele Rienas

Gabriele Rienas is a pastor’s wife for 27 years and a professional counselor, lives in Beaverton, Oregon. She speaks at retreats, conferences, and events worldwide. Contact her at 503-705-9230.

Whatever this group was trying to communicate, they failed miserably in reflecting the heart of God toward you.

Q: Lately I dread going to church. We went through a difficult church situation in which a group grew dissatisfied with my husband's leadership. They criticized and demeaned his competence, character, and spirituality. They attacked me; but even worse, they went after our children as well. It was very mean-spirited and ugly. Things have settled down somewhat because a large part of this group left the church, but I am having a hard time getting over it. I do not trust anyone. What can I do to bounce back from this painful situation?

A: I am heartbroken when I hear of situations such as yours. I am positive that it breaks God's heart as well. You (and your husband) came away from this situation feeling unsafe, demeaned, and undermined. This situation grieves God because this is light years away from His intentions toward you.

Under the guise of concern for the church, these people show disrespect to the office of the pastor.

First, know that God has His hand on your lives. He has placed you in service for Him. He is equipping you for whatever task He has for you. He understands your imperfections and works in and through them to accomplish His will. He would never crush your spirits or belittle you.

Let me talk about the message these people conveyed to you and your husband. Their message said you and your husband were failures and incompetent. Whatever this group was trying to communicate, they failed miserably in reflecting the heart of God toward you. If you came away feeling you do not measure up, or you are incompetent and unworthy, this does not reflect God's thoughts toward you. God is capable of correcting you in ways that do not demean you or leave you wounded. He sometimes uses people; but when He does, He uses them to empower and give hope, not to destroy and discourage.

If you push through and confront your fear, over time you can once again establish trust and safety.

What you describe happens because people are immature in the way they handle conflict and tensions. Under the guise of concern for the church, these people show disrespect to the office of the pastor. Groups like this rise up because they believe they have insight that is crucial to the well-being of the church. They often draw assumptions and conclusions and then take steps to correct the problem. If the pastor does not conform to their satisfaction, they launch personal and condemning attacks on him. Unfortunately, they leave behind true humility and respect as their arrogance grows. As a result, the pastor often questions his calling and competence in ministry.

One reason you may be reluctant to go to church is because you now associate the environment with pain. It is human nature to avoid environments in which we have experienced trauma. However, if you push through and confront your fear, over time you can once again establish trust and safety. This is a little like getting back up on the horse.

If God has called you, He will equip you for the task.

Someone said that one negative comment could outweigh five positive ones. You might be tempted to let the negative interactions from this limited group of people outweigh the positive feedback you have experienced during your ministry. Do not let that happen. Focus on those who love you and truly wish the best for you and for your family. Remember the people who have let you know your ministry has greatly impacted their lives. Think of those innocent ones who know nothing about church politics and simply want to worship God. Remember most of all that you answer to an audience of One. What He thinks of you counts the most by far.

It does not surprise me that you feel vulnerable. I am assuming you did not expect what transpired. The more unexpected it is, the more it undermines your trust. As a wife, you are also feeling protective of your husband. No doubt you have watched him suffer in this. Resist the temptation to become hardened and disillusioned about people. The only way to do this is to keep a soft heart by forgiving them. Ask God to help you with this. If this seems overwhelming, offer God your willing heart. "Lord, I'm willing to be made willing."

God is capable of correcting you in ways that do not demean you or leave you wounded.

Do not underestimate the kind of wounds this trauma can inflict. It can be devastating. Give yourself time, but commit yourself to a process of healing. God is aware of your brokenness and calls you to himself for binding those wounds. If you stay pliable and broken before God, you will heal. Perhaps you will be a little wiser and a little less naive, but in time you will feel less vulnerable and will grow to trust once again.

He will use every experience — even this one — to equip you for your ministry journey with Him.

 

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