Messy Faith,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings,  Recovering Perfectionist

when you’ve been hurt by legalism or the church, hold onto faith

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This post is part 5 in a blog series that I have entitled “the wilderness between legalism and grace,” in which I share how I came to realize that I had an incorrect view of God and self and how I became free of the system of legalism whereby I was trying to earn God’s favor. You can view all of the posts in the series here on the series landing page. This post is for the one who has been hurt by the church or by legalism. 

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I was standing in a chapel service. My eyes were fixed on the screen where the words were being displayed. I opened my mouth and tried to sing the unfamiliar song, but within a few lines I realized that there was no way I could continue. I bowed my head and let the tears fall.

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev’ry step we take.
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us,
As we try to understand each move He makes.
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him.

There are days when clouds surround us, and the rain begins to fall,
The cold and lonely winds won’t cease to blow.
And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel;
We are tempted to believe God does not know.
When the storms arise, don’t forget we live by faith and not by sight.

Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

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During the first semester of my freshman year, my parents had moved to another state and were now located just 2 hours from another good Baptist college that had a stellar music program. While I would have loved nothing more than to sit out a semester nursing my broken heart and broken dreams, my parents urged me to move on with my life. This new school seemed like a logical choice – I could come home on the weekends, even carpooling with some girls from my parents new church that were attending there.

Now I was at a new school that I knew practically nothing about with people I didn’t know.

(Did I mention that the school was in Wisconsin, where winter never, ever ends?)

I didn’t want to be there. 

I wanted Plan A. The other “perfect” school. The boyfriend who had walked out of my life. If I could have waved a magic wand and brought it all back, I would have.

But Plan A was irreparably broken. I was stuck with Plan B, and I was miserable.

Chapel wasn’t the only place I cried. 

I cried in my dorm room. I cried while practicing the piano. I cried over my morning cup of coffee as I ate in the dining hall alone. I cried walking back to my dorm at the end of each day in the frigid air that took my breath away. I cried in the dark in the backseat of that jeep that bought me back to school every Sunday night. I cried in history class and New Testament Survey while I ignored the teacher to write letters to my ex-boyfriend that I knew I would never bother sending. I ran to my room and laid sobbing on the top bunk when a girl in my dorm got engaged on her 19th birthday.

But that morning, crying in chapel – that was the beginning of healing for me.

Many a hurt, disillusioned Christian who has been in my shoes has walked away from faith in God completely. They have walked out of church never to return and shut their Bibles never to reopen them.

But this song, this one song, kept me holding onto a shred of faith. I had to believe that God still had a plan, that God knew what he was doing even though I couldn’t see it.

I still had so many questions that had no answers. There didn’t seem to be any reason for the hurt I was feeling. I didn’t understand anything that had happened to me. But that morning, in the midst of the confusion, the hurt, the anger, the self-righteous justification, I bowed my knee – my heart – to a God that I knew loved me. I held onto faith in him.

But I urge you, Christian who has been hurt by legalism or the church: Don't give up on God.  Hold onto faith.
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Three years later I found myself once again crying – but this time the tears were different. This time a song about faith during trials blasted through the CD player in my car brought a bittersweet sort of joy still mingled with a bit of pain as I recollected what God had done in my life.

It’s the reason that a broken heart can mend
Why you can pick up all the pieces and learn to live again

My broken heart was mending. I was now happily married – and while life wasn’t always blissful and I still had a lot of unanswered questions, I was learning to live again. My life had spun out of control in the blink of an eye, but God had remained faithful to me through it. Faith in him had given me hope of a brighter future, hope had given me strength, and strength had given me courage to get through each long and difficult day of healing.

Life can take you down a dead end road
In a blink of an eye it can spin out of control
When you feel like you’re forsaken and feel like givin’ up
When there’s nothin’ to believe in, and no one cares enough

Faith gives you hope, hope gives you strength
Strength gives you courage to go on each day
When you’re prayin’ for answers to things you can’t change
When it’s out of your hands – you hold on to faith

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In 2011 I stumbled upon a blog in which post after post spoke to me right where I was – in all of my pain, anger, and confusion. I needed someone to put a voice to the unspoken thoughts within me because I was hurt. And for the first time, I realized that I wasn’t alone in this journey between legalism and grace. She met me where I was and her words brought me comfort when I was in pain.

One reason I started this series was that I wanted to be able to do that for someone else. I wanted my story to be able to touch someone else’s heart and bring them hope and comfort while they are hurting from the sting of shattered dreams, harsh judgments, spiritual abuse, and broken hearts.

This is not a post where I’m going to tell you that “everything works together for good.” I’m not going to tell you to simply smile and nod and trust God and voila everything will be okay.

I’m telling you I know the pain. I’ve cried the tears. I’ve been hurt by people that I trusted and loved. There were times when I felt like I had nothing – no one to hold onto. When going to church and sitting through a sermon took all of the gumption that I could muster. When mouthing words to naive sounding hymns that seemed to mock my pain made me want to throw up. When faith in God seemed ridiculous.

But I urge you, Christian who has been hurt by legalism:

Don’t give up on God. 

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I’m not saying that you have to like going to church, listen to Christian music, fake a smile, or even read your Bible. I’m not saying that you have to “trust and obey.” I’m not saying that you have to pretend that you aren’t hurting. I’m not saying that you can’t be angry at the injustice of what you have endured. I’m not saying that you have to be filled with joy in the trial.

But hold onto God and hold onto faith in him. In time, he will show you how to accept his grace and his love anew in your life. He can provide healing from all of the pain that you have endured. It will take a long time, but his strength will get you through each long and difficult day.

Don’t stop searching. Don’t walk away from him. Hold onto faith. 

Has this series been resonating with you? Have you ever found yourself wanting to walk away from God because you have been so hurt? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to share in the comments, or email me personally at aprille.beautifulinhistime@gmail.com. 

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To view all the posts in this blog series, visit the landing page.

Next post, part 6: What do Brad Pitt, Josh Groban, and Sleepless in Seattle have in common?

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