Emmeline Steiss told me that she’d stood in a room full of women, all strangers, and they were all the same.

That’s when I looked right into her and I could hear it, what her whole life was saying: no woman can ever heal in a state of loneliness.

Emmeline had lived alone. She had loved her cats. She had once had sisters, long ago. She had driven a mint green Chevrolet to town until they took away her license.

And every Sunday, Mama stopped in at Emmeline’s and brought her a banana loaf or a plate of cookies, and I sat beside my sister and we listened to her stories in a house that smelled of ache and time and felines.

Why did it take me half a life to feel this: in the space of the differences that separate us, there can be all this unique, creative strength, and in the places where we overlap, all this unifying certain comfort. What is there to be afraid of?

Emmeline had died alone by the time Mrs. Martin found Mama in the back of church foyer. Back by the coat hangers and children darting between legs, where Mrs. Martin had asked Mama if maybe I’d get together with a group of women weekly?

“No, Beryl, no I don’t think so.” Mama had just said it straight up. “She’s not good here. Not good at all.”

The details of what had happened doesn’t matter. There are times when leaving things unsaid to most, and mostly said to one, can be the way love covers over a multitude of sins.

All that need be said is that community had about hemmorhaged my heart and I dry heaved to breathe around women. Emmeline could have told me: The shields that protect you can easily become the bars that imprison you.

I can still see her — how Emmeline would pet that cat on her lap, the petting like beckoning someone to come. Like this soothing of her wounds.

The truth of it is, I wanted out.

For years, I wanted out of community.

I didn’t want gossip to catch my gizzards and bleed me dry.

I didn’t want  insensitivity to numb the last of the feeling places.

I didn’t want love to hurt and the truth is that love means to suffer and there’s no getting around it.

Someone said that to me once: that loneliness is far better than rejection. True. And being dead is probably far easier than living. I had nodded. I have lived it — the quiet death of it all. And found loneliness to be more injurious than rejection because it can be self inflicted. There is always someone to love.

I told myself that when Flora Mullander floundered and spewed all the wrong words over me and my skin, right there around the tender places, flamed all raw. And when another woman murmured these white lies that stained, and a friend failed, and a whole community of faith fumbled —   That love is a skill that can’t be learned in seclusion.

Love is a tree, each person a branch. And a pile of cut off branches doesn’t make a tree. Love can only be comprehended in community. You need imperfect people in your life to perfect your practice of love.

There are no solitary saints; all sanctification is forged in community.

That is why I stayed. The chance to love imperfect people is another chance to perfect His love in me. And all the believers are belongers.

You belong in the imperfect pews, you belong in the community that disappoints yet is anointed to keep on pointing to Him who cannot disappoint, you belong to the club of all the failing passing on all His mercy, all the members of the marred sisterhood being impossibly redeemed by love, lit by transparency, perfected by grace.

I had stood one October, at the far end of our lane, and watched a V formation of geese fly straight over Emmeline’s.

And I had almost heard it – how their hearts beat slower in community, how together they were doing it, flying further, with must less effort, soaring on the thrust of one another.

When one lone goose falls out of formation, falls hurt and struggling, two more fall out and follow her down. And stay with her until the flying again, until the flying as one arrow again through the sky.

Emmeline had told mama that. That her keeping company with her had kept something inside of her together. And I had felt those broken places in her when she’d said it.

Her petting this congregation of cats there at her feet, and the geese flying somewhere overhead in this perfect gathering of grace.

All calling each other upward and higher on this communal wing.

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15 Reasons To Keep Reaching out Even When You’ve Been Hurt

1. Christ is the Body and He is Love and both can only exist in community

2. God’s people are given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5) and reconciliation begins first in our homes, down the street, in this pew, around the corner, in community — or we are ministers of misrepresentation.

3. It’s only when you reach out to community that your gifts can be used for the kingdom.

4. Joining and participating in just one group or community this year cuts your odds of dying in half over the next year.

5. Community is only and always what people are: beautiful and broken and utterly redeemable.

6. There are no I-slands in the Kingdom, only His-lands, and the notion of lone rangers is purely bad fiction.

7. The wonder of this: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are the temple of the Holy Spirit? … God’s temple is sacred and you are that temple.” (1 Cor. 3) We are all the “living stones” of the temple of the Holy Spirit. But if one stone withdraws from the other stones? The “you” in 1 Cor. 13 is plural. Y’all together are the temple of the Holy Spirit; we are a temple of the Holy Spirit together in community. We need each other, all of us.  And believing is about belonging to a community. It’s when we are committed in community that we collectively live it before the world: God is among us.

8. 2000 years of Christianity is founded on the breathtaking living organism of community.

9. Community is healthy for us: “Those with strong social connections but poor health habits (eating, exercise, etc.) are just as healthy as those with good health habits but weak social connections.

10. There are sisters in Christ who have died for gathering together with their sisters — how could I neglect so great a privilege?

11.Dor” in Hebrew, it means generation. May we be the next generation to go next door, the generation who knows who lives next door, what they need next door, how they ache next door. The Next Christians need to be the generation of Next Door Christians.

12. The Christian life is the compassionate, crucified, cruciformed life. Not the comfortable life. Community is how God shapes His children into the image of Christ.

13. We love Him enough to meet Him where He is — “Where 2 or 3 are gathered there He is…”

14. Love is a tree, each person a branch. And a pile of cut off branches doesn’t make a tree. Love can only be comprehended in community.

15. Every chance to love imperfect people is another chance to perfect His love in me. This is a way to soar.

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~ to you, with love, from Ann Voskamp


Related Posts: When You’ve been Wounded, Cheated, Disappointed, & Heartbroken

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Q4U: How has community hurt you? How have you learned to keep reaching out, to keep staying in community? Why does it matter?

How are you flying down with the fallen?

How could you help someone heal in community? How are you practicing the practice of love with imperfect people?

How can we join you in praying for you and those you love to find community?


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  1. 1

    I can’t find a community of women, I have 4 grown children and then 5 year old and babysit my granddaughter. I want community

    • 2

      Beautiful Stacy… might we pray with you?

      Heavenly Father,
      You will for us to be One Body — thank you for the special member You have made Stacy.
      Thank You for inviting us to into communion with You and each other.
      Your grace surprises — thank You for the unique way You have created Stacy to love someone right now with more of You.
      Your generosity and mercy are always taking us by surprise.
      Thank you for leading her to places where she can offer compassion, and cure someone’s loneliness with the wild grace of the Gospel.
      Thank you for her tender heart, like Yours, tenderly opening doors, and seeking joy in all things! Thank You for letting her love and creating a place for her in community…
      Thank you for showing her Your very particular way in this hurting and glorious world… In Jesus name… Amen.

      We love you, Stacy — thank you for joining us in community here. We join you in prayer for community there!

      • 3
        Breanna Ziarnick says:

        Yes, and Amen!

        Stacy- You are loved and cherished. I join you and Ann in this prayer. Praying for community to sprout up around you in places you lest expect it. Praying your heart will be encouraged. Praying you will see how God wants to use you to bless others in your current situation. Praying you will be filled with peace, joy and love from our Heavenly Father. Amen-

        Your sister in Christ, Breanna Ziarnick

    • 4

      Stacy,

      I have three grown children and one nearly grown. I just want you to know that I am praying for you from Kentucky, and that you are never alone even in the midst of your “aloneness.”

      I think the age of technology has drawn many of us together worldwide and at the same time separated us from our “touchable” community.

      One thing I do that has blessed me beyond anything else is visit our county jail every Friday night and spend two hours with women who are serving time for mistakes they have made along life’s way. The community they experience in these close quarters is mind-boggling. The hugs, the tears, and even the laughter inspire me every time I sit in their presence. I am praying you will find a place to be Jesus to the hurting and in that place you will find a touchable community.

      I am thankful for this online community where we can share our lives and His love.

      God bless you, Stacy.

      Much love,
      Tammy Nischan

    • 6

      Stacy, I feel your pain. I, too, can’t find community but I so wish I could.

      • 7

        Stacy,
        I have 5 children, my oldest is 28 and youngest is 11. We used to be our own community, and did many activities together as a family. But now the oldest 2 are on their own in other parts of the country and I have been hurt by different events, and felt kinda lost for a while. But God used this time to mature me in ways that he couldn’t when I was surrounded by crowds of people. And Little by little God has allowed me to wade back in to community through being a Mentor. I started first with our MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group at church. That has been a huge blessing for me. Then I started mentoring individual ladies and am currently meeting with 2 young moms on a regular basis. It has been huge for me. I still feel a little alone, in that there is no one I know going through what I am, but God has gently been my faithful friend. My suggestion is this: Ask him. And be ready to do whatever it is that he leads you to do. No matter how difficult it seems, or weird. He will lead you to the one or ones he wants for you to be with. I bet there are a ton of young mommies who have babies that would love to glean from you wisdom. And they would come to you. You could do play dates with them, and you will be surprised at the friendships that come from it. I know I have been. I hope I don’t seem like I am judging. I am not. Just making a suggestion, and telling what God did for me. I will pray for you too. He has a plan. Trust it.

    • 8

      Stacy,
      I, too, went through a season without community. The devil wrapped his fist around my heart. Eyes clenched tight in pain, I couldn’t see the community that was right before me. He lost his grip when I finally opened my eyes and saw the opportunity before me.

      I stepped out to say hello. I volunteered (simply folding and stuffing envelopes) my time. And he lost his grip, day by day, he weakened as I regained my faith and confidence in the Lord.

      My prayer for you today is that you will see how precious you are and that you will discover a place of joy that comes from serving — with others, in the community of believers.

      God’s peace.
      Karen

      • 9
        Heather says:

        Karen, your comments remind me that when we are isolated we are more suceptible to the lies of the enemy, but in the community of believers we can more readily hear the truth and cast down the lies. Like the other women above, I am a mama on the verge of an empty nest after years of pouring my life into them. I felt have adrift for several months now as I have felt less ‘needed’ by them. I have struggled to know what my purpose will be in the next season.
        The Lord has shown me that the answer is in community. How did you all know what I was thinking and feeling? :)

    • 10
      Beth Williams says:

      Stacy,

      Does your church have a women’s group or women’s Bible study? I would find out. If you can’t go then have them come to your house for the meeting. That way you would have community & be around other women.

      Pray that God leads you to a wonderful community.

  2. 11

    The key for me is “imperfection”. If I am looking for people who say the perfect thing, who perfectly include me in their circle of conversation, who pray the perfect prayer over me, I will be perfectly disappointed. And, if I feel I need to have on my perfect face with my community, I’ll be the one who spews off the wrong words to one who needs to be loved.
    Community starts with me. This post opens my eyes to opportunities for me to love past imperfections, and to accept love from imperfect people. Thanks, Ann.

    • 12

      Hmmm, so good and true. I stumbled into it while writing that little book I scratched out and God brings it to mind so often:

      “Expectations can kill relationships.” Relationship with God and with others… But if we shift our expectation from perfection to grace & authenticity…. Yes, community starts with us: in imperfect authenticity and grace.

      I wonder what would happen if we each picked one imperfect person to love today? What could we do and how might it change our communities — us?

  3. 13

    “How could you help someone heal in community?”

    Years ago, about a year into living in a new place where we had arrived with no connections, I attended BSF. Oh, my, I was so deeply lonely and hurting in secret from things I would never share with relative strangers. Our study leader said something so profound one day, I’ve never forgotten it–

    “Give from your void; serve others from the place you know, the pain you’ve experienced.”

    Those were life-changing words, inspired by the One who knew exactly what I NEEDED to hear.

    xo

    • 14

      Oh, so powerful, Robin: “Serve from the place of pain”

      It’s — fill others from your own emptiness. *because then it’s all Him*

      I am so grateful for you, your wisdom — this friendship you grace us all with.

      *Thank you*

    • 16

      This quote is beautiful and true. And it means that no pain is wasted, that in the economics of the Almighty, He fills and enables when we are empty and weak. Then the glory is His, as He deserves!
      My place of pain isn’t what I like to focus on, but I’m glad that it can be useful.

      • 17

        “No pain is wasted,” one of the great hopes of the believer. God can redeem even the broken and bled out.

        When you recognize the purpose pain can serve, to redirect your vision toward Christ, it changes everything, doesn’t it?

    • 18

      just got goosebumps. I loved your words Robin, and even wrote them in my Gratitude Journal, my 1000 gifts practice that Ann inspired me to start. I didn’t even notice “who” had posted something so wonderful. Imagine my surprise…and giggle to find that I also receive your precious blog posts in my inbox! They are always so wonderful to me….beautiful gifts to me. It is such a small world.

    • 20

      Robin, maybe that’s why my “spiritual gift” is service. I’m always the one in the kitchen, making sure everything’s going out the the tables, washing dishes, ENSURING THAT EVERYONE IS EATING. I am one of 9 kids, a plumber’s daughter, and meals were never a meat, starch, & 2 veggies. They were more like pasta with a plain tomato sauce, no meat, or pancakes for dinner. Maybe out of my “hunger” I became one to ensure that no one went hungry on my watch. Hmmm…..

      • 21

        Elaine,

        What a beautiful redemption of those most meager of days. It sounds like you always had provision, though scant, and from your “little” you give “big.” That’s a lovely response, to lavish good things on others. :)

    • 22
      Anonymous says:

      Interesting thoughts thx

  4. 23
    Natasha d says:

    I really like how you mentioned about neighbours. Yes, let’s get to know our neighbours and share with them (our hearts, our baking, etc.). yes, yes, yes!!! When I first read your book, Ann, that quote “expectations kill relationships”, spoke to me so much. With my marriage, friends, etc.!! Wow! Thank you for sharing from your heart!

    • 24

      Natasha! Neighbor! ;)
      Yes — Next “Dor” — the next generation — concerned about who lives next door.

      What stops us from getting to know the people next door?
      Fear? Time? Uncomfortableness?

  5. 25

    I’ve always tried to wait until I was okay before I engaged in community. There were years when I was being physically abused by my first husband and I suffered alone, waiting for the day when I had something to give to a community. I didn’t want to be a taker. That was such pride! I wonder how different the tapestry of my life would look if I had allowed community to wrap their arms around me sooner….

    • 26

      Oh, KD — right there with you.
      “I wonder how different the tapestry of my life would look if I had allowed community to wrap their arms around me sooner”

      … But. God.

      And now, out of your story, you minister to many of grace.
      I am sorry for all the years of pain… and so grateful God has you here with us, KD.

    • 27

      KD,
      I have often wondered that same thing… how different would my life be if… Today, I rejoice in that pain — because God redeems my pain and uses it for his glory. Your past hurts, in Christ, are not wasted. Your life is no less beautiful or precious because of what you have been through. You are truly cleansed in the joy of the Lord who loves you. I hope you will “embrace” (so to speak) the story of your past and allow God to use it to bring glory to himself. As you share vulnerably with other hurting women, they will discover joy, peace and hope that someone outside could never show them.

    • 28
      Anonymous says:

      Hmmmm thx….I am there too sometimes locked inside with the pain

  6. 29

    My first exposure to “community” was when, as a teen, my recently divorced mother married a cult leader. Obviously, a very warped picture. I have been through so much (the cult was just the beginning) that I often look at other women and wonder what on earth could I have in common with them…or I’ll feed myself the lie that “if they only knew who I really was or what I’d done” they would reject me. I’ve had so mug rejection in my life (including my mom…still in the grips of he cult).
    Thankfully, last fall I went to a retreat and met 10 very broken women… and found the most beautiful of community in the unlikeliest of places. I am learning to slowly, slowly open my heart…and that while there is no way to prevent hurt, there is (praise God) no way either to prevent some beautiful and unexpected friendships from blossoming as well when I do so. Thank you for writing this today.

    • 30

      Beautiful, Pearl, this: “while there is no way to prevent hurt, there is (praise God) no way either to prevent some beautiful and unexpected friendships from blossoming.”

      I ask quietly, honestly — is it worth it to love — knowing that the other side of that joy is the possibility of pain? Why is it worth opening up your heart now, Beautiful Pearl?

    • 31

      Oh Pearl,
      thanks for sharing.
      I am so glad that you are learning to open up and to trust our Heavenly Parent.
      He is fully able to be the parent(s) you never had.
      I know this for me too.
      Blessings to you.

  7. 32

    Stepping back in to community after a wounding or a hurt is challening, but God… But God. He covers us, He teaches us oh so much about Him and about who we really are in Him. He redeems the hurt and prepares us for more community. It’s what he made us for and what he equips us for. Meeting one can often lead to two or more. Praying for those without community to be lead to a loving one TODAY. Ann, thanks for the beauty and the real and the encouragement woven into this post. You have provided another layer of community for me through A Holy Experience. Blessings.

    • 33

      Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your heart here… Truly, it is each of you and the grace you’ve extended to me in the middle of my messy processing that God has used to heal me.

      I cannot thank you all enough.

  8. 34
    Rhonda in SC says:

    When wounds run deep into the core of our hearts – they too can heal only as they beat slower, in sync with the other members of the flock. I love this thought Ann. Thank you for the visual which captures a deeper reality.
    I have seen this hard truth at work in my own life. I too have been one of the fallen geese, when others flew down to keep the company that heals. At times darkest – I have had sisters hold me up. When hope deferred and the heart was sick with grief – my Grace Girls have stood with me.
    Why then do I still linger on isolation’s edge? “You can come this close – but no further?” …this is the shield I like to polish . With one arm open I welcome, but with the other arm I hold back. This is the struggel I wage within me…
    ….deliver me from myself Lord. Free me for joyful service. Help me to live secure in you.
    We do need each other in Christ – this is a good thing. Thank you for the reminder – painfully, yet and warmly received. Blessing to you this day dear Ann girl – and all of your flock.

    • 35

      Rhonda, yes, this: “when others flew down to keep the company that heals.”

      Not all will — but somehow, by His grace, some will?

      I think, sometimes, I haven’t even recognized them?

      Why do we do this, Rhonda? Still polish shields somedays? Is trust a long surrender to whatever He wills?

      Grace girls — how we all need Grace Girls. Let’s all pray for each other?

    • 36
      Anonymous says:

      Thx I too keep my distance from people and feel cold inside with fear that hurt will come again to my heart so behind the walls I weep!

  9. 37

    Your article has touched right at my point of need. I ache for the feeling of community, but sometimes it’s just too painful. I’ve removed myself from all activities in our church, & from most of my friends. After awhile it becomes exhausting & overwhelming to continue to love the imperfect people, that never seem to love you back.

    • 38

      Dearest K…

      Thank you for being brave and honest. As part of the Body, I hear you and I humbly, sincerely apologize — how guilty I have been at times for not loving back very well. And I’ve unintentionally wounded beautiful women like you and I am so very, very sorry.

      My mama always tells me that it is always the wounded who must go back and gently show those who wound another way. So hard.
      Thank you for reaching out . Thank you for speaking truth in love to your sisters. Thank you for the courage to expose your heart. Thank you for resting in Him and letting communion with Him — give you strength for community again.
      I a whispering thanks for you right now — praying with you to know the love of Christ — and His people.

      You are so loved and your sisters here are grateful, K.

      • 39

        “My mama always tells me that it is always the wounded who must go back and gently show those who wound another way. So hard.”

        Wow. That hits me so perfectly in the heart. Thank you.

      • 40
        Patricia says:

        Dear Ann,

        Remember that special “Fresh Start” place you shared with us on your site… That place of forgiveness… I made that place, complete with all the Scriptures, the candle, the bowl of sand… I added my crucifix to the place… I am reminded of His sufferings for me and for all the Body of Christ… There I kneel, facing the pain… I posted the FORGIVENESS fresh starts on the wall at eye level at my kneeling place… And all the sorrows of dashed expectations from my family in Christ I take there… I remember how much I’ve needed forgiveness… how often others have forgiven me… how perfectly God has forgiven me… I write in the sand my hurt from a brother or sister in Christ or from the community… and I pray forgiveness and for a heart of forgiveness for me… no hardness of heart… wisdom and courage where act of reconciliation is needed… whether I am the one who must apologize or the one who must gently confess to the other how I hurt… or both… then I erase it all from the sand… and start fresh in community where God has ordained that I belong this side of Heaven…

      • 41
        Handsfull says:

        Oh Ann… I am the wounded one who has reached out for years to the wounders, and the ones who don’t understand… and your mama is right… but I’m tired. I’m tired of always having to be the one to make the effort, and I’ve been really struggling with it this last week. There is not one single member of my family who would contact me if I didn’t contact them (they’re in a cult), my in-laws are only slightly better, and my friends have really not helped this last week. I can just about see the fog of rejection and isolation creeping higher around me, and I don’t know what to do. The ones I would normally reach out to for help are part of the problem. I wonder if I stopped reaching out how long it would take before someone reached in? But if I stop reaching out, that means I’m letting the fog engulf me, and I’m not ready to surrender just yet… I hope I’m just pausing to catch my breath and regather strength.

  10. 42

    We just moved to a new part of the state. We left a community we were a part of for 23 years to a town 8 hours from friends and family. I am struggling to find a community. We have visited several churches only to not be able to “breakthrough”, if you will, the groups already established. I want a community…

    • 43
      Anonymous says:

      I totally understand!,,been there and became hardhearted,,,,please don’t o same!Look for someone to love and start there!

  11. 44

    Thank you, Ann! I always need to be reminded of the importance of community. I am an introvert to the max, plus have always struggled with insecurities. It’s so easy to look at other women and think I don’t have what they have. Satan’s lies begin to whisper so loudly that I begin to think they must really be true. I have found that he comes to steal me from true connection, tries to kill any hopes of finding meaningful friendships, and always attempts to destroy God’s plan for my part in the Body. When I give into those nasty schemes, being isolated begins to seem so much safer, but it really is incredibly lonely and ultimately so unfulfilling. I want to keep preaching to myself that to die to myself and my comfort level in order to love others is to truly embrace the soul-satisfying life that God gives.

  12. 46

    How the community has hurt me….many many ways. Ugly rumors, nasty looks, exclusion making me the lonely in a room full of people, fake concern to gain ammunition, fake friendship for the same…
    The reason for continuing on in the fellowship, Christ. He said to not forsake the gathering together. My husband and children, because I am the thermometer of my home and I want my family to be warm towards the things of God and the words of Christ. And on goes this seventy times seven grace…to make me holy.

  13. 47

    I understand this post. The need to reach out to others in hope of building community with the understanding that you might get hurt along the way.
    What if you are the one that is doing the hurting. Not intentionally, but because of circumstance and personality?
    I’ve struggled with depression and have been through counseling for a year. I’ve grown and learned so much through this journey, but I feel that I’ve lost so much along the way too. What if you become isolated because you don’t want to hurt the people you come into contact with? My bouts of depression hinder my ability to be someone other people want to be around too. This has been a very difficult road to walk, but I’m comforted to know that Jesus loves me, never leaves me alone and helps me bear my burdens.
    I understand that I may need to seek additional help/medication to get me through this period in life, but how do you intentionally reach out to others knowing you risk hurting them along the way?

    • 48

      Amy, you sound like you need proof that you are lovable. Everyone of us is capable of hurting others even when we don’t intend it when we close God out because we don’t feel worthy of His Love. You can’t be responsible for how other people react to your “circumstance and personality” and thereby get hurt, as you put it. That’s between them and God. Your relationship is with Him. The people–community–that you encounter along the way are the many faces of God–the lovely and not so lovely–because we are told to love even our enemy. He also appears to us in the needy. God uses our trials to show us our need for Him. That is why we are told to rejoice because it is in those moments that His grace is made known to us. You don’t need to be afraid of hurting others when you trust God to use your life, just as it is, to show them Himself.

    • 49
      Kelley Girl says:

      Amy,

      The fact that you are concerned that you might hurt people is a testament to your desire to love people. It sounds like you have something special to give, maybe you just haven’t found it yet. I pray that you will begin to see, as Ann V. has said before, “God re-purposing your pain for His glory.”

      My closest friend suffered from severe post-partum depression, has OCD & debilitating migraines, & is a breast cancer survivor. She struggles with getting out of bed every morning, to the point that there are seasons where she can’t come to church or join in other community activities. She could be the classic “needy” girl, always taking & never giving. But her journey with God has made her available for certain seasons to serve individuals in a powerful way. Her unique perspective has been invaluable in my life (& in the lives of others.) Of all the beautiful people in my life, who fit into the traditional community roles, none of them could have loved or served me the way that this friend has. And she often tells me of the blessings she receives from God as she has walked with me through my pain & joy.

      We all have the ability to hurt each other. But there are people who need to experience God’s love through us. Either way, there is a loss – hurt because of relationship or hurt because of lack of relationship.

      I empathize with your pain. I rejoice that God has given you the courage to seek the help you need. And I believe that He will answer your heart’s desire to participate in a community where you can give & receive the grace we all need so desperately in His perfect timing. I don’t have the answers, but He does. Never stop bringing your questions to Him; I have found that He is the best teacher, whether he speaks to you directly or through other people. He loves you & wants to hear from you.

  14. 50

    It’s almost like you’ve peeked into my windows! ;)

    I’ve prayed and prayed as to why God has left us in a town that is NOT OUR OWN! We’re thousands of miles away from family & friends yet God is keeping us here. Why? For community? It seems cruel! We left the church my husband pastored for 6 years in 2008 (not for sin on our part but power within the members). The people we loved & cared for weren’t kind and some tried to destroy our family in many ways (mostly with lies & twisted stories). Walking the same aisles of the grocery store with people you’ve counseled or sat with in death/sickness is humiliating (when they act like they never knew you). I understand, too well….the sting of betrayal and hurt that one human can smear onto another. It is something that ONLY JESUS can heal and redeem!

    After 4 years, I’m still here. Still picking up pieces of my heart & my children’s as well. Trusting God–that in spite of what some have done…..I will continue to be ME and do what HE calls me to do. And that I’ll go where He sends… When He says to go!

    PS–While the ministry my husband and I prepared for is not the same. We have tried to love and minister from our pain. God has used us in ways outside of that seminary training [box].

    • 51
      Anonymous says:

      May you feel my hug!I understand a bit from experience not as pastor but my husband had lots of stress from church and work which eventually killed him

  15. 52

    So, so very hard. I am learning the art of community and it is so very hard. Peeling back the layers, examining them, giving them to Him (over and over again) learning to live in grace, forgiveness, thankfullness and without expectations. H-A-R-D. *But God* is opening doors, and hearts, and if I just look to *Him only* to satisfy my *needs* and look at my desires being met as *icing on the cake* then I come to a better place.
    I have been hurt by women in my church. Women who I *thought* were my friends. Women who are Christians, women who I thought would be there for me. Women who payed no notice to me when I was struggling. Who didn’t offer help, offer words, offer encouragement in my extreme time of need. It has been a pain that has hit me deep and hard and some days I still reel from it. *But God*. I will keep trying to live in Christian community for the glory of *Him*.

    • 53

      Andrea, if I may, while I don’t know your story here, this is something I have felt , and it took me some time to realize that no one realized or assumed or ever would have thought it possible that I was struggling. ( a bit of the good girl always there for others , I’m okay thing) … Also… I realized that God was teaching me that I truly needed to let go of my expectations as Ann said. That I might live a life surrounded by those that ‘fail’ and disappoint etc . And that I still had to love. Even though. It’s hard. I’m still working on it. Always will. love to you.

  16. 54
    Amy Sue says:

    Is God asking me to facilitate a women’s community in my area? I came to faith through a women’s study and am eternally grateful. Feeling inadequate and terrified, but God seems to be opening doors and sending others. Please pray that He lead and be glorified in the entire thing. Thank you Ann for all of your beautiful words.

  17. 55

    Yes…. To soar on the communal wing, right in the shadow of His. This is part of what it means, I think, to love thy neighbor, a love learned from this God who first loved us.

    Grateful for your poetic words, Ann, and for the feathered “V” of (in)courage that never flies faster than the weakest bird.

  18. 56

    There is, I find, such a drive to “find community” or “make community” that I neglect to “be community” with the people the Lord has built me into. There are small groups to join, and studies to lead, and retreats to take: yes, all very good. But first, primarily, centrally, Christ has given me to my husband and my 7 children. I need to foster community here at home and treasure this, and see it a fulfilling and supportive and important, before I try and “do community” out there. I certainly need both: older women to show me, and younger women that I can show. But the temptation for me is to sidestep around this God-given, in these 4 walls, all the time community for the out there community. If I’m faithful in this “little” community, he will trust me with much in the ‘larger’ community. A balance needs to be struck, for sure.

    • 57

      yes, yes, yes, Barbara. As I’ve wrestled this through — realizing how I’ve been hurt here in our family — and all the reasons to build community apply here to home, to this first community. I love your words, Barbara — to “be community.” Wherever we are. As a family, we join together with another family (with 8 kids) for our small group, and fellowship over a meal together, study God’s Word together, parents and children — and then go out into the community together to serve — singing at the nursing home, visiting with shut-ins etc… Your words encourage, Barbara… Blessings to you and your 7 today, sister.

      • 58

        Thank you, Ann. We, too, aim to serve together as a family instead of being fractured and dispersed. It makes all the difference. (and I can’t tell you how many times in the middle of math and dishes and language lessons and laundry I picture you and Shaun out in the field singing “All is Grace” and I exhale and get back to it. Blessings.)

  19. 59
    Lisa Baker says:

    Ten years ago I was rejected, abandoned, divorced … by a husband I had loved very much. Week after week I continued to worship, love, and serve my covenant community. God used many of them to meet individual needs for encouragement, practical help, prayer, and so much more. At the same time, I dreaded Sunday worship, because seeing all the intact couples and families there was so very painful–salt rubbed in my raw wound–yet every Sunday and beyond then God blessed my willingness to embrace my pain by loving me through many of those very people.

    Now, a decade later, I still carry with me my brokenness and scars from that event, and others, forever changed by them. Yet I pray as I have often over the last ten years that God will never let me forget that pain, so that I might be tender to those around me who are hurting, often with a smile on their face and a carefully composed appearance of having it all under control. It is often my wounds … and my continuing struggle to bear the scars … that opens up relationship to someone, more than my healing.

    I think the church is a particularly hard place to bear the weaknesses and failures of one another, because we have such a high standard given to us in scripture to rise to. It is so easy to forget that the model scripture gives us is the inevitable goal of God’s work in redeeming us, not something we automatically become at salvation. I continue to love, forgive, cover over, and bear with my brother’s and sister’s shortcomings and sins because I need them to do the same with me, and because I know that one day we will be everything scripture describes us as being. The body of Christ will only grow closer to the model we are given inasmuch as I surrender myself to becoming like that model. That kind of interdependent family is so worth waiting for and laying down a few minor offenses for!

    • 60
      Tracy Williams-Chalker says:

      Lisa,

      Thank you for your openness and willingness to share your hear. It is awesome and such a relief to know that I am not the only who has gone through these same feelings, with my recent separation and expected divorce, after 19 years. I know you and I have so much in common related to family dynamics. God continues to use you as a blessing and inspiration to others, like me. I am so thankful for the hope and encouragement that I so needed today..because of your post. Thanks I am so excited that we are sisters in Christ and will get to hang out all of eternity. I hope to be as such an encouragement to others in spite of this tragic decision of my husband. To God be the true Glory! Tracy

  20. 61

    Thank you, Ann, for reminding those of us who are in the “established” community, whether at church or otherwise, to remember to intentionally involve and draw in other women – they may be new to our community, or maybe they had withdrawn for a time. Sometimes it is easy to think that maybe they wish to remain on the outer edges, when in reality they are just waiting to be invited into the fold. We all have been there at one time or another in our lives.

  21. 62

    I love you Voskamp. That is all. Thank you for being part of my community.

  22. 63

    “The shields that protect you can easily become the bars that imprison you.” I know this is real but it takes so much courage and willingness to face pain to throw down the shields and I find I’m quick to pick them back up again when it starts to hurt. I haven’t mastered this yet. And that cruciform position, it is really uncomfortable and I curl up the limbs again into a fetal position to protect and isolate and feel in control of my fear. So I needed this today but have no idea how to find the courage to live with body stretched and heart exposed. I have not yet learned how to truly love. Thank you for this beautiful and challenging post, Ann.

  23. 64

    Barbara and Ann, what if you are “being” community but the ones you serve and commune with don’t desire relationship?

    • 65
      Karen E says:

      I’m with Sara in her question — what if you are being community but the ones you serve and commune with don’t desire relationship? God, through His Word, continues to confirm to me a message of “keep trying, keep knocking at the door just as I do, do not give up, keep on loving.” I ache for those who cannot receive the perfect Love that is God’s grace as it flows through my imperfect, fragile clay vessel! This ache is so strong — it hurts to keep trying.

      • 66

        Hm. Well, I’m not an expert in what it looks like to be community in an unreciprocated way, but I do think that there is an element of “Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends.” There is a sacrifice to be made. Perhaps? A pressing on in the face of coldness and lack of response? A “not growing weary in doing good for in due season we will reap, if we do not lose heart.”

        I know that there is a trap for me to tend towards serving mostly those from whom I receive something. They show appreciation? They love me back? They enrich my community? Then the temptation is to give them more of me, because it is easy. But to love those who don’t love back yet? That takes Holy Spirit power — Resurrection Power — to bring a dead relationship back to life. Maybe I’m not answering your question, but I sure am kicking myself in the pants :-)

  24. 67

    As a clergy wife, we find ourselves moving into communities every few years and the starting over in relationships, it feels like too much work. Because this kind of life we are entrusted, it can’t be shared without trust from the eyes of the one sitting across from me. And trust isn’t something you find on the bargain table of common. It is like finding a gem at the bottom of the sea. So community for me, it takes a while but I am fine with waiting on His timing as he brings the jewels one at a time. He has proven faithful in every place.

    • 68

      I needed to read this today, Shelly. “So community for me, it takes a while but I am fine with waiting on His timing as he brings the jewels one at a time. He has proven faithful in every place.”

      I’m so disheartened to see so many saying they’ve been hurt in the church community. I’ve thankfully never experienced that but I have moved a lot and find it takes so very long to find and connect with new bosom friends (as Anne of Green Gables would say :-) ). You are right, though, God has always proven himself faithful and He will be faithful to the end, no matter how many moves ’til then.

  25. 69

    Our lights shine brightest when we all shine together. The problem is we stay closed and isolated holding our little flames, keeping them to ourselves when God could use our flame to light another’s. We can blame the information age, but that can be an excuse. And I am the greatest offender. At the end of this part of the journey, will I say I wish I had spent more time by myself????

    Thanks for holding out this challenge for the flame-keepers, dear Ann.

  26. 70

    @Barbara and Ann, what if you are “being” community but the ones you serve and commune with don’t desire relationship? I love the serving small group idea…gonna run it past my husband! :) We lead a group of ten and I think allowing the kids to be part is a good idea and going out to bless others would be wonderful.

  27. 71

    How am I flying down with the fallen…Hmm.

    Last night I prayed something like this: Father teach me how to go in and out among all. Work is a challenge–these people that test and try and wear me down because of my walk with Him. I prayed that the God would do for me what He did for the disciples when they taught and stood before people, that He would fill my mouth with His words. I don’t want to be witty but willing to stoop and love then right where they are.

    This post is answering that prayer: teaching me how to go in and out among all and not shrink away. Because the truth is I really do need imperfect people in my life to perfect my practice of love.

    The Lord answered. Thank you Ann. Please pray that I will stand sure–a light that will not flicker or dim. For His glory not my own.

  28. 72

    I’ve been asking a question about Christian community for my doctoral dissertation. I am wondering if social media can be a tool to enhance community for individuals. While it may never replace (and probably shouldn’t) face to face (embodied/incarnational) community, it may be a tool for those isolated for a variety of reasons – I am still looking for participants in this project – contact me if you are interested in knowing more. https://sites.google.com/site/tnuresearch/

  29. 73
    Karen Smith says:

    Exceptional.
    4U: How has community hurt you? How have you learned to keep reaching out, to keep staying in community? Why does it matter?
    The community I was in rejected me in every way and hurt me. I tried for two years but in vain. Their words hurt me and knocked me down. After two years, I’ve given up completely. I have to reform to their ways in the community I was in and I found it difficult as I’m a pentacostal and come from a very open, transparent and talkative community church. But they wanted total silence as a form of reform. So, I was ostracized, despised and rejected and made to look a fool. My only hope was that as my life was transparent, I made sure every step of my journey was documented. I covered my back so to speak. I think that a person can only give so much and after so many disappointments, love runs dry. In fear of my love waxing cold, I turned to the LORD for help and sought His council. So, I walked out. Leaving behind in fear that I would end up like the community I was in. I turned and gave my services to the church community I was in. I was trapped in a place where I did not fit in at all. Though through a lot of explanation, it was made clear, my heart is no longer there and it is hard to give without heart. So very hard. No heart in it at all. Not the place for me. I need to be where people are appreciated and loved for who they are and not molded to be a person that I don’t feel comfortable being. I reached out in a different direction by offering my services to my church community. All of my services and am enjoying it thoroughly.
    How are you flying down with the fallen?
    Only God can heal our hurts and pains. No other person can. Jesus is our Healer and our great physician. In time, I will forget. It’s easier for me to redirect my attention and focus as I’m an elite athlete and we are disciplined in the mind. We are a very strong willed people. I’ve been told it’s mind control which is not of God but it helps divert the mind. I believe that God is greater than anything or anyone else and He is in control of my life. All I have to do is follow Him and Him alone.
    How could you help someone heal in community? How are you practicing the practice of love with imperfect people?
    I’m always a helper. Always have been. Of course the world is filled with imperfect people.
    How can we join you in praying for you and those you love to find community?
    Love. I struggle with loving those who hurt me. Who have disappointed me. I’m in a very vulnerable place at this point of my walk. Love waxing cold. End time warning. I am struggling with this issue. An issue of the heart. I know that in time as the LORD heals me I will forget in a couple of years and will be able to love again those who have hurt and disappointed me. But for now, my heart struggles to feel for them. It’s such a bad place to be in. No feeling. I come from a no feeling place as I was an elite athlete and we are disciplined not to have any friends at all and not to feel for anyone. If there is not feeling then all feeling is put into the shot at hand. All emotion. All of the person that I am is put into that shot. So it was important not to feel nor have any friends at all. To win. Now, that my heart has been broken for the LORD and He has given me a heart of flesh, I know that place is the wrong place to be in and struggle as I know better. If you’ve been there you know. If you’ve not, you will have no idea. So I struggle to feel for them at all. I do not feel anything. I struggle with the word hate which the LORD had given me to warn me not to go in that direction. My struggles are great but I know God is bigger than my struggles and in time He would work it out for me as long as I submit to Him and surrender my life to Him and Him alone. We all struggle. We all hurt in areas of our lives to some degree. It is how we handle ourselves in the midst of storms and walk through the fires that spurts our growth in Him and Him alone. Indeed I struggle but I know that my Redeemer lives and the battle is the LORD’S. I just have to trust in Him and He will work all things out for His good and His good alone. Prayer. For them. It really hurt. They really hurt me and I never fought back at all. Jesus knows.

  30. 74

    Lovely Ann. Minus the cat lady, this is very much my story.

    Have you been reading Rachel Held Evan’s blog? She has been discussing why we leave and stay in this messy, beautiful, broken, lonely, imperfect body called the Church. I wrote a response to one of those blogs that shares a bit more of how I could have easily turned into one of those thousands of Millennials that are literally RUNNING away from the Church, but through the grace of God and a miraculous change of heart, I didn’t… http://jennadewitt.tumblr.com/post/16175958875/a-response-to-a-common-question

    p.s. there are a few posts there inspired by you and One Thousand Gifts as well! ;)

    Much love,
    Jenna

  31. 75

    For years we attended a church that didn’t believe in community. It was all about “family”….so much so that there was no community or fellowship. I tried to reach out and draw people in, only to have them reject me over and over and over. After living life alone for 14 years, my marriage was suffering (because no one had ever loved us enough to live life with us.) and I had a break down. God never intended for us to live life alone. We need each other. I was so tired from living life alone, that I could barely go out the front door. The thought of going into another church and having to start over there was overwhelming. But God gave us the grace and strength to do that, and we are thriving now. That was 3 years ago, and being in a church where they encourage community and teach us how to live life together has been life changing! My entire family is blossoming like I never imagined! It is amazing.

    Your message here is one that is so important! I have written much about this, but I honestly think your article hits it straight on! Thank you so much!

  32. 76

    I was in my twenties, struggling with major depression, reeling after multiple relationships had disintegrated. I had a church that gave me life and death- broken and unbroken- I made the decision that I would not move away from this church group until I had addressed each disappointed relationship and then could leave in peace. I did not want to take with me any possible seed of bitterness. I had witnessed what that looked like and knew that i could not afford more brokenness. As I met with each individual, working to mend and bring to peaceful end those relationships, it opened me up to staying in this community. It was not the end of hurt or disappointment or people who make bad choices. For me, it was, however, the beginning of realizing I was worth the work and time.

  33. 77

    I am still too tired and in the midst of healing to actively “pick myself up by my bootstraps” and seek new community in real life. This has been a very difficult season of loss and betrayal. I have been somewhat able to seek community online, but, by its nature, that remains superficial.

  34. 78

    I am dying for a community. I moved 3 years ago and my family has been through a serious tragedy many times over. I am so lonely for someone to talk to .

    • 79

      Gina-
      I am more than willing to talk with you! Truly! And to listen. The comfort of community- even through technology of phone or keyboard- is God’s desire (creating Adam) and His gift (creating Eve from and for Adam, blessing them through the gift of children created of them). We are in God’s heart when we hunger for community!!! And you’re right- without it, we feel like we are “dying for a community”.
      Contact me if you want to chat!
      In Christ- Jan

  35. 80

    Oh I can so relate… being raised in church all my life… sometimes church people are cruel… selfish and just self centered… welcoming others becomes condescending and self-righteous becomes attitudes… We need GOD’s love to over power us and saturate us so that we just have love to give each other and are able to build each other… having learned from the beginning that we need a church family… a community we must seek it and desire it and work hard to keep it…. May GOD give us wisdom so that we can open our hearts to others and share His message with everyone and welcome everyone too….

  36. 81

    I love this Ann. And this sentence, “There are no solitary saints; all sanctification is forged in community” is so extremely true. But we rarely get that in the North American Pioneer-like church. Those solitary buggies going west are still in our blood.

    For the first time since college I have a group of amazing friends.

    I’ve prayed for it, wished for it, wept for it and then, interestingly enough, I got to help birth it.

    Two other women and I lead a 16 week inner healing prayer small group through our Anglican church here in South Haven, MI. These last two years we’ve watched people wash their masks off, confess sins and be rooted in the love of the Father all in a non-judgmental loving atmosphere. We begin to learn the language of love, while having our hearts in casts. We are no longer pretending perfect.

    Our goal was to help ourselves and others get free from childhood woundings, but had no idea that we were teaching vulnerable, loving community…healing the Body of Christ resident in different churches all through this town.

    We were building a circle of friends able to be the hands and feet of Jesus to each other.

    This is my astonishment at how love is in action within this group: http://www.athirstforgod.com/privilege-of-being-the-body-of-christ/

  37. 82

    This post was an answer to prayer for me. I prayed this morning for God to speak to me about our fallen church; whether to leave or stay. It has been weighing so heavily on my heart. I have prayed this prayer constantly and just waiting for that “push” to go, but nothing. Things have escalated lately and gotten much worse. Still, nothing…until your precious post. I KNOW I have my answer.

    P.S. I just finished your book and my life with Him will never be the same. You came along in my journey at just the right time. Always, He has perfect timing. Thank you for being so willingly used by Him. Your transparency and sharing of unbelievable pain speaks to me about the awful pain in my life. I love you & your heart. Would so love to meet you one day & give you a huge hug. Thank you does not do justice but as you so lovingly pointed out…it is exactly what we should do…and is ENOUGH

  38. 83

    My story would take up an entire blog – abuse, psychotic family members, rejection from everyone, community that refuses to help when asked, churches that (fill in the blank here)……. Community? I am safer without it, yet I yearn for it. Friends? No way – possibly acquaintances. It took me until my late 40′s to discover friendship with a person. Until then, only my cats (and other creatures) were my friends and community. I had no idea that I could have a friend, until one sweet godly lady (10 yrs my jr) became a friend at work. We have now been friends for 6 years and it is still a wonder to me; it is even more a wonder because I have even learned that one can be friends after lvoing correction or confrontation. Because of her (and God working in me and through her), I have been able to open a tiny crack in my armor, and have discovered two more friends. Will these friends be close like her? Probably not, but I find myself healing and less afraid of letting people near me. I have, also, discovered that my life story and experiences have been a help and encouragement to others as I am able to share, NOW, how God has led me and kept me even in the darkest, scariest times. None of this is easy; not even now. But I am grateful for God’s goodness and I hold to the promise that God “will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.”

  39. 84

    thank you for posting this…it was perfect.
    I have a lot of those same feelings. I live in a small town where my husband is the police chief and we had 4 kids within 4 years of age and are pregnant with our 5th and also adopting. We go to church in a different community because going in our town was too hard. Half the congregation my husband dealt with on a regular basis. Too distracting but when we left there people were mean and have never been the same since. It is really hard. It’s like we have no friends here because of his job and trust is a hard issue. We do a lot for the homeless and other areas of bigger cities. We have learned that we just have our family and no one else socially. We visit the elderly monthly as well. It just s hurts to not have a girlfriend to just have coffee and hang out with.

    • 85
      Cynthia says:

      Jill,
      I can so relate to you! My husband is in law enforcement also and it is hard to connect in community with others especially in a small town. I live that daily!!!! Girl if you ever need someone to talk with please contact me. themmccutcheons@centurytel.net

  40. 86

    Ann,

    What truth in just this sentence…”You need imperfect people in your life to perfect your practice of love.”

    Being introverted by nature, I want to seclude myself when I hurt from the imperfect ones who have deeply hurt me – even when the pain was inflicted years ago. But I know the value of reaching out even to just one person…one woman’s heart…that I know I can trust ( one who has earned my deep trust), and the healing there is in connecting with this one. Mom always used to tell me in her most assertive New Jersey accent, “if you have one friend in life, Marni, you’re lucky.” Well, I count myself blessed…because I have more than one…in fact I have 3 people (one of them being my husband), all who are imperfect (but are all full of love and mercy in thier hearts)…whom I can confide in with the deepest parts of myself.

    God is gracious with the way He reveals His love and grace…and I am deeply thankful eve for the small community I have now. Who knows what else He has on the horizon…but I will never know if I remain in seclusion when I fall into moments of pain (from the past or present).

    Thank you for such beautifully gracious words. As always, your heart always touches mine.

  41. 87

    Ann, thank you for the focus on risking by reaching out to others…especially the question, “How are you practicing the practice of love with imperfect people?” …it helps me to remember that the ground is level at the foot of the Cross…there but for the Grace of God go I…without Christ, I am nothing…
    http://bethwillismiller.blogspot.com/2011/08/welcome.html

  42. 88
    Anonymous says:

    Once again I’m sitting here in tears after reading one of your posts. Your complete and bare honesty just speaks to my heart. I’m almost jealous because I so struggle with being honest about how I’m feeling, even to my close friends. There’s something inside me that needs to appear “ok” even when I’m not. I’m now realizing that it’s almost impossible to move on without first being honest about feeling hurt.

    Lately I have felt so distant from God. I was just praying this morning and asking Him to show me what was hanging between us and keeping me from feeling communion with Him. Was it sin? Something for which I haven’t repented? A couple of vague things came to mind but nothing that really hit home, not until I read your post.

    I have been deeply hurt by a very close family member. I thought I had gotten over it. They had asked for my forgiveness and I forgave them in word and I had the true desire to forgive them with my heart. I now realize I haven’t allowed myself to really recognize how hurt I was and to give that hurt to God. I couldn’t completely move past it or forge a new relationship because although I had forgiven them, I hadn’t fully processed the pain. I was still angry at the fact that I was still feeling hurt. I was angry that I had dared to trust, which is so hard for me, and I felt I was punished in return. You are so right that “love means to suffer” but we don’t need to hide it. We can admit we are suffering because that’s an important step toward healing and after I admit that I’m damaged, I can be thankful that I serve a God who takes me as damaged and imperfect and even hurtful towards others as I am and loves me anyway. And in suffering, I can learn how to love people better; His people.

    “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5

  43. 89

    Once again I’m sitting here in tears after reading one of your posts. Your complete and bare honesty just speaks to my heart. I’m almost jealous because I so struggle with being honest about how I’m feeling, even to my close friends. There’s something inside me that needs to appear “ok” even when I’m not. I’m now realizing that it’s almost impossible to move on without first being honest about feeling hurt.

    Lately I have felt so distant from God. I was just praying this morning and asking Him to show me what was hanging between us and keeping me from feeling communion with Him. Was it sin? Something for which I haven’t repented? A couple of vague things came to mind but nothing that really hit home, not until I read your post.

    I have been deeply hurt by a very close family member. I thought I had gotten over it. They had asked for my forgiveness and I forgave them in word and I had the true desire to forgive them with my heart. I now realize I haven’t allowed myself to really recognize how hurt I was and to give that hurt to God. I couldn’t completely move past it or forge a new relationship because although I had forgiven them, I hadn’t fully processed the pain. I was still angry at the fact that I was still feeling hurt. I was angry that I had dared to trust, which is so hard for me, and I felt I was punished in return. You are so right that “love means to suffer” but we don’t need to hide it. We can admit we are suffering because that’s an important step toward healing and after I admit that I’m damaged, I can be thankful that I serve a God who takes me as damaged and imperfect and even hurtful towards others as I am and loves me anyway. And in suffering, I can learn how to love people better; His people.

    “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5

  44. 90
    r.elliott says:

    Oh Ann…your words alway penetrate in Love and I am always challenged. “The details of what had happened doesn’t matter. There are times when leaving things unsaid to most, and mostly said to one, can be the way love covers over a multitude of sins.”…I have known this. I am finding my way back…a painful fellowship split…one that tore sister to sister… a fellowship of deep connection over many years. But I can now say…I am thankful…not for the loss of friends and family…but for what i have learned about Him…what i have learned about me…oh so much I needed to see…could I have seen another way…maybe…but oh…I would want to trade my life with Him now. I am continually challenged for my heart to love…this kind of Love must be divine…
    So I am slowly opening my heart…allowing God to bring truth for the lies I believed…and allowing Him to treach me again…to be a friend. You can teach and old dog new tricks:) blessings and xoxox to you sweet ann.

    • 91
      r.elliott says:

      ps…a great book that helps to heal…Mike Mason Practicing the Presence of People. Such a rich book.

  45. 92
    Randall says:

    I hope it is okay as a man to write hear, but as I read Ann’s article and many of the comments I was reminded of something that was said to me many years ago; If you are lonely find someone else that is lonely and help them, by doing so you can turn your loneliness and their loneliness into community. I am 56 yo and will admit that I have my ups and downs in the faith, but the most important factor I have found is that God desires us to press on and be faithful. Last night I went to a hymn sing and I really wanted to stay home, but my wife and I pressed ourselves to go and oh what rich night of worship we had. Thank you Ann, for this amazing article that addresses one of the greatest needs in the church today. We all need to take care of each other and make community in the midst of our messy worlds.

  46. 93

    Amy April 12, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    I understand this post. The need to reach out to others in hope of building community with the understanding that you might get hurt along the way.
    What if you are the one that is doing the hurting. Not intentionally, but because of circumstance and personality?
    I’ve struggled with depression and have been through counseling for a year. I’ve grown and learned so much through this journey, but I feel that I’ve lost so much along the way too. What if you become isolated because you don’t want to hurt the people you come into contact with? My bouts of depression hinder my ability to be someone other people want to be around too. This has been a very difficult road to walk, but I’m comforted to know that Jesus loves me, never leaves me alone and helps me bear my burdens.
    I understand that I may need to seek additional help/medication to get me through this period in life, but how do you intentionally reach out to others knowing you risk hurting them along the way?

    Amy – although there is more than one Amy that responded here…I’m talking about the Amy who talks about depression and counselling. I have so been where you are now…I have travelled that road and understand. I spent 8-10 years on antidepressants and honestly they were the worst years of my life. I’ve been off now for more than 3 years and I take a vit. supplement called Empowerplus sold by a company called TrueHope. Please look into it..it’s such a better alternative to antidepressants.
    You say” I’ve grown and learned so much through this journey, but I feel that I’ve lost so much along the way too. What if you become isolated because you don’t want to hurt the people you come into contact with? My bouts of depression hinder my ability to be someone other people want to be around too.” I know what you mean. It’s a lonely life. I’ve lost friends because of this and it hurts. The times when you need a friend the most is the time you push them away….the time you are crying out for understanding is when others pull away.
    “How do you intentionally reach out to others know you risk hurting them along the way?” I’ve been where you’re at…and still am many times. The best times for me to

    • 94

      oops…I accidentally pushed enter..
      What i was saying are the best times for me are to find others who are hurting too and reach out to them. For some reason reading “Bad Childhood/Good Life has helped me a lot.

  47. 95

    ann, I love you!! I love your heart, I love your honesty… Thank you!!

  48. 96

    Oh, how you are writing my story today, Ann. Thankfully, I never left as well. I hung on … and on and clung to our God and hung some more. How many times in the last few years did I say to my husband “I don’t want to go, but what would it look like if the Pastor’s wife was going to a different church? Wouldn’t look very good, huh?” Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t the pastor, would I have stayed. Thankfully, my God is brining me out the other end of a long dark struggle. How have they hurt me? The ugliness of mental illness stained my family from the time I was a little girl and NO ONE knew what to do with it. As an adult, this family member continued to inflict pain and as much as I tried to be transparent, the church has still for the most part turned their backs. What people don’t understand, they turn away from. And so the people involved are ignored. There is more to this story, a “perfect storm” hit our family over the last couple of years and now because it seems a pastor and his wife are not supposed to have needs, again, our needs are ignored. But….in the darkness, God told me ….Be emptied to be filled. And that is what I’ve submitted to. Being thankful in the ugly. Reading. Journalling.Memorizing. And continuing to teach a Sunday School class to women, when I really would rather not, when I always loved to. Accepting it was in HIS strength and not my own. Thank you Ann for your part in this healing that God brought into my life … throught your gift of writing and your challenge to be thankful. I haven’t seen the ending yet, but I do know that God has enriched my cares for others and have been able to encourage others who are alone in this battle as well.

  49. 97
    Cherrie says:

    What if they don’t want you?

    My faith community loved us well and loved Jesus better. When we first stepped in the doors we were a rough and tumble bunch-living together with 4 kids, pregnant with another and no clue about loving the Jesus who was drawing us near. The people in that church saw past our lifestyle and just loved us and invited us, and shared with us, and laughed with us. It was when the disaster of my daughters death occurred that I was brought to my knees, unable to fathom a life without her and wanting to believe SO badly in this Heaven that I was being taught. The people I had come to know were with us at the hospital, cradled her body with us as we wept goodbye and stood next to us at her grave. When I could find no hope, no reason to live, they called, and hugged, and sang, and cried, and cooked, and sent cards, and checked up and taught me more and more and more about the reality of Jesus and then, they jumped on board the new love affair with me as I opened my heart and fell smack dab in love with Him. They shared scripture and small groups, and wisdom and kindness and borrowed books, and worship CDS, and women’s retreats and prayer, prayer and more prayer. They loved my family and taught my kids- every week those tireless faithful Sunday School teachers- about this miracle of LIFE IN HIM. They grieved with us when my husband left and stood with me when my teenage daughter became suicidal and bulimic. They were my community!! Although we were far from perfect we learned to get past bumps and bruises together by the plumbline of scripture that was modeled and held up.
    Eventually our pastor left to plant another church and soon after a split occurred in the church. To our joy, a new pastor was finally found and our faith community strengthened. I had been employed at the church for a time and the community there was a second home for my children and I and family in every sense of the word. I loved the new pastor and his wife and stayed in relationship with many who had left the church and of course, those who stayed. My position ( as Compassion Ministry Coordinator) was eliminated abruptly when the direction of the new pastor changed and they outsourced the compassion ministry to a community wide ministerium. In my humanness I felt shocked, hurt, abandoned. I was a single mom with no income and felt utterly betrayed. In their humanness they didnt realize the depth of my hurt and how personal it was to me. They saw the decision as a good move for the church and looked at a bigger picture. It was the beginning of a terrible time. I isolated myself, plowed thru, got another job, worked 60 hour weeks for months and a year after I’d left the church on the way home from work a woman from the church called and asked if she could drop off dinner. I pulled off the road and wept for an hour. My loneliness had become so huge, the bitter root I’d prayed against had taken hold and this simple act of love broke me. No one had called me or acknowledged us in months. I felt utterly and completely forgotten. I felt like I carried the weight of the world on me and her kindness reminded me that God did see me, I was not invisible to Him. I went back to the church, initiated a meeting with the leadership to restore hearts, prayed for total humility and had a hard but healing meeting. I was so thankful and hoped that would be the beginning of restoration. Sadly, after the meeting there was no follow up, no tender care with each other, no reading scripture and praying. The leadership was busy, had other priorities and felt things had been dealt with. I stayed 6 months. Every Sunday I would have anxiety attacks as I sensed unresolved tension. I had terrible feelings of insecurity and even though I was in the church my heart was again, closing doors to protect from yet more hurt. Finally, I left. Without a ripple it seemed. My heart ached, I prayed, repented-again!-of my own anger, my self pity, my focus on self and walked out the door.
    Since then I have a different fellowship but have never been fully restored. I have made a point to stay in relationship with people from my prior church and remain loving friends with many of them. A couple weeks ago, after an uncharacteristic silence, I emailed the pastors wife since it seemed her friendship with me had changed and she confirmed that she had “disconnected” from our friendship. She listed her grievances with me (which stunned me-there had been no conversation to clue me in about her feelings) and ended with the statement that she did not want to have dialogue with me and that she felt a “quiet resolve and deep peace” about ending our relationship. Ouch!
    Once again, hurt washes over me. I love the people in that church. I love that God brought us together, I love that His love IS bigger than mine and that HE WILL lead me through this also. For now, I feel so rejected, so unwanted. In the middle of really really hard things-a son with bone tumors, the legal ending of my marriage, a financial picture that makes me terrified and looking for a job yet again, it is the letter from my friend that undid me and that brought me weeping and low to my Father.
    I know this. WE do need community. And we need to talk TO each other not thru emails and phone calls but across from tables, holding hands in prayer, face to face, looking each other in the eye. We need to know that anger usually covers hurt and that in relationship wounding there are two people with hearts that bleed. We need to NOT assume motives and we need to take time and make time to mend and restore. I also know that restoration is not a “process” but is a lived out lifelong heart action that needs preparation and stretching and is not comfortable but is always ALWAYS of value. And which is the heart of our Father-the son who dripped blood to cover all- the very picture of restoration.
    I want my community back. I dont want to be part of sin, and I dont want to have a heart that is petty or finds fault. I dont want to battle the temptation to gossip, or hold onto a sense of having been wronged. I don’t want to be lonely or feel unloved and betrayed. I have made known my desire to reconcile in my situation and there has been no response. I know this is not Gods heart for His followers-to cut each other out of hearts and fellowship as though yielding a pair of scissors. I guess I don’t know what else to do beside pray and ask God, once again, to overcome my humanness with His perfect love, His long suffering, forgiving, merciful love. And to give me His vision, to remember the person that (in my bad moments) I want to point a finger at is His own dearly loved girl, a daughter much like me whom HE created, a work of art and love and an image of Himself.

    • 98
      MDougherty says:

      Dear sister *big hug* I feel your hurt and I am so sorry that you have suffered through this. I wish there was an answer I had to give but know that you are loved and prayed for right now.

      Heavenly Father, thank you for Cherrie and her willingness to share and be honest here. Thank you for this wonderful group of women who pray and love even though miles apart. I pray that you would draw near to Cherrie in a new and deeper way, give her hope and help her to hold on to you while processing such hurt. She has so much on her plate, so much that feels so overwhelming. I pray for each day, for each step that she takes. Help her to cling to your word and I pray that you word would be more real to her than ever before. I do pray that you would bring others along side her to help bear her burdens, to love on her, to pray for and with her when she has no words. But Lord, I know that even if no one answers that call, that YOU are enough for this time, that you will be there completely for her now and that you will bring people into her life at the right time. Walking through this pain, she is never alone and never unloved or forgotten. I have walked painful roads feeling so alone, I feel for her, and I have hope for her because you have been so faithful.
      “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens
      Your faithfulness to the sky
      Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains of God
      Your justice is as the great deep.
      Both man and beast you save, O Lord.
      How precious is your STEADFAST LOVE, O God
      The children of mankind take refuge beneath your wings”
      Amen.

      • 99
        Cherrie says:

        Thank you for the beautiful prayer and beautiful heart. And goodness, thank you for reading that! My intent was a brief post and not this crazy carried away. I appreciate you hearing the many MANY : ) words.
        Your words are precious and evoke an image of Jesus next to me, on this road, side by side. I am thankful to have that image this morning. It is a beautiful thing-that He does not quit us.
        Blessings to you my sister. Thank you.

    • 100

      Cherrie,
      I hurt with you as Jesus does. I read your “many” words — they show the depth of your pain and confusion and sadness and the deeper longing to be known and loved in that knowing. God does love us in that way, but we do need people too. I often wonder about Jesus on earth — how He had his “friends” (so limited and weak and prone to abandonment and selfishness). It helps me to know that He knows, but still that often isn’t help enough for the really deep wounds. I think of the verse “It is for freedom that Christ set us free.” If He died for that freedom, He isn’t going to let us settle for less. That often means we must walk alone through very hard challenges — even the challenge of risking after being seriously hurt to connect with others again. As I mentioned below in my own post, my husband and I just left our own church of ten years. Unfortunately, we never had the sweetness and health you describe having lost. It was better you had it than not at all, but that makes the loss all the more poignant and painful. But, the loss and the leaving without even a ripple (we experienced that too) makes such an injury. I have felt like I don’t even want to go to church, but I override that pain and walk forward. We too have maintained some dear friendships, but overall we are grieving. I only share this to come alongside you and let you know I know what it is to leave a structured community and to feel as a sheep without a shepherd. We do have a Shepherd and HE hasn’t left us, though we may feel He has at times. Thank you for posting this vulnerable post. I appreciate your risk taking and pray that you find community here and in your own life. He will use this awful season to bless you in time — He never ends in sorrow. There is always the resurrection, restoration and reclamation in His kingdom.

      • 101
        Anonymous says:

        Wow Cherrie, you have a huge heart full of mercy and grace and I am in awe and admiration of you and your attitude in all this. I pray you will be led to what will bring you peace and restoration in your life.

    • 102

      I am reading all of these comments so God can give me insight and eyes to see those who may need community in my little corner of the world and particularly in my church family. I would so like to partner with God to give healing and hope to you, Cherrie, and others who have been so hurt by Christian brothers and sisters. I love the Psalm quoted below by MDougherty. God is faithful. I also think Patty has come closest to saying the only truth I can give you to hold on to when it hurts the most–this world is not our home, and these “light and momentary afflictions” are but a short less than a millisecond moment of time compared to eternity in glory with Him. I am grateful that you found life in Him in that community, however imperfect it turned out to be. No one can snatch that away from you. He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world. Great is your reward. I am praying Psalm 115:14 for you.

      • 103
        Cherrie says:

        Patty and Patty,
        God is using your hearts and words to minister to me. I am printing these replies and that of MDougherty to keep with me as reminders of truth, wisdom and Gods love reflected in women with beautiful hearts of love.
        Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I believe these words to be anointed and will share them with others who are hurting.
        Also, Ann’s blog, the posts of these many womem, and prayer have me deciding to PURSUE a loving resolution yet again. Perhaps this will be the best opportunity yet. God is surely teaching me more and more about practicing better love.
        cherrie

        • 104

          Cherrie,
          I just got on to see if you had read what I wrote and I am so glad you did. I will be praying over that restoration. The main point of restoration being your own inner healing and wilingness to risk again. Whether it is reciprocated is yet to be known, but even if you walk out vulnerable and open, you don’t walk into this alone. I pray you will feel in new ways God’s love, care and presence as He is with you and before you. No act of humble, loving righteousness is ever wasted. I pray that you will be revived and your faith strengthened as you step out. Bless you. ~ Patty

  50. 105
    MDougherty says:

    Dearest sisters, I don’t even know how to share where I’m at, I’m sorry if this ends up long…

    In my time at a Christian college I went from a co-dependent family straight into a co-dependent friendship. This person, whom I love dearly, emotionally manipulated me for over 3 years (to the point of losing an unhealthy amount of weight, doubting my view of reality and having a difficult time even saying their name). I share this not for any pity but because I need you to know how much this hurts and how badly I need prayer.

    This person had a child out of wedlock, my husband and I are friends with her ex and see her daughter as often as we can. The custody battle is bitter and I have avoided it because honestly I just could not emotionally handle getting involved. Now the father is at risk of losing a lot of his parental rights due to lies that are being told about him and their relationship. He has asked me if I would be willing to write a statement and testify in court for him. I have no issue with writing a statement, but the thought of testifying in a hearing in front of her and her parents… I start to shake and my heart rate goes up. All the thoughts and feelings of failing her, of not doing enough, of feeling like how things have turned out is my fault somehow come back up and all I want to do is run away and cry.
    I am the only one who has had enough of a relationship with both parents and the interaction with the daughter to possibly sway the judge to not accept the most recent evaluation.
    I don’t know what to do. I tend to jump into situations where I think I can “save” someone and it’s usually not wise in hindsight, I take everything on my own shoulders and don’t trust God to be at work. So I don’t want to do this out of feeling like I ‘should’, only if I feel convicted that it is what God wishes of me. My emotions are so out of control with this and I feel so overwhelmed. What does community look like in this situation? Thank you so much for listening, for your prayers. Thank you Ann for being willing to talk about such a hard topic and for all of you for creating a safe place for us to share, pray and love on each other.

    • 106
      Cherrie says:

      My heart aches for you, knowing the fear and consuming anxiety that can come from relationships that aren’t healthy.
      I will be praying for you. I wouldn’t presume to know what might be best in your situation but I think dear sister, that your aching heart is crying out for peace and healing form this very painful situation.
      God has given you a heart of love and compassion for the hurting it seems and His own heart for you is tender.
      I will prayerfully ask God to guide you and to make a community known to you- perhaps in creative unconventional ways-as you seek the deep healing that will help free you from the bonds of this hurt.
      Peace to you and may His grace be your portion and His joy your new song!

  51. 107

    I have been hearing a lot from people lately that we don’t need a Church to be religious. This bothers me, while it is true to some extent, I love what you have said here. The reason we attend Church is because we so need that sense of Community…Being one body in Christ. Thank you…

  52. 108
    Melissa says:

    Thank you for these words, Ann. I have been struggling to find a community and have been disheartened to find that often things look like community but aren’t really at all. Cliques of grown women are almost more exclusive than those of high school girls. However, as tempted as I have been to give up and seclude myself, God has been showing me women who could truly be friends. My little community might not be huge, but it enough. I will remember this wise post when I am feeling tempted to allow myself to be lonely.

  53. 109

    I have known both hurt and help. And am pleased to say I FOUND, the HELP far outweighed the hurt. In fact, I would not be healed if the HELP was not there. Community for Christians is undeniable in the Word. My experience….. I am positive is not unlike many others here. There are two things I see in my particular area that I would like to encourage others if it happens in your neck of the woods. The first is lack of REAL connections…..I mean REAL…..the messy, the pain, the nitty-gritty (if you will)…. Apart from my community I often see surface and superficial relationships. Rarely is it you come across women who REALly want you {in} their (mess). This saddens me beyond words they don’t have to do it alone……. The other area I observe often is the lack of reaching beyond your own church walls, as if saying well, they don’t attend “MY” church so they really aren’t “apart” of “US”………this has ALWAYS bothered me. Even as a youth I remember thinking, “Isn’t the CHURCH world-WIDE?” . Many will give the excuses that; “We are so busy with “OUR” church we could hardly have the time to build relationships outside of it.”…………..Since when did walls become our chains?…………..All of us understand its easy and comfortable to “be” apart of those we see every Sunday, but who or what could you missing if you remain within YOUR (built) walls? Perhaps, an Emmeline???? ……..GO BEYOND THE WALLS………..love, Amanda

  54. 110

    Thanks for this post. A lady in the church I pastor forwarded it to me because it expresses so well a lot of what I have been trying to teach these past couple of months. Thanks! I’m posting about it in my blog, I hope that is OK. God bless you and yours (we live on 40 acres in the country, and homeschool our two girls as well.

  55. 111

    These are some of the wisest words I have ever read. Thank you, dear Ann, for allowing Jesus to speak through you!

    Holding these words close today as I venture out in search of community. After years of my own self-imposed isolation, I have realised the void it’s left. It seemed like the right thing at the time; protection from more hurt and rejection, but turns out you are right — true healing can only be found {in}community!!

    Hugs to you!!

    • 112

      Carmen,
      Though you will be disappointed at times by other people hurting you, I know you will be blessed for your step out. God will meet you there and provide people who will love you and befriend you. I am encouraged by your courage! Bless you.

  56. 114

    Ann, I always say you hit it out of the park. I don’t mean that by way of performance, but by way of nialing it through your own exposure of your own self — because you go inward before you share outward, you don’t set a bar to be hurdled, you give a hand to be accepted as we step forward. So appreciate that about you and how God has walked with you and in you and ahead of you and around you in YOUR community. I have been wounded as we all have. Our own wounds feel the worst, the loneliest, the ugliest. But, I have community and that is God’s gift. My community is not a group of friends who all hang together — I’d love that! What I have is a patchwork quilt woven into my life by God: a mentor, a prayer partner, a walking buddy, an “older sister” … all these dear Christian women pour into me, pray for me, reflect me to myself and reflect the Lord simultaneously. They are teaching me to risk again … to feel. I want to stay safe and numb, but not really. I don’t want the truncated, wasted life that comes from sheltering myself in my own defenses. So, I’m exposing myself and learning that the softer sides of me come out when I risk being hurt. My husband and I recently made the hard, prayerful decision to leave our church home of ten years after a pervasive systemic problem was not being addressed. There were multiple moral failures in leadership over seven-and-a-half years and we had to go. We left friends (though we have maintained friendships) and ministries. It has been heartbreaking. And, to boot, our next door neighbor is our former pastor. This article of yours meets me right where I am. Especially the “Dor” … God speaks. Thankful for your faithfulness to listen and share what you hear.

  57. 115

    As I read the response from so many women my heart was breaking and I thought if I had a computer with sound effects that It would be crying! WOW how timely! is all I can say…well perhaps it could of been 20 years earlier but timely none the less. We are in our 70′s and live in a small mountain town for the past 12 years and have had trouble finding the “sense of community” It seemed so hard to fit in as “community” was already established and women already had established relationships with one another and you just did not fit in. SO being an agonizer I was always agonizing about where was my place in the “community” We all need one another but are afraid to come out of our comfort zone. I have the gift of hospitality and have reached out to others many times with invites but never seem to be reciprocated. We are now in the same church but it has been stirred up and is reconstructiing and now there is more freedom there among the people and we feel again that we want to try harder to reach out to others and establish our own small groups. We “assumed” that others had family in the area and were just happy in their situations but decided to once again get out of our comfort zones and invite some people for dinner we did not know well and LO and BEHOLD we find out there are in the same situation we are…..looking for a sense of belonging. So again we will reach out and try to bring together a new group of like minded brothers and sisters in the Lord. Do not become weary in well doing no matter how many times you have been hurt. Continue to reach out to others…We need each other not only as women but also as couples. My theme has always been “Unity in the Community” United we stand and divided we fall. This is a very important time in our lives and history that we forget what lies behind and press forward to the high calling of Christ Jesus.

  58. 116

    I was in a community of friends for a good while. But then, issues with boundaries and such started to come up. Hearing all of what you’re saying about the benefits of community is good and all. It hurts right now. What happens when this good community turns sour and is no longer benefiting or growing you any longer?

  59. 117

    I read your words today after just last night leaving my community. My husband and I both belonged. My decision now impacts him. I am heavy hearted and have continued to cry.
    I know I need a community. I need a community that has memebers who believe in Jesus Christ. I am sure I need believers in the bible to be around. I am looking for radical, primitive Christianity. I want to be challenged. I want to grow in my faith.

  60. 118

    Praying for a community in our soon-to-be-home and am so incredibly grateful (and a bit heartbroken) at the community we are leaving, location-wise anyhow :) Thank you for the encouragement – we all need it!!

  61. 119
    Charlotte says:

    Ann your article resonates within my very soul! Is this from a book you have written?? If so, please give me the title. I would so like to read it!

    Church is just like family. That’s why we call them our church-family. No one can hurt us quite like them. They know our weaknesses and just where to twist to do it. Much is also unintentional but just as hurtful.

    Once you have been deeply hurt by your church, it is difficult to trust and be vulnerable in your service to God through your church. I know. I was once a church secretary serving where God called me to serve. It has been 12 years since I walked away, broken and hurting, from my job though I still attend the same church. Time has healed some of the pain. But those feeling of hurt and pain and distrust still raise their head even when I think I have beaten them down. I wonder if I should have left and joined another church. Would I be healed and whole and serving with my whole heart in another church? I don’t know. What I do know is that God is the Great Physician. He is in charge and he continues to draw me into worship of Him. I don’t know if I will be whole on this side of eternity. Forgiveness is not the issue. I have forgiven those who hurt me. It is just the pain that pops up again and again.

    Thank you for your article. We need to look at our hurts from time to time and really examine them. As women, we need each other so much. May God be glorified.

  62. 120
    Beth Williams says:

    My small church has become my biggest community. I can say and ask for anything there and know they will pray for me. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world!!!

    They were all there for me and my family when mom got sick & was in hospital/rehab 1.5 months and then a while after that when she broke her hip and had surgery. The pastor even did her eulogy for her funeral–& all because I go to church there–they had never seen mom or dad–ohh such wonderful people. I pray everyone meets people soo nice & caring!

    Our women’s Bible study group is also wonderful. We share things–even about our hubbys. It all stays there but it gets us more intouch with each other.

  63. 121

    After my affair and subsequent divorce, I lost community. I was no longer the popular pastor’s wife, I was the outcast, and the pain of the solitude was engulfing. And it has taken years to risk and put myself out there, to make friends and feel accepted again. And while I may have deserved rejection, I longed for grace, and have now found that with those in my life all these years later.
    It’s so true that “to love means to suffer and there’s no getting around it”. And that suffering refines and polishes and makes me more like Him.

    I love what Robin said because I think it is true and has certainly become true for me…“Give from your void; serve others from the place you know, the pain you’ve experienced.” And I must say, because of where I’ve been is why I feel so passionate about extending the mercy and grace I’ve received to others. And the process of practicing that, has been life-changing indeed.

    Thank you Ann for who you are. And I’m so very thankful for your words which somehow always feed my heart. xoxoxo

  64. 122

    I spent years, together with my family, trying to find the perfect community. The kind of church where we agreed with everyone. Finally in desperation, we wound up at a church where we probably agreed totally with almost no one. But it was working for our children. Then an amazing thing happened. I noticed that all those people, who really didn’t agree with one another, loved each other. The old ladies who wore hats, loved the young girls in their jeans. They young men dutifully turned up to sing the old hymns with the old man, at the organ, and the old men patiently bore with the young men with no ties, and their guitars. The old ways were respected, and the new ways indulged. The preaching was always true, but some days it was quiet, and sombre, and some days it was boisterous, and came with power point. And everyone listened, every time. I love my community, now. We didn’t need to be the same. Just to love.

    • 123

      Jackie. May I share this comment, maybe on my blog? I am not sure of the final format, but it really speaks to my heart about what our fellowship is like, and it is a beautiful picture of what I think God desires from us. If you have any questions you can visit my blog by clicking on my name, or can email me at emar AT tcsn.net

  65. 125

    I have moved around all my life and never stay in one place for long. I feel that community has been the only thing that has kept me sane. I remember my mother once saying that with every move, she prayed for ONE Christian friend. Sometimes God gave more and sometimes just the one. But the one is what kept me pressing on.
    I don’t think community always means big. We need the larger body as the ‘church’ but we need a smaller group to be our support system.
    I also feel for Stacy and some of the others. all the sudden my children are gone and depression set in for the first time in my life. I have some precious women who have encouraged me but it is women who have gone through the same situation or have gone through it that have been the ones that lift my spirit and soul. Maybe, seek out these women. All I know is that they hold my arms up when my strength fails.

  66. 126

    I long for community. I can count the Christian women in my community on one hand, all over 20 years older than me and in very different times of life – busy with work, retirement and each other. I have been hurt in the past, but all I want now is to have fellowship. I know part of it is selfish in the exhaustion I feel after spending all my time with non-Christians. There is no MOPS group I can go to, no women’s Bible study to join or an interest in my starting one. We are very isolated and my soul is parched. Please pray that I will seek to pour love on those without Christ? That I would hunger for God’s fellowship and it would always be enough?

  67. 127

    I have just walked through a season where believers who have isolated have brought harm to more than one family because they pulled away into their hurt rather than confronting in love. Now, however, standing amidst the debris of that relationship, I am experiencing the sweet community of sisters who know this pain and have beautiful, restorative encouragements that I can already see bringing healing. Piece by piece they are doing a work of rebuilding what has been torn down. When we isolate with our wounds, we bring disease to the Body. However, like the human body, the Body of Christ is divinely equipped to heal itself. It is beautiful to witness!

  68. 128
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Ann, for posting this. The hardest thing for me with our church community that my husband and I are in is that they desire us to open our hearts in our small group, really open our hearts, and then our groups multiply and suddenly is not around anymore. For someone who is quite internal and takes time to open up, this is extremely hard for me. How can I share some of my deepest wounds and struggles to a group of people who will probably not be in my life at all in six months? I’m thankful for the growth that God is doing in our church, but that part of it is so difficult.

    • 129

      You are wise to be wary. Community doesn’t force itself into being – it evolves as the Spirit leads and trust is established – this takes time. Maybe your church community needs your wisdom and restraint in order to become mature. Bless you.

      • 130
        anonymous says:

        Discretion is protection.

        Wisdom calls us to live and walk in the Spirit and to allow God to develop relationships in His time. If God’s Spirit is cautioning you to take time, then take time and without regret.

        I agree with Ali that perhaps prayer will reveal that you are to bring much needed wisdom in this area to your church.

        Bless you!

  69. 131
    Anonymous says:

    I too, can’t find a community. Everytime we find one it turns out that there is a very strong cult controlling it.

    • 132
      anonymous says:

      Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

  70. 133

    I too long for community. I have some close friends – but no one that close in my locale. I guess it comes from moving so much. Sometimes I just want a kind word & a hug – y’know? And to feel the freedom to give ‘em out too.

  71. 134

    How do we go about requesting permission to reprint this in our quarterly newsletter? This is so powerful, compelling . . . and anointed. What a blessing it would be for our congregation to read it. We would, of course, direct them to (in)courage and to aholyexperience . . . or wherever we’re directed.

  72. 135

    I found true community at approximately 50 years old. Thank you, Jesus! Prior to that, I (& most of my acquantainces) were too busy with ourselves & our families… trying to make it, to get ahead, to keep up, etc. We “didn’t have (or make) time” to connect deeply, share ourselves, serve, love and be loved. And, oh, how we cheated ourselves! My prayer is that my young-adult daughter will not make my mistake.

  73. 136

    I really struggle with all this.

    And I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a very closed up, closed off, high-walled home. A household that let no one in – and if we dared – we kept them at arms length or farther. Perhaps it’s just me – trying to protect this thing that beats in the middle of my chest. Or maybe it’s that I’m too stingy with my time – to let it be lent to others.

    No matter the reason – it’s something that needs to be risen above. I have 3 little ones now – and a Mama needs community, doesn’t she? This one does!

    As I head into a week of preparing for a women’s event that I get to lead and teach at – this post truly helps me. Just in time, Ann. Thank you :)

    Blessings and fellowship,
    Kate :)

  74. 137

    As I read you post I am rocking, both in body and in sprit. Wounded in the church recently, the story needs to be for God’s ears only…But I am isolated, partically by choice, partically by the words of others, a double wounding. I rarely attend church anymore. My faith is strong, but church community, organized religion…I have no joy in attending. How can one kneel and accept the Host from those hands?

    I saw the red flags, but thought that in church I was safe. I should have been wiser by now.

    I fogive, then memory returns, emotions feel red hot, and I must forgive again; it is a daily battle.

    So I began teaching crochet at an inner city community center. They are a breath of fresh air to my heart.

    “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him”. Or, though He allows, in His wisdom, difficult situations, yet will I trust Him.

    This Blog has encouraged me to try attending again. Why should a few ruin everything? Thank you.

  75. 138

    Ann, I am in tears. God heard me today as I told two women how I was praying – asking God – to help me nurture relationships at this season in my life. He heard me say how I can be alone; I don’t have this great urge to be with people. I enjoy it when I am – most of the time, but alone is where I feel comfortable. Alone is where they don’t hurt me, but most importantly, where I don’t hurt them. Where I can’t disappoint or say something wrong or stupid. It’s where I can’t hurt the glory of God by trying to fit in and saying something I would never normally say. Alone is what has felt safe for me and for them, that is, until I realized it was my seclusion that was doing the damage.
    Being by yourself can lead to more self, and that has never been a good thing. Staying away can make others feel left out and hurt and eventually, they also stay away. Pretty soon, Satan has you in solitary confinement and your safe place becomes the pit you dug. Me, I am praying about how in the world to do it! How do I homeschool children, give enough of myself to building in-home relationships with husband, children, and dogs, and nurture friendships outside the home? How can I possibly promise them time, when I don’t have extra to give? I want them to know I love them – that they are special to me – but the effort, energy, and schedule re-organizing…well, it overwhelms – it scares! I know I can’t be close friends with everyone…Jesus had 12. I know I can’t be really close to even 12…Jesus had 3. I just know that the most comfortable place for me is with just me and Him, but I know even He is not singular. He is 3-in-1.
    I don’t know where to begin. I find I sometimes don’t go outside because I know my neighbors are out there, and it has nothing to do with not liking them! It has everything to do with…me.
    I have asked Jesus to empty me over and over again this week so that He can fill me over and over again. I want His fruit in my life. I want to bless others. I want to have JOY! I am scared, though! It’s not so much the hurt they might inflict, though that can cause me to retreat like a turtle quickly to hide in its shell. It’s more that I may hurt them – that I may speak before thinking (kind of like I did yesterday).
    I read my words and I can plainly see the prison I am in. Why is it we stay in a mental prison just because it’s what we know? Why did the Israelites want to return to Egypt – their own slavery? Because as hard as it was, they knew how to operate there. This freedom thing, it’s foreign to me. And though many have gone before me, their shoes seem too big to fill. I wrote earlier this week on freedom – on how to have it. I guess I need to go back and remember.
    I am free; I just don’t know how to live that way.

  76. 139

    Thank you, Ann, for these encouraging words. I was on a church staff for almost 30 years and left three years ago feeling hurt, rejected, and disillusioned about the church. I have asked myself over and over again how those who profess to be about love, grace, and forgiveness can be some of the most judgemental, power-seeking, manipulative people on the planet. I retreated from anything that resembled church for almost a year. For me community was just a myth, and I had resigned myself to living my life by myself; I would just worship and study on my own. I wasn’t going to take the risk of being hurt yet again. Only recently have I begun to feel healthy enough to emotionally put myself out there again. My family has been involved in a small, home church for several months, and we have begun to trust again. I know what you say here is true, and I pray I will be at a place someday soon where I can fully embrace all 15 of these reasons. I believe God will use me in the future to help others through similar struggles. Your book and blog have been a big party of my healing. Thank you and God bless you for sharing Him and your heart so passionately.

  77. 140

    I prayed and prayed for community. In times past I had great and deep community but than many years of dry land. Finally, without even realizing it really, a community cropped up around me. When I realized that I was most of the problem in being closed off and hard I found I could go deep with others. One thing that made it hard at first was I was, and likely still am, intimidating as I work in a male-dominated field and others tend to think I am strong. But what I needed from them was a chance to be soft. To get to be the rest of me so I could be rounded and more like someday I hope I am when he raises me up. To those that don’t have it yet. Hang in there. Hang in there with the crazy cat ladies and ride it out. For you are crazy too and need a chance to be loved just as you are.

  78. 141

    I ache for community but I don’t know if I am brave enough to reach out anymore. I have no safe deep relationship. My husband is well meaning but has a hard time thinking about anyone but himself. I have no siblings, and no relationship with my parents. I have tried many times to really “be” a part of my church community but it never seems to take. I always feel like I need others a WHOLE lot more than they need me or my friendship. I don’t want to live on an island but rejection looms… New small groups are about to start at my church will you pray I find the courage to go and that, if God wills it, he will send me a friend?

    • 142
      anonymous says:

      Mandy, I’m praying for you right now. There is a small group for you to be a part of and a friend there who has been praying for you to come into her life. Taste and see!

  79. 143

    I have been years without community. Today is my birthday and the only one who calls is my mom, who, at 87, still sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. With 6 children, you would not think it would be lonely, But, the oldest 2 are gone, the next 2 will be soon, and that leaves the 13yo and 7yo. We have been ‘churched out’ but slowly trying to get back in one. It’s a mega-church, but it has smaller home groups. I tried going to several homeschool groups. What happened in the time I was absent? The technology has exploded, no one calls, they ‘text.’ Younger moms that I have encountered seem to know it all and don’t really look for the advice of older women…and I don’t give it without someone asking. I don’t want to be the know-it-all either!
    Oh, well, just venting. I have many blessings with just my husband and family. I do have a very dear friend that lives several states away, feeling as lonely as me, but we correspond as much as possible. I want to reach out. How does one keep from getting their hand slapped when they do?

    • 144
      Jessica says:

      Dearest Lori,

      I hope with all my heart that you will see this!

      Happy, happy belated birthday to you. You are a child of God and He rejoices in the day you were born.

      My heart ached reading that you thought you would only receive one call on your birthday (God bless your mother.) How I hope that you were pleasantly surprised and that your older children did call you too!

      Many hugs to you. May Jesus bless you!

  80. 145

    My Dear Ann,
    My husband and I beg God to find us some friends. We live in a very remote part of the country, came here 9 yrs ago from the ‘burbs’ in another state where we were in a thriving small group for nearly 15 yrs! My husband lost his job and at our age it was a desperate situation to find work somewhere. We came here where he works and people don’t answer us upon invitations to dinner. We were even part of a church for 6 months and no one invited us to even a cup o’ coffee! We invited the pastor 3 times to our home for dinner and he kept giving us excuses! This state that we live in, prides itself it independence and is openly homosexual in nature, not giving us too much of church choices where most minsters will marry homosexuals and not blink ! Oh dear…. we know our sins our not any worse, please don’t go there. We are as lonely as a couple can be. I cringe when my hubbie says I just want a friend to share ‘guy stuff’ with…. I know….. Our small group from back home comes to see us once a year because we live 5 1/2 hrs away. They are heartbroken for us because Ann, if you knew us, you would wonder why in the world know one wants to share our company. We are so friendly and have gifts of hospitality….I rent a small guest suite out of our home. My husband is a wonderful teacher! I am a former Reading and Learning Disabilities teacher as well. We are scared Ann because we don’t know how much longer we can live like this. We are also both musicians. I used to teach private lessons. My husband plays in a jazz band and even those folks prefer to keep to themselves. It’s crazy! We KNOW community is important! I deliver Meals on Wheels and spend as much time as possible with my clients who all are “Mountain people’ Ann, they tell me constantly how much they LOVE their privacy and that NO ONE BOTHERS THEM which is why they live where they live! Personally I don’t get it! My husband and I….’ were created with unique strengths and skills. God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” This is a hurt that is so deep its surreal at times. Please pray for us as we make some decisions as to perhaps putting our home on the market and moving……
    Thank you for addressing this and letting me vent! You’re awesome!

    • 146
      anonymous says:

      Dianna, I hear every word and want to tell you that you can and will get through because Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Oh my yes, you and your husband are vitally important to the body of Christ. My prayers are with you that you would know God’s keeping presence in ways that strengthen and sustain you in this valley.

  81. 147

    Wow. I just sent off an email to a friend about how, now that God is bringing me back to the Body, I keep getting whacked. Too serious. So serious it’s scary, and how can you be authentically you when you scare people? I remember now why I made the decision to do life alone rather than risk all that howling hurt again. And yet…HE draws me back, and yes…HE draws me to HIMSELF. Despite the emails that come in calling me weird, and even close friends saying that I freak them out a bit, HE holds me close, and HE keeps holding me to the Body. And then??? This post in my email box just after I had sent mine off. Just such an intimate reminder that Jesus holds my hand, and that He’s got my back. Thanks, Ann.
    Bernadette

  82. 148

    Wow – so many hurting women, and I am no different. The enemy of our souls works so hard to wound our hearts. This post has challenged me so deeply, especially as my husband and I are about to step into a new ministry that is ALL about community. And I am terrified – a lifetime of rejection and loneliness and insecurity trailing behind me and yet a desperate desire to have a community, to build one for those we will be reaching out to, to be Jesus to others in spite of and perhaps because of my pain.

    I will be printing this and tucking it into my journal to challenge me again and again in the weeks and months ahead.

    • 149
      anonymous says:

      Adela, Henri Nouwen speaks about the wounded healer and for great and godly reasons … those who have known pain know how to walk in Christ-like fashion with those who are experiencing it. Yes, there are a boatload of hurting women in the kingdom of our Lord. How I pray each hurting woman who commented here would reply personally to a comment left by another hurting woman here. Who better to speak love, encouragement, and comfort into the lives of these precious souls than all who’ve read this post and commented about how they know intimately the pain that is being addressed? I pray God will be glorified mightily through you and your. May you know great blessing for your obedience.

  83. 150

    I would like to encourage everyone to reach out to moms & families of special needs kids, especially those with children on the autistic spectrum. Many of these families do not feel that they can attend church because of their children’s behaviors and sensitivities. I have a son on the high end of the spectrum, with many sensory issues that made being in public situations unpredictable and very stressful. He didn’t look autistic, but would react rudely or strangely to what we would consider ordinary events. To many it looked like bad parenting (and I will admit sometimes it was – in my efforts just to survive those early years and in my own lack of knowledge I made bad decisions ). I pulled away from community and tried to make a safe environment for my struggling son. I got tired of trying to explain why he was acting strangely, when I didn’t really know myself. We were able to continue attending our small, quiet church without great trouble, but I didn’t connect with people the way I should have and they were afraid to connect with me and had no idea how to connect with my son. His early years were lonely and frightening. He has come so far and will soon graduate from high school, but he struggles with “how to survive this world”. I often wonder what community he will have in the future. Will the body of Christ embrace this hard to love young man? Will we embrace those who don’t fit our mold?

  84. 151

    God is faithful and so generous! I prayed for a friend and He gave me one and I love her dearly. Then He gave me other friends and another special friend. He’ll provide for you too!

  85. 152

    There is so much hurt within the body of Christ….most of it not intentional but all of it under God’s plan and purpose for us. Twelve years ago, I left a school (Christian boarding) that I had taught at for 17 years. Not my choice….I would have stayed there forever. But after we moved back to my home state, I was sitting in a Sunday school class in our new (huge) church home and one of the pastor’s stepped in to teach for the regular teacher. One statement he made changed my entire attitude on being hurt by “man.”
    With tears in his eyes he said, “Why do we get so upset and angry with people and circumstances God brings into our lives to bring about His perfect will for us.”
    I felt like God was speaking to me directly as the Spirit removed the walls I had put up because of hurt feelings and anger. God had put me right where He wanted me allowing me to love others and show them His love—His Steadfast Love and Faithfulness.
    Thank you, Ann for being faithful to allow God to speak through you.

  86. 154

    My growing up years in the Philippines is a sheltered one. I always shy away from people, and my days consisted of home – school – home.

    Though I have friends in school, I have had my first experience of community when I moved here in NC and join our church now. Here I found a community of women who get together to talk, plan, encourage, support and help each other as well as reach out to the community. A community of God loving and God fearing women that I so love and cherish.

  87. 155

    I think posts about Christian community and love are highly unrealistic. Organized religion very often is run like a business. Money is invested in enterprises that sell well. Praise groups for example sell well. Old missionaries don’t. So cut the money to help support the old missionary to buy a new soundtable for the praise group. Give the decision religious gravitas by using pious phrases like, ‘prayerfully considered”. In organized religion that makes sense. I have seen this over and over again all my life. If you go to organized religion and expect to find the Sermon on the Mount you’re up for a big surprise!! The Sermon on the Mount is about not being of this world. Organized religion is most definitely of this world. Now I believe in community, but organized religion is not likely the best place to find it, something more informal perhaps would be less imbued with mammon.

  88. 156

    Community is messy…just like we are, just like our lives. Fooling ourselves that we can create a utopia alone is just another denial of His power in our lives. I’ve been hurt by community, and I’ve been loved and healed by God’s people, too. We’re indeed meant for each other.

  89. 157

    Music is my worship. After I found this out, and began exploring the many facets of it, God “gifted” me with a singing voice (I was 40). I was told that I needed to develop this gift, so I spent 8 years and plenty of money on professional voice lessons and refining my voice for worship. I only used it in church – that was my opportunity to sing. Enter new worship minister. After struggling for almost 2 years, I was told that I didn’t have the right “sound” for the worship ministry. He then proceeded to use people who had the exact same “sound” as mine, basically slapping me in the face. I tried to hang in there for months, until it started affecting my worship, and I was focused on everything BUT God. I exited, and will not return. This is what community means to me – a way to edge you out – or TOSS you out – because it can. Ladies groups? No thanks. Choir? Not gonna happen. Retreats? Not on your life. I’d sooner tear out my vocal cords than “fellowship” with church members.

    I still go to church – God hasn’t called us away. But I serve in kids’ church, thankfully “missing” the services that cause me such pain.

    • 158

      God grant you peace in your hurt.
      SO sorry for what “community” has become for you.
      I know sorry dosen’t make it better, and that I regret.

      God has good plans.
      Even when we don’t see.
      Sing for Him.
      He delights in your gift,
      seeing you do what He created you to do.
      Do it whenever!
      Not just church.

      God grant you find ‘safe’ people.

      • 159

        Thank you for your encouragement. Who knew we’d find encouragement on this site? :) I do appreciate it.

  90. 160

    Small kindnesses and encouragements can be a way to foster new friendships, or help heal ones that have been damaged, provided they come from a place of authenticity.

    Hand written notes thanking someone in the church for something they will not expect (eg. thanks for the lovely, Easter floral arrangement in the church, or for taking a moment to speak with your children after the service, or sharing with a Sunday school teacher about your child’s retelling of a lesson) slipped quietly into the recipient’s hand the following week or posted via the church office, often results in a follow-up conversation – just a beginning to be sure, and maybe going no further , but you never know where those conversations lead, what new, or deepening friendship awaits, or what door to forgiveness is opened by that small act.

    Asking a visitor, or an older or handicapped person if you might bring tea or coffee to them during the church coffee hour can lead to conversations that reveal their needy places – another opportunity to extend friendship and care – and just maybe, in time, a place to reveal your own hard places.

    And at the risk of sounding like I come from the dark ages – let’s not forget the telephone! In the name of efficient organizing, e-mail and texting are robbing us of conversations that can be a mutual blessing. Not so very long ago, planning who would bring what to church functions, was also an opportunity to ask how a fellow church member’s day was going (or how their child or sick aunt or… was doing). The weary answer, the thinly disguised frustration with a child, the excitement of a mother’s joy in a child’s newly emerging skill, or the enthusiastic description of some new or completed project etc. provided lovely opportunities for shared joy, and to minister sympathy and encouragement. As a single mum (left by a husband struggling with addictions and mental illness, after twenty-three years of marriage) this has been an unintentional source of hurt for me, in a church community that, in most other ways, has been a great blessing. It is an often lonely journey and I have greatly missed those informal chats.

    As always, thank you Ann. Your words are rich with wisdom and sensitivity.

  91. 161
    Maribeth says:

    Shame is what has often kept me from community – real or imagined. Shame of divorce, shame of failure, of brokenness, shame of not being ‘enough’. I have asked God to use this in my life and have found myself in the company of this world’s shamed. Not a place I would have chosen on my own, but a rich place. Sometimes the offerings there are so pure, so vulnerable, that I have to catch my breath or weep.

    • 162
      anonymous says:

      How you’ve encouraged me, Maribeth.

      Rarely do we find ourselves where we’d choose and that makes our life in Jesus all the richer.

      I just bet that you are the cup of cold water so needed to those you been given to. That last sentence you wrote … it’s everything.

  92. 163

    Thank you, Ann. I got sidetracked in my twenties when I joined a “Christian cult” which devolved into a place of hurting and hopelessness over ten years. I tried other Christian communities only to continually run up on the same attitudes and similar practices that I’d fled from when leaving the community of my twenties. I then tried prayer groups, friend groups, neighborhood groups… but by then my shields HAD become bars. I am hurting and scared to try again. But I’ve been searching and hoping that now is the time to try again. I needed, so needed, to read this today. Thank you.

    By the way, I just ‘counted’ my 101st blessing! :)

    • 164

      Ann, just prayed for you– that you would have the grace and strength to keep trying. That you God would be the fountain of your need while you wait. That others would come alongside you and be the fellowship your heart hungers for. Thanks for honestly sharing your story.

  93. 165
    Julie R says:

    I love the book of Acts and the idea of community and ache to have “real community”, (whatever that looks like). But I am also scared of being that vunerable. We have to have safe people we can go to but I also know that I have grown a lot through the affects of sandpaper people. Sometimes when I walk into our church I feel like I don’t belong, I have 6 heads, I am not loved etc. Some of this may be real but a lot of it is my own perception or the enemies lies taken root in my very fertile imagination. When I look at what is true (Phil 4.8) I see that I have good friends within my church community. I have come to the conclusion I have many communities: my neighbours who may not come to church but gather for breakfast once a month and watch each others houses when one is away, the internet community (such as all of you who are sharing your hearts here today). my church home group, friends that don’t go to my church. Yet in all of this I can still feel isolated and alone. Is that a perception or reality? For me it has been both.

    I have also learnt to ask – ask for help, ask for prayer. I have a few friends who will text to say “pray” and I will do the same. When I was struggling with moodiness or depression or whatever it was my husband would say ” If you give to/serve others, it takes the focus off your problems” I would get extremely annoyed with him under my breath and then proceed to do what he said…and you know what, he was right. I serve at a community cafe we have in our church. We serve a 3 course meal to anyone who wants it. We have poor people, church people, all kinds of people. Some of the unchurched even come and help. I love being out in the kitchen. We have so much fun and work hard. This is one of my communities. One lady has really grown and her heart has been softened as she has worked along side us “christians”

    This all sounds so easy but it isn’t. So I keep praying and loving and serving and keep trusting God with my heart…wounds and all!

  94. 166

    Ann V,

    Thanks for this post! It was rich on so many levels.

    My biggest struggle right now is in the constant transition of community. We live in a place where there is a massive amount of turnover every year, where people are constantly leaving and coming back from furlough, where people move around. I would assume it’s like being in the military. And it is hard because you invest, only to say a hard goodbye. You clean the house and invite a family over and just when you feel like you are hitting a groove of relationship, they have to leave for 5 months or get moved to another ministry job in another country. The tendency is to stop trying, for sure. To become the island to guard yourself from the inevitably soon goodbye– both for you and for your kids.

    Yet, yet. I had a friend who was an MK and grew up here in Thailand and he said that his parents always told him about goodbyes, “The relationship is always worth the goodbye.”

    Excellent truth there, I think. We can’t form community based on how long we assume that community will last. This kind of thinking only creates spirits of independence that aren’t pictures of the fellowship God created us for.

    Thanks, again, Ann, for the reminder.

  95. 167

    He knows what we need to hear, doesn’t He? Almost exactly a year ago, I was deeply wounded by community, and today those memories surfaced. You said, “There are times when leaving things unsaid to most, and mostly said to one, can be the way love covers over a multitude of sins.” YES! There were so many times when I poured my heart out to Him, and no one else. I’ve learned over the past year who I can trust – my true community – and He not only used them to heal my heart, but also to remind me what a wonderful year He has given me.

  96. 168

    Wow.
    He knows what I need.
    And community is so hard when I feel like I am pouring all of myself into it and never having that returned.
    But then I wonder if maybe that can sometimes be the point?
    We are made to give of ourslves.
    Be filled up
    poured out
    broken.
    Also, I know that I am wrong.
    I get far more than I ever deserve in return.
    Beautiful girls who know me and love me for who I am.
    Not who I pretend to be.
    This is commmunity.
    We’re all so desperate for it, much as we hate to admit it.

  97. 169
    Anonymous says:

    Community. When you want… no, long to belong. When you just don’t know how to ‘fit in’. When it is so foreign to you, new. Community… very frightening when you have hidden yourself away for so long. When you see your son, so beautiful, belonging, you long to taste the sweetness of what you see in him.. joy, laughter. Pure utter sweetness. So.. you try.. you step out, you force that knowing that’s deep inside of you, that ache to belong, that knowing that rises up inside of you and you finally go, you finally step out of that covering, and you go.. you try, you speak… But… You. Spoke. And things changed. You spoke… hidden things… things that tear at you, break you, leave you completely breathless, motionless, numb. This trying thing… it doesn’t always work… it doesn’t always…

  98. 170

    I’m tired of trying with people. My closest relationships are all pulling away – more important new friends in their life. It feels like I don’t matter to them because they never have time for me anymore. When we do talk it’s just about all the new people they make the time for. At what point is it better to just walk away rather than going back in for more punches in the gut? I also know my husband can’t be the only person in my life, so I feel pretty stuck. It’s also my first year of grown and away children, so I wonder what this home mom is supposed to do now. What really matters?…and I’m tired of cliches. I’ve heard them all.

    • 171

      Hi Shari, Have you considered helping a widow who either lives near you or otherwise? How about helping a mom with young children? I hear you and I have found reaching out helps. My kiddos are either out of the nest or half out….I’m sorry for your hurts. Maybe this may be a season of having more alone time with the Lord.
      Praying for you today.

  99. 172
    Phyllis Leigh says:

    Through the silence I send 1000 prayers.
    Thank you for this Ann.

  100. 173

    I have just read the book about the introverted in the church and have began to understand myself and others in a new light in the context of community. We all have different needs and I think I shall be more sensitive to these needs after reading this and the book.

  101. 174
    muchalone says:

    I have read pieces of my story in the posts here…and I am sure that women in my church have similar stories as well…and I have tried, REALLY tried to initiate, to insert myself into the empty spaces, still places, alone parts and fly with the fallen…and had my wings clipped by them as they ascend with another flier who is more important.
    I’m a failure at facades, and don’t know how to play pretend friend…or is it pretentious play that I fail at?
    How I long for that authenticity that seems to elude us as we post our heart cries here…why is it so hard face to face?

  102. 175
    Barbara says:

    My heart is so longing for community that some days it is hard to go on. My husband and I ministered for 15 years in your beautiful Ontario, Ann. We became embedded in the community. I led a women’s group at church that flourished into two groups of well over 100 community women. We encouraged each other in the Lord and shared life together. It was a rich season that I didn’t even fully appreciate at the time.
    Following the leading of the Lord, we relocated two years ago to the outskirts of Los Angeles (not a very community-oriented location) where my husband has started a new ministry. With five growing children and the inexplicable intensity of life here, I struggle to find time for community as much as I struggle to find a group of like-minded women to share community with. I took it for granted that it would be easy to make new friends. Unfortunately, a number of circumstances and the culture of life here have made this MUCH, MUCH harder than I had ever dreamed.
    It is a very lonely, challenging season. I am aware of God using it to draw me closer to Him – in this time of wilderness. But truly I ache for a community of relationships that I with which I could grow. I actually cried over your Easter blog, hearing the sense of community in your church fellowship – and missing that SO much!
    Thank you for your writings, Ann. For your honest struggles, for your growing faith, for your encouragement. Bless you and your family.

  103. 176

    Thank you Ann for the generous use of y’all. As a Southern American, I appreciate it. :D By the way, the full phrase in Hebrew in “l’dor, va’dor” which means ‘from generation to generation’. I avoided community and was a lone ranger for 15 years of my life and my life wasn’t very good. Thank God He pursued me in His mercy and grace until I let Him heal me in the community of believers. Thanks for sharing this. I needed the reminder.

  104. 177

    My story: New mom in new town trying to find church with husband, visit the same church several times without any human interaction, while comforting baby in hallway woman approaches and starts talking to me, overjoyed I am at her attempt. I am honest with her, share with her the desire to connect/get planted/ join in/ not be alone, she smiles warmly and instead of inviting me to coffee or her home or her small group, says, “you’ll find some wonderful people here.”. really? what about YOU, i think to myself!

    so please, please, please! if you are a part of community and someone pops in on your group, approach them, love them, make them feel welcome! really, that is why they are there! should a person ever come and go to a fellowship without interacting with another human soul?

  105. 178

    I read the stories here yesterday, and wrote my own comment then, but cannot get from my mind the pain of loneliness, and inward turning of so many wounded Christian sisters.

    Ann writes, “love is a skill that cannot be learned in seclusion” and “love can only be comprehended in community” – oh yes. But for so many of respondents, the getting there, the how to be there, to move beyond the pain, and sometimes bitterness, feels so impossible. There is loneliness and fear within, and guardedness without, and the ‘how’ screams out.

    There is NO easy answer – but may I offer these thoughts from Colossians 3, with a prayer that some of you will return here and be encouraged.

    Only a quiet determination to follow the example of our lovely Lord Jesus, and to obey his Word will get us back. Clothing our(internal)selves daily with His “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” is the means by which we might have our hearts and minds transformed so that we may be able to “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances we have against one another.” (12-13)

    And THANKFULNESS – that key to joy that Ann keeps talking about – it turns out it applies to our relationships within the Body!

    In the very next paragraph of Colossians, still referring to the body of Christian believers there, this exhortation – “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be THANKFUL (15)…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach…admonish…sing psalms…with GRATITUDE in your hearts (16)…and whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS to God(17)…”

    This may be the hard eucharisteo of which Ann speaks in “A Thousand Gifts”, but as she has learned, it is the means by which God leads us to joy – the very thing our lonely, closed hearts long for.

    May we have the grace to begin a thanksgiving list for the gift of His Church Body… it just might lead to glorious and surprising joy-filled stories of transformation.

    In Him and for Him.

  106. 179

    My neighbor once told me that we would have been friends sooner if I wasn’t so stuck up. He meant it in jest, I wouldn’t say I was ever stuck up (or maybe I was) but I certainly didn’t reach out as soon as I could. We became friends and he’s been welcomed into our family and is now holding the honor of being the favorite “uncle” to my three. He now has cancer for the fourth time and I fear for his soul. I do wish I had invited him to dinner sooner or shown him the grace I’ve received sooner.

  107. 180

    This is a beautiful post and very on-time for me as God always faithfully is.

    What I wrestle with isn’t the importance of community itself but how the community we are called to in Him, the very body of Christ, is what breaks itself.

    And how do you keep your head up and continue loving the sister who He’s connected you with through your mutual acceptance of Christ as Savior when she is abusing you, rejecting you, manipulating you, and conspiring with other sisters against you when all you keep trying to do is extend love and grace.

    I am imperfect too and am certain that imperfection has flown through our interaction on several occasions but the recent spite and rejection and continual jabs feel so unfounded.

    So where is the balance between 1. loving the unlovable, the imperfect, the as-much-of-in-need-of-grace-as-you person whose spiteful actions, if allowed to continue, could possibly make you do the same thing to someone else and 2. taking a step back and loving from a distance so your path to righteousness is not hindered.

    Does taking a step back mean we’re not embracing community, loving the imperfect, fighting through Satan’s deathrow?

    Hurting people hurt people.

    And the cycle ensues.

    How do we make it stop?

    • 181
      Anonymous says:

      Ayla, I understand.

      There is only one thing I know of that will stop the madness … humble lives bent to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

  108. 182
    Linda Langendoen - Dykstra says:

    It is hard … so hard when it is the church that is doing the hurting … when the church beats on its’ own sheep. Hard to find joy in that kind of journey yet I know for certain he brought me to this job but to what end?
    Praying that He’s got my back!

  109. 183

    The words here… leave me with no words. Reading your stories, your wisdom, your grace and His truth, all by His grace — leaves me bent in prayer and thanks. Thank you for reaching out to community here, for being community here to each other — Christ to each other. I am praying with you now.

  110. 184
    Terri H. says:

    I have a beautiful church family but I always seem to struggle with not fitting in. I feel so different. I grew up in a semi-cult, so mainstream Christianity still feels odd to me… and my husband has stayed with the cult and does not understand my change. So I don’t even fit in with him.
    A week ago I went to one of his church events, and the conversation dwelled a lot on the “old days” and stirred up those feelings. Later on I was praying and the thought “I just want to fit in somewhere” launched me into tears.
    But then, the other day, I reviewed a recent post from A Holy Experience–’7 Keys to Creativity.’ And #1 is “Quit trying to fit. Why try to squeeze all your extraordinary into ordinary?”
    See. There was a reason why I saved that post to Evernote. :)

    • 185

      oh also, can I share? I once had this exact complain to a friend, I was weepy and said ‘oh, I just want to fit in somewhere?’ and she said – ‘oh, but we’re not meant to fit in here! We’re just pilgrims and travellers! You DO fit in somewhere – in Heaven, and He has gone ahead to prepare a place for you! You don’t wanna be getting too comfortable around here!’
      How, so, very, cool, is that?! The very fact that you don’t fit into earth shaped spaces, is that you’re heaven shaped! :)

  111. 186
    Rhonda Entrikin says:

    Ann, Just wanted to let you know how much you mean to me…. a stranger so many miles away. Last September, I could not find peace… I went to church, I prayed unceasingly but could not find the rest I sought. I went into a Christian book store. I stood before hundreds of books, praying to my Lord for something to speak to me, for answers… I picked up one and another.. putting them back down. Then I picked up yours…in my car I began reading and could feel the despair trickling away. Your words wove in to my heart, like a balm…. I come back to you.. seeking to read what I feel, to be assisted in my walk with Christ when I can’t seem to see the path.. Thank you for your insight, your ability to say the things I so need to hear. Don’t stop, don’t ever stop.

  112. 187
    Sasha K says:

    If I may… a beautiful song about women and community…
    http://youtu.be/FmHGUwE6cOU

  113. 188
    Stephanie Seipp says:

    “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.” C.S Lewis

    12Like ·

  114. 189
    Stephanie Seipp says:

    CS Lewis seemed to possess not only knowledge, but wisdom. He wrote A Grief Observed after losing his wife….makes me respect this quote much more from someone who has experienced pain, and still knows it’s much better for us to love…Have a good week end!

  115. 190

    I have learned that we must be intentional about choosing our friends, our community. We definitely receive blessings through reaching out, yet, if we are only giving and sacrificing without those in our lives who will also fill us, we end up empty. Yes, the Lord fills and is able to fill in that place of being alone. Such beautiful times with Him in the quiet. Yet I believe we must also be filled from His arms and feet of love. I have learned this lesson from being drained. I did not retreat at first. I opened my heart honestly with Christians that I thought were friends. People tell me I’m the best friend they ever had. Yet, I had to learn to choose my friends better so that I could also live a healthy and full life.

    Sally explains choosing our friends well in this blog post: http://www.itakejoy.com/making-friendships-happen/

  116. 191

    I am so familiar with being the wounded sister. I’m in a brief “licking my wounds” time and about to step out toward another community. I have been both places and I can tell you from experience that it’s better to be in community and growing in God’s plan than to be sitting safely but stagnant by yourself. People hurt but they also heal and encourage. We can’t change others but we can react in love. Sounds like a bunch of platitudes but it is true. Now…I need to walk in it!!
    Thank you for your web site – it is such an encouragement to me (and others, I’m sure). Blessings…

  117. 192

    What if you find out that your church isn’t based on God’s Word and Truth?
    Do you stay because of communion and relationships?
    And if not, how do you find a new group of people and now upfront if they really follow God’s Word? I’m hurt by this and I don’t want to make that mistake ever again, because it also effects my husband and children.

    • 193
      Anonymous says:

      You’re asking some very important questions, Anita.

      Without knowing all the details about the church you are speaking of I will say that the faithful and uncompromised preaching and teaching of God’s Word are at the top of the list of importance for any disciple who is looking for or attending a church. Given this, I would tell any disciple of Christ Jesus that communion and relationships are never a reason to stay at a church that isn’t preaching and teaching the truth of all of God’s Word.

      Finding a solid church requires prayer and waiting on God. The Lord has a church for you and your family. As you consider beginning to visit new churches (if you do) I encourage you to do so prayerfully with your husband. Ask God to bring you to a church that preaches and teaches the uncompromised truth of the Scriptures, and all of the Word of God.

      I would also prayerfully consider having your husband speak with the pastor of your current church about what you two are witnessing and see if God will use you both to bring change right where you are. If the church is preaching and teaching heresy and the pastor is resistant to turning from such heresy, then pray for God to do a work in that church to bring the truth and correction where necessary. Bless the pastor and congregants with loving prayers on their behalf.

      Leaving any church with unspoken and unresolved offense will not serve those who leave and it will not glorify our Lord Jesus.

      • 194

        Thank you for your reply, it means so much to me!
        It shows me how important it is to follow your husband lead.
        It is complicated because my husband hasn’t decided to follow Christ (yet), I am following Christ for almost two years. The good news is my husband supports me greatly and wants to give our children a Christian upbringing. But we are struggling because everything is so new to us. We are trying really hard, and feel that God leads us, and we are starting a new life, with new values (to us) and it’s helped our marriage becoming so much stronger. The story of our church is really too complicated to explain here. But having read your comment helps me to do the right thing. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

  118. 195

    Ian and Larissa on Vimeo via Desiring God. Amazing to be part of this Christ community–people all around us honoring Jesus, blessing others.
    Thought you might be blessed by this, too.

  119. 196

    My family has been looking for community for so long and it hurts too much anymore. All our “friends” are more concerned with “their” vacations, “their” sports teams, “their” leisure….we’ve looked to our church and been rebuffed when suggesting doing more outreach to people like us. (looking for service oriented community) only to be rebuffed by one of the pastors. Gone to dinner at an elder’s home only to hear how much he LOVES this world and if we are struggling with our finances perhaps we just need to get over it and go back into the corporate world where God is definitely not welcome….my real life friends don’t ever respond to my FB posts…only the “friend of friends” that live hundreds of miles away… I’m trying so hard to be positive but it’s to the point that the father of lies has about won my spouse with the fact that no one really cares if we wither up out here, and sometimes I think he is right. I’m to the point of dropping out of everything…church, FB, groups even if I know that we are to be in community…what good is it if I’m the only one looking and trying?

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