My church blew up in 2016. We called it “the bomb” because the news completely shattered our congregation. Our pastor, who we looked up to and respected, was found to have several counts of moral failure, amongst other hidden things that came to light. Everything I knew about church, about ministry, my friends and my theology now laid in pieces, scattered about me, broken and in despair.
The gossip quickly started to swirl all around us. Droves of people – not just people but dear friends – left the church. People turned against each other and everything about this ministry that I invested almost a decade into was called into question. My husband was a part of the leadership at the time so I saw first hand the strain they endured while trying to do damage control, all the while their own hearts were bruised and broken. I watched helplessly as friendships crumbled and as others abandoned the word of God and prayer saying it was now “tainted” – and I was left confused, angry and ashamed.
I saw (and continue to see) dear friends struggle with the past. I too still have moments where I get triggered and realize that there’s still so much hurt and pain to process. But I have learned that dwelling in the past will only leave me in a constant state of bitterness and anger. And for healing to occur, I need to move forward.
Moving forward for me doesn’t mean forgetting everything in the past or living in denial. It means embracing and accepting the hardship that I’ve endured and allowing myself to mourn the many losses.
Moving forward means I find my hope not in my circumstances changing or getting better, but rather holding onto the spiritual truth that someway somehow, God will be glorified by this narrative. That in the long scheme of things, in the ways that are beyond my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), my church blowing up will lead to more people being reconciled to Christ. That a church with unhealthy practices and an incomplete theology needed to crumble for many of us to truly understand the Gospel – that no labor of our hands, no “polished” ministry, no squeaky clean lifestyle will ever earn God’s favor or love. But rather in God’s mercy, God comes for us. God rescues us. And we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Every time something reminds me of the pain of my past, I’m presented with the choice to either dwell in my hurt or place my hope in God. It means putting my introverted self out there time and time again, trusting that God will lead me to be involved in a church once again. Hoping in God means being willing to cultivate new friendships and risk my heart being broken once again, trusting that God will cause life-giving friendships to be formed once again.
And in the moments where I’m tempted to let the pain of my past overshadow my obedience to trust in God, I’m reminded of what Jeremiah said in his own state of despair:
I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait.
Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended;
certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I think: The Lord is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him. (Lamentations 3:21-24)
So by the grace of God, I will, by God’s Spirit, move forward and hope in God.
written by Christine Yoo
I collected stories about how faith kept people moving forward and put them together as a devotional for this Lenten season.
You can download the entire devotional here: