Wounded By God’s People is the latest book by Anne Graham Lotz. I picked it up on Labor Day and didn’t put it down until I had finished the book that evening. The book is an honest account of what it means to be hurt by someone who is supposed to be a brother or sister in Christ. Every Christian has battle wounds, none more painful than those inflicted by the people who were supposed to care – God’s people. Anne was very transparent in this book, sharing some of her stories and stories from some of the people she has ministered to. When I finished the book, I knew I would need to blog on this subject. We who belong to God, should be taking better care of each other. If a non-Christian was in your car on Sunday morning, listening to your conversations, would they want to go to church with you the next week? Wounded By God’s People doesn’t place blame on people, it simply explains the blame we all need to accept as true of our “family.”
There were several profound moments in Anne’s book and I wanted to share a few of my favorites.
Chapter 5 is titled “God Cares; You Can’t Outrun God.” Hagar had been run out of the camp by Sarah and Abraham. When Hagar became pregnant with Ishmael she used her blessing to hurt Sarah. Hagar was pregnant and Sarah couldn’t have a baby. So Sarah chose to wound Hagar by asking Abraham to send her away. Abraham agreed, Hagar was sent away with nowhere to go. But God sent an angel of the Lord to comfort Hagar. Anne writes, “Why? Why did God go after Hagar? Why didn’t he just let her run away, die in the desert, have a timely miscarriage, or return to Egypt where she would never have been heard from again?… The incredibly wonderful amazing answer is because God loved Hagar! … God loved Hagar as much as He loved Abraham. You and I can run, but we can’t outrun God.”
Have you ever run away from a painful situation at a church, or with a fellow Christian – believing that leaving would somehow heal the wound? How did God pursue you? How did God bring you back to the family? When God came to find you, did you follow him back to the camp or did you refuse to go?
Chapter 6 is about spiritual blind spots. Anne writes: “If you and I really want the wounds within to heal, then we need to be brutally honest with ourselves. We need to stop focusing on them and ask God to open our eyes to our own faults. We need to have the courage to truly look at ourselves, as painful as it may be. Then turn around. Leave any pride . . .rebellion . . . rationalization . . . excuses . . . self defense . . . and self-pity. Turning around is a courageous choice . . . it takes courage to say you’re sorry – sorry for your own planks and pride, shortcomings and sin, faults and failures – while leaving the other person to God.”
Do you still have angry thoughts about someone? Do you still daydream about revenge or the chance to see them caught in their sins? Anne teaches us to “turn around” and make sure we are clean and right. Everything else is between God and the other person. We shouldn’t let the sins of others cause us to sin as well. Satan doesn’t really care if we are right or wrong, just that we sin as we make our stand. Don’t you hate it when you win a battle, but lose your soul in the victory?
Ishmael was the son of Abraham and Hagar. It wasn’t just Hagar that was wounded by people who were supposed to love God – and her. Ishmael grew up angry and hurt, part of the camp but not born into the family. There are so many people in our churches that are like Ishmael. They may have a past or a personality that makes them part of the church but not part of the family. I used to look for those people on Sunday mornings. They were always in the building, usually briefly for one service. They usually skipped Sunday School – they didn’t want anyone to ask them too many questions. A familiar quote speaks to the point saying, “Christians are the only people who bury their wounded.” Anne wrote about those people in Chapter 13. She said, “Who needs your personal touch? Who is your Ishmael . . . someone who needs your helping hand to lift him or her up off the ground? We seem to be so quick to throw money at whomever it is, or call an agency to do something, or ask our church to get involved, or ignore the person completely. But maybe God has placed this person in your life because He knows that you yourself need the lift that comes from lifting someone else. Maybe the act of helping someone else will be the turning point for you.”
Who have you reached out to, who is inside the church, but outside the family? Who is your Ishmael?
Anne wrote about the realization she came to in her own heart, having been wounded, having mistakenly wounded others, and knowing God’s grace is for everyone. She describes the moment as the time her “valley became a place of vision.” She thought, “If Anne Graham Lotz, a preacher’s daughter, could have a desperate heart’s cry for a fresh touch from heaven, then could there be other people who have that same heart’s cry? People sitting in church, going through the motions of Christian service, outwardly expressing their faith, yet inwardly desperate for something, just not knowing what they were desperate for or how to go about finding it?” She ends the book by speaking of how God has used her wounds to direct her ministry. The old expression is: God never wastes a hurt.
I, for one, have been blessed by Anne’s teaching and preaching on many occasions. She has been a mentor and a friend to both Jim and me. These are interesting days to do ministry. Many churches have become more like civic clubs to join, than families of faith serving God. Is it any wonder that many churches grow smaller and less significant each year. Could it be that each of us need to take a long hard look at ourselves? The most significant thing you can do today is fix anything that separates you from God and from being usable by God. Don’t worry about those who have hurt you. Pray until you grieve their sin as well as your own. Jesus, in agony, begged God to forgive those who had hurt him. He knew what their judgment would be, and he grieved what he knew would be the consequences of their sin. All of us will stand before the Lord, and be held accountable for what we have done. How sad for those who have not taken the opportunity to repent.
I hope you can find time to read Anne’s book, Wounded by God’s People. There is a lot we should be thinking about these days . . . and a lot we should be doing. May all of us draw close to the One who will heal, help and hone our lives. To him be the glory.