“Your empathy is a sin” – a response to Desiring God

Umm . . . yes, he really did call it a sin, an “enticing sin,” in fact. That is, this Desiring God author truly did say that empathy is bad and even a trick of the devil. And the majority of the commenters on the Facebook post of the article and the hundreds who shared it believed the same way, many of them feeling convicted of the sin of empathy.

It’s a Screwtape-styled article, so you’re supposed to read it inside out and opposite, sometimes but not all the time, which can make it challenging to figure out, but it’s here, so I welcome you to see for yourself.

“Compassion,” “sympathy,” “empathy”?

Here’s what the Desiring God author said, translated from “Screwtape-ese” to normal talk:

[God’s] virtue of compassion attempts to suffer with the hurting while maintaining an allegiance to [God].

I think, actually, he’s talking there about “sympathy.”

Sympathy is being moved by someone else’s sorrow and pain in a way that shows at least some measure of understanding. That is, even though I’ve never lost a child, I can give my bereaved friend a sympathy card, and I can sit with her in her grief. Even though I don’t personally know this grief, I can in some dim way imagine how terrible it must be to lose a child.

It’s a painful thing to sit with another in her grief. But that’s what sympathy is about. It is “suffering with.”

But compassion is sympathy plus. That is, compassion is being moved by someone else’s sorrow and pain in a way that motivates action to help the sufferer. Sympathy plus inner motivation to help will result in compassion.

“And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)

Compassion will sometimes be involved in helping to relieve the suffering (whether it be physical or emotional suffering), but sometimes compassion understands that the suffering can’t really be relieved, but must be walked through. Compassion will be willing to walk through it with the person. 

As an important side note: An “inner motivation to help” that is devoid of the understanding that we call sympathy will result in the desire to “fix it.” That is, in the name of “helping” or “doing good,” the sufferer can be given platitudes meant to shut down grieving, ignoring the trauma.

This kind of “fix it” talk is devoid of either sympathy or compassion.

And we haven’t even gotten to empathy.

Or those horrible things he says about the Sufferers.

What’s really true about empathy

The fact that the word empathy was coined within the last hundred years is apparently one of the indications that the word is a tool of the devil. (I’d like to point out that the words complementarian and egalitarian were made up in the last 35 years, but I digress.)

So what was the reason the word empathy was coined? To show a special “feeling with” that goes beyond sympathy. Empathy is the “feeling in” that one person can feel for another who is in pain, because they know what it’s like to go through the same experience.

That is, I can sit with my grieving friend who lost her child in a traffic accident. I can grieve with her. But someone else who also lost her child in a traffic accident is going to be able to grieve with her, “feel with her in the pain,” in a far deeper and more meaningful way that I can. Empathy is the ability to stand in the other person’s shoes and see out of the other person’s eyes. Some people have this ability naturally in such great measure that even if they’ve never experienced a certain kind of pain, they can feel it vicariously when someone else is hurt.

Mary DeMuth’s Twitter description says, “I help #metoo #churchtoo survivors find empathy & healing. It’s my story too.”

See what she did there? She explained the source of her empathy.

“Jesus wept” with the grief of those who loved Lazarus. He grieved the death of His friend, even though He knew He was about to raise Him from the dead, because He felt the hurt of others. This is a beautiful Biblical example of empathy.

If a Desiring God author is going to write about empathy, he should understand what it means rather than making up a new definition for it.

 

What he claims empathy means

Empathy and compassion are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, empathy would naturally lead to compassion.

However, the author says that compassion seeks the sufferer’s good, but empathy is a tool of the devil.

Empathy is the counterfeit of compassion.

Empathy “shifts the focus from the sufferer’s good to the sufferer’s feelings, making them the measure of whether a person is truly ‘loved.’”

Empathy says that “unless [comforters] subordinate their feelings entirely to the misery, pain, sorrow, and even sin and unbelief of the afflicted, they are not loving them.”

“Books, articles, and social media all trumpet the importance of checking one’s own beliefs, values, judgments, and reason at the door of empathy.”

[It is true] that “feelings are important,” but empathy will cause one to think that “feelings are ALL important.”

“Empathy goes beyond union to . . . fusion, the melting together of persons so that one personality is lost in the other. Empathy demands, ‘Feel what I feel. In fact, lose yourself in my feelings.’”

This is a caricature of those who care about the grief and suffering of others. It is a caricature of empathy. This is not what empathy is. For those who understand it, he has twisted it to be unrecognizable.

What he says about the Sufferers

This is without a doubt the most disturbing aspect of this article, the part that probably needs a caution for those who are suffering and those who care about the sufferers.

Why, why would a Desiring God author want to caricature Sufferers in such a heartless way?

[Sufferers] tend to make two demands that are impossible to fulfill simultaneously. On the one hand, they want people to notice the depth of their pain and sorrow—how deep they are in the pit, how unique and tragic their circumstances. At the same time, they don’t want to be made to feel that they really need the assistance of others. In one breath, they say, “Help me! Can’t you see I’m suffering?” and in the next they say, “How dare you act as though I needed you and your help?”

The sufferer doesn’t want to be alone and demands not to be pitied.

Now, sufferers have been placing such impossible demands on others from time immemorial.

A human in pain is practically primed to say, “You don’t love me if . . .” and then to place entirely unreasonable demands on others.

[The devil wants] sufferers to subtly but forcefully demand that their comforters not even FEEL hope or joy or faith themselves. Total immersion [in the pain] must be granted, or “You don’t love me.”

This article was so deeply troubling to me that I couldn’t even read it all in one sitting—I couldn’t stomach it.

Furthermore, in the 100+ comments and the 100+ Shares that I was able to see, not a single person gave any pushback to the abominable way Sufferers were described.

Is this description going to increase Christian compassion for those in the body of Christ who are suffering? Or is it going to cause Desiring God disciples to want to back away as far as they can from the Sufferers? 

The response of a former Sufferer

Valerie Jacobsen, a woman who with her children suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, a woman who now speaks as an advocate for others, said in reference to this article:

It is a very rare thing for someone to resist or resent someone who isn’t there to interrogate or to make demands, who just brings a cup of cold water, makes some sandwiches, sits and listens. How is this, somehow, not spiritual enough?

I suspect immediately that Rigney is not a good listener, for it’s really not at all common for sufferers to say, “Help me! Can’t you see I’m suffering?” in one moment and “How dare you act as though I needed you and your help?” in the next. . . . Only sticking a knife in an open wound elicits the kind of response that Rigney, apparently routinely observes. . . . This is the health-wealthy bias that just can’t help [but look] upon the sufferings of the righteous with loathing and disgust.

I feel like, in that approach he is describing there is no real sense that this sufferer is one of God’s beloved children, who hopes in him, who is suffering in faith.

Have compassion . . .

Desiring God, can you get a glimpse, a taste, for the reason so many of those who are suffering are leaving the church, and Christianity, in droves? The influence of articles like this is not to be discounted, as hundreds of Christians are promoting articles like this.

Caricaturing some of the most vulnerable members of the Kingdom of God, blanketly representing them to be unstable, demanding, cantankerous, and impossible to please—how is this helping any of us to become more like Jesus Christ?

And when [Jesus] saw the multitude, he was moved with compassion on them because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

He saw their suffering. He felt their suffering. And then, by his miracles and ultimately by His death and resurrection, he took action to relieve and remedy their suffering.

Empathy is just a word. But it describes an ability to deeply relate to the sufferings of others, an ability that can fuel the compassion that longs to do good for those who are suffering.

And this, contrary to what Desiring God has proclaimed, is a beautiful thing.

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Ann
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Ann

Thank you for tackling this article and breaking it down so clearly, Rebecca. This is such a disturbing and discouraging article by DG as this attitude has already been a struggle in so much of the church, and now has the endorsement of a respected ministry saying that it’s also the biblical and right response. Ugh. All the institutional church needed was more encouragement to reject connecting and empathizing with believers who are hurting and devastated by trauma and explains why they increasingly feel so unsafe to so many. This DG article is straight from the pit of hell and may God grant His children the ability to see that and respond wisely.

Elsa
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Elsa

Part of the problem is that he is writing through the “Screwtape” persona, and the lines of satire are blurred. “First responder empathy” looks different than “longterm rehab for a chronic condition” empathy, and they are not interchangeable. Giving a wounded person what is helpful right at the time of leaving a cruel, crushing, vow-mocking situation may not be what is beneficial six or twenty-four months later.

It seems as if that author is confusing “empathy” with “encouraging someone to wallow in self pity.” But the Good Samaritan was not encouraging the beaten man to wallow in self pity: he saw his real needs and acted compassionately, whether he “felt empathy” or not. However, when Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb, though He knew the outcome, He was mourning with those who mourned, and not minimizing or dismissive of their pain and sadness in death. He could have shown compassion by raising Lazarus without the weeping, but He truly weeps with us in our times of crushing loss.

Jane
Guest

I read the article… I think the author is assuming that all victims want to suck those who comfort them into a self-serving abyss… This is really unfair! But, I knew a woman who was always playing the victim card… she was selfish and demanding of my time and sympathy. I finally had to draw some boundaries with her, and boy was she mad! Do you think that (with that type of sufferer) some of this article might make some sense? The thing is … I used to have a problem with being too empathetic… with those who exploited my soft heart. Open to anyone’s thoughts….

Prudence
Guest
Prudence

I have known someone like this who was certainly unstable at times.

She would call me saying, “What am I going to do?” (And note that she was a GOOD 20 years older. This was not a peer-to-peer or what should have been a mentor situation.) However, NONE of my suggestions were helpful, and I finally decided to stop giving them.

However, while we can have compassion for those who have been shaped in that way, we can also recognize that it isn’t the majority. And even in drawing boundaries–or in some cases suspending contact (I mean rancorous, disruptive situations or worse…I never did this with her, so I’m not referring to those suffering specifically but just interactions throughout life)–we can still maintain compassion for them. Not having a “good riddance” attitude but an “I’m not the person to help them, but hopefully someone soon will arrive who is” attitude.

Prudence
Guest
Prudence

Another thing is, we can always draw lines without making judgments about the person. For example, I can decide, “This is not a good time for me to help this person financially” without judging how he came to be in that position.

I can decide, “I cannot emotionally handle this many phone calls of this nature” while still thinking the best of the caller’s need to talk on the phone (for instance: this doesn’t characterize her life, but these 6 months of it).

I know it’s a balance and hard to strike–especially when our own feelings are involved! But it can be done. (There are times that a judgment needs to be made, such as “Yes, I could let this person live in my basement for another year, but it seems to be clearly enabling at this point.” But it might or might not be helpful to share that.)

Jane
Guest

Prudence, I LOVE you balance of truth and grace here! I used to think that if I drew a boundary with someone, I was being selfish and mean. You have explained beautifully how to balance the needs of others with you own needs… and how to distinguish the “wants” or “demands” of others from their genuine needs.

Prudence
Guest
Prudence

Thank you, Jane. That is kind. I will confess that I have also BEEN the person with vast needs when I was depressed/ lacking direction in my life, so that gives me–a decade later–more compassion for others while at the same time seeing that something may not help them. (For example, one relative explained her over-availability/ being drained with “I think I’m the only friend she has,” and I responded that it’s not good to be that for someone [the exception, I suppose, being the infirm who don’t have much choice in making new friends. Then, joyfully be the 1, or 1 of 2, etc.!].)

Respect for others’ boundaries and the strength to draw my own have kind of grown at the same time. Thanks again!

Lea
Guest
Lea

When I read this about people being selfish and needy I was thinking about I book I am reading on attachment styles (‘Attached’) and it said people are only as needy as their unmet needs.

I have been thinking about that one a lot even though it sounds obvious. You may not be able to supply a person’s every need (Boundaries are important and you have needs too!) but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have them.

Sam Powell
Guest

Empathy, as defined by people who don’t have a weird agenda, is Christ-like, as scripture clearly teaches.
Great article!

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15 KJV)

Don Owsley
Guest

Excellent rebuttal to such putrid garbage, Rebecca!

Donald B Johnson
Guest
Donald B Johnson

I have decided I need a lot less John Piper and his Desiring (to be) God website. I think the sexist glasses they wear ends up distorting all of Scripture in weird twisted ways.

Jane
Guest

Donald, I am just starting to research John Piper and his theology… the reason being that our Southern Baptist church (that I have ALWAYS felt very aligned with) has a new, young pastor who is a real Piper fan! (I had never even heard of Piper before.)
After doing a little research, it seems that Piper is always trying to elevate God… His sovereignty, His power… which seems right to me. But somehow in the process, Piper seems to devalue people (their worth, their dignity). So, I’m confused at this point.
For the almost 50 years that I have been a believer, my faith in a nutshell has always been, “Nobody has ever loved me like Jesus… because He loves me so much, I have enormousness value and worth, as does every other human being… and that’s why I’m hooked on Him!” Piper seems to blow holes in my theology. I think he’s wrong, but not sure why? Anyone?

TS00
Guest
TS00

Jane, I hate to say it, but it looks like you are in for a rough ride. If you want to know more about Calvinist takeovers, you might peruse The Wartburg Watch site, and comments there. Many have had experience with Calvinism, and covert Calvinist takeovers of an unsuspecting church. If you want to know more about the difference between Calvinist theology and non-Calvinist, I recommend Soteriology101.com. Many have experienced the challenge of being confronted with Calvinism while completely ignorant of its full history and teachings. I would recommend you inform and arm yourself, as it is a far cry from traditional, non-Calvinist theology, proposing a God who loves and set forth to save only a very limited few, while condemning all others to hell ‘for his glory’. Spent over a decade in the camp, and have discovered many, like me, who found the theology very unscriptural (they twist meanings a lot) and harmful to my soul’s health. Have been out for several years, and so happy to have back the loving, gracious, merciful God of my youth.

Teri
Guest
Teri

If these people twist the meanings of words, they can make good things seem evil. How appalling that hundreds of “Christians” will now confess their sin of empathy and harden their hearts (even more) against those who are suffering. If these people read a Bible, they would see verses such as things:

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…. (1 Cor 12:24-26)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep… (Romans 12:15)

“When my son was diagnosed with cancer at age 18, I had a friend who was awesome at walking through it with us. She had great “empathy” for us.” When my husband, son, and I could find a reason to find humor in a situation (because sometimes we laughed so we wouldn’t cry), she laughed with us. When we couldn’t laugh, she cried with us. When we were anxious about an appointment/surgery, she would say, “Oh, my goodness, I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep so I prayed for you all night long!” We live far away from each other, but she located a local restaurant on the Internet and bought us many gift certificates so we wouldn’t have to cook after long days at the Cancer Center. She sent us “care packages” and homemade cards. She didn’t lecture us on what to think or feel, she didn’t tell us what treatments to pursue (or that we would kill our son if we didn’t choose their preferred treatment), she didn’t tell us we were sinning if we didn’t have the “proper” attitude, she didn’t tell us to have more faith, she didn’t tell us to “rejoice in our suffering,” she was just THERE with us every step of the way. That is empathy/compassion in action. That is the love of Christ. It is breathtakingly beautiful. If such empathy is “sin,” I pray it is one I will be increasingly guilty of.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Cor 1:3-4

Grace
Guest
Grace

How dare he? I agree with another commenter–Rigney’s article (attempts at humor notwithstanding) is straight from the pit of hell.

RisingPhoenix
Guest
RisingPhoenix

I didn’t read the article; but did read the excerpts above. This one stood out to me (a victim of abuse): “A human in pain is practically primed to say, “You don’t love me if . . .” and then to place entirely unreasonable demands on others.” The problem I have with this statement is that usually it is an abuser who says, “You don’t love me if….” So I feel like the author is confusing victims and abusers in his statements. It’s really unfortunate because those less understanding of these topics will take the author’s words as ‘gospel’ and continue to heap religious abuse on true victims.

TS00
Guest
TS00

I might add that along with the existence of a few who may demand more than is reasonable due to personality disorders, etc., there is another group of people who may, temporarily have extremely great and demanding needs. This group of people have what is now commonly called PTSD. Thus, the very people who have been traumatized the most by authoritarian, patriarchal, spiritually abusive religious leaders are the ones this author would scorn or throw under the bus.

I was one of these persons. I know that for a period of many months I was extremely needy, having lost my entire support network upon leaving my spiritually abusive church. I felt guilty for leaning on several very dear friends to get me through those very dark days; but I had been so traumatized, and left so wounded, that I could not get myself out of that crisis alone.

For many, professional counseling is necessary. For others, a loving, patient friend or group may be able to provide the temporarily intense support such suffering victims require. It is tragic that the ones who have been hurt the most are now being set forth as ‘too needy’ to deal with. Because we can get past the damage done to us, with time and support. . As with any traumatically injured patient, intensive care is a short term necessity; it would be unthinkable to deny the deeply wounded the temporary round-the-clock attention they need to pull through and arrive at a better place, in which they can once again function as whole people.

Jane
Guest

TSOO, are you referring to a church with Calvinistic leanings? … that you referred to above in your advice to me? I will check out those sites, and we are already checking out other churches… I was getting depressed, even weepy, listening to our pastor… who quotes Piper frequently. Thanks, Jane

Shy1
Guest
Shy1

Jane, I’m so sorry to hear of your church situation. Many have traveled that road before you. The more Piper you are listening to, the more depression you can expect to feel 🙁

Julia
Guest
Julia

After reading the actual article on Desiring God, my mind went, WHAT? What is he actually trying so hard to say here?
It is sloppy writing and thinking — not a good exegesis of Scripture. Confuse and you lose. In fact, I wonder if the author is burned out, and should step down from counseling for a sabbatical.

I’ve been a cancer care-giver over the course of the past 5 years, and I’ve seen and heard a lot of “stupid” from Christian folks on the topic of suffering. We’re all guilty of opening our mouths and saying the wrong things, true. Kind words, a LISTENING ear, prayers, and acts of service are some of the most deeply appreciated ways to show the compassion of Christ to your hurting friends. And the Psalms. Give them the Psalms. Every gamut of wretched, angry, sorrowfully broken human emotion is expressed there. You cannot go wrong when you’re suffering if you turn to the Psalms. Jesus will meet you there.

AprilMay
Guest
AprilMay

Haven’t finished reading, but wanted to say that what the writer says this:
“‘Empathy goes beyond union to . . . fusion, the melting together of persons so that one personality is lost in the other. Empathy demands, ‘Feel what I feel. In fact, lose yourself in my feelings.’”
What he is actually describing is what my abuser wants from me, but does not require of himself – It’s enmeshment, at best.

Tony Fluerty
Guest
Tony Fluerty

This is the fruit of Calvinism.
Cold and merciless

Shy1
Guest
Shy1

With a topping of self-righteousness.

Shy1
Guest
Shy1

Is this what happens when a sociopath or narcissist tries to define empathy?

You know, these are real words that have actual meaning. “Desiring God” can’t just choose to give it a new definition according to their own biases.

Empathy is extremely important. In early childhood it develops in response to being nurtured by a loving caretaker. Without it, I don’t think the personality or conscience can develop. This is one of the ways early abuse/neglect damage a personality. Without it you would have no compassion or sympathy, either.

I don’t know what troubles me more, the fact that this person used their platform to spread this miserable lie or the fact that so many swallowed it.

Lea
Guest
Lea

This was indeed a terrible article.

Compassion fatigue is a real thing, and if he had talked about that I would have been ok, but this blaming of sufferers and kind people for having empathy for this is twisted.

There is also this element of ‘feelings are bad and should never be listened to, unlike ‘logic’…I was just listening to a therapist talk about how if you’re in a relationship with someone who claims to hold logic over feelings? Run. That’s how I felt reading this article.

Meri
Guest
Meri

What an upsetting DG article. Confusing at best but at worst striking right at the heart of who God is. God through the person of Jesus Christ is a co-suffering God. He gave up all of heaven and entered our disordered mess of humanity to rescue, redeem & restore us back to Him (Phil 2). He is God with us. God who has never turned away from us (psalms 22, I think this one should be more popular than 23) He doesn’t brush aside the bruised & hurt, He takes the hand of those who don’t know the way Isaiah 42, When we’re in over our heads he’s there with us Isaiah 43, it was our pains He carried…..and I could go on & on right through scripture. He’s always been on a rescue mission we just better make sure we’re not the ones people need rescuing from. Christ in us the hope of glory, (His very life in us!) we are Christ’s representatives here on earth. When it gets dark, like really truly proper dark it’s hard to see God, you need someone who sees, someone to stand with you.
Judgement on the suffering of others provides a cop out to people unwilling to lift a finger to help. That’s why they love this stuff. A day is coming the timing is God’s. I think more and more lately about what what would happen if Christ turned up to the church today……and then I begin to think about the final restoration of all things when the broken images of Christ in us, in the least of these will be fully restored. When the first will be last, and the last first.

Lori
Guest
Lori

Well said! Piper actually oozes with lack of empathy so this should not surprise anyone.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I haven’t read the DG article so I don’t know anything aside from what has been said here, but it makes me think about a few things.

It’s very taboo in most Christian circles to help others when such is considered “enabling”.

Allow me to offer what I know. The whole, ‘don’t be an enabler’ came about in response to drug addicts and alcoholics. The non-provision of additional cash was done in hopes of preventing the raging drug addict/alcoholic from being able to purchase another hit, another bottle of whiskey. Cash was denied out of fear of the drug addict dying from his next hit. The alcoholic dying from the next bottle of liquor.

So many Christians have now taken that ‘don’t be an enabler’ mindset and applied it everywhere, with everything, to everyone (or nearly that). This is usually in combination with a strong ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ belief system, too.

I feel like this ’empathy is sin’ kind of teaching goes along with the ‘don’t require help’ ‘helping is enabling’ ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ kinds of worldviews.

Jesus healed all sorts of people. He did it without giving them a brow-beating lecture about how they came to be so needy in the first place, if they are going to now ‘straighten up and fly right’ and above all ‘pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.’

It feels like it’s in the same vein as those who are wealthy, blessed with good genes, good health, and all sorts of other privileges, they then look down on and judge with disgust, the street beggars and wonder why the street beggars don’t stop being lazy and get a job already. Same goes for those who live in slums. Privileged people wonder why they don’t ‘pull themselves up by their own bootstraps’ and get themselves out of the slums. And wrongly conclude ‘they must like living in filth’ since people continue to languish in slums. But money doesn’t grow on trees. There is rampant sexism, racism, classism, ableism, looks-ism, etc. that denies so many equal opportunities in life.

I’m rambling but I really hate it when the privileged start in on ’empathy is sin’ and ‘don’t enable’ and ‘the unfortunate/poor/traumatized/chronically ill/etc. are just manipulative, lazy handout seekers who need ‘tough love”

westerner
Guest
westerner

I used to teach high needs high school students. Many had trauma and PTSD in addition to the normal self-absorption of adolescence. What I learned was that empathy was the key to positive action. If I could sit with their feelings, acknowledge them, feel at least part of them, if the students felt “seen” by me, then I could ask them to imagine one small step they could make to improve a situation. Then we could brainstorm ways to make that step happen. You can’t expect someone to bootstrap their way out of a situation that you won’t acknowledge is real in the first place.

Greg Anderson
Guest
Greg Anderson

Brava! for the pushback!
How can I say this?
There really is no nice way to call out a sick and twisted religion (desiring god) for what it is.
To use a metaphor, the people in slavery to it groan under the lash of its taskmasters.
And like Emma Lazarus’s huddled masses, they yearn to breathe free.
They just don’t know it yet.

Medfen21
Guest
Medfen21

Out of the mouth, from the heart. What a great revelation into the true heart of this ministry, and the man behind it. The mask comes off as the the hateful spewing against those closest to the heart of the Great Shepherd is revealed – the oppressed, enslaved, helpless, and reviled. What a way to turn the tables to make righteous his own great sin of lacking what makes humans so like the image of God – His compassionate heart.

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

“Leaving the church in droves…” I can’t even enter a church these days without weeping these days. In my first church as an adult, I left with a broken heart after 20 years of serving in numerous capacities. When my beloved nephew whom I brought to church after he was stabbed in a domestic dispute (yes, drugs were involved), we were ostracized. He also had a little boy who was three years old at the time and I had my hands full “showing compassion” for them and my church attendance became sporadic. Three months after the stabbing, my nephew committed suicide and I was shaken to my core. I missed five weeks of church. When I returned, I found that my positions had been filled by other members, and that my Pastor (of 20 years) father had died and no one had even notified me. This was a church where my abusive ex-husband had been made an elder and treasurer, by the way. I had had enough.
After I recovered a little, I decided to try attending a church in our neighborhood. It was a small Baptist church and we were received with open arms and began attending regularly. I got to sing solos and enjoyed the teachings and people. Fast forward a year later I separate from my ex and continue to attend. When I left I had only a part time job, and within seven months was laid off and was denied unemployment because I hadn’t worked enough weeks to be eligible for it. I had an apartment, bills, and NO income for three months. During those three months I continued to attend church faithfully. NOT ONCE was I invited to a fellow church member’s home for a meal, nor did I ever receive so much as one can or bag of food.
In fact, other friends outside the church offered me work dog sitting, painting and fed me many meals. One a Hindu and one an atheist, among others.
I have visited my daughter’s church on multiple occasions in the five years since my divorce, and never once has anyone, ever, approached me or spoken to me outside of the greeters at the door. And this after filling out three visitor cards (on the last one I wrote “I desperately need help and prayer”).
I love God and He is my hope and assurance, but the church, not so much.
Thank you Rebecca from the bottom of my heart for helping me, and I know countless others to feel “seen and heard.”