Anne Graham Lotz
Anne Graham Lotz was described by her father, Billy Graham, as “the best preacher in the family.” Over the years she has produced numerous books blending biblical insight with devotional inspiration. Her latest book, ‘Wounded: by God’s People‘, deals with the painful and difficult problems experienced by those who have been hurt by the Church.
Buy Wounded: By God’s People for just £8.99 (RRP £9.99)
This seems a really personal book – what led you to write it?
As I wrote The Magnificent Obsession, which is a devotional biography of Abraham challenging the reader to embrace the God-filled life, the story of Hagar stood out to me. When I finished writing about Abraham, I went back and did a personal study of Hagar. God impressed on my heart that she was wounded by God’s people —Abraham and Sarah — and her story gave me insights into my own woundedness. It was a very personal book, that describes a very personal journey. I have been severely wounded in many different ways by people who call themselves by God’s name. But I have had personal victory over the bitterness and unforgiveness wounds can cause. Immersing myself in Hagar’s story over a four year period helped me begin and maintain the healing of my own heart.
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What would you say to the person unable to bring himself or herself to go to church because of past hurts?
Give it time. Don’t force yourself to go back into a situation where you have been deeply wounded. Some things take time for us to process. We cannot quickly get over deep wounds. But on the other hand, don’t stay outside of church when God leads you to go back in. Sometimes our wounds can lead us to be stubborn. We stay outside because we are angry and bitter and feel we deserve to be isolated. We refuse to go back to church -any church – and so stay on the periphery of God’s people longer than is good for us.
Can a person have a relationship with God outside of the Church?
Of course. Our relationship with God is intensely personal. It should not depend on anyone or anything or any place other than our own knowledge of Him through prayer, Bible reading, and obedience.
But God established church for a very good reason. It should be a place where we are renewed and strengthened in our faith so that we not only grow into mature followers of Jesus, but we become effective in presenting Him to the world around us. The Christian fellowship and the spiritual food that we receive at church should equip us to be disciples who impact our generation for Jesus Christ. To stay outside of that environment can be weakening and damaging to our faith.
Is there a danger of blaming the hurt person for ‘not forgiving’ rather than dealing with those that caused the pain?
Yes. A case in point is the story of a female choir director in a town near where I live, who discovered her husband was having an affair with another woman. The choir director put her husband out of her home. The husband wanted to come back, but the director was not ready to receive him since he had not truly repented nor even conveyed his deep grief for what he had done. The pastor then fired the choir director for not “forgiving” her husband. The pastor’s action split the church. We can choose to forgive. But reconciliation requires both the wounder and the wounded to resolve whatever the issue is. The pastor was trying to force reconciliation before the wound was resolved. He was wrong to do so.
One thing I have had to learn the hard way is that I’m not responsible for the other person, or for what people think. I am responsible for me. I must ask God to search my heart. If I truly am not forgiving because I’m so hurt I say I can’t forgive, then I have a problem. Forgiveness is a choice we make not because the other person deserves it—the person usually does not—but because God commands it. God has forgiven us when to this day, our understanding of our own sin against Him is so superficial that we do not really comprehend the hurt we have inflicted on His heart. So we forgive others when they don’t fully understand what they have done to us, simply because we ourselves have been forgiven by God. Forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve it is our act of worship of God, who forgives us when we don’t deserve it either.
How does the hurt person find hope?
Two things bring hope. One is when we are wounded, we not only choose to forgive, but then we act out our forgiveness by doing something to bless the one who hurt us. In some way, that simple act—whether it’s writing a note, making a phone call, sending a gift, whatever God brings to your mind—helps to set us free from bitterness.
The second thing that brings hope is to know that at the end of all things, God will make the situation right. He will hold the wounder accountable. He says that “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay.” So we can trust Him to deal with the other person, which frees us to forgive and love them.
What do you hope people take away from this book?
Jesus understands what it feels like to be wounded by God’s people. They rejected Him, humiliated Him, and in the end, crucified Him. He was wounded, too. Yet He forgave the wounders, even as He was being nailed to the cross.
I pray that the readers will bring their own hurts to the Cross of Jesus Christ, choose to lay them down as they forgive their wounders, then begin their own healing journeys as they experience the freedom of forgiveness.
Buy Wounded: By God’s People for just £8.99 (RRP £9.99)