When familiar feelings of depression loom close, and the enemy’s roaring a bit louder, it’s easy to want to stay in bed and shut the whole world out. Sunday morning, howling winds outside only exacerbated the swirling feelings inside.
I did not want to go to church.
But then, I didn’t know what to do with the trepidation I felt either.
As a child I didn’t want to go to church. Because, I got bored with liturgy and voices I couldn’t relate to. I sat in pews dreaming of fantastical gymnastic feats among the beams, arches, and hanging lights above me.
In a world of imagination, every move lands just right and you never fall.
As an adult I’ve loved going to church though. I fell in love with corporate worship and the way a sermon speaks to my heart. This has never been more true than in the last few years.
And y'all, I even learned to raise my hands so much I always take an aisle seat. Because, wild arms need space people!
But things have been harder the last several weeks. I didn’t want to go to church Sunday. Or the last Sunday. Or the two Sundays before. I didn’t like not wanting to go, but me and God have been tousling a bit as my heart works through new challenges.
In real life, many moves don’t land right and you might fall more often than not.
A couple of years ago I had long discussions with a friend about the experiences she and others have had. We talked about those who feel misplaced or disgruntled with corporate church gatherings. We talked about those who feel like they are on the outside of church, looking in.
I wondered, how do you handle Sabbath gatherings when you’re in between churches, or hurt by people who sin and fail? What if not going to church, because of a person or a disagreement, causes one to ride down the slippery slope of self-protected isolation and into self-righteous indignation? I’ve seen it happen.
I’ve thought often about the value of belonging to church community over the hype of finding church charisma. But dang, I admit it’s sometimes awfully hard to do. Then I wonder, how many hops does it take to find something better? And what if it’s all an endeavor of false hope pursuits and the hopping lands you down a rabbit hole?
Honest questions - with a whole lot of heart wrestling.
We left a church several years ago and the leaving wasn’t pretty. Not even close. It was down right painful. But even then, I couldn’t not go to church. Thankfully, God brought us straight to the church we're at now.
Not everyone has this experience.
In the last few years I’ve been listening to those who might have responded differently to a situation like ours. I’ve wanted to better understand the soul struggle of others. God knows I have plenty of my own.
Then, these last few weeks I felt the sting for myself.
Flooding emotions tempted me to crawl back in bed, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the value of church fellowship which I’ve clung to for so long. While some relationships are not what I wish they were, and there are reasons to feel dismissed, hurt, and angry, the truth is the enemy could easily take these situations and twist them into stumbling blocks while he twists hearts and minds away from God’s light. Satan wants us to be isolated and less equipped for the battles of faith. What better way than to get us believing we don’t need community like we do.
Could this heart turn away from the loyalty she feels for her local body of believers?
There will always be people and institutions who fail us, wound us, or cause us to feel anything other than we think we ought to feel in a house of worship.
But there it is.
It’s a house of worship. A place of sanctification, not a home of perfection. It's a place to turn our hearts toward our God and gather with all the imperfect family members around us. It’s a place where our souls are shaped by the way we respond and react to a God whose presence invades our hearts.
I don’t sit in church to get a spiritual high, although I pretty much love the way the Spirit fills me up.
I don’t come for feel good emotions or sensational teaching, even though I experience them frequently.
Yet, these last few weeks I’ve been tested. Why do I go to church? Straight up loyalty or something else? When my heart is hurting and I’m tempted to think it would be better to stay home alone, will I go to church anyway?
When confusion or distractions or misunderstandings color our connections with others and God, will we pursue interaction within the body of believers anyway?
I chose to go.
My heart needed reminding. That God is greater than all my hurts, all my fears, and all my doubts. He is bigger and better than the distortions, the deceptions, and the destructiveness of the enemy who continually attempts to slay the faithful and divide the many.
I needed to hear God’s Word and let his truths penetrate. I needed reminders that God is at work even when I can’t see it.
Pastor Morgan preached on the book of Ruth for the third Sunday in a row. Each week my gut has been wrenched for the power of this message. I've been wrecked for how it speaks not only to the diversity of our growing church but to the way relationships are tested when fear rises.
Then he says the line which pierces and drives it home.
“God’s hand is frequently hidden in the moment, but his glory is always revealed in the end.”
All my emotionally-charged reservations about coming to church rose to the surface. My pain ministered to in a single moment.
Well, not even just that moment. But the moments when a word of exhortation was spoken, when worship reminded my heart to praise, when two leaders prayed with me for strength and courage because I vulnerably shared my hesitations of making it out the door.
It's not always this way though. Sometimes the songs feel dull and the fellowship doesn't happen. When you feel like you're on the outside looking in it's hard to break the glass in between. And truth be told, the Sunday I did stay home was one of the sweetest mornings of solitary worship I've had in awhile.
But we are a people who need our faith to grow. We are given the opportunity to see it happen in the context of community and corporate worship.
The steps of faith endured today, even those steps of staying out of isolation and into a gathering of messy fellowship, are often small steps leading to a beautifully large picture which remains to be seen. Maybe we'll get to see it, maybe we won't. We must keep stepping and keep trusting.
Our faith battles aren't won in easy places. God has not stopped working. He is always faithful even when we are not.
I didn't go to church because I wanted too. I didn't go because of a legalistic pull making me feel like I had to.
I went to church because I needed to.