Is it worth the effort?
When I was heavily weighed down by grief, in the early days of my illness, church was almost unbearable for me. A bunch of uncomfortable emotions would be stirred up each time I attended. I would go home flummoxed and bewildered, wondering if the considerable effort of attendance had been worth it.
An unexpected wave of grief can still throw me into turmoil every now and then. During the service, I’ll find myself feeling perplexed and lost; feeling like an outsider in my own spiritual family. It seems wrong. It hurts. Once I’m back home, I’ll have a cry – or sometimes a long mope will do! I’ll often write, too. Writing helps me to process my thoughts and remember God’s goodness. (Others might prefer therapeutic activities like painting or music or yoga. Writing is just what works best for me.)
These days, I generally do feel quite happy when I attend church. The grief has lessened in intensity over the years. Its waves are less frequent and not quite as powerful. I’m able to catch my breath a little sooner after being thrown off my feet.
Click here if you’d like to read about my church journey in more detail.
Struggles with church community
In recent months, I’ve met quite a few Christian people online who live with chronic illnesses. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover they struggle with the same things when it comes to church involvement. SO IT’S NOT JUST ME!!! Realising this has been tremendously reassuring.
See how many of the following experiences you can relate to.
We’re nervous about engaging in ‘small talk’ before and after the church service.
We may dread people flippantly asking, “How are you?”. We may find ourselves wondering, Do they really care? Do they really want to know?!
We feel like no-one at church really understands our world.
Without the usual things to talk about – like work, exercise, social events, holidays – conversations can be stunted and awkward. What do we have to contribute to conversations if all we did last week was attend doctors’ appointments, rest as much as possible, and try not to get swallowed up by despair?! Not really pleasant conversation material – we’re well aware of that! But, at the same time, we crave authenticity and transparency in our church relationships.
We battle with feelings of unworthiness, or the sense that we’re being judged by others.
Sometimes, our own sense of shame can overflow into church (and other) relationships. Our self-esteem has plummeted – with lost careers, lost mobility and/or lost independence. We feel embarrassed, and find it hard to accept how much our life has changed. It’s tempting to assume that everyone is judging us because we so often judge ourselves quite harshly.
When we’re not able to attend on a Sunday (but would dearly love to be there), thoughts like these might spin around our minds:
Aren’t they meant to love me like a brother/sister? If one part of the Body hurts, all parts suffer with it, right?
Why has no-one from church been here for me in my time of need? Do they even care?
Has anyone even noticed that I’m not there (again) today?
Does anyone truly understand?
If you struggle with these types of thoughts, I totally get it! So do many other Christians around the world who struggle daily with debilitating health conditions.
More importantly, Jesus understands your pain because he, too, has experienced what it’s like to be abandoned and misunderstood.
In Church #2 – When Jesus was Abandoned I will talk about some Bible passages that have helped me to persevere when disillusionment sets in.
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