One woman I knew stopped going to church. She said one of her problems she wanted help with was getting back into church. After asking some questions over several sessions I learned that she stopped going to church over 10 years ago. She talked as if she just stopped and needed to get back, but in reality it had been many years since she stepped foot in a church.
She was secretly angry because she lost someone she loved and that situation happened the same time her church went through a split. She says everything is okay, but in reality she is angry with God.
A man confesses that he was a preacher once and still a Christian, but on a new journey. He was growing in the Word and led his family to church every Sunday. He now does not attend at all. He has frustrations with the church. He can’t find a body that is okay with things he wants to do. He wants to have a beer after work, maybe two. He has a hectic work schedule and doesn’t want to feel like he has to explain to someone why he misses once in a while.
There are people who hate God, Christians, and the church. A woman who was molested by the churches favorite choir member, a couple who was spiritually abused by the church, a man who was lied to and abandoned by his brothers when he needed them most.
The list could go on and on. Reasons why we hate God, other Christians, or are disillusioned with the church. The reality of life is that we can struggle to love God, others, and the church for very real and painful reasons and sometimes not so painful reasons.
So should we quit God altogether when we feel like He is to blame for our problems, because of other Christians, or when we are sick of the church altogether? The answer, undoubtedly a painful one, is no.
All relationships have ups and downs. Look at our marriages, children, co-workers, friends, and family. What is one key to maintaining any relationship? Staying in it, working through the issues, and keeping at it even when we don’t feel like it. It’s the same with God, His people, and the church.
Yes, I know they hurt you. I know that bad things happen and God doesn’t seem to care, but there are ways to work through that. Think of the very painful things that our relationships in this world bring us and how we work through that. Think about how you might just be able to work through your stuff with God if you stick with Him. Even if that means going through the motions for a while. Showing up is half the battle.
God does expect us to maintain our relationship with Him. Even though you may not care right now you may decide you do later. In fact something might happen and you may just feel the need to pray to Him and at that moment you may wish that you had read His Word a little more, attended church a little more often, or took that Christian brother or sister up on their offer for coffee. In the end your decision to maintain a relationship will matter. Just like it does with our worldly relationships.
Be honest about where you are today, why you feel distant from God, or the church. Be honest with those who ask you why you aren’t attending services like you used to. If they won’t understand then find a place that will. There are seasons that we go through where we are dry and parched and we need space, but not to give up altogether.
Go. Attend somewhere. Attend where you are given freedom to explore the church and your relationship with God. Show up. Make it a habit like any other. You may feel dead there, but your efforts will not be fruitless.
Do. Pick up your bible and read it, pray, talk with God, wrestle with Him. You do more with people close to you who have caused you great pain. Ask any parent. Our children can hurt us in big ways and yet we continue to care for them. Do. Read regardless of how you feel, pray, and hash things out. No one who seeks will be disappointed.
Remember. Perhaps a reminder of the consequences can serve as a motivation. I worked with that woman who hadn’t attended church for ten years for a year. I so wanted to give her a stark reminder of how important her relationship with God was. I so wanted to scare her into submission, but instead kept pointing her to the very thing she needed. Yet there are consequences. We can ignore them. We can turn away, but the consequence of doing so doesn’t change.
Connect. Find a close friend that you can talk to about what is going on. If you have been abused by the church, or assaulted then seek counseling. Connect with someone you can be very real with and hash things out. Ignoring the problem will not resolve it. Look at the saints in the bible. They wrestled with God through their pain and seasons when they felt abandoned. They worked through the problems. They didn’t quit God altogether even when they were running away from Him.
This life is simply too hard to do it alone. What should be the most loving place is not because it’s full of messed up people who are struggling to get things right. God often feels judgmental, angry, mean, distant, and as if He could care less about us. This is a season. Work through it.
Don’t give up on Him yet. I promise you He hasn’t given up on you. Before you were born He provided a way for you to experience eternal life. He did so by sacrificing His only Son. Somehow then He cares. Hold onto that until the season of joy, abundance, and feelings of love return.