Some Sundays are beauty-filled things where my soul is uplifted, enriched, and filled to the brim with singing, fellowship, and comforting reminders from the Word of God – followed by rest, family time, prep for the week, and maybe a nap.
And then other Sundays – are not quite like that. Some Sundays are the hardest days of the week.
They pass me the communion cups, and my mind can’t focus on the remembrance of Christ’s atoning death – the prayers begin and slip away unfinished.
I can’t even sing the songs for feeling like a hypocrite that my heart isn’t feeling the devotion they speak of.
And the sermon is filled with such conviction that tears come to my eyes at the thought that I truly must be the worst of sinners … for there’s simply no joy left in my heart.
No joy to give away like everyone expects of me – no happy, encouraging word to give to the other girls. Instead, my mind is wandering, my soul is withering, and my despair is growing that I just can’t be what everyone expects me to be.
Why is it like that? Why is it that the church – the place that’s supposed to be the safest haven from the rest of our tiring week – can often be the place where it seems like we’re fighting the greatest battle against sin and temptation?
Why is it so easy to walk into church and immediately start an unconscious mental stream of comparing and complaining? Why do we feel this immense pressure to always put our best face forward, our sweetest façade, our nicest side to match our Sunday clothes?
Because I honestly believe the church is God’s force to conquer the darkness – so clearly, it would make sense that the prince of darkness would target those within the church and try to bring them down however subtly or non-subtly he can.
And that, combined with our own sin nature so easily captivated by things that are not God, explains why church doesn’t always “feel” safe – it sometimes “feels” more like a battleground upon entering the doors.
A battleground against using it for our own self-serving enjoyment.
A battleground against thinking that it’s a place to showcase our good works or put up a good front.
A battleground against seeing it through a consumer mentality – that if I’m not feeling happy there one week, I should find something else.
A battleground against the lies that maybe if I wake up not feeling in the mood, I should just stay home.
Because the sicker my soul feels, the more desperately I need church and the healing truth contained within its walls.
I might not feel like I can sing the words of the songs with gusto, but I can certainly let them sink down into my bones and receive them like a parched desert wanderer.
I might flinch away from the convicting words of the message, but they are the only thing that can bring true restoration to my wandering heart.
I might not feel like I can encourage anyone today, but maybe I need to be the one to receive encouragement – in the way that God designed the body to give and receive.
And maybe just in talking to others, it will lift me out of myself and remind me that my feelings aren’t actually the most important thing – and that continuing to be faithful to the cause God has called me to, even on the hardest of days, will eventually lift me out of the drought and give me joy once again.
God didn’t design the church just as a happy celebration place for our best times. It’s definitely that. But all the richer and deeper, He designed the church as a soul-healing place for our worst times.
He called us to help bear one another’s burdens – and we can’t do that if we avoid it when our burdens seem too heavy. That’s exactly when we need it the most – for only then can the load be lightened.
When we enter church, we have to stop looking around at the trendy-clad couples with their perfect hairstyles, baby on each hip, and coffee cups in hand; and assume that our own world with its problems has no place there. Because we all have a load of problems on our shoulders – and we shouldn’t come to church to hide them, but to admit that we are desperately in need of grace and forgiveness.
There will always be a Sunday for each of us that we don’t feel like being there, and we especially don’t feel like smiling and lifting our hands.
But on those Sundays, we still need to show up to receive the grace that can penetrate even the deepest of gloom and the weariest of souls. And if you see someone at church whose smile seems a little more forced, maybe hug them a little longer and take a second to pray with them.
That’s what the church is for – to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. And next Sunday, it might be you who needs to receive that love right down to the depths of your soul. Let’s keep on loving, though we feel ever so broken and messy.
He’s making all things new in His time and in His way.