One of the only places I openly feel what I feel is church. Why? Because they are my family and because no matter what I go through they will point me to Jesus. They will let me cry, they will let me stare at a wall, they will allow me to feel the pain. However, they won’t let me stay there. When I am ready (or when they believe I am, because trust me it’s often easier to stay there), they help me to bring me out of my depression and show me how great our God is. That he is a God that understands more than my church family can, more than any human currently on this earth can. That God more than makes up for their (and my) failures and weaknesses. I am able to be my true and authentic (and often ugly self) because they love me out of an overflowing of the love God showed them and I can do the same to them out of the same love that God showed me.
However, even though this is where I am at now, I had an interesting introduction to the church (although a very common one). When I first walked through the doors I wasn’t a Christian, and I hated being weak in front of others. However, due to the fact I had anxiety attacks every service (anxiety attacks that left me shaking and crying on the floor, that completely floored me every time, therefore meaning that I often had to leave during the service), people knew (and still do know) I struggle. And because of how public my struggles were, I didn’t have the chance to hide what was going on (which is a massive kindness from God). And therefore I experienced the love and caring nature of a church family showing the love of Christ in practical ways.
But it also meant that I had crazy high expectations of how people should and shouldn’t react (which is another blog post), and I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on people. Then because I started to listen to the lies of the devil I swung the other way and started to believe that no one cared (which was never true), and my expectations went crazy low.
Now God is teaching me what a middle ground is (shout out to all the people I have talked to about this). And what it is to have healthy expectations and get my ultimate security from God and not other people.
This may be very real to you if you feel like you have no one in your church. However, know that you have God. If you have been hurt by the church you are not alone. But know that God does listen to your prayers. So pray that he puts people in your life who will point you to Christ. But also know that God always provides for his children. I have found that in situations where I feel like I need immediate help, if I truly do people to intervene (if I’m genuinely in danger of hurting myself) God will put people in place to help (although this often looks like actually asking for help) and if he doesn’t put people there, that means that there is another way out and he is teaching me something about him that I would miss out on if I put my security and reliance primarily in anything other than God (because its good to lean on people to a certain degree, as we are called to carry each other’s burdens.
However, just because I often feel exposed in Church, it doesn’t mean that I don’t try to hide, that I don’t lie to people when they ask how I am. It doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with people knowing how I am. It doesn’t mean I am not a sinful broken human being. It doesn’t mean that I don’t need the assurance that God has got me in the palm of his hands every day.
Your experience of church will probably be very different and that’s ok. We are different people, even some of my friends who go to my church have different experiences than me. They have different friends and different people they go to. You may find it hard, to be honest with people (and trust me, I am getting better at hiding how I am doing and it’s not a good thing), you may find it hard to talk to people about what you are struggling with and that’s ok too. I am a very verbal processor, and you may not be. Be honest with people so they know how you are doing but what matters even more, is that you are being honest with God. He already knows what is going on but he wants you to tell him.