"Where there is creativity, there is hope." ~ Donna Karan

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

by - Sunday, November 06, 2011

I had a pretty outfit planned. I had my alarm set. I had made up my mind- I was going to church whether I felt like it or not. But come 7.30 am this morning, regardless of willpower, my body just wouldn't follow through.

My head hurt, my throat throbbed and pain was pounding in almost every joint. My body felt heavy, like it was made of led. Everything I had done during the week resulted in a shattering exhaustion. I could barely lift my head off the pillow, let alone stumble out of bed.

I felt terrible that I was going to miss another service but yet again I smacked the snooze button and surrendered to sleep. I chose to escape the throbbing, even if it was only just for a few hours, instead of dragging myself out of bed to doll myself up. I chose the comfort of bed over an uncomfortable chair, loud music, and bright lights.

Flesh won out.

I haven't been to church in months and this bothers me because it's important to go. Attending church regularly is vital for spiritual growth, I know, but by the time the weekend comes around I am wrecked from the small things I've had to do during the week. Though the more I don't go, the more I fear I'm drifting away from God. Right now I'm spiritually parched. God feels so distant. It's like I've been abandoned in a desert. I am struggling to survive.

When I am able to attend church, all I can think about is how much I ache or how overwhelmingly fatigued I feel. Preaching practically goes in one ear and out the other. Instead of something I enjoy and look forward to every week, somehow it has become more of a tedious task. I used to love going to church with my family and I cherished the relationship I had with God.

Now, here I am wondering how the heck I even got to this place. Surely I've taken a wrong turn somewhere. How did I get off track? Where did I go wrong?

I look at the young people in my church who are full of passion, plugged into God and are wholeheartedly fulfilling his purpose and I think that used to be me. I find it hard to connect with other christians because I hear about all the amazing stuff that God is doing in their lives, and it leaves me feeling downcast because I don't have amazing things going on in my life right now. Some days I struggle to see how great and good God is. Chronic illness is mundane and boring. Life isn't going so great.

It's incredibly challenging to grow in your christian faith when contending with chronic illness. Often, I struggle to read my bible and sometimes even praying seems out of reach. There are times when I feel guilty about my lack of growth. I beat myself up for not reading my bible enough and not attending church enough. I feel like I'm failing in my faith. I feel like I've let both God and myself down.

I know every christian goes through wilderness times. Times when they even question their faith and doubt God because it seems like he's distant. David the psalmist experienced exactly this.

How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? Psalm 13:1-2

Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave. I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave whom you remember no more, and who are cut off from your hand. You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths. Psalm 88: 2-6

So it's not just a chronic illness thing, but most days I'm at home so I feel the least I can do is attend church once a week. It frustrates me that I'm too fatigued to go and it frustrates me that I don't enjoy as much as I used to. If I don't go to church, what kind of christian does that make me? A terrible one?

As much as I believe in a God who heals and as much as my faith is important to me- to tell you the truth I'm tired of being bible bashed with healing scriptures. I'm tired of hearing "I'll pray for you, I hope you get better soon". I am tired of my pain being over spiritualised. That's all well and good, but it doesn't help me cope. What I need is ongoing support. I need to feel like I belong. That it's okay to be tired. That it's okay to sit and be sore. That where I am in life right now is okay. That the effort I'm putting in is good enough.

Today I had a revelation. Everything I've been feeling is not how God feels about me. He doesn't love me any less because I don't get to church enough, or pray enough. He loves me just as I am and will meet me right where I am.

As important as going to church is- it doesn't make you a christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car. When I can get to church, I'll get there but right now, right where I am is okay. I don't have to have energy to spend time in his presence, all I have to do is be still and know that he is God.

If I'm not feeling up to going to church that's okay. I can still grow in my faith by doing things I can cope with- growing in my faith can be as simple as playing some worship music, or watching sermons online. I don't have to go to church to worship God, I can simply spend time in his presence and feel his embrace while card making or even painting my nails.

Today, the important thing is that I tried my best to get up and go to church. God saw that. I could have chosen to not have bothered to set my alarm and attempt getting out of bed- but I didn't. My good enough is good enough- God thinks so, and I should too.


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