Sundays are my least favorite day of the week. It’s the day I wish I could avoid the most. My own version of “Case of the Monday’s”. And there is only one reason why I feel this way…
It’s because of people in the church.
I dread going to church every time Sunday comes around. As soon as I wake up each Sunday morning, my chest gets tight, I start feeling annoyed/irritated, and my flight response goes into full gear. For what’s probably the equivalent of a couple years most Sundays I would just stay in bed, even with my husband prompting me to get ready for church. I would feel a huge wave of anxiety and depression hit me so hard that I couldn’t even speak or formulate the words to explain what I was feeling. Most of what I could muster was grunts or pained moans.
Every once in a while I would gather enough strength to actually get up, dressed and out the door. But once I entered church I would instantly feel as if I walked into a suffocating bubble, instantly paralyzed. Feeling nothing that the rest of the congregation was experiencing and completely unable to pretend anything different. After service, I would want to immediately leave so that I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone. I longed to get back home to my safe space. It was super uncomfortable and extremely embarrassing. Especially since I used to sing on choirs, dance in mime ministry, and usually felt so free and involved during church services.
My experience with church as of late has been far less intense, but those feelings are still present, and I finally understand why. I am suffering from Church Hurt which is extremely intensified by anxiety and depression. It’s a variety of experiences that have created this internal monster, but most of it came from being unexpectedly hurt by people fellow churchgoers. I honestly had the urge to downplay this hurt, because it wasn’t hurt didn’t stem from pastors or even doctrine, so I felt like it wouldn’t be deemed as acceptable church hurt. But hurt is hurt, and maybe by sharing this, others will learn to treat people better, differently…you know…like Jesus would.
So how does this make marriage difficult? How does this relate to marriage or even affect it at all?
The majority of betrayal, gossip covered up as “spiritual burdens”, and misrepresentation has come from people I’ve known from various congregations that I’ve called “Friend/Loved One” and/or really looked up to. Seeing first hand how the body of believers treats one another and then seeing my closest loved ones as well as myself on the receiving end of toxic behavior, has melded perfectly with anxiety/depression and caused an extremely intense fear and lack of trust toward people in the faith. Its distorted my thoughts to do what’s called forecasting as well as seeing things as black & white.
We recently started attending a new church near where we live. Even though this church is very different from many other churches I’ve attended, has a variety of different people (none of which I knew beforehand), and has given me no indication that people are less than genuine, I still find myself thinking that the people around me or those leading worship/in ministry roles are somehow fake or sneaky. That they are living double lives and absolutely cannot be trusted. I resist building relationships or even getting to know any of them because I assume they will let me down or hurt me as others have and I’m just waiting, with expectancy, for that shoe to drop.
This had been my mentality towards Sunday Gatherings and the people in attendance since we first got married. We moved around from 3 to 4 churches in 3 years because of these overwhelming experiences I’ve had during services or the thoughts my mind convinced me to believe about everyone around me or a wild combination of the two. We lost out on the opportunity of what could have been quality support, encouragement, and growth that was/still is sooo needed in our marriage. It was a big source of conflict since finding that type of community is one of the most important things to my husband and I was unable to aid him in acquiring it. It impacted our walk with Christ and did nothing to encourage us to stick with our marriage.
It was honestly through this lack that it became so clear to me how important it is to have people consistently in your corner and even “in your business” when it comes to marriage. But even with that understanding it was and often times is still difficult for me to open up to people in the church since that hurt remains with me. I am making strides to increase my vulnerability in that area and am grateful that I can see my reasons why/triggers so clearly now. Although a process, this has been an important step in my healing and growth. But I still have a ways to go…
Let me take a moment to express that my goal here was not to “bash the church”. But these instances I’ve experienced are unfortunately more on the norm and they need to be addressed. This negative impact is so great yet too often they are swept under the rug or brushed over. What happens even more often is the victim of the hurt, pain, trauma, abuse, etc leaves the church and then the people in the church talk down on them for leaving. Thoughts of mind that I often see are notions that;
“You can’t let people cause you to leave the church”
“You are at church for The Lord and to not focus on the flaws of others”
“You need to search your heart because the reason for attending church shouldn’t be about who is there”
Most of the people in church came there because of a person/people so it makes perfect sense that the actions of others would affect one’s desire or inclination to stay. We have to start calling things out for what they are and address them so that all parties involved can heal and/or grow. We have to stop being too proud to apologize/seek forgiveness and take appropriate steps to rectify toxic behavior. We have to start holding each other accountable and protecting/uplifting the wounded. Change is needed and it won’t come if we refuse to talk about it. Enough has got to be just that…enough!
“God uses people not only to nurture us, but also to open our eyes to sins, selfishness, and denial in us. Love also means saying, “I hold this against you,” as Jesus did when he confronted the churches (Rev. 2:4, 14, 20). Being confronted on character issues isn’t pleasant. It hurts our self-image. It humbles us. But it doesn’t harm us. Loving confrontations protect us from our blindness and self-destructiveness.” -Henry Cloud
Let’s Talk! Can you relate? Have you experienced church hurt? How did it affect you? How did others respond to your hurt? Let me know in the comments or send me a message on the “Contact” page. You can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook using the links on this page and connect with me there! Thanks for reading!