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Trouble With Churches…

By December 6, 2012

I struggle with intense shame, fear, guilt and rage when going to church or Bible study (of any denomination.) I know this stems from some spiritual and other forms of abuse, but even with a long history of counseling I just can’t seem to change this. Almost all the other areas of my life are healthy (and I have been in recovery from an ED for 10+ years), but trying to be vulnerable with God causes me complete distress and almost paralysis. My whole mentality changes. I have tried to talk to people (in leadership roles) from various churches about this but they all end up turning away. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I am afraid of what will happen if my heart becomes cold to God and Christianity, and I am just as afraid (and exhausted) of trying to embrace him/it. – anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I totally empathize with your trouble with churches. You may suffer from a social anxiety. It may not just be a spiritual thing, it could be a practical thing too. For example, I can walk into some churches and get a totally negative and unfriendly vibe or a stuffy vibe or a self righteous vibe. I would definitely encourage you to keep looking.

I would steer clear of churches where you get the feeling you have to have it “all together” to attend. Find a church where people know they are messes and they are in need of a savior.  I think I could probably give you a few tips on a church if I knew your city. But you definitely need to be in a church that is attracting a lot of people your own age and have a low view of man and a high view of Christ. You will definitely feel more accepted in a church like this.

But I will tell you that it also sounds like you may have an issue with the acceptance of others. And this can go beyond just the practical part of finding a good fitting church. This matter can be psychological on the surface but spiritual below the surface. Let me explain…

Spiritually speaking, the more you believe that Christ is who he says he is, then the easier it will be for you to realize that you live before an audience of One. This means that the only opinion of you that matters is what Jesus thinks, not people. And he did not come to judge us but to save us. He laid down his life so that we could have his righteous standing before God and be counted as an heir and as a child with full rights in God’s kingdom.

Galatians 2:19 through 4:7 speaks about this and the value of our “sonship” through Christ. He came out of love to give you righteousness and acceptance with your heavenly father. If this is true, and you have your heavenly father’s approval through faith in Christ, then why should you care what others think of you? You are completely loved, accepted, and forgiven through Christ.

I encourage you to consider what you are believing about yourself, and the value you place on the opinions of others. The spiritual thing to do is to believe what the scriptures declare about you and your acceptance, approval, and standing before God based on Jesus’s sacrificing love for you. This is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. For more thoughts on this subject, I would recommend a book by Ed Welch When People are Big and God is Small.

I hope this helps.

In Christ,

Dave Muntsinger