I can remember when I left a doctor’s appointment with my daughter, who had recently been diagnosed with alopecia. I waited until I had checked her in at school before allowing my emotions to pour out. Right in the parking lot, I wept.
When I got home, I curled up in a ball on my bed and had a pity party before the Lord. When my words were spent, God met me with two instructions. First, he wanted me to trust him with my children. I agreed. Next, God nudged me to invite some encouraging girlfriends over for lunch to share my struggles and pray.
I did just that, and the time I spent with them was like water to my parched soul. It gave me courage and strength to get through the next few days. They reminded me of God’s truth, pointed out ways they saw God working in my daughter’s life, and kept me from the overwhelming sense of aloneness that threatened to distort my vision.
God designed us for relationships
When we face struggles—whether in health, relationships, finances, or anything else—our pain can mar our perception. We need one another. God designed us for relationships, with him and with others. We can have a wonderful friendship with God by putting our faith in Christ.
When we face struggles — whether in health, relationships, finances, or anything else—our pain can mar our perception.
Human companions are vital, too. My best friend is my husband, Sean. We have celebrated many joys and endured many difficulties together. As a result, we always have each other to lean on, and our relationship has grown deeper, more trusting, and more life-giving. I love that marriage is a picture of Christ and his church.
God does not want us to live our Christian life in isolation. God himself dwells in community within the Trinity. God designed family and church as places we can experience belonging and relationships.
I know modeling church commitment to our children can be tough if church experiences have wounded us. I’ve experienced some of most difficult hurts—and my greatest joys—through Christian relationships. I’ve met many parents who don’t want to go to church or involve their children with one because of past pain.
To be a follower of Christ means living real, messy life alongside other believers. Through conflict we learn to forgive. With differences we begin to accept each other. At church we find a place to study God’s Word, serve, worship, and love alongside fellow sinners.
Being part of a church family is not just about enjoying a place that has all the qualities on our checklist, makes us feel good inside, and gives us a place to go for special occasions and holidays. It’s about commitment to a group of people whether we feel like being around them or not. This means working through conflicts, dealing with people who are different from us, and forgiving when others offend us. It also entails prioritizing church gatherings so we build real relationships to encourage and serve others.
When our daughter Abby first began to lose her hair, our church family showered us with help, prayer, and encouragement. They seemed to anticipate our needs even before we realized them. It was clear many had endured their own trials and so knew just how to help and what to say (or not to say). Through hats, notes of encouragement, and prayers, God’s love was fleshed out through the body of Christ—just as he designed. Those expressions were God’s grace and source of strength to us in moments of despair. We saw Jesus in our church family.
As we model for our children a commitment to community in the good and bad times, we’ll find blessings chasing us. Remember, little ears are often listening when conversations regarding church take place. You may think they aren’t hearing and internalizing in the back of the car or at the dinner table, but they are. And your attitude toward church will affect theirs.
Are you resisting wholehearted commitment to your church? Do you hear people talk about what they love about their church and consider leaving yours for what sounds like greener grass? We need to ask ourselves how much we value our relationships within the body. Is our restlessness truly the Holy Spirit leading us to leave, or could one of the following issues be luring us away?
- We’re going through a spiritually dry time. Everyone has them. This is usually not the time to make such a life-altering decision as switching churches. If you can, get past the valley and then evaluate your concerns.
- We have hurt feelings. Someone within the body has wounded us. Instead of running away from conflict, work toward restoration with the one who offended you.
- We feel overworked and underappreciated. Seek God’s approval, not people’s, and establish clear boundaries that protect your family time and personal time. Take a break from a heavy ministry load.
- Another person has pointed out some church weaknesses we never noticed. Instead of jumping to conclusions or developing a critical spirit, investigate the issue, ask leaders for wisdom and their perspectives, and help develop solutions.
- Leadership changes occur within the church. Remember, the church is a living, growing organism. A new person may not always do things the same way as the leader before. Make sure your irritations aren’t personality conflicts. Change comes as the church seeks to remain relevant in a changing culture. Worship and follow Jesus, and find the good in every leader.
- We feel the church isn’t meeting our needs. It isn’t supposed to! Jesus is. Have you stopped serving? Have you adopted a Christlike attitude that says, “How can I help the church?” instead of “How can the church serve me?”
If you have negative attitudes, irritations, or conflict in your church right now, consider one of these options:
- Meet with a leader to talk more about that is bothering you.
- Volunteer to help in the ministry area where you are dissatisfied in order to be an encourager and solution-oriented aid in making things better.
- Choose not to gossip with others, but go straight to the source with questions or constructive criticism.
When considering your church, liken it to your marriage
Stay committed through the mountaintops and valleys. Satan likes us to focus on all the minor differences that lead to discord. The church exists for God’s glory, not for personal comfort. Satan wants us to seek self-satisfaction rather than service.
In front of our watching children, we must choose to view the church as God does. May our hearts align with his as we serve and grow through a local body of believers. Don’t postpone this important facet of our discipleship.
Excerpted with permission from Total Family Makeover: 8 Practical Steps to Making Disciples at Home by Melissa Spoelstra (Abingdon Press).
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know him more intimately through serious Bible study. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology and enjoys teaching God’s Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author of the First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree; Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness; and Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World Bible studies and the Mom’s Choice Award-winning Total Family Makeover: 8 Steps to Making Disciples at Home. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids. Find her online at MelissaSpoelstra.com.