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A few Sundays ago I simply did not feel like going to church. Three months have passed since I had a car accident and I still felt governed by my back pain which was constant, annoying and gnawing at my soul. I felt a little depressed and frustrated that I wasn’t feeling better yet. I didn’t feel like seeing happy faces full of joy and healthy people embracing each other. Thus I felt resentful in my agony and unwilling to be around my fellow church members. I anticipated people responding to my gloomy attitude with “I’m so sorry you are not better yet. Hope you feel better soon.” I foresaw myself in the church bathroom crying in defeat.
I announced my decision to my family, to which my husband agreed by saying that we should just stay home from church this one time. However I was not prepared for what followed. Our eleven year old son asserted, “You can stay home, but I am going to church even if I have to walk or if someone else comes and picks me up. God does not like it when we skip church!” Well…Matthew 21:16 does say, “Haven’t you read this scripture? You have trained children and babies to offer perfect praise.”
So, with nothing left to say, and breakfast half finished, my husband rushed our two kids in the car and made it to church by ten o’clock service. Not me. Unbending in my mulish decision, I stayed home by myself, pulled the bed covers over my head and wallowed in my pain.
When my family returned from church, my husband had a look of disbelief on his face: “Honey, guess what the service was about? It was about living with PAIN!”
Whatever, I thought. God wouldn’t talk about the exact thing I needed most to hear on the day I choose to skip church. But He did. With an ironic smile tugging at my lips, I shook my head in disbelief and then bowed it in conviction that God was teaching me a valuable lesson. First, that He loves me so much that He would immediately impress His presence in my life thus 1Peter 5:7 “God cares about what happens to you”, and secondly that is not a good idea to not go to church just because I don’t feel like it.
We must know from Luke 4:16 that Jesus went to church on a regular basis: “When He came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the scriptures.”
I know of many people who say they don’t need to go to church to be with God, and that is true in part. We can be with God and worship Him anywhere, while driving, cooking, working, washing clothes, resting, crying, laughing, etc. He is accessible and present all the time, but Going to church is God’s command to us for many reasons. In Hebrews 10:25 it tells us to live “…not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but to encourage each other…” By not going to church we deprive ourselves of much needed fellowship with others, of serving one another, of precious prayers for our lives, of protection, of compassionate hugs, of comforting encouragement, of others identifying with our pain, of growing in faith and wisdom, of blessing of outreach in house visits and prepared meals, of helping hands, and of unity as human beings.
I stayed home out of pitiful emotional tantrum, frustrated with the season God allowed me to experience, surely for the purpose of teaching me many lessons. Romans 12:5 says, “When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad share their sorrow.” Where else would I experience this verse, with certainty, other than at church…
At home I was alone, laden by anxiety, fear and depression. These happy fellow church members I was dreading to face, would have prayed for my healing, as in James 5:16, “So…pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Also, I missed out on what my pastor spoke about pain. God clearly intended to speak to me through this message, but I wasn’t there to hear it. By choosing to skip church, I also faltered in growing my faith. Colossians 3:16 keenly instructs us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting on another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and with grace in your hearts to God.”
There is something very uplifting, peaceful and salving in worshiping God through music. It settles my worries and gives me comfort to see people around me do the same. When we go to church, we don’t necessarily look forward to a specific building, the adorned walls or treats waiting after the service (although that sweetness breeds fellowship). We mostly look forward to the body of believers, receiving one another with compassion, devotion, prayers, unity and outreach. 1Corinthians 12:12 says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one body. So it is with the body of Christ.”
The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means “a group of people called out for a purpose” (Lloyd Gardner, The Church the Bride of Christ). The church itself is all of us believers in Jesus , called out for the purpose of being His hands and feet, to share salvation, and His precious word, to become more like Christ in our daily lives and to not limit our holy given purpose only to a designated building. The Sunday setting is there for us to commune together palpably, spiritually, and to listen and learn from our appointed wise pastors. Psalm 122:1 clearly states, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” God speaks to us through church sermons so it’s imperative that we attend church. Few Sundays ago God intended to speak to me about pain through my pastor’s message but I wasn’t there.
Next time I don’t feel like going to church I will have to remind myself of lessons learned, and fight through my despondency and discouragement, and trust that God in his unlimited and perfect love will bestow on me soothing restoration.
By Roxana Phillip-Hackett
Roxana is a wife of one, mother of two, who loves to share her faith with sincerity and honesty from her home in Hendersonville Tennessee.