Holding on to God when church doesn’t feel good anymore.
A resource page for those who find it hard to reconcile their faith with experiences of church life.
Any of us who have been Christians for a while have had our share of crises. Usually there is somebody in church who understands our pain and can help us find a way through. But what if the problem is church or more specifically somebody in church, not only that but your local leader. Where do you go for help and advice at these times?
If you disagree with your leaders it can be a very difficult place to be. You may feel conflicted inside because you want to respect them but you don’t agree with what is being said or done. We are talking about disputable matters.
Sometimes our disagreement is over something which is not clearly described in the Bible and we find ourselves differing in our opinion with leadership. For example it may be something to do with the way church is structured or meetings are run or membership expectations – something for which there is no clear biblical directive. Situations like this, where you have tried to resolve a conflict (and that’s always the first thing we should try and do), can be extremely discouraging and lead us down a path where we lose our faith in the God of the Bible all together.
If you have expressed your opinion you may find yourself being accused of being critical … if you seek advice from trusted friends in church you may then find yourself being accused of being divisive.
You are not alone. No church is perfect. But It’s an awful situation in which to find yourself. It can be confusing, lonely, stressful, and trigger severe anxiety and depression. It can be like a bereavement where you feel a terrible loss and are grieving. It can negatively affect your closest relationships. Some people feel extremely angry and a whole host of other emotions that you don’t quite know what to do with! Others may feel misunderstood, bullied or manipulated by people they once admired and respected.
This has been written in an attempt to help those of us who find ourselves in this kind of situation to see God through the confusion and hold his hand on the journey to a better place.
The following are some tried and tested resources that have been found useful by Christians at this difficult time.
This is designed a live resource… You may be reading this and have been through such a time and have recommendations you can make.
Malcolm & Penny
- “Soul Survivor”, Philip Yancey. A reader commented, “What I like about Yancey’s book ‘Soul Survivor’ is that he describes his own experience of finding himself in a negative place in a church he felt hugely loyal to. He shares his journey but also describes how other people including a number of other authors helped him to make sense of things and grow in his faith. This in turn led me to discover helpful advice from other authors such as Henri Nouwen, who wrote The Wounded Healer. This classic book helped me understand more about how processing my own pain could help others.”
- “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”, by Peter Scazzero. A book which reveals our spiritual immaturity and enables growth towards emotional and spiritual maturity. When church hurts, it can be a good time to let God use his wisdom to strengthen us. Challenges reveal who we really are. As Peter writes in his book, “The vast majority of us go to our graves without knowing who we are. We unconsciously live someone else’s life, or at least someone else’s expectations for us. This does violence to ourselves, our relationship with God, and ultimately to others.”
- The runaway monk: Why I fled my monastery: A reader commented, “I found this a really moving account because the person who is having a crisis of his faith has to unpack everything he believes in and try and start over again. It speaks to me of the difficulties we can have when everything we thought highly of no longer feels safe. The other thing that I see in this is God looking after this person despite his struggles.”