To the one sitting alone in church,
I’ve been you.
In fact, there was a time, when I sat by myself week after week and month after month for quite some time. And it was hard some days.
I grew up going to church. That’s what we did on Sundays, and we always went together as a family. I was well into my twenties when I attended church alone for the first time. Alone and brokenhearted.
It took a lot of courage for me to show up that first Sunday. I remember feeling conspicuous in that large, brightly lit Sanctuary that Fall morning. I felt a bit out of place as I looked around at children sitting with their parents, youth sitting with their friends, young married couples sitting together his arm behind her back, families corralling young children and whispering “shhh” as they squirmed and talked aloud, and older couples sitting together a picture of commitment and strength.
And then there was me.
Of course, looking back, I realize I was certainly not the only one sitting alone. There were others, probably many of them, but it was harder to see back then, my eyes veiled by hurt and brokenness.
Early on, it was hard continuing to show up week after week, but over time, rather than conspicuous, I began to feel more comfortable. Eventually, that church began to feel like home and those people like family. Though at times it was still lonely.
As a young woman, it was a surprising realization to me back then, that a church full of friendly faces, can indeed feel very lonely. It was a surprising realization, and a hard lesson to learn, but one I’m glad I now know.
Because church can be hard, can’t it friends?
It can be hard when we’re sitting alone. And quite honestly, it can be hard when we’re not alone, but when the image others see of us sitting together as a family on that pew is so far from the truth of our reality once we’re home. Whether our marriage is crumbling behind our smiles, or we’re struggling with issues related to our children, or our nicely pressed church clothes cover depression, anxiety, or addiction, church can be hard.
But though it can be hard, I hope you hear this coming from one who knows. It is still SO worth it, friends.
Because while we may feel alone, the truth is we never are.
Scripture teaches us that where two or three are gathered in God’s name He is there in their midst.
Scripture teaches us that, “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Friends, God sees your heart and knows your hurts. He knows it’s easier to hide alone at home, than to walk into those doors alone or hurting. He knows it’s easier to step back in fear rather than to step forward in faith. But I believe God honors our efforts. I believe He honors our showing up. And I believe when we call on His name, He meets us right where we are, even there in the middle of church.
So I hope today you’ll give it another chance. And then another and another until God’s house begins to feel like a respite in the midst of chaos, like a sanctuary to the brokenness of this world.
Because God is with you, friend. He is always near the lonely. He is always near the brokenhearted.
(Scripture references: Psalm 34:18 and Matthew 18:20)