Going to Church can be Hard for Me

Sundays are hard.

The alarm goes off, and I snooze for far too long.

I don’t want to get up.

Not because I’m tired (I am). Not because I love sleep (I really don’t.) Not because my bed is warm and cozy (it is.)

I don’t want to get up because I don’t want to go to church.

There.

I said it.

Shame leaks out and guilt wells up.

This Jesus-girl just shared one of the dark slivers of her heart.

Because don’t all Jesus-people want to go to church on Sunday? Isn’t it supposed to be the best part of our week? The culmination of six days of struggle and then a day to rest in God’s love and grace?

Yet.

I don’t want to go.

I love my church, but more often than not, I don’t want to be there.

Stay with me.

This isn’t a piece telling you not to go to church. Or not to spend Sundays worshiping with fellow believers. It’s not a piece written to give a reason to stay away from the community of fellow faith-followers.

It’s none of those thoughts because I believe with my whole heart in the importance of a faith community – the importance of church. It’s vital in my Christian walk.

Instead, I’m writing what I’m scared to write because I want you to know what depression and anxiety can do. I’m writing because if you struggle like me, I want you to know I. see. you.

Because even though I am walking-well with clinical depression and anxiety, even though I am in a healthy place and have an amazing net of support, even though most days I can rise above…

It’s still a struggle.

A struggle I face every. single. Sunday when my anxiety and depression rear up with angry vengeance.

And yes. I know it’s a spiritual battle because if there’s a day of the week the evil one wants to keep me home? It’s the Sabbath. The Holy day.

I know this.

But my battle is also mental and physical. It’s more than just “praying my way through.”

You see—church isn’t the struggle. I adore my faith community. Instead, it’s my disease.

There’s a deep desire to stay home, alone, and disconnect from everyone. It’s an unexplainable urge to withdraw inside myself and stay there.

I can’t make sense of it for you. I’m sure it’s difficult for you to understand if you’ve never experienced the irrational thoughts that come with anxiety and depression. Especially since it’s so hard to understand myself.

The desire to stay home is more than just a choice to get up and go. More than muscling through. It’s so easy for others to think and wonder and question why? If you loved Jesus more, just prayed more, had more faith…you wouldn’t struggle.

But those thoughts only bring me guilt and shame. On the surface it may seem I’m just not trying hard enough…

Especially since my church family of Jesus-followers is pretty spectacular. The community I belong to loves unconditionally and demonstrates deep compassion. It’s not a place of judgment. I feel safe and accepted.

Yet every Sunday, when it would make sense for me to want to be with my tribe, I want nothing more than to withdraw.

And that’s the part of anxiety and depression I’ll never understand.

The disease locks us away from the parts of life that bring joy. It makes me wish, like a lunatic, that I had a migraine every Sunday so Prince Charming could explain away my frequent absences.

Because telling friends I have chronic migraines (which I actually do) is far less stigmatized than walking in and telling everyone I couldn’t face the world last week.

Hi. My name’s Heather. I belong to this tribe but I’ll be in and out. Not really committed because depression strangles me on Sunday mornings.

It’s not how I want to start any conversation. Because right or wrong, it makes me feel weak. I assume the thoughts of others. Careful with that one. She breaks. I wonder if the world would begin treating me as if I was fragile.

Because really? I’m not.

I’ve waited years to write this post because if I show up next Sunday morning, the last thing I want are knowing eyes filled with pity, with people thinking she must be having a good day.

I don’t want people to treat me differently or to feel sorry for my struggles. In the grand scheme of pain in this world, depression and anxiety don’t seem like heavy weights to bear.

But they are my weights.

So on Sundays I fight. I fight weekly battles in my war against mental illness. They are battles I often win.

Because I desperately want to want to worship with my community of believers. They’re important to me. They’re vital to my faith journey.

I fight because I know it’s right.

There are some Sundays I lose. Honestly, there are times I lose many days during the week–not just Sunday. But I don’t stop fighting because this is a battle worth winning.

Because when we’re in the dark, we must always choose to seek His light. The light of my Jesus is worth clawing my way out of the dark. It’s worth grabbing hold of the tiniest flicker of hope and refusing to let go.

So sisters in the fight? I see you.

I see you show up with your smile that’s real, even if it doesn’t quite reach your eyes. I see you white-knuckling hope and refusing to let go.

I see you.

And I see you when you don’t show up. I see the grace you need to extinguish the flames shame brings from the guilt you feel. I know it. I get it.

You are not alone.

I can’t promise I’ll be in the worship service next week.

But I promise I’ll fight to get there.

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5 Responses to Going to Church can be Hard for Me

  1. Jim says:

    Ms. Heather, you just gave me something to add my my prayers on those early Sunday mornings before the sun comes up, when I steal away for some “God time.” I’ll be praying for strength for my sweet friend Ms. Heather to make it to church today. God’s blessings ma’am.

  2. Rebecca Randall says:

    I understand because I have this struggle. I too fight to stay connected to those I love. Thanks for sharing with us, you are an encouragement to me and no doubt to many others.

  3. Gloria P Jones says:

    Your words of honesty and humbleness must reach countless others who feel the same but deny it. There’s Victory in Jesus as the song goes. You are a Christian and Jesus is in you. He blessed your spirit and outpouring of your feelings in ways you’re not even aware. I do enjoy reading your Petals of Joy, Heather.

  4. Dedrasewell@bellsouth.net says:

    You are an AMAZING young lady, Wife, Mom, Daughter, Granddaughter, Cousin, Friend to many.
    Highly intelligent, great Mom, gifted writer and love your post. I relate to your readings because, we have a son that early on (never) liked Birthday parties. Would often find him in his room while the party was going on, upset. Very anxious about school in the-beginning of every year. He’s very smart with a creative mind. Extremely gifted in any sports (basketball) being his fave however, would be anxious and be sick before every game, was a starter point-guard. Gifted in Art and is an old soul. He now sees a Christian therapist, seems to be helping. But, I’m thankful you shared, sometimes he feels he’s the only one that struggles. I will casually share with him. He’s extremely quiet about this. Thank you, Love ya! ♥️

    Philippians 4:13 I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me:

  5. Windy Hall says:

    I wonder how many have fought this battle of depression and anxiety sometime in their lifetime. I am also a fighter, a warrior, against the battles of depression and anxiety. For roughly twenty years, I have learned how to battle. Most days are victorious with the constant help from God’s love and the things I’ve learned from the past. Some times, the familiar weight of sadness creeps back in. But God’s love is real and steady. He uses people around us to lift us back up again, teach us and walk with us. The All Powerful God is trustworthy. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through my journey with depression is surrender. Giving up my longing to know why I’ve had to carry this burden, walk through this valley, given this thorn was not easy. Not by a long shot. In fact it took a decade or more to reach. But with sweet surrender came peace and calm. How many of you have felt the dark of depression , felt alone, maybe asked why one too many times. Just as Heather said, you are not the only one. Press on. Seek help from other Christians, even Christian counselors, if needed. There is hope and a future for you.

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