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When Going to Church is Hard

Familiar places are, well, too familiar. His chair, cologne, and closet are often a catalyst to cherished memories we want to either avoid or embrace. Subtly and sometimes intentionally, we may decide to feel the pain, allowing the sweetness of his memory to remain, or on other days,  we feel the need to establish a completely different environment.

Strangely, after twenty years, my husband still claims ownership to the second sink in my bathroom, we even still refer to it as “daddy’s sink.”

But what about people and places outside of the home?

The menswear department offers attire he no longer needs. What do I do with his ties or loungewear? The grocery store, oh my, who would have guessed pain would strike on the snack aisle? Or the ball field where he coached your son’s games.

It is excruciating but often literally necessary to continue on.

Then there is church. Who would ever think that going to church would be difficult especially if this was your regular source of strength among your most favorite people? For some, your husband was a leader, teacher, elder or maybe even the pastor. Now what? He’s gone and replaced.

It is unsettling to learn and feel the loss that comes from his absence in those positions. Not only is he not the pastor but you aren’t the pastor’s wife. In many ways the release is good but still leaves a void. I have been there.

Perhaps your husband was faithfully by your side as weekly you attended worship and a small group together. After his passing, staying in a couple’s class is awkward no matter how hard everyone tries to make it not so.

The enemy uses other tactics to keep us from church, as well. It might be a bad past experience, fear of comparison, or the age-old reason for staying home–hypocrites are there.

And if you are a widow-mom, I know how overwhelming it can be to think of adding another outing to your plate, not to mention getting the kids out the door alone. Even though this could be the very source of strength you desperately need.

Another reason going to church can be difficult is the grief triggers—the funeral, the happy times, the pillar points of a wedding, baptism, or maybe even when you experienced salvation at the altar. Trips to the grocery store are unavoidable; however, eliminating church attendance is surprisingly desirable. Missing church one Sunday leads to another, and then another, and before long a year has passed, and you haven’t darkened the door.

Getting back into the routine is daunting without the one that you loved. Looking forward to attending church may feel happy but not worth the price you pay as you head home alone without meaningful interaction there or a lunch invitation afterwards.

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe church was not your thing. Weekends were for family and fun with no consideration of church attendance except perhaps at Christmas and Easter. But maybe now you feel the pull to consider your faith. Taking this step alone, without your husband, can almost feel like betrayal. What would he think? Why isn’t he here with you during this pivotal time in your life?

It may take several tries, but it’s worth it!

Understandably, going to church may be tender, difficult, and one of the last places you want to go right now. It may take several tries to find the church that is right for you but it’s worth it! And make sure your church of choice is biblically sound.

The temptation, especially now with the changes in the way we do church, is to avoid this most important setting, the church body itself. Everyone is watching church from home – the virtual congregation. While that is okay for a season, let me encourage you to press into the uncomfortable and find a community of faith. You will be glad that you did!

20 Helpful considerations for going to church and establishing a faith community:

  1. Church allows you to learn about God.
  2. Church is a place where our souls find restoration through worship. Joining others in corporate praise brings healing to your heart.
  3. Church provides an extended family. You were not meant to be alone. You need people.
  4. Church connects you with comforters—those who have learned to comfort as comforted.
  5. Church provides encouragement – you need support. Perhaps your next dear friend is also sitting alone. Look for others who might need a friend.
  6. Church is a place where truth is taught. It is easy to believe internal lies and get off track without accountability of the Word and others.
  7. Church provides multi-generational and cultural exposure taking you beyond your isolated day-in-day-out existence.
  8. Church provides opportunities to serve. In time, giving your loneliness away and looking beyond your own circumstances brings healing.
  9. Church is a place to ask questions and find answers.
  10. Church is encouraged in the Bible (Hebrews 10:25).
  11. Church offers opportunity for purpose. We all have been given a spiritual gift from God. He has created each one of us for a specific purpose. Fulfilling His calling brings fulfillment.
  12. Church allows you to give and receive love.
  13. Church is a place where you can receive prayer.
  14. Church links you to grief support.
  15. Church builds widow-to-widow relationships.
  16. Church needs the widow and the widow needs the church. There is beauty in this relationship.
  17. Church builds your faith.
  18. Church can be a great network of resources, guidance, counsel, and wisdom.
  19. Church affords an eternal perspective.
  20. Church gives hope!

It is worth the courage and effort to join a community of faith. You will discover there is life after death!

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