Maybe you are struggling with infertility and it hurts to see all those inevitable pregnant bellies and new babies. Maybe you have been the subject of gossip and don't want to show your face. Maybe you are struggling in your marriage (or separation, or divorce) and can't stand to hear another lesson on eternal marriage. Maybe you feel like an outcast and don't want to sit alone again.
There are numerous reasons why it might hurt to go to church. You dread Sundays and lay in bed coming up with excuses to stay home. Sometimes you do stay at home. Other times you peel yourself out of bed, get ready, and trudge your way through church. Sometimes you have to leave during the meeting because it is just too much.
I feel you, sister. I think it is much more common than anyone really knows. We keep it a secret after all. Heaven forbid someone finds out that it hurts to go to church and judge us. Because we all know it is possible. Some self-righteous saint might very well tell us we just need to pray more or some nonsense like that.
Sometimes it hurts to go to church. I am hear to tell you that it is okay to feel that way. I hope that you don't always feel that way. I hope that you go through periods of your life where it doesn't hurt anymore. But for now, sometimes it just hurts.
I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers for this. I don't really have any solutions for you. Sometimes no matter what you do, how much you pray, and how many scriptures you read, it'll still hurt to go to church.
What I want to talk about instead is ways that you can still find your own personal worship despite all the pain at church.
Do we have to go to church? Nope. You don't have to do anything. But I'm guessing that if you are reading this then you have some sort of desire to go to church, despite the hurt. Sometimes we go to church for our children. Sometimes we go to save face. Sometimes we go because we have some sort of Sunday duty. There are a lot of reasons.
If you look at the real reasons why we should go to church, they might look a little different.
First and most important, we go to church to partake of the sacrament. If the pain is truly too much to bear, at least go for that one.
Second, we go to church to worship God. We sacrifice our time to go and sing praises and listen to gospel messages. This just so happens to involve squirming children, people kicking your pew, spilt cheerios, and judgmental looks.
Third, we go to church to be obedient. The man upstairs asks us to do a lot of things, and sometimes they are hard. God wants us at church.
It is really that simple. But that doesn't take away the hurt.
Here are some suggestions that might help you. I'd love to hear more suggestions in the comments.
Find some time before church to spend in personal worship. This might be playing the piano or singing hymns. It might mean sitting in a quiet, peaceful place in silence. It might mean reading scriptures or other inspiring literature. It might mean taking a hot bath and meditating on spiritual things. Find something that is your own personal, selfish, indulgent worship time. Connect with God before you go to church. It might help you connect with him beyond the pain when you are actually at church.
Tune it out. If you can't handle the speaker or the lesson, tune it out. Dive into the scriptures or conference talks, anything on your little gospel library app. Sure, the speaker or teacher may think you are totally rude, but who cares? Speakers and teachers are supposed to be facilitators of the Holy Ghost so they should just take it down a notch and not take it personally when someone isn't paying attention. Take some liberty and feel free to do what you need to do to feel the Holy Ghost. If you are being disruptive, that is one thing, but it's okay if you just let the spirit take you where you need to go.
Find a safe person. It doesn't matter what their position is or what their relation is to you. Just find a person that is safe at church. Someone you can sit by. Someone who won't give dirty looks when you check facebook on your phone. Someone who won't make a scene if you burst into tears. Someone who will be discreet if you have to leave the room. I promise you that there is someone safe in your ward. If you need help, pray your guts out to find out who it is. There's something about having a safe person there that is liberating. It frees you up to find your worship beyond the hurt.
Focus on the sacrament. If it hurts to be at church, then there is something you need. It's the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Sing your heart out during the sacrament hymn. Blur your vision so you can imagine Jesus Christ in place of the young men passing you the trays of bread and water. Give the kids some candy right before hand if it will give you some momentary peace. Cling to those few sacred minutes and try and find God beyond the pain. Utilize the power of the sacrament to restore your soul and give you strength to make it through.
Yes, sometimes it hurts to go to church. There is certainly nothing I can do to change that. What I do know is that God wants to reach you beyond your pain. He recognizes the sacrifices you make to worship Him, and He will bless you.
Hang in there sister.
What are your secrets for surviving church when it hurts?