Is There a Place for Suffering in the Church?
Liz Kanoy What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
- 2016 Apr 18
There are several reasons Christians may not want to go to church, and many involve suffering. There is sickness, divorce, depression, loss of a loved one, anxiety, and so on. Gaye Clark, a nurse and part-time writer, has written an article for The Gospel Coalition titled When You Don’t Want to Go to Church. She knows what it’s like to feel isolated by suffering and to feel surrounded by despair and grief. Clark describes it this way,
“Two years after my husband’s passing, the merciless cascade of grief tempted me to skip church. One Sunday I almost didn’t go because I couldn’t stop crying. Then I remembered it was communion Sunday, something my pastor called a means of grace.”
She was running late and the church was already full, so she hurried up to the balcony section where she recognized familiar faces:
“I know most faces up here. A divorced man who would slip in late and leave early. Another who battled depression. An elderly couple in failing health. Here we all sat—the invisible church, broken beyond any human’s ability to fix us.”
Maybe you have seen familiar faces, or maybe you are one of these faces. But there’s something that corporate worship does, that sitting alone at home can’t do. Clark writes,
“Corporate worship can remind us that Christ died for those pains—which are never beyond his reach.
He alone understands my pain. When my pain makes others scatter, he draws near.
Some say you can worship God at home, but how likely are you to be filled with more of Christ when you’re empty and alone?”
As Clark explains, sin and suffering can make us want to hide from others and God. Why do we think we have to have it all together to come before God or to go to church? She continues,
“What would the church look like if we lost our self-focus and fully gazed on Christ? The bread, his body, the cup, his blood, shared by faith in the presence of other wounded believers is a portrait of redemption, which makes everything sad come untrue. As Christ’s suffering unites us to him, it also binds us to one another. True healing, whatever your scars, isn’t accomplished in isolation.”
Though it may be the last thing we want to do in the midst of our suffering, we are called to “come empty-handed to the church—that Jesus may remind you of your union with him, and with his body, and may fill your heart with joy,” says Clark.
To read Clark's article in its entirety please visit The Gospel Coalition.
“So often we get to thinking about what church can do for us. Whether we like the worship style, or the preacher, or whether enough people go there that we even know. And maybe even unintentionally, we focus on what we'll get out of it on any particular Sunday, or whether it's really worth going or not.
But we forget, like I had that day, that often being there is an act of worship. Just showing up sometimes may seem tough, but if we can press through, our presence there might directly encourage another hurting soul. Breathing life their way. Reminding them that God sees. And cares.”
What do you think? Is church necessary for Christians, even in the midst of despair?
Publication date: April 18, 2016