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When Going to Church is Hard

Confession: Going to church has been hard lately. I can’t remember exactly when it started. As a believer, attending church regularly is something that is important to me. I felt a number of different emotions when we would start driving to church, serving at church, or getting ready for church. I had reached a point when I wanted to give up and give in to my desire to no longer attend. 

This bothered me, so I decided to explore what was going on within me. I was trying really hard to “get to the bottom of it”. I found many people to blame and wrestled with taking responsibility for it myself. I needed to address some of my reasons for being done with church before making any big decisions. 

This is not a catch all by any means on what makes going to church hard. However, I found these three areas were within my control. 

Unrealistic expectations

I know that we live in a broken world, and as a therapist I have seen first hand some of the darkest valleys and acts of evil that all humans endure. I started having unrealistic expectations of what church was. I desired for church to be a perfect place, with perfect relationships. Anyone who has been in the church for a while knows this isn’t true. Church is full of humans who love God, but also still struggle with sin.

We cannot look to church for perfection. Unmet, unrealistic expectations cause resentment. A shift in my thoughts, a gentle reminder to myself, enabled me to accept what I already knew: the church is not perfect, but it is where I am called to worship with others, being sanctified and sharpened by other believers, even when it is hard. 

Boundary Violation 

My first boundary violation was overextending myself in the way I served at church. I had volunteered myself during a season of life with few responsibilities outside of church. When my circumstances outside of church changed, I was too afraid to let go of my responsibilities at church. Once I gave up some of my responsibilities at church I was able to enjoy the service more freely and all that church was offering. 

My second boundary violation was spending my time unwisely at home during the week. I left many responsibilities to be tended to on Sunday. Shifting my schedule to accomplish things during the week helped me to let go of the fact that church was “taking up so much time” on Sunday. I was able to enjoy my family afterward and still have time to rest before work on Monday.  

Relationship with God 

I had let my personal relationship with God go. I was relying on church to fulfill all of my spiritual needs. Abandoning my own practice of turning toward scripture and letting my prayer life go made it hard to bend my heart toward worship on Sunday. When I slowly began my journey back toward my personal relationship with God, I found it easier to prepare my heart and mind on Sunday so that I was absorbing more of the service.

As a believer, attending church is important. We can learn so much about faith and trust as we enter into worship, despite our negative feelings or desires about attendance. Obviously churches are not always safe. There are unsafe people and leaders in church congregations. Outside of something being emotionally and physically unsafe and abusive, it is important to check in with yourself. Are there things you haven’t been able to take responsibility for yet? Maybe a small shift, and some gentle reminders, can help make Sunday more enjoyable again.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with Sarah or one of our other counselors, please contact us at 832-421-8714.

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Sarah Dailey

Sarah is a Licensed Professional Counselor - Intern at Amy Wine Counseling Center. Sarah enjoys working with young clients, teenage clients, adult clients and couples.
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