When You Don’t Want to Go to Church

In the middle of a deep and awful anger, finding that worship can soften a hard heart.

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Posted in , Jun 12, 2018

Woman in church

I knew church would be a challenge on Sunday because I was angry. I was so angry that when it came time for the confession of sins I thought, My anger might be bigger than my faith right now.  

But I said mea culpa anyway because sometimes the words soften my heart a bit. It's not the same as having my words reflect true contrition, but I figure God wants me to muster whatever I can in the way of repentance. It's better to reluctantly confess and scowl than just sit there scowling.

When you are awesomely angry, anger is all encompassing. Tempting as it is to avoid church then, I find it important to put my feet on autopilot and take me where my heart doesn't want to go. Once I'm in the building it's a lot harder to rationalize my venomous mood and to pretend it's okay with God. Sure, He's okay with strong emotion and justified anger. But that festering, petulant, willful, snippy-snarky stuff? Yeah, not so much. 

"If we can get Guideposts inspirational stories into the hands of people who may not have a devotional life, they can share the true-life stories of how God works in the world. The joy of Guideposts is their free, donated magazines to my hospital.         --Rob C.,  Director of Pastoral Care.

So I sat in the pew wishing I hadn't come, yearning to stomp out. I wasn't in the mood for hymns and praise. But I sat there anyway for a bad reason (it would be embarrassing to skulk out) and a good one (I know any desire to leave is 150% a desire of the flesh). 

What's more, God knew exactly what was going on in my heart. So even though I didn't want to admit that my anger was almost entirely about my heart (though it was triggered by someone else's behavior), I kind of had to face facts. Which stunk. But I'm pretty sure it stunk with an odor pleasing to the Lord.

I made it through the service, unmoved by the music or the sermon, preoccupied with the letting-go of my snarliness. You could say—if you look at worship as a matter of receiving something from God—that I got nothing out of my hour at church. Then again, if you look at worship as giving your heart to God, it was a great day. I didn't feel full of lovey-dovey devotion, but I walked out of there without the hard heart I came in with. As Sundays go, that's pretty good.

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