“We don’t want you coming into church this morning with a burden, sitting through a service, and then walking out with your same burden…” This is a fairly standard line that I’ve heard in my many years of church attendance. The thought behind this being, please be authentic. Please come share your burden with someone. Please let us pray for you. Please don’t just walk in sad and walk back out sad.
I totally get this. I completely get the sentiment behind the upfront request. I understand that it’s an offer to help, to be there for someone. To help someone be freed up from the “I’m fine” that might slip out of their mouth without regard to their truth. We want people to be changed by attending church. We want people to feel they can be themselves.
But just yesterday, I heard it with fresh ears, I guess you might say. I was a little sad about something, a little preoccupied with a years-long burden of mine, and I thought to myself, I’m not walking up there for prayer. Because praying with a stranger is not going to change this thing.
So I didn’t. I was one of those people who walked in with a burden, sat through a service, and walked out with the same burden an hour and twenty minutes later. I didn’t get prayed for. I didn’t talk to anyone that morning about my burden. I made some small talk. I hugged a friend or two. I marveled at the newly-pierced ears of a daughter of a close friend. I bent down and hugged the daughter of another close friend who just had a bad morning…and I told her she looked fabulous, and I wiped a tear away. And then I drove home with my kids and went on with my day.
Now, I have no doubt in my mind that prayer counselors are absolute gifts from God to those who choose to walk up. And by the way, I think that’s one of the bravest things anyone can ever do…humbly admit that you’re stuck and that you need prayer. And I applaud those who go up and get it.
But here’s what I decided for me.It’s okay that I didn’t walk up.That I just went home.It’s okay for me.Because, gratefully and thankfully, I’ve got an inner circle.They know my thing.They pray for my thing.And, on another level, my burden really wouldn’t have gone away by walking up and having a stranger pray for it.But some burdens do.
And here’s just one thing I’m learning about my burden, which, frankly, could fill a book:
I Peter 4:12-13
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
I’m actually really okay that my thing is a years-long thing because I am participating in the sufferings of Christ.And that, my friend, is the best way, the true way, to become more like Him.And that’s what I want more than anything else.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.