May 8, 2023
I Was Glad I Went to Church
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“Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.’ She said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” 1 Samuel 1:17-18 (NIV)
The Saturday before Mother’s Day, I started preparing my husband in advance … “I don’t want to go to church tomorrow.” Tearful, I was in a complete funk.
Graciously, he listened and kindly talked me through what I was feeling. “Where is this coming from?” he asked. I didn’t have a good answer for him.
The fact that my husband and I don’t have children has never consumed me. However, over the past few years, Mother’s Day has become increasingly difficult. It started when my young nephews gave me a Mother’s Day card at church. I immediately started crying in the lobby. Ever since then, I’ve become more aware of how sensitive I am about this holiday.
By skipping church, I wanted to avoid the tears as much as possible. At least I didn’t want other people seeing me ugly cry. I just wanted to be by myself.
After I finished talking to my husband, I decided to go for a walk. I hit “shuffle” on my music app and immediately heard the words of a worship song:
“My weapons are praise and thanksgiving. This is how I fight my battles …”
I felt God stirring my heart with these words. Was I fighting my battle, or was I retreating in isolation? While solitude can be healing sometimes, in my case I realized I wanted to run from the house of God so I could hide, not heal. Really, church was exactly where I needed to be … surrounded by God's people in a saturated environment of God's presence.
In 1 Samuel 1, there is a story of a barren woman named Hannah. Her situation was especially difficult because of a sister-wives competition that was going on. “This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat” (1 Samuel 1:7, NIV).
Year after year … drama and heartache. Going to the temple was a reminder of what she didn’t have.
Hannah didn’t let that stop her. She went to the house of God and took her heartache to the One who could do something about it.
She poured out her soul to the Lord and told Eli, the priest: “‘… I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’ Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.’ She said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (1 Samuel 1:16-18, NIV).
In that moment, nothing about her situation had changed, but something in Hannah did.
I don’t know what is going on in your world that may cause you to say, “I don’t want to go to church,” like I did. Maybe it’s a holiday that is a painful reminder of what you don’t have … or maybe there are people at church who have hurt you … or maybe it's just the opposite — you don’t feel like anyone knows you at all.
I want to encourage you to go to the house of the Lord. Position yourself to receive from your heavenly Father and from the saints around you. Both can be a healing balm to our souls if we are open to them.
I’ll tell you … I am glad I went to church that day. I worshipped and prayed. I heard a wonderful teaching from a pastor who was grieving personal loss. I enjoyed fellowship with friends and family afterward. We celebrated with our moms. It was a great day.
My situation hadn’t changed, but something changed in me. Does this mean I will never struggle again with these feelings? No. But I pray I remember what I learned that weekend: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1, NLT).
Dear heavenly Father, help me to always turn to You first when times are tough. I am grateful for the peace and comfort You provide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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