Last week on the blog, I started a series for special needs families on knowing when it’s time to leave your church.
This isn’t an easy series for me to write, and it’s been in the works for over a year.
Because I don’t take church or church membership lightly. I am a girl who LOVES church, and the last thing I want to do is to give anyone an excuse for giving up on church altogether.
But I do want to make you aware that it may be time to move to a different place of worship. Particularly if you are experiencing any of the red flags I’ve been discussing.
To read about reasons #1, #2, and #3, just scroll to the bottom of this post and click on the links.
But today we’ll be talking about reason #4.
How to Know When It’s Time to Leave Your Church
Reason #4: Your emotional response to being there is affecting you physically and/or spiritually.
During the ordeal at our previous church, I began experiencing acute anxiety. Things escalated quickly, to the point that I was too traumatized to even walk through the children’s wing at church.
I found myself obsessed with trying to appear put-together and happy, so that people wouldn’t think of us as a “problem.” I worked hard at being a good Christian, because I thought the feelings I was having were my fault.
For years I had sung in the choir and praise team, but gradually my voice stopped working, due to my intense anxiety. Eventually I had to step down from singing altogether.
I sat in the pews for the next year and tried to focus on breathing.
I started having panic attacks on Sunday mornings when we would pull into the parking lot. Then, as if that weren’t enough, the panic attacks moved up to Saturday night. I would be so anxious and upset before bed, knowing what was coming the next morning, that I regularly had to take a Xanax just so I could calm down and go to sleep.
Admitting that I was a mess, I tried different doctors, acupuncture and massage, vitamins and supplements, anti-anxiety meds, exercise, you name it.
Nothing was helping.
One day as I was driving home in my car I realized I was holding my breath. I told myself to breathe, but I couldn’t. When I was finally able to inhale, it was a short shallow gasp. I tried again, but I couldn’t breathe deeply no matter how hard I tried.
Things were not okay. I was miserable and I passed it on to my family.
Spiritually, I was getting nothing out of church because I was in complete panic mode every time I was there. I was scared to death of what might happen, how people thought of me, who would say what.
Someone had told me that my face was too rigid and that she was “concerned” about me. And so I worked hard to lift my eyebrows and smile all the time so people wouldn’t think ill of me. I turned everything inward and kept my comments and opinions to myself. I tried to be the demure, perfect Christian wife, always happy and smiling and agreeable.
But it was killing me on the inside.
Dear readers, church should not be like this.
- It should be a place where you feel alive, like a vital part of the body of Christ.
- It should be a safe place, a refuge, a haven where you can be yourself and be accepted as you are.
- It should be a place where you can be comforted and abandon yourself to worship.
If instead, you find that church is the complete opposite of these things, then you’ve got a problem.
The subconscious mind is powerful. It processes perceived danger and threats the same as it processes actual danger.
So for me, even though I was not in actual physical danger from going to my previous church, my body did not know the difference.
One of my physicians told me it was as if I was running from a bear. My adrenaline had kicked into overdrive, my body tensed to fight or flee. Which would be great if I was actually running for my life.
Instead, I was just trying to go to church like I had always done.
And it was pushing my body into overdrive.
My body simply couldn’t continue. Nor could my spirit.
Tomorrow I’ll be back to finish this series with the fifth and final reason why it might be time to consider leaving your church. It’s the most important one, so make sure you come back!
And as always, if you know someone who might benefit from reading this series, would you consider sharing with a friend?
Read the rest of the series here: