The church is a good place for us to grow and worship together; but can the church be a hindrance to our spiritual lives? Yes, but let me first explain. The church has been a huge part of my life since I was born. I grew up in the church and have volunteered in the church for many years. My church family has been a part of my life through some very difficult times. They have been there to pray for me, support my family, and encourage us.
However, living a life full of trials and tribulations has shown me that the church can be a hindrance in one specific way. Those who are going through a difficult time rely solely on the church and not on God. What do I mean by this? When I was in high school, I went through my parent’s divorce. It was a nasty and hard divorce that left me and my family broken and bruised. I turned to the church first instead of turning to God.
See, when we go through a difficult time, God wants us to rely on Him and to turn to Him before anything else or anyone else. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” NIV It is not that a church or the people in the church are bad or can’t help you but the church is not greater than God. No one is greater than God. So why, when we are in a tough situation, do we immediately call upon the church instead of God?
I think, often times, we turn to the church first before asking God for help due to of a couple of reasons. One, we can talk to someone face-to-face and hear their answer immediately. Sometimes God takes His time because there is another lesson He wants us to learn. It isn’t that He doesn’t want to answer or cannot answer us directly. If God decided to speak to me right here and right now about the troubles I’ve faced, He would do it. He did it with Moses in the burning bush and He can do it with all of us. The reason He doesn’t do that is because it would defeat the purpose of spending time with Him and would take away from the growth of our relationship with Him. In times of pain and sorrow or times of difficulty we should turn to God’s word and turn to prayer. God wants to hear from us just as much as we want to hear from Him.
Second, sometimes we can hide the bad stuff about ourselves and our situation to get a response that we want rather than the response God will give us. Have you ever heard the term, “it takes two to tango”? Well often times in a difficult situation, there are two sides to a story. Take my parent’s divorce for example. There were things said and done on both parts that ruined their marriage. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t due to one simple mistake or one word said. If I were one of my parents going through the divorce I wouldn’t want the people in the church to know all of the bad things I’ve done. I would want to tell them everything that my spouse has done to me in order to get the response and sympathy I am looking for. With God, we cannot hide the things we have done. He knows every flaw and every imperfection.
Third, we turn to the church first instead of God because we want something from the church and we want it immediately. If we are struggling financially or we need something physical that maybe the church can provide we ask them before we ask God. On this one, I am not saying that taking help from the church is a bad thing. The church has helped many people through some tough times. However, it is where our hearts lie on this one that truly matters. God is the one who provides all things for us and when we ask Him He will provide. If you are tight on money and don’t know how you will be able to provide food for your family, ask God to help you and then go to your church. They may have a food bank you can get food from. When you don’t have a job and you’ve been searching for months but haven’t had any offers, ask God and then see if there is someone in the church who knows of a job available that would fit. My point is, when you need something in your life (physical need or not) turn to God and ask Him what to do. Rely on God before you rely on the church. Relying on God to provide those physical needs is another way to build your relationship with Him. Psalm 91:2 says, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” NIV
Like I’ve said many times now, it is not a bad thing to be a part of a church or ask a church for help but when we turn to the church before we turn to God, we are being hindered in our spiritual life. Remember that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” NIV