It was a beautiful Sunday morning. The kind of day that beckoned me outside before the heat of summer shrouded the Sunshine State. Though I loved the freshness of springtime in Florida, my life during the previous three months had seemed more like a prison than a garden of Eden.

This particular Sunday I had decided to go to church with my sister and her husband instead of my usual place of worship. To be honest, it had been a rough week and I sought anonymity.

When the first hymn closed, the pastor greeted the congregants and asked them to turn to the folks around them and wish them a “Happy Mother’s Day.” After all, he reasoned, even if you are not a mother, everyone has a mother. The lady in front of me whipped around with a cheerful smile and the instructed greeting. Unexpectedly, she added, “Is your mother with you today?”

My eyes filled with tears and I melted into the cushioned pew just as my warm greeter was distracted by someone in front of her. Of course, she had no idea that my mother had died in my arms only 68 hours beforehand. I was grateful for her distraction. Another song signaled the close of “greeting time” and brought a measure of relief to my ambushed emotions.

How many of us, like me on that day, go to church in hopes that the pain will dissipate? Shouldn’t “church” be a safe place for a sorrow-filled soul to find relief in the company of others who also love Jesus? How seldom do we address our pain, let alone at church? How often do we stay away from church, as well as from fellow believers, because of our intense pain?

On one hand, I had gone to church to escape my weariness and discouragement and to be with Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2-3). How naïve of me to not factor in close contact with His body of believers. Although my heart was full of grief, reaching out to others for comfort seemed impossible at the moment. I had chosen to go through the motions of “I’m okay, you’re okay,” so who could even guess that I was NOT okay?

I appreciate people like my friend, Carolyn. She’s naturally upbeat and encouraging to everyone she meets. Yet, Carolyn has cancer. Her seemingly endless rounds of chemo therapy are debilitating. She asks for prayer when the doctor’s report is negative and celebration when the report is good – though it rarely is. When we ask, “How are you?” Carolyn responds candidly. Seems Carolyn is determined to reach out to the body of Christ, even during her ever-lengthening illness. Perhaps, Carolyn is a good example of being “real” when you go to church.

For sure, everyone will experience pain from time to time. James 1:2 tells us to “consider it all joy WHEN you encounter various trials” not, “IF you encounter” them. Yet, aren’t those painful moments when we need the body of Christ the most – to hold up our arms during our battles, as Aaron and Hur did for Moses? (Exodus 17:12) Perhaps, those in the pews who are not experiencing pain at the moment should look to their right and left and ask, “How are you…really?”

And if one member (of the body of Christ) suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice.
(1 Corinthians 12:26 NKJV)