Before facing my own pain, I thought it was safe to hide in the pews. I won’t forget the Sunday I had enough with God. As a praise and worship leader, you want people to enjoy service. I had reached a breaking point, and all I could do was cry. Thank God for other leaders who kept singing as I didn’t have any words to express my heart issues. Eventually, I sniffled in my remaining tears and tried to keep my composure aka my” church face.” I hadn’t been this vulnerable before. I wondered if people wanted to know what was going on in my world and would ask me a series of “questions.” I just wasn’t ready for any more conversations. I barely told people I was close to what was going on in my personal world. I tried so desperately to hide my pain in the second pew as I had done weekly.
I almost got away, or so I thought. Then there was the altar call from one of our close family friends. Here it goes again. Tears falling, but I told myself “Be strong.” Then, I know I felt a “God-nudge” to go forward and request prayer. That required me to get up from my pew. At that moment I really hated the nudge, because I didn’t want to show any more emotion than I already had. If you have never witnessed an altar call it’s a time where people can come forward and share their triumphant stories or requests for prayer. It was easy for me to go forward and talk about the next “project” or good thing happening in my life. This was going to be challenging. I hadn’t faced my pain, just bottled it up.
When the opportunity came for me to speak, I could barely get my words out. I simply cried. I remember telling the congregation that I really wanted to be done with God. I didn’t want to try to be a believer anymore. I was hurting in a big way, and I wanted to quit. At that moment of brokenness, I didn’t care who questioned my leadership abilities or not. I am also human. I remember two people surrounded me and when I could barely speak they just prayed for me. That was a moment I will never forget, but I feel was my new birthday. I spoke my truth at the moment, which was that I needed help and I needed support.
Some people never make it to the altar to share the areas they are in pain.
- Some people are able to continue to mask it well. They keep hiding their pain behind ministry projects (as I had). No one ever knows that they are struggling with their value and identity.
- Others keep their pain masked behind a ministry I am a _____________ I cannot reveal that I struggle with anxiety and suicide. What will people think of me? Far too often, we hide what we are truly feeling.
- Some people mask their pain through anger and blaming everyone else for how they are feeling. They lash out and act out of their emotions, but never describe what is going on with them. It is like a forest fire, and their repressed feelings will consume everyone in its path.
What would have happened if they addressed the pain and knew it was safe to do so. I wish I were finished with expressing pain with the tears and the confession, but I was just beginning the journey.
In time, I had to learn how to develop a support system of family and friends that could help me to unpack my emotions. At first, they would check on my frequently because I struggled to verbalize that I was not ok some days. With time and practice, I learned how to start the conversations and share where I was—good, bad or indifferent.
Gradually, I sought out professional support (yes sometimes believers need therapy). I needed to get to the heart of my emotions and understand how to see things from a better perspective. This may be something that we talk about much deeper in the future.
Why am I sharing this with each of you? Too often we enjoy the worship team and we do all of the “churchy” things. When others ask us if we are okay, we brush it off by saying “This too shall pass.” We have forgotten what healthy vulnerability looks like.
Isaiah 53:4-5 reminds us that Jesus cares about our pain:
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
We tend to forget that every emotion we have ever confronted, Jesus knows intimately. Jesus gets our pain. I am sure the shame He experienced was unbearable at times. Why would anyone choose to suffer? The answer is that He suffered pain so that we could be whole and healed. He wants us to experience the freedom that comes from healing.
We also must understand that healing is a process and it will take time. We cannot avoid the conversations that we must have internally to start the recovery process.
Whether it is confronting your pain for the first time or continuing the journey, keep going. We can’t afford to sing at the top of our lungs, dance exuberantly as if nothing is wrong and avoid the matters of our heart. As we learn how to address the pain we mask in the pews, we will be effective in helping others who are lost, hurting or broken to heal as well. I am no longer ashamed to share that I was in pain and I pray others will find their voice to speak up when they are not okay too.
Questions to Consider this Week:
- What do you need to do to address your pain?
- What support systems do you need in place?
- Have you reached out for help?