Since getting married, Ben and I have been exploring options for our new church. Not that we wanted to leave our former church, but the almost-hour drive now makes it quite a challenge. If you’ve ever been on a “Church Search” before, you know the confusion, pain, and frustration such a challenge can bring.
After visiting over half a dozen churches, Ben and I are still sorting out our top choices. And while this process is exciting, it’s also incredibly overwhelming and saddening. I’ve never known what it feels like to belong to a church, yet not. To have one you call home, but need to find a new home. Now I do.
Over the last three months, I’ve noticed a change in my faith and approach in talking to Jesus. I’ve realized that I often care more about “religion” than “relationship,” and that’s something I’m actively working to change.
I’ve also learned that while Bible reading and listening to sermons are important aspects of our faith, they aren’t everything. And when you’re someone who struggles with an addiction to productivity or checking off task lists, sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of this box and make room for Him to speak in new and fresh ways. Getting off-track on my Bible plan, taking a day off from reading to worship, or going to a new church service, for example, are all activities outside of my comfort zone that push me further and deeper into my relationship with Christ.
One thing I didn’t realize that would happen with this “Church Search,” however, is the loneliness I would feel from missing my community. Experiencing physical and mental pain simultaneously tends to make this process of “plugging in with others” even more challenging. But then, God sends a person.
In Unexpected Ways
A few months before Ben and I got married, I contacted a dance studio a close friend referred me to. She knew how much I loved dance, but she also saw the struggle I fell into as an adult. I was suddenly too young and too old at the same time, and finding classes for my age was virtually impossible.
When I graduated college, I wasn’t allowed to keep the dance team I started. So, I tried to start my own young adult ministry team. As I quickly learned, adults tend to be fickle, and the number of people willing to sacrifice time for dance ministry is slim. The older you grow, the less time you often have for things you once enjoyed.
Without dance in my life, the last few years have been difficult. I’ve walked a lot of hard and bumpy roads. Clinging to Jesus, I searched high and low for opportunities yet found none. I began to wonder if maybe God was asking me to take a break from something I loved.
During a phone call with one potential studio, I learned that another individual my age was searching for dance opportunities. On a whim, I sent her a message and was thankfully not seen as a creep. We learned that she knew my husband and had mutual friends. You can imagine my surprise when I saw her at the second church Ben and I decided to visit!
Friendship Is Sweet Like Honey
Not only was she kind and courageous, but I quickly learned of her love for Christ despite the immense tragedies she’d recently faced. I was in awe.
For several months, we stayed in contact and were determined to meet. We didn’t know it then, but God was orchestrating our friendship.
Fast forward to that second Sunday service in September. Ben and I went back to the church where I’d originally met this individual. After a rough week at work, I was feeling weak and weary. This individual knew about parts of my hardships because we’d been chatting on and off throughout the week. But when Ben and I visited the Church, we couldn’t find each other.
During the service, I knew that I needed deep and restorative healing. Physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and relationally I felt depleted. All the air was sucked out of my lungs, and I felt like a walking sloth.
But when the pastor asked those who needed prayers for healing to stand, my feet became quicksand. I didn’t know why, but as hard as I tried to pick one up, I sank back down. It wasn’t that I was fearful of people knowing I needed help, but some type of fear and anxiety held a grip on me.
Feeling defeated, I sunk back into the plush chair beneath me. I was heavily convicted. I felt confused and afraid. I knew I was missing my chance.
As the pastor asked those not standing to go and pray with those who were, I immediately stood up. I thought that I might ask my husband to pray for me at that moment. But there wasn’t a need.
In less than five seconds flat, this new friend had found me and asked, “Were you standing?”
Ashamed, I lifted my head and looked into her gentle eyes.
“No, but I should be,” I whispered.
And yet somehow, she knew. Her response was gentle. Kind. Christ-like. She offered to pray with me, and I agreed.
“I knew Jesus wanted me to find you and pray with you,” she noted.
“We are going to see you healed.”
Her words shook my soul. Partially because they were a bold declaration. Partially because I so desperately wanted them to be true. But after five years of suffering, I questioned. Can God still heal me?
A Bold Declaration
Today, I don’t know if you can relate to this post, but I certainly know most of you out there can relate to suffering in some way, shape, or kind. And I want you to know that no matter where you’re at, or what your circumstance is, I’m speaking over myself and you that God can still heal us.
Not because I’ve already seen the healing, but because I believe that faith is taking that first step of confidence in something, even and especially when you can’t see it. Five, ten, twenty-five years down the road.
It’s not going to be easy, friend. Like me, you’re probably going to have questions, doubts, and waves of fear. Times when your feet won’t move out of the quicksand. Times when you’ll need someone to help pull you out.
But if God can send me a friend in a random sea of churchgoers I don’t know to pray with me, surely He’s hearing my prayers.
Surely He’s capable of healing me.
Surely He’s capable of comforting me when His answer is “No” or “Not yet.”
Surely He’s capable of sending exactly who we need when we need them.
Surely He’s capable of doing all the same and more for you.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.