Weary and Heavy Laden with Religion

dv540031It never surprises me when people walk away from churches. They can’t stomach it anymore. They’re weary of leaving worship with a sick sense that, no matter hard they try, they’ll never do enough to win God’s love. They’ve got enough people pissed off at them without hearing how the Almighty’s shaking his fist at them, too. They’ve got plenty of people telling them what to do at home, or at work, or at school without the preacher giving them five or ten more ”spiritual principles” to follow if they want to find happiness and fulfillment in life.

I can just hear what’s raging in their heads. “Happiness? Fulfillment? What a load of crap. I’m just trying to survive, Mr. Preacher. I’m in a dead-end marriage, raising kids who don’t appreciate a damn thing I do for them, working two jobs to help pay down the credit card debt, taking an antidepressant to keep me from totally losing it, and all I hear from your pulpit is one more list of things I need to do. Look, I’m exhausted. I’m worn down. I’m barely keeping my shit together. And I go to your church looking for just a little comfort, just a little light, and you shovel more guilt down my throat, heap more burdens onto my drooping shoulders, and give me a kick in the rear to get me moving. Oh, yeah, then you smile and push an offering plate in my face. Well, you can take your church and your principles and your rules and your guilt-trips and shove them where the sun don’t shine. My life is full of enough weariness and stress and disappointment without you and your religion adding more to it.”

It’s no wonder people like that leave the church. They go hurting and get hurt more. They go stressed to the max and get more stress heaped onto their plate. They go looking for a God who can give them peace and comfort and hope and love and all they find is a religion that makes more demands of them.

If I could, I’d stop every one of those people in the parking lot before they drove away, never to return, and tell them that church is not supposed to be that way, doesn’t have to be that way, and in fact isn’t that way in every congregation.

I’d tell them not about religion but about Jesus, the Jesus who says, ”Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden with religion; whose consciences are straightjacketed by laws dreamt up by man; whose worship is little more than bootlicking a god who always seems pissed off; who have been duped into believing divine love must be earned by good behavior; come unto me, for I am the friend of sinners. I will break your chains, laugh in the face of your accusers, pour you a cold beer and tell you all about my lifelong dream of doing nothing more than being your God.”

Remember, religious people drove Jesus away, too. They drove him out of town, pinned him down, and hammered spikes through his flesh. They did him in. But what they intended for evil, God planned for your good. And for theirs too. For when Jesus bore that cross, he also bore you. He shouldered your pain and loneliness and despair and that long list of screw-ups that have marked you. He did it not because he wants something from you. Not to render you in his debt. He did it because nothing means more to him than you. Every cell in his body, every drop of his blood, is packed with love for you.

Come to him, whatever you’re weary of, whatever heavy burden you bear, and he will give you rest.

P.S. If you’d like to read more about the church, you might enjoy this article, “Waking Up with Leah: Learning to Love a Disappointing Church.”

BOOKS ON SALE! From now to the end of 2014, two of my books–Christ Alone and The Infant Priest–are on sale for an additional 25% off through CreateSpace. Click here if you’d like to purchase Christ Alone or here for The Infant Priest. When you check out, enter this code, YLECQSWE, for the discount. Thank you!

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16 thoughts on “Weary and Heavy Laden with Religion

  1. Kathleen on said:

    Thanks, Chad. Even though I am blessed to serve as Director of Music for a Missouri Synod congregation with an excellent Law/Gospel pastor, I really needed to hear this. I “hear” better when I read, plus I’m always somewhat distracted on Sunday morning by what I’m doing in the balcony. God bless you.

  2. Thank you for your thought provoking messages. Please write one on the flip side of this. People who don’t recognize they need the forgiveness Christ through the church offers them. They don’t see themselves as people who need the church. They feel comfortable with their relationship with “God” even though they don’t know Him as we do.

  3. Your presentation of the Gospel in this article brought literal tears of relief and joy to my eyes. Thank God I am in a congregation that comforts me with the Gospel, but I still need to hear it for me, every day.

  4. When talking with people who do not attend the services of the Church and encouraging them to come to church, it is sad to hear: “Oh, I don’t want to come to church…that’s where all the good people go.”

  5. “I can just hear what’s raging in their heads. “Happiness? Fulfillment? What a load of crap. I’m just trying to survive, Mr. Preacher. I’m in a dead-end marriage, raising kids who don’t appreciate a damn thing I do for them, working two jobs to help pay down the credit card debt, taking an antidepressant to keep me from totally losing it, and all I hear from your pulpit is one more list of things I need to do. Look, I’m exhausted. I’m worn down. I’m barely keeping my shit together. ”

    And the common denominator for all of the above is….? WHY are you in a “dead end marriage”? Perhaps a good look in the mirror for some personal assessment might be necessary….WHY are you in such a financial mess? MAYBE if he/she didn’t over extend themselves financially. Have unappreciative, snotty kids? Kids imitate what they see. Also, when kids are given gifts throughout the year for no reason whatsoever, they don’t appreciate it, they feel entitled to it. MAYBE if they had been less indulgent with their kids at a young age (children are NOT our equal, they don’t have the emotional or intellectual capacity) when you have entitled brats as young children it only intensifies when they reach the teen years. And that anti-depressant? The result of the mess he/she created for themselves making crap decisions.

    You can’t expect the church to enable bad decisions by telling you how wonderful you are. You don’t learn to overcome that way, you just continue to make more bad decisions and blame others for it. Or is the church headed towards the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality.

    • The church is not a place of striving, or competition, where everyone gets a trophy for participating. It’s a place where everyone gets a crown for doing nothing, because Jesus has done it all for us. We all make bad decisions, even decisions like patronizing others who don’t have their shit together like we do, but God’s grace in Jesus covers even these.

    • Mark Squire on said:

      JoJo, I think you misunderstood his message, or the Gospel, or both. People don’t need to be told that they’re wonderful. They need to be told that Jesus is for them, despite their decisions, despite their past, despite their present. I would suggest re-reading Chad’s words, especially the last paragraph, all of which point to Christ crucified for sinners.

  6. Hey Chad,
    I read this piece in tandem with your earlier posts on “Waking up with Leah” (excellent!) and “Preaching in the nude”. Much food for thought! And thanks for your willingness to “bare” yourself for us readers. With compliments….John

  7. Thank you for a wonderful post. Pastors, please let me come to church and receive Jesus forgiveness of my sins in Word and Sacrament so I can go and do my job as wife, worker, volunteer, and whatever else God puts before me during the week. That’s all I ask…period.

  8. This world is so much weary and heavy laden, sometimes all I can do is open my bible or hymn book and cry, and it is enough. But wait, there is more!!! Sunday is coming, and during Advent and Lent Wednesdays are special too. The church doors open wide, the Word is sung , prayed, spoken, chanted and comes to me in the elements of bread and wine; and before all this, the font greets me at the doors as I enter the sanctuary. I am connected to Christ and His saving work FOR ME, through my baptism. What a beautiful post, how blessed we are in our freedom as a nation to BE ABLE to go to church!!

  9. “The Gospel for those Broken by the Church” by Rod Rosenbladt: http://gnesiolutheran.com/lectures/

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