Weary and Heavy Laden with Religion
It 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!