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Topics: Womanhood, Women in Ministry, Women in the Local Church

Why The Church Needs Struggling Members

November 18, 2014
By Christel Humfrey

I have a confession to make: fellowship is hard for me lately. My life these past 16 months could be described as unsteady and complicated. My instincts tell me to withdraw from people until I feel more steady and secure. Social pleasantries feel trite, and honest, nuanced answers are exhausting.

I know I am not the only one who feels this tension. So many dear friends have difficulties in their lives that don’t make for good small talk. They feel about as useful to the church as a clock without batteries. And the fact that they make it out at all is God’s grace.

It’s tempting to retreat from people in these times, but we must keep coming back because God warns us against quitting fellowship (Heb. 10:25). The opposite of our instinct is what we really need most, and when it comes down to it, our trials are not always about us. Sometimes we go through them for the sake of others.

The Importance of Struggling Church Members

The Apostle Paul describes the church as a living body whose head is Christ. Each individual is an essential part. Some parts of the body appear weaker or less visible and we are tempted to view them as less important. But Paul confronts this misconception in 1 Cor. 12:20-22:

…there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…

Against all logic, the weaker ones are “indispensable” to the church. When circumstances cripple you, your ministry may be smaller and less obvious to others, but your worth is not diminished.  The church needs your weakness as much as you need its strength.

Practical Tips For Discouraged Hearts

Even the most resilient church members have bad days. Some days our hearts feel so fragile that we can’t bear the thought of rubbing up against the opinions of others. Three godly women advised me of what I might do in my circumstance. Here are their suggestions:

  1. Instead of going into all the details of your life, ask people to pray for you in specific things. For example, “Please pray that I could find contentment this week. I’m struggling to wait on God’s timing.” Or whatever is relevant to your circumstances. God works through the prayers of his people and most are happy to pray for you if you ask.
  1. Don’t take responsibility for making others feel okay about your circumstances. People in the church will grieve with you when you grieve. It’s okay. You don’t have to comfort them on your behalf.
  1. If you are having a particularly bad day, avoid small talk. Retreat to a quieter corner and have one or two slower, more focused conversations.
  1. Try not to be hard on people if they are insensitive. They may be feeling guilty that they haven’t asked you about your troubles for a long time, not knowing that you just hashed through it with five other people and you are weary.
  1. It’s okay to divert the conversation. A vague answer followed by a question can put the attention on someone else. And sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of our own head and encourage another person. Because perhaps you—in your messy, unstable life—will speak into someone else’s life the exact insight that they need to hear. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness and sometimes Christ’s power works through us when we feel our most inadequate (2 Cor. 12.9).

This advice has helped me to be part of church life even on days when I’m struggling. In my experience, the times that I wanted to fellowship the least I often benefited the most or had a surprising opportunity to speak into someone’s life. What God is teaching me in my struggles is often the exact thing that someone else needs to hear.

But it is also important to admit our limitations. Pride makes us hate to admit neediness of any kind, but the truth is, we need each other and ultimately, we need Christ. And sometimes our weakness offers the perfect vantage point to encourage those around us in the Lord.

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