I sat in the front row of church Sunday and wept. My husband, Sam, is a pastor, and every week I reluctantly sit beside him in the front row. I like my husband; I don’t like sitting in the front. If it were up to me, I’d sit in the back, alone. I like the idea of a dark chapel where it feels like I can hide. I want empty seats beside me so I can freely raise my hands, so I don’t have to worry about being in someone else’s space. I want to cry with freedom. I want to sing loud and off-key without the care of what other people might think. If I want to sneak out for water or a walk, I don’t want to be a disruption.
When I sit near the stage, I feel like a thousand eyes are on me. If I’m late or checking something on my phone, I don’t just see eyes on me, I feel them. Does it ever feel like people are watching, judging, or scrutinizing your every move? Maybe it’s just me.
I wept Sunday because I felt so overwhelmed. The weight of the week came crashing in on me. I hold everything in and push everything down. There are people in my life who are sick. I have children who are struggling significantly. I have family members and friends who are slowly drifting away from Jesus.
All of these scenarios hurt. Even though I know I am not at fault for most of these circumstances, I carry the responsibility like an anchor around my waist. Sometimes I just feel so undone by the enormity of life and how often I fail at being the kind of person I long to be. I feel like I’m letting my kids down, friends down, and family down. The pressure presses down on me. Not only am I failing, but eyes are on me watching me fall face first.
So I cried. I wanted my feelings to wash away. I hated feeling that way so much. The more I worshipped, the more frustrated I was because my failures were all-consuming. I couldn’t carry everything anymore. I just wanted to sneak out the side door of the chapel and hide out in my car till the service was over. But there, in the second stanza of a worship song, these words came to me, “When feelings are inescapable, possibly the only way out is to invite Jesus in.”
My first response is always to escape. I look for the exit signs. I think about all my strategies to avoid pain. I run circles around God without ever really praying. I want to sit in the back row and be invisible. But God’s love is like a revolving door of welcome. He doesn’t want us to worship alone, without people or without Him. God wants to be right in the middle of my everyday ache. He sets up camp and inhabits all the space within me. The only way out of my feelings of failure is to let Jesus in.
Christmas is days away and as I reflect on my experience sitting in the front row, I see how Christ comes. He never stops coming. He came to the world, to lost people, to prideful priests, and naughty children. He came for the broken, beat up, and banished.
Jesus came. He still comes. He comes with His massive love and makes a way for us to come out of our pain. He doesn’t want us hiding in back rows or burning out. He wants us to sing loud, to raise our hands, to kneel down. Whatever row we occupy at church this week, Christ sits beside us and comes into the current reality of our lives.
Whatever feeling is overwhelming you at this moment, let it be there. Let it fill the entire space of your heart. Don’t outrun, fix, or fight the enormous feelings. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel, let those feelings remain.
The only way out of your envy, grief, anger, loneliness, feelings of failure or guilt is to allow Jesus in. When your feelings are opened to God, this is prayer:
“Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
Christ sits beside us and comes into the current reality of our lives. -Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
There are a lot of things, relationships, situations weighing on my heart this year. My usual M.O. is to put on my brave game face and try to make merry the best way I can. I believe that profound joy in reflecting on God’s COMING to be with us can coexist with profound pain in dealing with what “Is” in our lives right now. Christ came to be with us, in the muck and the mire, in the pain and the struggle. Christmas is perhaps the greatest knock on the door of our hearts to usher in the grace of His presence.
I love what you said, “Christmas is perhaps the greatest knock on the door…” It is so true. Merry Christmas!
I could relate to so much of this devotional. Thank you for sharing your heart…it blessed mine tremendously!
You are welcome. Merry Christmas!
Marian Frizzell says
It has been the kind of year when I have had to purposefully choose hope and tell myself the things that are true. As the year draws to a close and prayers that are close to my heart remain unanswered, I’ve felt my doubts creep in around me until the discouragement threatens to sink me. You reminded me this morning that some days it’s okay to just be in his presence, admit that we don’t get it, and ask him to draw closer to us as we slog through the muck that he has, for whatever reason, chosen not to remove from our lives. Thank you.
Yes, somedays it is enough to sit in His presence and feel it all. Perhaps that’s the best place to wait and meet with Him. I’m sorry it has been such a rough year. I keep close these words at Christmas- Till He Appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
Crazy how God always sends articles my way right when I need it. I was feeling emotionally and physically overwhelmed this morning. I tried to run from it but the more I did the more overwhelmed I felt. So I finally just let it all out with a good cry as I sat in the dark with only the tree lights on. It’s funny how I put so much effort into “feeling good” that when there is a time when I am feeling off whether emotionally or physically it can feel like an earthquake and I just want to run. I think its because I associate Jesus with peace and joy and so if I am not feeling those two things then he must not be present. But what you said really struck me. Jesus wants to be with us no matter how we are feeling and especially he wants to be let in to those times we feel lost and overwhelmed.
anjuli paschall says
I love how God met you right where you needed Him most. I do the same thing- Happiness = Jesus. But that isn’t always the case. I am so glad you had a much-needed cry. Merry Christmas.
karyn j says
i love what you wrote heather. i have felt the same of late. tears are a daily thing and last night i just cried telling God how hard it was and how much i’m hurting. i’ve realized that my perception of God all these years has been very incorrect. naively, i thought it was all roses and sunshine. this year has taught me that i am not immune to darkness or psychological, emotional, and mental hard times (unfortunately). but i thank God for the darkness because i would not have truly experienced Jesus in the way that i have without it. i am not completely past the darkness, but there is more light than darkness these days (YAY)!! i’ve been in church all my life, but i never REALLY understood the things i heard until it was so dark that God’s grace, mercy, and love were all i could cling to. that His peace comes and envelopes me when i think about Him, His goodness, and how much He loves little ole me! it’s so humbling, but the thought brings me back to life. other people may have to remind me of certain scriptures, i may have to read these devotions, or listen to songs or sermons, but the feeling of true warmth and joy are like nothing i have ever experienced before.
so, i’m learning that my God is always with me. He goes before me and has planned every aspect of the life He has for me. i just have to let Him. He’ll never force His way in because He is the truest of gentlemen, but when i do let Him in…ahhhhhhh! sidenote: i’m also learning that this really is a daily fight. just when i think i’m good, the thoughts, depression, guilt, and/or failure resurface. i’m getting better at fighting, but man! it is a battle, but i can’t lose because i’ve already got the victory.
Anjali such a raw a real post. I commend you on that and your real ness to share your heart and what you are feeling. We often want to outrun those feelings like you said. I can totally relate, but knowing we can express them to Him and that He sits with us and sympathizes with us. I think of the words to song that say, “ in my weakness you can barely stay away.” He longs to be gracious to us to come along side of us to feel the hurts with us. He is such a gracious and loving Father. So thankful I have Him to run to with all my feelings, struggles & weaknesses. His power is made perfect in my weakness!
Thank you so much Darlene! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!
Julie Garmon says
Anjuli, this is so lovely! Your words made me think of the pastor’s wives I know and how they must feel at times. They are in the spotlight, yet I know most congregants realize the wives are human and have things to grieve. There is a lot of empathy for you. You can unashamedly worship or shed tears or display any emotion that is on your heart. We are with you; not against. Have peace, knowing that is true. Anyone who would fault you is wrong and doesn’t deserve a fleeting thought. May you be richly blessed this Christmas!
Anjuli Paschall says
Your post made me tear up. Thank you for your grace and love. You really blessed me.
Being open and honest with oneself is perhaps the most difficult part of being human.
I am drawn to the stories of others who are so real. Moses. He smashed the Ten Commandments. Jonah the runner. Jesus. Man of sorrows. He wept…he moaned…he wailed and cried enormous tears.
You wrote. Jesus came. Jesus is still coming. Today and in the future. Always coming.
You may sit in the back. It’s fine by me.
I just loved your comment. Thank you for the last line. It made me smile and tear up at the same time.
Anjuli, thank you for being so transparent in your feelings. I too like you prefer to worship in private, I’m always so worried about what people are thinking about me. I have recently had a serious injury and surgery and have been laid up for the past 9+ weeks and many more to go yet. I’ve been working hard to be brave and strong and put on a face that shows that. But…I am realizing that’s not what God wants from me. He wants me to come to Him in all my weaknesses and admit that I can’t do this without him and that I am very weak and I need Him.
I’m realizing is my pride that tells me all those lies about being so self sufficient.
It’s when we admit we need Him that we let go and he did us with all we need. God Bless in your faith walk with Him.
Beth Williams says
I get it. It’s hard being a pastor’s wife. Everyone looks at you & expects perfection. Why? You are just regular human beings like the rest of us. Go ahead & cry in church. It proves the Holy Spirit is moving you. Our church does communion each Sunday. There have been numerous times when I’ve sat there & cried during that time. It is hard to imagine that a loving God would come to broken Earth for little o me who keeps messing up. I don’t worry about people watching me in church. They see me cry & hear me sing loudly off-key so what. I’m worshipping the Almighty God. They should be doing the same! For me & many others life gets hard especially this time of year. The Monday before Thanksgiving we lost our FIL. His battle with cancer & bladder infections is over. We are of mixed feelings. Thankful to God for ending his & his wife’s suffering. But missing him just the same. Funeral was day after Thanksgiving. Christmas will be tough, but the whole family hers & his will be in to celebrate with her.
Thank you for your encouraging words. Thank you for understanding and offer a word of encouragement. I am so sorry for your loss this year. Praying you find peace in the middle of your grief.
Christine Beck says
I can relate to this on a daily basis. Thank you so much for your openness in sharing with us. I praise God that He loves me and shows me grace daily.
It has been such a good year so all of the emotions that have come barreling down my way have really surprised me. Thank you for this lovely post!
Becky Beresford says
Anjuli, thank you for sharing these powerful words! I am such a deep feeler, and sometimes I want to hide because they overwhelm me and I care about what others may think… But God created me this way and He created me to be in community, deep feelings and all! 😉
I love this line from the song: “When feelings are inescapable, possibly the only way out is to invite Jesus in.” Thank you for remaining me to let my Savior in so He can comfort, provide and love me through it all.
Such an incredible read. Thank you, Sister! And Merry Christmas.
Thank you for sharing about your feelings, which probably all of us can identify.
I want to share with you something I have just been learning in the last few days, yes! Just the last few days about our feelings. Our feelings will rule our lives if we let them. We must always check our feelings with GOD’s WORD, and what HIS will is for us. If our feelings are not based on HIS WORD, then we must immediately say no to those feelings, and say a Scripture that is truth about whatever the problem is, and pray that Scripture to ourselves, out loud if possible. For example, the Truth, GOD will give me the grace to sit here and stay here for HIS sake and my husband’s sake, I can do all things through CHRIST Who gives me strength. What do YOU GOD, what does YOUR WORD tell me to do? This is my responsibility. GOD will get me through. Is it HIS will that I go out and run away? No, I can stay here and learn and grow and worship.
You see i have believed lies and been a Christian many years and i know the LORD has given me TRUTH, which I did not get before. I can see clearly now areas of my life which I am going to work on in this way as I have lived too long allowing my feelings to rule what I say and do and what I don’t say and do. I must do this to obey HIM well. I cannot live by my feelings any longer, I know it will be a process, but I am thankful for this revelation for myself, which I now share with you.
Praying for you and all of us.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience with me. I’ve actually lived my life the other way- I completely discounted my feelings. FEELINGS = BAD. So it has been a journey for me to let myself feel what I feel. I appreciate your insight. Merry Christmas!
M @ In Beautiful Chaos says
“When feelings are inescapable, possibly the only way out is to invite Jesus in.” That hit me SO hard just now! Inescapable feelings are very real, but so is our Savior! Thank you for this post:)
M @ In Beautiful Chaos
Kelly G says
The tears are flowing… I felt this on every level and in every word. A peek into my own soul.
Thank you for being so raw and honest.
Peace and Blessings to you!
Bless you, friend!
Rita B says
Thank you for your honesty and sharing your thoughts. I so love your final thoughts– “the only way out of your envy, grief, anger, loneliness, feelings of failure or guilt is to allow Jesus in.” Sometimes I have to be reminded to open the door…