Something is stressing you out. As hard as you try, your anxiety or depression seems to be eating you alive. You keep falling into the same sexual sin over and over again, and the shame seems too heavy to bear. Perhaps your marriage is simply miserable, and you see no way out. You need help, but it seems you can’t talk to anyone.
You know you “should” be able to get some help for this. Getting help shouldn’t be this hard. There should be people available to talk with, who can provide some insight and support. Isn’t that what church is supposed to be about?
But what if you tried to talk to someone at church? Perhaps you have tried – and you’ll never do that again! People might look at you differently. Their sideways glances would let you know you’re no longer welcome in their circle. What you had desperately wanted to be confidential has perhaps been passed around the “prayer line.” It’s just not working.
If you’re in any kind of leadership, the pressure is even greater. If you talk to someone they might not let you lead your small group any longer, or teach Sunday school, or sing in the choir. People wouldn’t ask your opinion on things, and you’d be kicked off that committee you enjoy (well, sort of enjoy). And if the people you lead knew, they very well might leave, and then you wouldn’t be a leader any longer.
If people found out, they might suggest you’re the one who needs counseling or pastoral care. And while getting that kind of help might be useful, you certainly don’t want to be known as one of “those kinds of people.”
To borrow James’ comment, “these things ought not to be so!” (James 3:10)
Let’s see if we’ve got this right:
- You’ve got a big struggle
- You know you need to talk to someone about it
- Church is not a safe place (even though it “should” be)
- You feel stuck
So what now?
The Value of Friends
If you feel as though you have no one to talk with, you’re not alone. Loneliness is an epidemic even greater among young people than it is with older adults. A recent survey of more than 20,000 Americans reports that nearly half sometimes or always feel alone or left out. The average adult now reports having no one with whom they can discuss important matters.
The impact of having no one to talk with impacts more than your emotional state. Loneliness rivals smoking and obesity as a risk factor for illness, disability, and even early death.
But through connecting with others, your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing can turn around.
This needs to be more than the eight-week book-study small group many churches tend to do. There’s nothing wrong with those kinds of small groups, but they are woefully inefficient at helping people develop any lasting growth and change. That’s why some churches have stopped promoting those types of groups in favor of different kinds of long-term connections.
12-step programs, including Celebrate Recovery, work in large measure because of this principle. It’s why long-term support and accountability relationships make the critical difference in anyone needing to overcome a problem or change in some positive way.
My friend Kathrine Lee, personal and business strategist, was one of those who helped develop the Daniel Plan, a program helping people grow in the areas of faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends. In reflecting on that program, she and the others were impressed that among those five factors, friends was the most powerful determinant in the results people achieved.
Community is Key
Thank God for forgiveness! Only He can forgive our sins.
But we need more than forgiveness. We don’t want to only feel better; we want to be better. And Jesus wants that for us too. He wants us to experience true healing and wholeness in every area, to the full extent we can experience it here and now.
A critical key to that healing is community. And more specifically, telling someone.
Here’s James again: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
When you tell someone, shame loses its power and real healing becomes possible. In telling someone lies become exposed, truths become real, and you find the courage and strength to cooperate with God in growing into real and lasting change.
If your church is healthy and safe, if you’re in a loving and supportive family, and if your life is going great, awesome! Be grateful.
But if that’s not your current experience, don’t give up.
Whether or not you know you need to talk to someone right now, ask yourself where would you go, who would you talk with, if you were struggling with pornography, felt your marriage crumbling, felt trapped in anxiety or depression, or found yourself stuck in a toxic religious environment.
God never designed us to grow alone. He designed us to grow in community.
And that starts with telling someone – someone who is safe.
That’s why we have opened up our new online community, the Fully Alive Group, for people just like you who may have no one to talk with at church and who need a safe place to get some help.
In bringing your challenges to the Fully Alive group you won’t have to worry that your church prayer line will pass along what you’re struggling with! That’s one of the additional benefits of having a community online.
You DO need someone to talk with.
And now there’s someone you CAN talk with.
Comments or questions? You can send me a confidential message here.
Your Turn: Do you have someone you can talk with? Would having a safe confidential place to share your struggle make a difference? Leave a comment below.
Tweetables: why not share this post?
- Even in church it may see as though you can’t talk to anyone. As James said, “These things ought not to be so.” It’s still true that “confessing your sins to one another” can bring healing. (James 5:16) Here’s a place to do that. Tweet that.
Can’t Talk to Anyone?
Loneliness is painful. And dangerous – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But doing something about it is hard!
Get a free downloadable expanded version of this article, with some steps you can take.