About the Author

Jen encourages women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives at BeautyandBedlam.com. A popular speaker, worship leader, and author of Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, Jen lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, and a sofa for anyone...

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things we love
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  1. I am at a crossroad for a very long time.. I am saved I have Jesus as my savior. But I have been dealing with a lot of pain in my left side neck and my sciatica is really bad; you see this is from a work injury long long time ago. I have RSD Refelex Sympathetic Distropy. I have been in remission from RSD Praise the Lord, but the neck and sciatica ugh… My husband in a lot of pain as well due to arthritis etc, going for knee surgery in June. He needs and wants to retire, but finances.. So I don’t or haven’t gone to church in several months due to not able to sit for long and our church is cold<- temperature wise. Also my faith and trust waver way to much. I need to see God work many a miracles. My favorite verse one of them is Jeremiah 29:11. So much going on satan's a pig of course. I must trust God completely… Thank you Chris God Bless

    • Oh Chris – so sorry to hear about all the long term pain you and your husband are experiencing. Thank you for sharing so I know very specifically how to pray for you this morning. Much love to you. ❤️

  2. I get all of it, but my hang-up is in the vulnerability it (church-ing) requires. Opening up to others also opens the likelihood of being hurt, betrayed, excluded or belittled (intentionally or accidentally). How doea one justify the risk?

    Staying on an island is very lonely, but it’s also safe.

    Some of the people that I think are/were safe and genuine and let inside my walls betray me, tell me I’m “needy, hard to be friends with and the rewards aren’t worth the effort.”

    • Tracy – I can’t even tell you the number of times I could have written your comment. I’ve lived in the exact feelings you’re describing and been hurt when I’ve put myself out there. So I get it. I’ve been there but I also know without risk there is no reward and as cliche as that seems, I believe it’s worth it in the long run. It’s not easy and I can’t wrap it up with confetti and cupcakes, but it only takes one meaningful relationship. Sometimes we think it has to be this big huge community. I’ve changed my mind on that.

      Your example of the island is so true, I wrote about it in 2014 and I grabbed this quote. “To some degree, this island I’ve created appears like a haven to those on the mainland. The problem with islands is that sometimes, while beauty abounds, they are very inaccessible unless someone bridges the gap and makes the way clear.” HEre’s the post. https://beautyandbedlam.com/isolation/

      I am praying today that you allow yourself a bit more risk and that someone bridges the gap for you.

  3. This article resonated with me this morning because I’m at this same crossroad. My church of 30 years has changed; leaders, friends have come and gone. Most recently we have a new music minister, and I don’t like the changes he’s made. I’d rather watch a service on TV on Sunday morning than attend my home church. A recent Bible lesson was about heart change and I desperately need to change my focus and spirit.

    • Change is hard. I once heard someone say that if we’re not getting anything out of our local church, it’s because we need to lean in harder and listen. Ouch! I don’t like change at all. But I’m learning to go with the flow because I trust our pastors/leadership to be prayerfully focused on following Jesus and leading us to do the same.

    • oh friend – wow, I can relate. Our unbelievable pastor of 30 years retired and the transition was (and still is) extremely difficult. There are many Sundays I am tempted to stay home, but I am championing our new pastor and his wife because they love the Lord so much and desire for restoration to occur. Every situation is different, but I think because you typed out that last line, the Holy Spirit may already be giving you your answer. xoxoxo

  4. Oh my goodness that made me tear up! I so appreciate you sharing your honesty of how you’ve felt in the past, and I feel like there’s someone to hold hands with who understands the hurt, and the fight against becoming apathetic or cynical. I purposely try to not miss too many Sundays, because I fear I might not look back if I do….thank you for providing us encouragement to reflect back on during those hard days!

    • You’re so welcome, Christina. I look back at that season and I know I could have easily been fine with not attending for a long, long time and in that season, I believe the enemy would have had me right where he wanted me.

      I know every situation is different and there are seasons to withdraw and heal but mine wasn’t one of them.

  5. Well conveyed message. It’s easier not to go but seeing the smiling faces and hearing the spirits joined in song is refreshing. The Word reminds me what I’m living for.

  6. There are definite seasons to withdraw and heal from the establishment of a church, but for how long?
    However long The Lord decides. We must continue to be in touch with His leading. If we go back too soon or try to force it in our time it won’t work. I fully understand and agree with your reminder of Hebrews 10:23-25, and there are times I struggle with this. The truth is I’ve NEVER experienced a true Church except an online one many miles away. I grew up in a church that has always excluded and put down my family and it when they got a new pastor it got REALLY bad. One day I heard The Holy Spirit say “Where’s the fruit?” it woke me up BIG TIME. I personally think you have to find preachers and leaders that preach The Word and help you grow in your relationship with Christ. Because if the leaders aren’t right there’s no fruit. I was blown away when The Lord led me to someone that truly teaches The Bible verse by verse; it was the first time I truly felt “fed” by a sermon. All this to say we need to stay pliable in The Potter’s hands and follow His direction on what to do and when and WHERE to go.

    • YEs to so much of this, Amada. I am so sorry that your child hood church treated your family in such a way. LEt’s put it right out there – this is NEVER what HE intended for His Bride: the Church and I am so sorry for the pain that caused.

      I am so grateful that you’ve found an online church that is teaching you and feeding you, yet I do know the importance of meeting together with other believers for accountability and shepherding and many of the disciplines that we can’t have by ourselves at home, but I also understand location has a lot to do with it. If you’ve tried many of the local church bodies and they are not biblically healthy, I understand the challenge you’re facing. I’m going to pray that strong leaders rise up in your area and you can be part of spurring on the next generation.

      Much love oxox

  7. I wish church was different and I could believe staying would make a difference or going somewhere else wouldn’t destroy my children. I don’t believe church culture is healthy anywhere and I’m not naive enough to think I’ll find authentic life giving community somewhere else. We’re all broke and that leads us to hurt others and be hurt by others. I used to believe community was vital to our spiritual growth. I still believe God wants this. I’m just not convinced a local church controlled by one family with a few others who nod in agreement to be the answer.

    • This sounds very cynical. Sorry. I agree with your article and think it’s very well written. It’s just after a lifetime of church hurt and over 2 decades in one where I thought we finally had true community where we raised our kids, I’m questioning if there are churches that actually operate the way God intends in unity, with all believers allowed to use their gifts and talents, reaching the lost, encouraging one another daily and glorifying Him.

    • This is where I wish I wasn’t sitting across a screen from you, but could sit down over coffee and chocolate and a big hug to really dive deep into this conversation. I hear you’re hurt. I feel those scars from the local church, yet I also read that last line of yours, “I’m just not convinced a local church controlled by one family with a few others who nod in agreement to be the answer.”

      It’s absolutely not the answer and that’s definitely not modeled in scripture. Throughout the NT, we see counsels of elders and deacons, we look at Jesus’s 12 disciples who are named and yet read of many more. Whenever one family or one man becomes the focus of a church, that’s not healthy, so I can understand the angst and all the swirling emotions you’re wrestling through. Accountability is key.
      Since I’ve had the privilege to travel to many churches across the US, I have whole heartedly witness some dynamic churches functioning in beautifully authentic ways. They’re there and sometimes it means trying again. Our son and his wife tried SO MANY local church bodies and were on the verge of giving up when they finally said “one more” and found their home.

      I know after the pain you’ve experienced, this isn’t an easy road and I will pray that others will come along side you in this process of finding new community.

      • That is so kind of you to take the time to respond. I really wanted to just delete my comments but couldn’t figure out how. Deep in my heart, I know there has to be a church somewhere. Unfortunately this is not my first go of it as my life has been defined by church hurt. I don’t know why I’m sitting stuck right now and why circumstances are what they are. I am grateful I know God is the one t cling to and I know He’ll work it for good because He has done it before. It’s just a hard season and I wish believers as a whole were more willing to work toward unity and operate the way the Bible describes and shows. One day. Thank you again.

  8. Jen – There is power in unity. Jesus’ longest prayer for us was for unity so that means something. I love that your message today encourages us all when we grow weary to unite in Jesus name to celebrate and praise him together.

    Sending you JOY,


  9. My family and I are attending church weekly, but we are not “tethered.” After 3 painful leadership experiences it is so hard to move from showing up out of obedience to participating hopefully. We are asking God to show us next steps, but are waiting. Please pray He will speak to my husband and me. And that we will have faith to risk again.

  10. We joined a new church after being out for well over a year. We’ve been hurt. We’ve been tossed. And it’s sooooo hard to wonder “What’s going to happen this time?”

    • Will it feel weird if a stranger tells you, “I’m so proud of you.” After being wounded, you took a huge, brave step and I get the feeling of waiting for the shoe to drop (or whatever that phrase is.) I can’t promise you won’t be hurt again but you’re stepping forward in obedience and this just may be the place where your heart is stirred in community all for the goodness and Glory of the Lord once more.

  11. I just finished my morning prayer with God, ending it by asking Him to physically get me to church this Sunday instead of watching online. Next I picked up my tablet and read today’s incourage devotional. Low and behold, there’s the Holy Spirit speaking through you inviting and encouraging me to attend church this week! Praise God! And thank you for the message! Bless you.

    • Umm Susan – you’re getting me all choked up this morning. Wow. So honored that He used these words I wrote three weeks ago to speak to you exactly at this moment in time. Thank you for encouraging my heart this morning by sharing that.

      • Just keep letting the Holy Spirit work through you as you write. And listen to His guidance. Blessings to you!

    • Thank for this, very timely and well written. I relate a lot to your journal entry, have been feeling a bit disillusioned with my church as well. It is a healthy, Christ centered church with nice people, but there is still disappointment and hurt that has occurred in the past 2 years and I feel weary of it. I have been away for a month and do not look forward to returning to the same environment, feeling the same feelings of hurt. I would like to ask prayer to keep forgiving and showing up and to move past what has happened.

  12. Just reading your words, I feel the anxiety of a panic attack . I have known the love of a church family, but everything changed about 12 years ago. Trying to understand how different a pastor could be to a church community was not new to me, but when the pastor’s political views and perspectives were part of the service, I did not feel God was asking me to remain there. Yes, I have a mental illness. I also have a deep relationship with my Savior, Jesus. I can’t justify attending a church that isn’t completely devoted to the teachings of Christ. I live in a very small town. I would love to attend church again, and maybe, one day I will. But a building doesn’t mean I love God any less than anyone who may attend a service on Sunday. I am a Christian, whether I am grocery shopping, playing with my g kids or praying alone, at home.

    • Oh Mary – so very sorry if these words stirred something in you. We definitely don’t need a building to be a Christian. Acts encourages other believers in our life, but isn’t it such a gift that “going to a church building” is not on our “must do checklist” to be a Christian.

      I hope you read the whole post to absolutely know without a shadow of a doubt that I wrote, there are times to withdraw and heal. It sounds like this is your season to do just that.

  13. My husband and I attended and served faithfully for 25 years in a local church that became very condemning and controlling. We kept trying but when we would come with hope we would leave with our heads down and hearts broken. We are 77 and have tried other churches on occasion but to no avail. I also have a back disability which prevents me from sitting or standing for very long. We love the Lord Jesus and have an active prayer life. The Lord visited me in the night all night long a short time ago with such comfort and peace. We hold onto Him! The Lord bless you all!

  14. Thank you Jen soooooo much! My husband Robert is going through now what you went through 4 yrs ago and shared today. It brought tears. I want to help. I want to remind him God is near. I want him to see his brothers in Christ at church and hug and be reminded they are praying for him. But the thing is….. I want. I want. I want. It’s not about me! I have to give him to God.
    He is going through a lot. His health issues are taking over and he wants results NOW! The pain. The waiting. It’s bringing up old stuff. Old feelings. Bad choices, toxic relationships, loss of friends, bad business decisions, moving. He is angry at God!!! Sad. Feeling less than. Feeling God doesn’t hear him, see him or care about what he is going through.
    Prayers for him. Prayers for me that I listen more and talk less. Prayers we both give it to God
    Sorry so many words..I guess I was a bit clogged up!!!
    Thank you xoxox…

    • Jen W God has given me Psalm 103 v 3 for your Husband health problems. Plus Joshua 1 v 9. Say a prayer for you and your Husband. Xx

    • Janet,

      Abba Father please come alongside Janet’s husband. Change/soften his heart to want to come to church. Assist him to rid his mind of the old stuff. Show him that many, many people do care for him are praying for him. Be with Janet. Help her to listen & love on him like he needs. AMEN

      Blessings 🙂

  15. This is beautiful!!!! I am most definitely a local church girl, but I do have my moments. Pray for His continued sustaining grace to stay, commit and passionately pursue Him and His Body.

  16. If you go to church to get ministered to you will be disappointed. If you go to church and say who can I minister to, you may be breaking the mold of the church person.
    I never really like church but my dad always said go to focus on others with God love not my selfish love.

  17. Jen I do love what you wrote about the Church and how honest you are. Me and my Husband went to a few Churches. We found the teaching in some of them very hard to understand. We found it long winded. It went over our heads. In a few of the Churches. I would have prayed for the Holy Spirit to help us understand it. But no it made no difference to us. Then we went once to a Church thinking this is it. Well like it. But we found they had there favourites. Yes they say Hello to us. But hardly ever talk to us. They talk to thoses that they knew in the Church and given them the attention. We felt left out. We went for a few good months. When we decided not to go back with feeling left out. They never contacted us to see where we ok. Jesus never left anyone out in the Bible and he to this day doesn’t. Jesus loves people of all walks of life. Jesus would show it. He let you know he loves you are you special to him. Jesus doesn’t have favourites every one us is treated the same. That the way it should be.I always felt lead to join the Salvation Army. But didn’t incase I was wrong. It was not God’s speaking to me to join it. But eventually me and my Husband did. We know the people in the Salvation Army where we live are not perfect like us. But we are all on big family. Me and my Husband love it. Because they treat people all the same no matter where they come from or what religion they are from.
    They treat them with love all the same. Tell them if not saved why Jesus loves them and try to help them if they need help and prayer. They make them part of their family in Jesus. They love them like Jesus does even today and in Bible times. When we joined we found the same. We knew we where loved. We are all part of one big family. That is the way it should be in every Church. We have stayed ever since that has been years and years ago. We just love it. Plus the way they help people too less well of than themselves. So we are glad we tried again another Church the one that I had always wanted to join. That was the Salvation Army. I know now it was God’s Holy Spirit speaking to me for us to go there. Love today’s reading. Thank you so much. Jen. Dawn Ferguson-Little xc

  18. I really appreciate this post. My family and I have been struggling lately. We are behind on our house and car note. We had a tree fall on our house in early February and have struggled since. Please pray that He provides for us and that we are quickly able to get our payments back on track, that we don’t lose our house or vehicle. Thank you for the prayers and your piece.

    • MP, I hurt for you and the worries you are dealing with. Life can be such a struggle at times. I am so very sorry that a tree fell on your house and sure that it added to your finances and something that was no fault of your own. I will be praying for you that God will bless you with all and everything you and your family need. God will make a way! His mercy and compassion are endless and He is forever faithful. Joshua 1:9 is my go to when worries overwhelm me. “Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord the Thy God, is with thee whithersoever thou goest. I will be praying that God will give you hope and peace and He will make a way in your wilderness. Hold on to the Power and Amazing Grace of God! I am so very sorry and can so relate…i love the song, Praise You in the Storm by Casting Crowns. Maybe it will comfort you too. Sending you a hug and praying for you.

  19. Thank for this, very timely and well written. I relate a lot to your journal entry, have been feeling a bit disillusioned with my church as well. It is a healthy, Christ centered church with nice people, but there is still disappointment and hurt that has occurred in the past 2 years and I feel weary of it. I have been away for a month and do not look forward to returning to the same environment, feeling the same feelings of hurt. I would like to ask prayer to keep forgiving and showing up and to move past what has happened.

    (Sorry if comment appears twice)

  20. Please pray for God to lead me and my sister to the right church. Please pray for healing of past church hurts. Thank you ❤️

    • gracias por decirmelo. Me encantaría orar para que encuentres una buena iglesia. (My son helped me translate ❤️)

  21. Thank you for your devotional a friend sent this to me
    My husband and I are well established at our church for 15 years now we have been through 2 pastors and 2 interim pastors. We had welcomed a new pastor 2 1/2 yrs ago we are finding he is not a shepherd but an abuser of power and money
    We have recently lost an Elder in whom was a retired pastor due to the disrespect and also a physical altercation by our pastor and this gentleman unfortunately resigned from our church. My husband and I have been part of a leadership and deacon team for many years serving our congregation faithfully and know we are facing continued ridicule from the congregation as dessenters
    Yet our congregation has totally disengaged us from and has voted this pastor in regardless of what we presented about his abuse. Now the pastor is going to hold a special voting meeting to elect un- qualified Elders
    So it’s very hard to sit in our church after serving here and what we thought were welcomed relationships.
    Our congregation is mostly elderly our pastor is 56 knot a problem except for the part where he is running the whole church on his own
    Our group of devoted leaders are working together in harmony through much prayer and meeting together to keep our faith in the pursuit to stay focused on God!
    Agape Love Karin

  22. This message was much needed. Two and half years ago my husband and I felt God telling us to go home. He was in the military and when he retired 9 years ago, we happily stayed where last stationed. As it worked out, we found out that due to my husband’s service our children qualified for full tuition at a school in our home state, so we began making plans to move back. He got a job there last May and moved, living with very generous friends. We put our house on the market and moved our older daughter into her own apartment after she received her cosmetology license. Our youngest had already accepted a place in a discipleship program for a gap year. I moved both girls out last July and suddenly went from homeschooling to empty nest while being geographically separated from my husband. This has been the hardest 11 months. I stepped down from my church staff position due to the impending move that still hasn’t materialized. My small group abandoned me and church has been incredibly difficult, so I quit going. And now our youngest might not be going to college at all and we’ve chosen to be separated while trying to sell the house so that she can have full tuition.

  23. Jen,

    Covid hurt the church. We had to stay home on Sundays & now many people are still doing that. Prayers that God can stir hearts make them want to attend church.

    I have been in large, medium & small local churches. While large ones have a number of opportunities to get involved, it is hard to have personal relationships or make friends. You have to attend small groups during the week at someone’s home. That just isn’t for me. For 18 years I was a part of a small Christian church. It was fun because I got to know most of the members. On holidays our pastor his wife would open their home to people for pot luck meals. They have since retired. I chose to attend my husband’s childhood church much closer to home. The fellowship we have there is delightful. They have a number of activities to be involved with. Praying for each other is our number one priority.

    Blessings 🙂

  24. I read your article and thought do we try again or not? Yesterday Mothers day my dear husband asked me if I would like to try attending in person. I had not attended an in person service since Feb 2020. I thought that I would really love to sing aloud again with others. We went without expecting anything. I talked to God and said if you want us to be back in a community you will have to throw the welcome large enough to make it hard to walk away. So if you wonder what did you find? When they put ear plugs at the door for you to take there is a very good reason. I don’t mind singing to be loud. When the base and drums overpowers the words and voices and all you can feel is thumping in your chest it somehow doesn’t feel like worship. I am also confused as when the main church worship joins by satilite feed and the campus you are attending plays with it and overpowers the song how that is worship. Moms were given a mug for mothers day. While waiting in line after, not one person approached or talked to any of us. The one campus pastor walked by and just hi and kept going. This is what I know. They are not going to be my people. I am good with this. I came home and rewatched the worship from the lead campus. I meet Jesus in the worship there. Next Sunday we might try the other campus and see if the experience is any different. So just maybe church community is not as you picture it meeting on Sunday. Maybe it is a meal with friends that meet 6 times a year to share. Maybe it is serving others but not in the church setting. Maybe it is giving to organizations that are world wide helping others find Jesus.

    • Sue – thank you for trying again but I’m so sorry for how once again, the welcome wasn’t what you hoped. And I’ve felt the same “these won’t be my people.” It does sound like the church you visited on Sunday was a larger contemporary church . It’s so hard sometimes with larger churches to feel welcomed since often no one even knows who is new. Maybe there’s a smaller community type feel church you could try? Our adult kids moved and in the process tried six churches before they finally found their people and now they envision anything else. thinking of myself, I don’t think I could try that many without discouragement but they modeled for me a beautiful call.

      Sending this from my phone so pardon typos but wanted you to know I sense your hurt and understand the risk you took to put yourself out there again. Keep sharing when you try again. I’m praying with you and for you as you journey this. ❤️