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To All God’s Anxious Children



This article is for anyone who steps into church, hurt or scared. Anyone who has a hard time passing through those doors, far from comfort. Anyone whose doubts and worries huddle close to their heart, threatening to isolate them.

But you come to church anyway. You serve anyway. You worship anyway. All the while, leaning on God to give you strength you don’t possess because you wouldn’t have made it there any other way.

Thank you. We love you. The church needs you.

Some of you may push back and wonder how anyone could enter a church and be scared–how it could ever be worry-or-anxiety-inducing.

Well, that’s my story.

I grew up in a small church. I want to be clear from the outset that I have so many good memories of that church. There were many kind and encouraging people there–including family. Those are the memories that win out in the end. But I was bullied there, too. Looking back, nothing that was said to me was truly abusive, but it doesn’t take abuse to wound the heart.


“But you come to church anyway. You serve anyway. You worship anyway.”


I don’t know if anyone else will relate to this, but I can remember being a kid without social anxiety and persistent insecurity. They cropped up soon enough, and they haven’t left. My self-confidence faded fast between upper elementary and junior high. For a while, I still had pockets in my life where I could be “myself”—the authentic me a handful of friends and close family knew well. One by one, insecurity and anxiety found those spaces, too.

The low point for me was Sunday School as a freshman in high school. The other students spent a year pretending I didn’t exist. Only the teachers talked to me. I remember telling my parents at the end of that year, “I’m not going back.”

I hadn’t always been that kid. But, now, I was. And the anxiety was suffocating.

So I hid in the church sound booth and talked to as few people as possible. When the service ended, I’d wait for the lobby to empty before I left. Even then, I’d still cut through the auditorium. Why? Fear of running into the kids who’d hurt me. Fear of conversations that might paint me as quiet and awkward. Even fear that a sponsor would invite me back to youth group.


“So I hid in the church sound booth and talked to as few people as possible.”


You may be wondering how the congregation reacted to seeing one of its own turn inward. After repeatedly (and frustratedly) telling me to speak up, one volunteer asked a pointed question: “What happened to you?” Another shared they’d been recruited for VBS because I wasn’t assertive enough to pose and photograph kids. And they were right.

I remember leaving for college with the hope that everything would suddenly be different. As you can imagine, life doesn’t work like that. I saw one of my childhood bullies almost every day my freshman year. It was a constant reminder of where I’d been as I worked desperately to chart a different course.

I grew a lot in college, and I started inching back out of my shell. But the pain didn’t stop at high school graduation. Over time, a narrative developed in my life that, no matter how desperately I may want healthy, supportive community, I was never going to find it. I wanted friends, but who was ever going to want my friendship? I saw potential in myself to step into leadership roles. Almost no one else did. I kept hearing the same themes over and over. You’re weak. You need to change. You’re not worthy of friendship.

Relational wounds, layered over years, made it difficult to walk into church, especially a church where I knew almost no one. I was in small groups. I was serving. But people saw the quiet guy standing by himself and kept walking.


“People saw the quiet guy standing by himself and kept walking.”


People told me they wanted to be my friend, but they didn’t back it up with action. People said I mattered to them and helped them through a crisis, but when storm clouds rolled into my life, they were nowhere to be found. Again and again, I’ve found myself in the spin cycle of hope and despair.

But, despite the pain of these experiences, I’ve been blessed to see fruit in my life. My heartrate still ticks up when I cross the church parking lot on Sunday morning, but I show up because I know He has a plan and purpose for my life. Even if I never receive a fraction of the love and care from others that I’ve freely given away, God knew the disposition of my heart and saw every sacrifice. And I’m confident He’ll give me strength to make another.

As I’ve shared in previous articles, youth ministry has been an amazing serving experience for me. When I joined and the youth pastor heard my story, there was a student he wanted me to meet. Over the past year, I’ve gotten to watch that student step back into community after a period of isolation. It’s been incredible to see him find belonging in the church and become a welcoming spirit to others at the same age I was struggling.

I don’t know where God will lead you. Or if He’ll call you out of one church and into another. But one thing’s perfectly clear: God wants to use you. And He wants you in community with other broken believers, messy as it is.


“God wants to use you. And He wants you in community with other broken believers, messy as it is.”


For any number of reasons, involvement in a local church may be difficult for you. Praise God, His Kingdom doesn’t follow the rules of the world. Jesus never said, “You will recognize my followers by their beauty and perfection—their wealth and their power. They will be well-spoken and confident. They’ll be talented, educated, wise, and influential. They’ll never be anxious.”

Jesus said Christians would be known by their love for one another (John 13:35). And that wonderful cascade of familial love begins with acknowledging God’s deep and abiding love for you. He loved you enough to die for you. My prayer is that you’ll endure and see fruit in your life and ministry as you love others, even when it hurts.

As I’ve gotten older, I realize my parents were right when they reassured me about the bullies: “This won’t matter someday.” Friend, I want to encourage you with the same thought. The pain we experience is real. But the present difficulty won’t matter someday. That cross you’re carrying won’t cut into your shoulder forever. The struggle won’t last.


“That cross you’re carrying won’t cut into your shoulder forever. The struggle won’t last.”


Don’t give up. Just as I shared a chapter of my story, someone needs to hear yours. If this resonated with you, I hope you’ll consider inviting a Christian counselor to walk alongside you. They can help you process and heal. I’ve made that investment, and it’s been a blessing.

Finally, if church has only been a source of blessing and peace for you, please bear gently with others who haven’t had that experience. Sin has fractured every inch of this world, including the members of the body of Christ. But praise God, the columns may crack, and the beams may bow and sag. But we have a foundation that will stand firm forever. And the Builder never ceases His labor.

God bless.

Get Renew.org Weekly Emails

Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

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