Christianity -- Christian Living/Starting life over?

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QUESTION: HI,
My wife and I are both Christians and have been so since our childhood.
We would regularly attend Church each week and seemed to have a purpose and place. A few years after getting married, we lived overseas for 2 years. We then had children and tried living overseas a second time (which was not successful).
We are now in our early 40's with young children and live back in our home town and attending our old Church (after trying many other Churches and just hitting walls with fitting in and making friends - Churches can be so cold sometimes).
Fast forwarding to present day... We seem to be really struggling with life. We are very lonely, struggling with finding a Church where we can happily attend (my wife has basically given up on Church, people and making friends due to the hurt and pain from years of rejection).
I am an introvert and my wife is an extrovert. I know that I have over the years caused us to be somewhat isolated due to my introverted ways and that has been hard for my wife. I saw the error of my ways a few years ago and have since made great effort to extend the hand of friendship to our old friends as well as new people. I just seem to keep getting rejected on this front (even from people who I would once consider my close friends). Some of our experiences at the Churches we have tried were just dreadful (Christians giving nothing but the cold shoulder).
Anyway, my wife and I were both talking tonight and it seems that we have been thinking the same thing... We wish we could just start over from scratch. How do we do this, what does this look like? We are quite unhappy and burned out with this phase of life we are in. We have gone from having friends and purpose to having no friends and no sense of purpose.

ANSWER: Dear Mark,
Thank you for writing. I am not sure I understand the question. Usually when you attend church it is for the purpose of worshiping God and to fellowship  with other Christians.  I am not sure what you mean by start over, do you mean your "Christian walk?" What has changed that you are being rejected by "Your close friends?" Why do you think you and your wife are being rejected?  Why do you think you two have no friends? I need a little more clarification because it is not clear why you feel lonely and are having so  much difficulty and are unhappy with life, based upon you lack of relationship and friend with church.

I will wait for your response to to see if I can be a little more helpful.

Blessings
Dr. Swaby

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: HI Dr Swaby,

Thanks for your reply. Sorry for the confusion, I will try better to explain the situation.

We are both Christians and are not questioning our faith in any way. We have had some hard knocks on the faith front, but we are in no way entertaining abandoning our relationship with Jesus and God.

With regards to starting over, I was meaning that we would like to start over to get some direction, purpose and making friends. I am of the opinion that life is about relationships and you journey through life with these relationships surrounding you. We are both now in our early 40's and have had two stints of living overseas. While this was full of adventure (living overseas), it was quite disruptive and somewhat stressful, especially when we returned with me not wanting to. I wanted to stay overseas, but my wife was too homesick to do this. We returned the second time to our home town. Ever since returning the second time, life just has not seemed to "click" for us. We are both in great employment situations and kids are happy/healthy etc, but we have gone from Church to Church trying to find our place where we could be involved and make friends. After each bad Church experience (where we gave each Church 1-2 years). Each Church we tried, we encountered chronic cliques where people were just not interested in giving you the time of day. I am kind of old school and just slug things out, but the constant rejection just rattles you after a while and it has crushed my wife to the point where she hates Church now. Sadly, she has found her non-Christian work colleagues much nicer and friendlier than the people we have experienced at Church. Personally, I feel that the modern day Church is sick/dying and these things we experienced are just the symptoms, but that is a whole other topic.
We have had close friends reject us too. For me, I have a friend I have known for about 30 years (a Pastor and lives on the other side of the Country) who has just stopped making effort. He has always been rather slack with making effort, but in recent years he has declined the offer for me to visit and help him with projects, as well as completely side stepped me (3 times) when I offered to travel with him when he was needing to attend Church meetings. I now rarely hear from him. Another friend that I was also close with stopped wanting to be my friend some time ago. He was a very close friend, and he retired from the Army with PTSD and possibly has some mental illness now too, but I was always there for him and made great efforts to be his friend no matter what. Another really old friend, I have tried numerous times tried inviting he and his wife over for dinner. They do not seem interested. For my wife, she has lost old friends too. Two of her oldest friends were fair weather in my opinion and the friendship was rather one sided, and with the one we did not even receive an invite to their 40th birthday party. After all these friends dropping off like this, I have really done some serious self reflection. As mentioned in my original message, I am an introvert and have some "ways" about me where I am sure put people off. We used to have monthly family get togethers with two families (wife's old friends) and I always sensed that they were fair weather and were not safe friends, so I really struggled with that. I used to make effort with the men to talk to them, but I felt that they had a clique and I was not quite able to break into that. Their kids were rather unruly too and that all got the better of me to where I avoided these get togethers. But getting back to the self reflection... I have worked through these things about myself and now feel that I am better aware and have made changes to better handle people and am confident I am much better in social environments. This does not really help with the friends we seem to have lost though, even though I have tried and tried and tried with extending the hand of friendship to them. There is clear rejection going on there and I cannot seem to fix this.
With starting over, we are wondering how a married couple in their early 40's with kids can put all this bad stuff behind them, make a fresh start in finding a new Church, making new friends and just starting over. Does this make sense? Life as it is now, is lonely, depressing and just does not have any direction. All we have is family (which is great), but beyond that life is very blah. If we were back in our 20's, we would probably just up and go and leave our home town. At this stage of life, we cannot really do this due to kids and obligations.

ANSWER: Hi Mark,

Now I better understand. Thank you! I too had a similar situation I moved from the northern part of the United States to the southern part. At the time I was close to your age."It was interesting to say the least." What happens Mark is our old friends make new friends,and life goes on.

When I went back home a year or so later my friendships had changed. My friends did not appearto be as happy to see as I was to see them. Shortly after that we lost contact. I then made new friends,but it was a little hard because most of the people I met had been friends with the others for years.  Eventually I made friends with some of the parents of my children, I was a teacher, and was not able to connect with my co-workers because they had been friends with each other for many years. "I was an outsider"

You and your wife also made new friends while you were overseas. Didn't you ??" Once you returned home (twice) you expected your friends to be happy to see you, but as we both soon found out they had made new friends or became closer to the ones they already had.

That is what happened with you and your wife. It may be time for you and your wife to make new friends. Mark, you have to realize that time brings changes, you cannot go back and redo your life, to make it as it was before you left your hometown. Whether or not you realized it both you and your wife have changed as well.

One of the blessings is that you have children and their friends will have parents; that you will have the opportunity to meet and get to know them better. Mark, one tends to lose friends as we move along in life. "If your old friends do not want to be friends with you and your wife that is okay." "You can't make them be friends. I really don't think they no longer like you, it's that they have just moved on.I am not sure what your church is like in Australia. but, I am sure you can find one that you and your wife and the children can  become involved in, and make new friends

I know it is difficult to lose friendships,but you have to start over is not to hard. Show yourself to be friendly and people will respond.
"Mark at 40 your life is just beginning.:)"  "The best is yet to come." Don't forget to pray asking God to help you find friend that you and your wife can  befriend and to socialize with.  

Mark, I am very proud that you are so self-aware and willing to share your concerns.
I hope you find my response to be helpful. Please feel free to write again if you need to.

Blessings,
Dr. Swaby
  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks again!

We actually had the pleasure of living in the "South" too (twice) and quite enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more than my wife did. People in the South often thought my wife had a more "Northern" personality (ha, ha). Anyway, leaving the US for good was a hard step and certainly left a few scars.

On the Church front, I am not so sure I share your enthusiasm. After being in 7 Churches now in 8 years, it has been apparent that most people seem to be very "cliquey". My wife and I are just pew warmers now and probably only really go for the sake of the kids. In the past I have been men's ministry leader as well as a Deacon. My wife has also been home group leader and women's ministry leader. One Church, we tried setting up a kids ministry and that ended in disaster due to controlling leadership. The last Church we tried, we arrived late, my wife took the kids to Sunday School and I had to stand by the back door of the Church looking in and listening to the service. A woman then came over to me and said she was cold and wanted to shut the door. With nowhere else to go, I just left and sat in the car until the kids were finished Sunday School (unreal, right?? - true story). I could write a book on bad Church experiences.

Making new friends is quite hard. Breaking into circles is hard. People (as you mentioned), already have their friends and just are not interested in making room for yet another person.

Having our old friends reject us has been hard too. I am one of these faithful (ISFJ) people where once I make a friend, they are a friend for life and they can count on my no matter what. With my friends on the other side of the Country now, all I see is that they cannot be bothered to give me the time of day. I will never be able to understand this I don't think, because I see that there is a phone, email, Skype, Facebook and we can always make time to visit. Distance is never a barrier to me, I just make do with what we have and do my best to invest in the friendship. My friends seem to be willing to let it die and now that I have given up, the friendships are dying. It is sad really... I believe that God made us for relationships and so many people just do not care to make the effort. How to just accept this and move on calmly is something I am still working out.

Life is stale and old. I think my wife and I are looking at each other and asking the question "Is this it?"

Answer
Hi Mark,
I had to respond to your letter. "You have so much insight into life." Mark, many people who attend church are not necessarily Christians or living the Christian life.   I believe that church is an important part of life, but what about the other areas of your life?
Based upon our communications it seems that relationships within the church dominates your life.  Church life has changed a lot over the years. The issues you have is some of the same problem we have here. I am sure every person in a church is not "Cliquey" Many times when you try to start a new ministry it does not work out. (It is not you!)(I have tried and it went well, except people would not come out to the meetings)
Change is so hard for people who are used to doing things one way. (It was not personal it is just the way many people are.) About the lady asking you to close the door....come on Mark you and your family were late, you were holding the door open and she was cold. You made the decision to "Wait in the car." What did the lady do wrong?

I know making new friends can be difficult Mark, "I too am a faithful friend " however,over my lifetime
( I am a bit older than you and your wife)  I have come to realize that "People are who they are, and they do what they do" regardless of what is right or wrong. We can only control what we do. Actually Mark,over a lifetime you will only have one or two faithful friends.

I agree God has created us to be in relationships, it's not so much that people do not want to make the effort to invest in friendships,it's that they have chosen which friendships they want to invest in.

I am sure that there are many more opportunities to meet people other than at church. Perhaps when you meet someone you can ask where they attend church ,that way you will already know someone there. Do you and your wife work? Are the children in school? Do you attend school functions? It is kind of difficult for me to suggest some ways to meet people when my only point of reference is in the USA. Are there opportunities to volunteer? How old are the children?

"Life is not stale and old. You both are still young. I hope this helps a little, things will get better. "Is this it?" No,it is not... the best is yet to come. You two may have to put in a little work, but it will be well worth it.


Blessings,
Dr.Swaby  

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Dr.M. Swaby

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I am able answer to questions on salvation, marriage and family, forgiveness and divorce as well as other biblical and life related question. I am a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor, I am able to research and answer questions according to the Word of God.(Bible) I enjoy guiding others to explore what the Word of God says about living our lives according to His Word. The Word of God answers all of lifes questions, which if followed will give us a life that will weather the storms, at which time we will find that we are still standing even in the mist of the storm. Remember, the Word of God promised us "That he will never leave us or forsake us" May God Bless and keep you in his perfect care.

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I am a licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor, I have done marriage Counseling Pre-Marriage Counseling, Biblical Counseling, and Counseling with teens. I love sharing information that will assist one with their walk. Even when we make a mistake it is important not to give up, but to repent ask forgiveness and get back on track. I enjoy encouraging and praying with my fellow Christians.

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Member of National Christian Counseling Association

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The National Christian Counseling Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor Certified Temperment Counselor

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