Hey Sis, You’re Not Alone! There’s Hope for the Lonely Heart
Self-care can be crazy hard. There are usually a handful to a hundred reasons we should be doing something, ANYTHING other than care for ourselves. Gah!
The past five weeks have been eye-opening for me. As we've studied spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical self-care, I've learned that I've got a lot to learn! This week was no exception. The social part of who we are plays a huge role in caring for ourselves.
We live in a day and age where community can be confused with followers on social media or a certain number of likes on a post. Because the entire world is at our fingertips, we can forget the most essential truth about community. And it is this––
You and I could be alone in a room, but if we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are in community.
Since God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit coexist, there will never be fewer than 4 people in the room when we've asked God to draw near!
This truth is reiterated in Matthew 18:20 but in a different way:
"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
When we are alone, we are never alone. And we don't have to have a crowd to have a community.
Because of what social media likes to portray regarding connection, it's important to remember these truths. But, on the flip side, we don't want to rationalize that it's OK to never really connect with others.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE IN COMMUNITY
We need community, and it turns out Scripture has a ton to say about it. It's apparent that having it and how we do it is important to God.
"… encourage the disheartened…" 1 Thess. 5:14
I'm an overthinker and can make things more complicated than they have to be. This verse reminds me that it just doesn't have to be that hard. When we're next in line to someone at the grocery store or when we're sitting next to a co-worker, we can whisper the prayer, "Lord, how can I encourage this person today." It's a prayer He loves to answer.
"… offer hospitality to one another without grumbling…" 1 Peter 4:9
This is a simple way to be in community. Hospitality can be as unflashy as an invitation over for take and bake pizza. The key is the second part of the verse… "without grumbling."
God knows that there have been times I've had my foot in a snare when it comes to my attitude.
"I'm tired, Lord."
"The house is a mess, Lord."
"I'm not a good cook Lord."
Fortunately, God can help us with how we feel. I'm surprised how often I just need to tell my hands and feet to do the work, and sure enough, God grants me the sincere heart to accompany the hospitality.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ." Gal. 6:2
This verse is broader, but it allows us to factor in the many needs we see around us. The challenge is wisdom in knowing how to help. Fortunately, God helps with that. He may guide us in understanding how we can personally help or make us aware of another person who can help. Our job may be to simply serve as a connecting point.
"spur one another on to love and good deeds…" Heb 10:24
Not only are we called to encourage those who are discouraged God loves it when we cheer each other on to do good things! Who of us doesn't appreciate having someone say, "I know you can do this!" I wonder how many good deeds have been left at the table because someone just needed to hear, "You've got this!"
"… confess our sins to each other and pray for one another so that we may be healed…" James 5:16
Full disclosure, this may be one of my least favorite parts of community, but it may be one of the most life-changing. For years, I struggled with a way of thinking that I knew was not honoring to God. It didn't matter how many times I confessed and repented. I could never permanently get off of the merry-go-round.
That is until I confessed my struggle to someone that I looked up to, someone that I knew I could trust. Satan loves it when things stay hidden and in the dark. He knows that once we've made ourselves accountable, the light comes in and we're no longer covered in that dark shroud of shame.
Confessing my stronghold to this mentor, followed by her prayers and support, was the starting point of victory for me. Without her, I have no doubt that I would still be on that destructive merry-go-round. We need community for the life-changing practice of confession.
"Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8
This verse implies that when we do life with people, they will fail. They may hurt us. Anger us. Disappoint us. The news flash is that we may do the same to them. So there is only one way to STAY in community, and that is to love, which means we forgive, and we seek forgiveness.
SEARCHING FOR COMMUNITY
These verses give us a great taste of what community can look like. But what if we don't feel like we have one?
Hopefully, we're settled in the truth that we are NEVER alone. God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are our first and most important tribe.
But our relational God wants more for us. The question is, how do we grow our community?
The first thing we do is ask God for help. He loves it when we do.
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord…" Psalm 121:1
We need to be vulnerable, transparent with God, and tell Him we want more community. Or maybe we don't know if we want it, but we know we need it.
Our prayer is simple. Help.
As we wait on Him, we can also ask for wisdom.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5
Wisdom is required for knowing what part we play in pursuing community and what part we don't. In other words, we need understanding to know when and how to act and when and how to wait. And waiting can be hard.
So if community is what we desire, let's ask for His help and ask for His wisdom as we trust that he will make it so when and how He sees fit. We may also need courage because the pursuit of community means we may risk rejection.
These are the times I repeat to myself this verse from 2 Timothy 1:7 "God did not create me with a spirit of fear…" We can rehearse this truth as we step out of our comfort zone and take a chance. Join that class. Ask that person to lunch. Invite the neighbor to church.
One more thing that will carry us as we seek to grow in community is faith. The book of Hebrews defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen."
Perhaps God is laying something on our hearts that we've hoped for in terms of community. Something that even though we have yet to experience, we know that it's possible.
Faith will carry us as we wait for His perfect timing.
This past week, I shared with my daughter about this week's lesson. I told her how I was awed to realize that we are always in community when we have Jesus.
She said, "You know, you're right about never being alone but just look at what the pandemic taught us. Heck, we need the community of being able to talk to a cashier when we check out at the grocery store or visit with a waitress at a restaurant. People need people, Mom."
"Yes, Tay, You. Are. Right."
1st Peter 2:9 says it this way…
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
If ever our world needed more light, it is today. When we have Jesus, we have it. We have it all.
We have hope, peace, joy, and the knowledge that we will never be alone.
But God didn't send Jesus so that a select few could experience this. Instead, he sent Jesus so that the world could know they never have to be alone.
If we know Him, we are to declare Him.
WE ARE LIGHT.
Light in the form of kindness to the cashier at the grocery store.
Light in the form of generosity in the food we take to the safe house.
Light in the form of patience as we keep our cool with the rude driver one lane over.
Light in the form of forgiveness as we reach out to an estranged family member.
God's people, His community is meant to shed light on a lonely, heartbroken world.
Community is a gift from God that you and I need. But once received, it is a gift meant to be magnified and multiplied.
Would you pray with me?