Click here to read the previous posts in this series.
Last week, I talked about the necessity of surrounding ourselves with others who can support and encourage and inspire us when we’re struggling to endure.
This is a lesson that has taken me many, many years to learn, but oh! How rich the rewards!
Some years back, when I was struggling with anxiety attacks, I was so desperate, I finally opened up to an older (and wiser) woman about what I was facing. I was a little embarrassed because I felt like I should know how to deal with this. I knew a bunch of Scripture that pertained to my situation, and I had been spending a great deal of time in God’s Word, seeking Him, praying, spending time in praise and worship. I was doing “all the right things”. But when I shared with this woman, she led me to a well-known and much-loved passage of Scripture that I was very familiar with, and she shed fresh light on it. It hit me like a freight train! Immediately, I knew what I had been missing and what I had to do. Not only that, I now had an advocate and a support person who faithfully prayed for me and encouraged me and checked up on me with care and compassion. It gave me what I needed to press on and not give up.
That experience taught me enough that I am much quicker now to seek out someone who I believe could teach me or encourage me in specific areas of my life. Even if they have no new information for me, maybe just being able to share will make a difference. And it does!
This feels like risky business. I know. Some of you may be reading this and saying, “I am willing to do all the other stuff we’re told to do in order to endure, but this one I can’t do. There is no one for me to turn to for help or encouragement or prayer support.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Been there. Done that. I know very well how that’s going to end and I refuse to open myself up to that kind of hurt again.” Or maybe your situation is such that you are the only Christian in your world. Or maybe you are a busy mom with too many spinning plates and you cannot fathom finding time to talk to someone about something other than car pools and soccer practice. Or maybe you know some wonderful Godly women you would love to talk to and learn from but you also know that they are so busy and they have their own families and why would they ever make time for you and your own problems?
I mean it when I tell you I know. I’ve been there. Years ago, in another city and church family, I went to a pastor for counsel. I was desperate and had no one else to go to. His response to me was, “Counselling is not my job. I can’t help you.” I’ve poured out my heart to friends I thought would care, only to be judged and told to “suck it up” or preached at about how my situation was my own fault or how I was wrong to feel the way I was feeling. There have been seasons in my life when I literally didn’t know any Christians I could talk to who were in a position to pray for me or encourage me. I’ve been rejected by friends when my circumstances took a turn, when I needed friends the most. I’ve been so busy taking care of my family and all of my other responsibilities that I didn’t believe I had time to seek out the fellowship that would nourish my spirit. I’ve been hurt, betrayed, rejected, judged, ignored, and belittled.
There Is Reward
But I’ve also experienced the opposite. It took getting down into a very deep, dark pit for me to finally learn the necessity of seeking out the kind of fellowship I’m talking about here. I had to get to a place where I was so helpless and so vulnerable and so needy that I knew I wouldn’t survive without someone else helping me. Someone had to drop down a rope and pull me out of that pit.
The friends I have made over the last decade of my life by making myself vulnerable and reaching out when I needed help have been an incredible gift. They are not perfect. They fail me (and I fail them). But I know they are there for me. I sometimes just have to ask – let them know my need. I’ve had friends bring my family meals when I was too weak to cook. They’ve provided weeks’-worth of groceries when employment was scarce. They’ve given clothing to our kids, cut and styled my hair, given me thoughtful gifts to brighten a dark day, prayed for me, prayed for my family, called me up to speak God’s Word to me, reminded me of His truth, listened when I lamented, cried when I cried, hugged me when there were no words. I could go on.
No friend has done all of these things for me. But each friend has done at least one.
More importantly, as I have opened my heart up to them, I have gotten to see pieces of theirs. I have learned so much from them by sharing the tough stuff.
When I shared with one friend about how discouraged I was in a time when we were struggling to put food on the table, she surprised me by telling of a time she was in the same boat. She articulated EXACTLY what it felt like. And she couldn’t fix it and didn’t try. But she understood. And that was enough. (And then she also made me laugh hysterically, which was welcome medicine, too!)
When I shared with another friend about my fear of taking a big step God had called me to, she shared how she had been in the same situation years before. She told me what she had learned and it opened my eyes to possibilities I hadn’t considered.
When I shared with another friend about some of my struggles in parenting, she knew exactly what I was feeling and experiencing because she had been there. She had fought the same battle. She had insight and encouragement that can only come from someone who has walked the same road. And she could pray! Oh! How she prayed! And she gave me strength and courage to go on. Because of her example, I had hope that we’d get through it.
Vulnerability Leads To Victory
What I’ve learned is that, in order to surround myself with the fellowship I need, I have to take that scary step and be real and open about where I’m at. I also have to reach out and let others know I need them. Most people are not perceptive enough to know that you need something from them unless you’re already quite close to them. We have a tendency to have unrealistic expectations in this regard. But the great thing is, most people are so willing and eager to help or encourage or pray when you let them know what you need. (Not all, but most.)
If you reach out to someone and they let you know they can’t help or don’t have time or whatever, don’t take it personally. Don’t camp out there. Let it go. Forgive. Move on. There IS someone else who WILL be there for you. It won’t always look the way you want it to. It might not be a friend in the same age and stage of life as you. It might not be over coffee at a nearby café. It might not be in person. Maybe it’ll require FaceTime or Skype or email exchanges or something else. Maybe it’ll have to be a brief chat in a corner of your church after a service, at least as a start.
God designed us to need people. His Church is a big deal to Him and He desires for each one of us to be in fellowship with other Believers. And if that’s His desire, He will provide what we need to make it happen (2 Peter 1:3 and Philippians 4:19). But we still have to take some scary steps. Those steps are worth it. I promise.
We need people. Endurance is possible when we’re not alone, when we’ve got people to hold up our arms, and when we’ve got examples to follow. Reach out. Talk to someone. Let them know what’s going on. Ask for prayer. And read Hebrews 11. Read about heroes of the faith (in the Bible and elsewhere) who endured, who are a testimony to the power of God in the most impossible of circumstances. Be encouraged by those who’ve gone before.
Live It Out
- Who has had a positive impact on you with regard to your relationship with Christ? How?
- Who is someone you respect and admire for their faith and walk with the Lord?
- What is an area in your life where you feel you could really benefit from the input of someone older and wiser? Do you have an idea of who that could be? Pray about it. Ask the Lord to enable you to connect with someone who can walk alongside you in this area.
- Reach out to one person this week to ask for prayer or encouragement for something specific that you’re struggling with. If it’s really difficult for you, pray about it and ask the Lord for courage.
- Read Hebrews 11. If one of those “heroes of the faith” stands out to you, find the rest of their story in the Bible and read that, too.