I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to get up the next morning, get dressed, and go to a building with people who had argued rudely with my husband over a decision the committee had made. I didn’t want to go and see people who didn’t know how difficult my season of life was. But as I sat in the pew and lifted my voice in song to the Lord, as I listened to the prayers of our congregation, as I turned my ear to listen to the word of God read over us, I softened in His presence. I was reminded of His good purposes in meeting together.
Being a part of the local church is an encouragement from scripture meant as protection and support for our souls. When we try to live a true Christian life alone, without support, without accountability, we are doomed for heartache. As is true for any human living on earth, life brings challenges that can toss us around like a small boat on the waves of the sea. Those who choose to live a life surrendered to the teachings of Jesus face other challenges as their convictions bump up against cultural values and practices. All cultures oppose a Biblically surrendered life and living like a salmon swimming upstream, this can become exhausting. We need each other for support and encouragement.
We need the local church. I need to be reminded that I am part of something bigger than my own life and stressors. It’s too easy to get focused on my own world, my own tasks, and my own perspective. The local church reminds me that there is more to the world than my world. There are other issues, other hurts, other battles than the ones I’m facing. At the same time, within the lives of the people of my church, there are more joys, more blessings, more successes that I can be encouraged by than only my own. My love can expand. I can weep and rejoice with those beside me.
And I need to know that my life and stressors matter to others. The Apostle Paul refers to believers as the body, not a pack of cats or a bundle of wheat, as if each are independent from each other. When we are part of a body, what affects one member influences the others. Am I willing to step into the mess of someone else’s life to support, encourage, and meet their needs? Am I willing to let a trustworthy member of my congregation step into my messy areas to help me or challenge me in love? This is an uncomfortable practice in the face of rugged individualism, but it can be a way to healing and wholeness. We are made to know others and be known by them, sharing our lives together.
This is an uncomfortable practice in the face of rugged individualism, but it can be a way to healing and wholeness. We are made to know others and be known by them, sharing our lives together.
The local church needs us, as well. We have each been uniquely made to fill a particular space, to do specific good works, to live an appointed life. When we keep to ourselves, we withhold from others the good things we can offer. Our gifts and abilities are not meant to be hidden away and used for our own personal benefit. Nobody cheers for the character in the movie who uses all his talents for his personal gain, refusing to help others when he is positioned to do so. We cheer for the one who gives of himself or herself, offering the last morsel to the one in need. We cheer for this one because deep inside of us we know there is something good and right in giving of ourselves to others.
There is joy that comes from learning to need and be needed. Sometimes we walk through a season of life where we can’t pray for ourselves and we can’t read the Bible, and we don’t know how to lift our voices in worship. In those times, we can join with the body and let the body do this for us, bringing us along.
I know that the church has not always been a safe place for people who are hurting. But it can be. And I’m thankful that the Lord softens me to be able to open my heart to others – to listen to their concerns, to understand their hopes, to see how we can live life together and draw closer together as we worship our Lord and Savior.
*This post is part of the Reason to Return series, highlighting the upcoming book, “Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women.”
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