Have you ever felt like you're struggling and there is no one around you who has experienced what you're experiencing? Or if there is anyone who is working through the same issue, most likely they are not in the same circle as you? You feel as though you are an island. I face this battle every day. I stress over in whom to confide; I fear judgement, being misunderstood and never being enough.
Inevitably, while walking out our faith, struggles are going to arise. We will overcome sin, we will resist sin, and sometimes it will just be plain hard to remain steadfast. These struggles will test who we are, our faith, and our ability to cope. It is easier to escape rather than to stand and fight. It's less painful to just go to my room, journal about the situation, and internalize it; attempting to forget and move on. To be honest, most times, that's what I end up doing. Even still, I attempt to overcome these lies using Scripture such as Psalm 139:5 which states, "You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head." This means that God is always my Guide and my Pursuer, am never alone. I have no fear because my God is in control.
This summer I went on a ten day mission’s trip to Thailand. While overseas, issues arose, mainly in my personal life. I began believing some of the lies I had worked so hard to fight. As I had previously done, I tried to process and resolve my struggles on my own. However, while living with fourteen other people, solitude was hard to come by. After a couple days of stressing over these issues, my youth pastor, Paul walked up to me and asked me how I was doing. I knew I needed to talk to someone; I had to process my thoughts. I had been eaten alive, and not by mosquitos, but by the internal pressure building up in my heart. My emotions were a tangled mess, my joy in the Lord was diminishing, and my heart was losing its passion to serve others. I was about to explode. So, swallowing my pride, I breathed in, and opened my mouth. As I began to pour out my feelings to Paul, I expressed my hurt and my pain. I told him the truth about my struggle and I confessed even when it was hard. I placed myself in a spot of humility and vulnerability. Only in that place was I able to truly understand why in his book, James calls us to confess our sins one to another (James 5:16). When I took this step in obedience, God immediately released me from my self doubts and troubling thoughts, I was free.
Now I don’t tell you that story to encourage you to spill your guts out to the first person that asks you how you're doing, but rather to encourage you in something specific: community.
Community can look different for different people, yet it is still essential for everyone. For some of my friends, they find community through their family. They are very close to their siblings, always spending time with them and confiding in them. Other friends seek community through co-workers and church friends.
Community can be all those things, but it is also so much more. It is those with whom you live life, those with whom you have common life goals, and those who are going to keep you accountable. There is an aspect of integrity and vulnerability between you and others that cultivates community. I found that my trip was a prime time for me to build community, enabling me to cultivate it through intentional time with others and even the unintentional goofy times; being with others during the great times of life, standing by their side in the exciting, and trudging through the mundane together. When this community is cultivated, it opens opportunities to share your heart and receive wisdom from others around you. I felt comfortable talking to my youth pastor about my struggles because he could encourage me, challenge me and hold me accountable.
Originally when studying about community, I believed that in order to have true community, all of your convictions must line up with those other individuals. I thought that if your convictions weren’t all matched up, there would be too much division in your relationship and that they, therefore, would not be able to fill that role in your life. However, that’s a lie. To this day I have people in my life that fall on both sides of the spectrum, but it all comes down to one important point: your life goal. Do you have the same life goals as those people? Have you both chosen to love and serve God? Without having Christ at the center of my community, it will not stand. Since Christ is the solid rock, nothing founded in him will crumble or fail. That is how godly community is cultivated and is able to withstand storms.
God calls us to commune with one another and confess to one another. As my story goes, not only does community break the bond of isolation, but it also brings freedom. You are not alone. You are loved by God and by others. When you feel down, when you feel alone, remember those people you have in your life. They are the ones that hold you accountable, that love you unconditionally, and always want what is best for you. Ultimately, that’s not only their heart for you, but so much more is it your Father in Heaven’s perspective on you, His daughter. You are delighted in.