I was on a beach in South Carolina last year when the thought began to grow. I had been to a funeral not long before and that day on the beach in South Carolina, I received a call that another funeral was ahead.
I thought about the valley of the shadow of death, about the pain and the tears and the sting of loss that it contained. I don't want to have to travel through it once again. I remembered the psalmist's praise, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." The promise of His presence in any and every circumstance of this life - yes, that is enough...but He is a God who gives above and beyond. He has given us something else to carry us though grief - each other.
When God designed the Christian community, He intended for us to be individual components of a whole.
14 Here’s what I mean: the body is not made of one large part but of many different parts. 15 Would it seem right for the foot to cry, “I am not a hand, so I couldn’t be part of this body”? Even if it did, it wouldn’t be any less joined to the body. 16 And what about an ear? If an ear started to whine, “I am not an eye; I shouldn’t be attached to this body,” in all its pouting, it is still part of the body.17 Imagine the entire body as an eye. How would a giant eye be able to hear? And if the entire body were an ear, how would an ear be able to smell?18 This is where God comes in. God has meticulously put this body together; He placed each part in the exact place to perform the exact function He wanted. 19 If all members were a single part, where would the body be? 20 So now, many members function within the one body. 21 The eye cannot wail at the hand, “I have no need for you,” nor could the head bellow at the feet, “I won’t go one more step with you.” 22 It’s actually the opposite. The members who seem to have the weaker functions are necessary to keep the body moving; 23 the body parts that seem less important we treat as some of the most valuable; and those unfit, untamed, unpresentable members we treat with an even greater modesty. 24 That’s something the more presentable members don’t need. But God designed the body in such a way that greater significance is given to the seemingly insignificant part.25 That way there should be no division in the body; instead, all the parts mutually depend on and care for one another.26 If one part is suffering, then all the members suffer alongside it. If one member is honored, then all the members celebrate alongside it. 27 You are the body of the Anointed,the Liberating King; each and every one of you is a vital member.
- 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, The Voice translation
My joy multipled, my grief divided...that's what He intended. When I remember the tears that I have shed, I remember those who have shed them with me. When I think back on the waves of grief that overwhelmed me, I think back on the arms that held me up. When I recall the seasons of doubt and anger at God, I recall the voices of confident faith that spoke over me, "Hope in God, for you shall again praise Him for the help of His presence," (Psalm 42:5).
Christian community has been a bridge that kept me from plummeting to the depths of the valley. No, they cannot keep me from being touched by the valley's affliction, but they can assuredly help me journey out of it, leading me to higher ground.
The account of the battle between Amalek and Israel n Exodus 17 is rich in lessons. Moses stood on the top of a hill with the staff of God in his hands and it is recorded, "when Moses held his hand up, Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed" Exodus 17:11. Don't miss that - faithful intercession on the mountain secured victory in the valley. The people fighting for their lives down below were dependent on Moses' arms staying up, reaching to God. Moses did what the people could not. He was their bridge out of the valley. And just as if to illustrate the necessity of community, Moses' arms must be buttressed by Aaron and Hur, helping him remain faithful in spite of his fatigue.
You may be in the valley today...will you call out to those around you, tell them that you need support? You may be on the mountaintop...will you faithfully intercede for those suffering while you are safe? Will you even go so far as to enter into their pain, their disappointment, their valley?
I think of Oklahoma. I think of Boston. I think of a thousand different battles in a thousand different hearts and I know this...it's time to live like we're all vital members of the same body. And just like a natural body, it's time for the healthy to surround the sick and bolster the weak cells and work together to heal. It's not their problem...it's ours. It's not their tragedy...it's ours.
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