Loving Jesus More in Community

I recently learned that loneliness is an epidemic in American culture. While we are vastly more connected via social media, we are extremely disconnected at the soul level. God wired us for relationships and community and when we miss this integral piece the void is deep. I’m so grateful for my friend Sharie King and the powerful word she shares on the Redeemed Girl blog about loneliness, friendships, and thriving in Biblical community. –Marian

 

Loving Jesus more in community can be confusing and sometimes feel self-defeating because it plays out differently in different life stages. When I was in high school and college, I spent a lot of time with a lot of people because, well, I had a lot of time. Every one of my life stages (dating, marriage and kids) has taken some of that time away, so I’ve had to reconfigure my idea of time with friends. But one common obstacle I’ve battled in my desire for community is loneliness. Loneliness is such an ironic feeling. When you’re lonely, the natural remedy is time with people, but I often find that instead of seeking someone out, I wonder why I’m alone. When I need a friend the most, loneliness inundates my heart with lies to keep me isolated. Lies like:

  • People are too busy to hang with you (or vice versa).
  • They didn’t invite you because you’re not (fill in the blank) enough.
  • I don’t fit in anywhere.
  • Our schedule doesn’t allow for fun time with friends.
  • I’m just not good with people, so I’ll just be alone.

One of the loneliest times of my life was my last semester at Appalachian State University. I’d spent four years building a close friend group until I broke off an engagement my senior year (long story). This choice not only landed me in the single category again, but it also put an awkward wedge between my best friend and me. One day she and I were planning our weddings together, and the next, by my own choice, I was tossing all my bridal magazines in the trash. The awkwardness also flowed into my other friendships. I sensed they felt like they had to take sides, so I absorbed responsibility for the tension and decided to withdraw myself from the group, so they could support him. Isolating myself seemed like the right thing to do, and I survived, but as I look back, I believe loneliness got the best of me. So I want to leave you with two thoughts to fight loneliness in your singleness (although I think it could also apply to any other stage of life).

The biggest mistake I made during this season was shutting people out. I lived alone because I was a leader in our campus ministry. I thought Jesus (and others) expected me to be strong. Before the break up, I walked through the door to our campus ministry engaging people, listening and praying for them. After the break-up, I stood in the back trying to hold back tears and left before the meeting was over. Before the breakup, I remember coming home and talking about my day with my roommates, but after the break-up, I’d see their cars in the driveway and offer them a sheepish wave as I slipped into my room to cry myself to sleep. I told myself I didn’t want to be a burden or add drama to anyone’s life, but what I needed to hear was, “Sharie, stop being stubborn and find a shoulder to lean on.”

When you feel loneliness, what keeps you from finding a friend?

Matthew 27 paints a picture of Jesus in his loneliest hour.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and offered him a drink. But the rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

But Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.  Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after his resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.

When the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

What did he do when he felt isolated and abandoned? Did he shut out his friends? Did he close himself off from his Father? No! In fact, Jesus presses into his emotions. Looking down from the cross, perhaps he perceives his mother and John’s despair, so he unites them by giving Mary a new son and John a new mother (John 19:26-27). Then looking up opens his heart to his Father, asking, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27-45-54) This is what I see. In Jesus most vulnerable, lonely, isolated moment, he tuned into his feelings and pursued the people who loved him most. He reached out to them for strength instead of shutting himself off and shouldering his burden alone.

I don’t like to share my lonely moments. Do you?

Let me leave you with one more thought. Take a minute and imagine yourself at the foot of the cross. Look around. Now imagine how many people have heard or read about Jesus’ most lonely moment and been forever changed. People are watching how we handle our loneliness just like they watched how Jesus handled his. When we seek community in our loneliest times, we show the world that we love and trust one another; and in effect we also communicate that God is loving and trustworthy. So I plead with you friends, please don’t let your loneliness lead to isolation. Reach out and rise up.

Let’s Pray Together:

Jesus,

Your word says, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” We want to love our friends and our community well. Teach us to love each other the way you have loved us. Let loyalty and let faithfulness dictate how we love those around us. Amen (John 13:34, John 15:13, Proverbs 3:3-4)

 

Sharie King

 

You have just read an excerpt from Sharie’s new workbook for I Love You More releasing summer 2018.

Sharie is the wife of Clayton King and the mother to two boys Jacob and Joseph. She loves art, traveling, and a good hike followed by a spa day. She and her husband, founded Clayton King Ministries in 1996 and have been serving in ministry together ever since. Clayton King Ministries exists to serve the local church, to preach the gospel and make disciples. 

Sharie is a speaker, podcaster and writer. She has written four books including the True Love Project, which was awarded the 2015 young adult book of the year award by the Christian Retailers Association. Her most recent book, I Love You More (fighting to keep Jesus first), has a companion workbook which will release this summer.

Last January, Sharie started a podcast called Overcoming Monday. This podcast is designed to provide listeners with little secrets for their big breakthrough. This podcast discusses issues which help women rise above their situation because her greatest desire is to help women move forward in their faith and finish their race well!

To connect with Sharie you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the Overcoming Monday Podcast and Seeds Blog.

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