For decades I lived in varying levels of pain from an undiagnosed auto-immune disease. In time, my body got tired of sustaining me and said, “You’re on your own.” I began to suffer from depression.
My two friends Glenn and Jay saw it and said something, but I didn’t want to admit it. Frankly, I was scared to acknowledge anything was wrong. I didn’t want to see a therapist and certainly didn’t want to take medication, so I did the mature thing: I pretended like there was no problem—but I was dying inside.
After numerous attempts of simulating sanity, I agreed to go for a walk with Glenn and Jay. We lived in New York City at the time, and Jay lived a few blocks from Central Park, so we entered at Strawberry Fields and wandered haphazardly along the paths and across the lawns. They shared their concerns; I listened but offered nothing more in return than a blank stare.
Fleeing for Safety
Suddenly the weather shifted. It was early afternoon, yet it got dark. FAST. People ran out of the park, and I kept walking. One of the guys suggested we find some cover until the storm passed, but I kept walking. They followed.
And then the rain started. A deluge. It was foolish to be outside. Actually, I was foolish; the guys were stuck with me.
It was the kind of rain that soaked your socks and underwear. Everything was wet. And then it stopped. And suddenly, I started talking. I admitted that they were right and that I needed help.
Although I felt miserable, I realized that my friends continued to walk with me, even though every other human within eyesight fled for safety.
My favorite memory is the photograph that Jay’s wife took from her apartment window when we returned. Three of us stood soaking wet. I still had a glazed look on my face, but Glenn and Jay stood beside me. I did have friends who cared. These same friends eventually got sick because they walked in soaking wet clothes for far too long, but they lived out John’s description of Jesus:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)
Unite with other believers
If you want to grow in your faith and be the person God is calling you to be, you need some friends—you need to unite with other believers. Don’t look for perfect people—they don’t exist—but look for those willing and available to pray with you, listen to you, and encourage you. And, you might want to include those who’ll walk through a storm with you.
Disciple-making is a team sport.
Eugene Peterson writes, “Spiritual formation takes place essentially in the company of friends, of peers.” Disciples learn, grow, and live out their faith best in the company of friends—with teammates.
We can do better. Instead of pretending as if we don’t have problems, or—worse—looking at others with judgment, let’s admit that we have setbacks.
Get started in two ways:
- Practice confessing your struggles. You don’t have to do it on a busy street corner, but you should have two or three friends with whom you can call and speak honestly. Who can you call at 3 AM?
- Be available to others. Pick up the phone at 3 AM. You don’t have to do this for everyone. You can’t. But there should 2-3 others you are stacking hands with and doing life together.
In biblical community—when we unite with other believers—we see one another as teammates, not opponents. We seek to encourage one another, despite defeats or temporary setbacks.
But this is a learned skill because we’re conditioned to compete in the world. We’ve got to learn the importance of letting down our guard and taking off the mask.
The apostle Paul reminds us that God has a purpose for the challenges we face.
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
And we do it with compassion and grace—not only because Jesus set the example but for our benefit:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
When Jesus’ followers unite with other believers, following Jesus not only becomes possible, it becomes enjoyable.
It’s not just healthy to have others in your life—you need others—and they need you.
Disciple-making is a team sport: you receive the baton from someone and pass it to someone else and equip them to do the same. Step out in faith and seek a friend or be a friend. Unite with other believers.
This article is Part 4 of a 5-part series overviewing the upcoming release of my digital course, Take the Jesus Challenge, teaching you how to live as a disciple of Jesus. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. Read Part 3 here. Read Part 5 here.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
Who has been a friend to you in troubling times? Have you thanked that person lately?