I sent a note out to some dear friends with whom I lead a few months ago. In summary, I was basically asking them for prayer and wisdom as I was in a season of deep discouragement. The responses I got reminded me of how important having those people to whom we can say “I am discouraged” really is.
Being honest, I was disappointed with most of the responses I got at that time. One-liner cliches back from folks in essence telling me I have nothing to be discouraged about. “Suck it up” or “why would you be discouraged?” aren’t appropriate responses to someone who rarely says, “I am discouraged.” Maybe for someone who says it so often you wonder when they are ever encouraged would it be appropriate to challenge them to wake up to what they are missing. But for someone whose declarations are much more optimistic or realistic at worst, it’s not an appropriate response.
So how might we respond appropriately?
Paul gives us a hint in 1st Corinthians 12 in the context of challenging the Church of Corinth regarding their unity and mission and importance together.
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
(1 Corinthians 12:25 MSG)
It’s the same as in marriage. If a fellow follower of Jesus hurts and we know about it, it is no longer just “their problem.” Like the text declared, “every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.” It is OUR problem now.
So how are we then praying about it together, seeking counsel and wisdom about it together, carrying it together, checking in on each other to encourage each other together, and taking next steps toward restoration and wholeness and abundant life together?
We cannot do this alone. Don’t just give cliches to brothers and sisters who are trying not to do it alone. Or else they might not come to you the next time. Or else they may isolate themselves so much that no one suspects any problem until the issue sinks them in self-destruction.
May we be a people to whom it can be said, “I am discouraged.” And may we have those people to whom we can say, “I am discouraged.”
Loving one another is essential to making disciples together. Navigating those seasons together of not even feeling like you can love well is so important.
I am thankful for my wife and my brother and my dad and those I call friend who are such HUGE supporters. I pray I will be the same to them. And I pray you will have that crew around you, too.