How To Respond When Community Seems Impossible

When We Can’t Show Up

As important as community is, sometimes we can’t reach out to others. Physically or emotionally we are incapable of showing up. What do we do then? How do we respond? And how do we as the body of Christ respond to those we find in this situation? Or do we even notice?

Awhile back, I found myself struggling with chronic pain and a deep depression that wound up lasting for years. During this time I found myself increasingly isolated. For me, what felt like abandonment by my church family only exacerbated things. What started as excruciating physical pain eventually became a downward spiral that could have resulted in suicide if it wasn’t for my incredible family, particularly my husband.

Why do I bring this up? To let you know that I get it. To remind myself and to encourage you to reach out to those people that haven’t been around in a while. Don’t just show up for them when it’s convenient. Show up when you are able. Reaching out to those who are struggling is often inconvenient. Sometimes it’s downright difficult and painful. But sometimes loving our neighbor and continuing to meet together (Hebrews 10:24–25) means showing up when they can’t, whatever the reason. Don’t judge. Just be the hands and feet of Jesus to them, remembering

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:35

Sometimes loving others may mean reaching out to those who are struggling, even (and especially) when they aren’t very lovable. If you can, seek ways to serve and encourage them.

Reach out to those people that haven’t been around in a while. Don’t just show up for them when it’s convenient. Show up when you are able. Reaching out to those who are struggling is often inconvenient. Sometimes it’s downright difficult and painful. But sometimes loving our neighbor means showing up when they can’t.

Reaching out may be beyond your ability, though, and God may not be calling you to it. If that’s where you find yourself I’m so sorry. I’ve been there too. I pray that you will continue to seek God’s presence in this place. Pray the laments, honestly taking your pain, isolation, anger, and perhaps even feelings of abandonment to Him.

But what do we do when we’re in these kinds of places? I don’t have all the answers and I’m guessing that they may be a little different for each of us, depending on our circumstances. I would, however, like to share with you several things that in retrospect I wish I’d done sooner:

  1.  Pray for others in your community. Ask God to work in their lives, whether it is meeting a particular need or transforming them into the image of Jesus. The people you are praying for may include those that you feel have abandoned you. Here, Jesus calls us to prayer even for those who’ve harmed us: I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44).

    You may not consider these people your enemies and they may not have actively sought to harm you. It would seem, though, that if we are called to love and pray for our enemies, then we are also called to love and pray for those whom we feel have abandoned or forgotten us. I’m not saying it will be easy. For me, it started with confessing that I didn’t want to pray for them and asking God to soften my heart and change me.

  2. Consider letting others know that you need some help or encouragement. I utterly failed here. I expected people to notice I was gone and show up. I didn’t let anyone know what I needed. Maybe I shouldn’t have had to ask, but maybe I needed to be a bit more vulnerable and honest.

    I’m not going to promise that the people who should show up will. Ultimately, God is the One in whom we have to trust. (See this post by Viv about being an outcast after suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury.) He will meet us where we are and provide for us. Sometimes, though, He does do it through other people and they just need a little nudge.

  3. While it’s not the same as in-person community, we live in a world with amazing technology that can sometimes help us connect. Returning to Viv, she has found a supportive online community. Pray and consider if this might be an option for you. Another option may be to stay in touch by phone or video conferencing. For me, this last one has greatly enriched my life, in good times and bad.

Loving Those Who Can’t Show Up

Praying for others and asking for the help we need are two things we should all probably be doing. But for those who are in a better place and are able, I’d like to suggest two more things:

  1. Consider how you might reach out to someone that you haven’t seen in a while. Don’t just give up on them. Ask God how you might show them Jesus’ love. It might be by pitching in, providing something they need, offering companionship and a listening ear, or simply sending a note. The key here is to follow through.

  2. Finally, seek, build, and invest in spiritual friendships now. These relationships take time to grow and develop. Ask God to bring such friendships into our lives and be responsive for how He leads us to respond to or reach out to others. Ultimately not only can these relationships help us grow in our walks with Jesus, they are also the ones that will help each of us weather the storms we will inevitably face.

Who is God laying on your heart these days? How are you responding? We’ve all been in a wilderness of some kind. How are we responding? The Israelites spent 40 years wandering the wilderness, but they did it as a community—for better and for worse. I may need the reminder more than you do, but none of us are the Lone Ranger. Let’s reach out. Let’s lean in. Let’s find a way, no matter our circumstances, to be the body.

I need to make a few phone calls to check in …

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Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “How To Respond When Community Seems Impossible

  1. I’m so sorry for what you went through Jennifer. Thank God for your husband and Jesus. This is such a great reminder to reach out to the hurting. Usually a deeply hurting person doesn’t think to ask for help, they tend to just isolate themselves. And, we do not even realize what bad shape they are in. Thanks for showing the practical ways we can help.

    Like

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