As human beings and as Christians, we are designed to be part of a group and we have three needs in terms of our relationship with our group.
1. We need to belong, to be wanted, accepted. We want the members of the group to be happy to see us and to identify us as one of them.
2. We need to be seen as unique, delightfully different and have the other members see our difference as a positive thing. without the others putting us down or being jealous.
3 We need to see that our unique differences , even our weaknesses, enrich the group and that they are blessed because of us. We need to see that we are needed.
Unfortunately, we usually settle for the illusion of belonging. Most church goers could not tell you for sure whether their peers are even saved because they have never had to chance to hear the others testimony. They do not know the others dreams, struggles, or recent insights on the Word. Every church member objects and says, “our church is fine we all know each other.” The truth (far be it from us to dwell in the truth) is that we would be terrified to let the others know our real thoughts, struggles, doubts etc. Our communal prayer life revolves around illness and surgery and sometimes around economic needs but never do we get real with sin, addiction, greed, anger, lust, materialism or, God forbid, mental illness.
People who struggle with emotional illness or mental illness are terrified to let their peers know the truth of their struggle. Too often the terrified fellow church member responds with some version of “can’t you just have more faith and stop feeling depressed or having mood swings?” If they hear voices or see things, they get prayed over to cast out the spirit. When they still hear voices, the message is that they must not be co-operating.
I was talking to one of Jesus’ hurting daughters yesterday. She has struggled with mood swings for years and has also walked with God and the church faithfully for years, but could not be open and real about her illness. She then developed cancer and the church rallied around ministering to her needs. Still she felt lonely because the acceptance and support were available only for the cancer but not for the mood swings. You might wonder if she just jumped to the conclusion that she would be ostracized and never let anyone know. No she has tried before and it did not turn out well.
Another of Jesus’ daughters told me that when she was depressed, she thought of reaching out to church friends and realized that,that would not be a supportive experience. So, she reached out to an unsaved friend who said, ” yeah life is the pits sometimes, hey do you want to go out for some hot chocolate?”
Remember first that we will never have all our loneliness removed till we see Jesus face to face. Until then I suggest that you talk with the pastor and offer to meet, (perhaps for hot chocolate) and listen and share with any church members whom he knows struggle as well. He might even put out an anonymous announcement in the bulletin. I CORINTHIANS 12
Hot chocolate (Photo credit: Sheep”R”Us)