In a world that emphasizes self-sufficiency, remember that God created us to live in community. We cannot go through life in isolation. Everyone will eventually face a challenge or difficulty beyond their strength and ability alone. What do you do when overwhelmed? Where do you turn?
I experienced helplessness a few years ago when I was brought to a place of complete dependence. My symptoms started small but eventually turned into something larger. The medical team told me I had a 50% chance of surviving. I was intubated and placed in a medically-induced coma.
Worries and concerns shoved their way to the forefront of my mind: Who will care for my family if I die? What will happen if I survive? Will I be able to walk or talk again? Will I regain my strength? I was brought to a position of complete helplessness. The entire situation was beyond anything I could handle in my own strength because my strength was gone. So, where could I turn?
Many would naturally say that we should turn to God in these moments—which is absolutely true. However, we often miss many of the ways God provides for us in these difficult situations. When I turned to God in prayer, he provided me with a peace that surpasses all understanding and hope beyond anything I could imagine. Those were powerful blessings. And God provided medical professionals to seek my recovery, even while I was immobile in my bed. And God provided me with something I had taken for granted over the years. God provided a powerful Christian community that carried me and my family when we were weak and weary. God's love flows through the actions of his people. Our community carried my family through this difficult time in a variety of powerful ways.
I was in a coma for two weeks. When I came out of my coma, I was completely overwhelmed by the prayers of God’s people. I had hundreds of text messages from God’s people throughout the world who were praying for me. The Christian community in the United States, Canada, Liberia, and the Dominican Republic were all lifting me and my family in prayer as I lay helpless in a coma.
About six months after I recovered, I came across a video of people praying for me while I was in a coma. I immediately broke down weeping—not because I was sad, but because of the beauty of that moment. God's love flowing. In that moment, I was laying there absolutely weak and helpless, unable to do anything for myself, yet the Body of Christ was praying for me and lifting me.
Our family was swept up in the support of the Christian community who surrounded us and cared for our physical needs. People from the church and Christian school dropped off so much food that my family started sending some of the food to the hospital to care for the nurses. We received so much support, my wife spent hours each night filling out Thank You cards to show our appreciation for the love and care we received.
The community also supported us financially. My wife had to take time off work to care for our family while I was in a coma and support me through my recovery. On top of that, hospital bills pile up quickly. Yet, we never had to worry about how to pay for bills and other necessities. The community came around us and supported us when we couldn’t.
Beyond the ways the Christian community supported us through prayer and caring for our physical needs, they were simply present. They were there to listen when my kids were having a tough day. They were there to help my wife process all of the questions and fears that raced through her mind. My family never had to wonder or worry if anyone cared, because they were surrounded by people who wanted to know how they were doing and what was on their mind.
Now, I realize this isn’t the experience of everyone. Some have felt lonely, left out, and unsupported in the midst of large Christian communities. I’ve been there too. However, this experience reminded me of two important truths: 1) even weak, imperfect communities are better than no community, and 2) one of the primary ways God provides for us in this life is through the Christian community—even when it is weak and imperfect. If your faith community is abusive , that is a different matter and you should seek safety if you experience spiritual abuse. Free resources are available to help you discern if your situation is unhealthy.
God has designed the Christian community to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, ESV). This is a reminder that we will all encounter burdens that we cannot bear on our own, we will need other people—a Christian community—to help us carry those burdens.
If you’re burdened beyond your ability, I encourage you to find a Christian community to bear your burdens with you. If you’re in a season where you don’t feel heavily burdened, look around and find someone who is burdened beyond their ability and carry some of their load. Remember, the Christian community is one of the primary ways God provides for us in this life.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Travis Jamieson