We live in a world that promotes self-dependence – from self-checkouts to ordering online – we now live in a world that is more closed off from others than it ever has been. Our tolerance of other people is incredibly low, and divorce rates are ever on the increase.
With an increase in relationship breakdowns and isolation from others, loneliness statistics are also ever-rising.
We were never designed to live alone – the fact that loneliness increases our risk of death by 26% proves this. Back at the start of creation, God said ‘It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ (Gen. 2:18). God knew we need community to thrive, we need the support of others, our entire existence depends upon it.
So, in a world that is insistent that ‘you can do this on your own’ – how do we depend more on God’s original plan for us?
Arguably the biggest divider in relationships – whether it be marital, friendship or in the church – is difference of opinion. We all think we know best, we all think we are right and will defy anyone that tries to challenge us. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians says: ‘I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought’ (1 Cor. 1:10). United in mind and thought – what a challenge when we come from different upbringings, cultures and circumstances.
I don’t believe that God ever planned for us to be the same, we all have different qualities and skills, and yet ‘in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’ (Rom. 12:5).
A person that is very different to you can be a great challenge, you see a situation or a task in very different ways – and yet, you are united in the body of Christ. Instead of being opposing forces, you can use your differences to create something that one cannot do alone. I love the verse in Proverbs 27:17: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ What a beautiful image of trying to work with someone different to yourself. It can be incredibly difficult, perhaps even painful, yet the outcome is something intricately beautiful and strong.
As with many things in life, I don’t believe God ever planned for relationships to be easy – just as our relationship with God is often not straightforward. Yet, it is essential for our growth, our existence and His plans for our life.
God longs for us to love one another as He has loved us – when people truly show love to each other as Christ has loved them, putting each other’s needs before their own – they spur each other on. ‘I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith’ (Rom. 1:11-12).
Working alongside others can often feel exhausting and discouraging – perhaps there is one particular person in your life you find challenging and overbearing, so how can we live alongside them, let alone love them? Try lifting them up to God – I have found it is incredibly difficult to be angry or impatient with someone that I am praying for.
Let prayer and perseverance allow God to shape you as you try each day to love others and live in harmony with them. While shutting ourselves off is sometimes the easy option, it is not what God desires for your life and He knows how beneficial others can be for you – remember, he is the One who has placed those specific people in your life, and He does not make mistakes.
‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching’ (Heb. 10:24-25).
Contributed by Hannah Pearce (Communications Manager)