8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. - Psalm 107:8-9
Even as believers, we can end up out in the desert if we’re not careful. When troubles come, it’s tempting to isolate and walk out into the wilderness alone. Our struggles overwhelm us, and we simply don’t want to be around other people. Our natural tendency is to turn inward and keep our trials to ourselves when the storms come. Sometimes it’s because we fear judgment from others, sometimes it’s the shame or guilt in our own heads that keep us isolated. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to carry the burden of our struggles for other people, sometimes we just don’t want to hear what other people have to say.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I did not want to tell my co-workers. We were returning from summer break, and I just didn’t want to burden anyone with the news as everyone was sharing their summer fun. It seemed like such a heavy weight to drop in the middle of the happy, light conversations that always happen at the beginning of a new school year. I have always treasured the promise of a new school year, the light-hearted conversations, the celebrations of milestones and accomplishments, the tales of adventure from summer, the excitement as we look forward to a new school year. I did not want to be the cause for a shift in any of those conversations. A cancer diagnosis is a heavy conversation that immediately minimizes anything else being shared in the room, and I did not want to be that person. On top of the weight, the sad reality is when you tell someone about a cancer diagnosis, you feel almost as if you need to hold the burden for them as they struggle to respond under the heaviness of it all. They feel terrible, and while they’re trying to figure out how to respond, you end up trying to find a way to make them feel better about your diagnosis. It’s awkward and hard to do over and over again. It’s easier to just isolate and not say anything at all.
Isolating is never part of God’s plan for us when we are walking through difficult trials. He created us to be relational beings who live in community with one another. We are supposed to be relying on one another and carrying each another’s burdens in this life. Any time you desire to isolate, you can rest assured it’s not from Him. To be clear, isolating is very different from choosing to be alone with God. There are times when God calls us to be alone with Him, to be still and know that He is God. In those moments, you feel His presence, His comfort, His strength, and you know you are not alone. Isolating is very different - it’s when we wander out into the desert alone, carrying our burdens by ourselves, looking and longing for comfort, but unable to find it because we cannot share our struggles with anyone. We feel alone when we isolate, and the weight of our trials feel overwhelming. We hide our burdens from others and we guard our hearts from anyone trying to penetrate. You have to know that is never His plan for us. When we feel that way, when our desire is to isolate, we must recognize that is from the enemy. The enemy will convince us there will be judgment, or that our bad news will ruin someone else’s good day, or that nobody will care anyway, so why bother. He will keep us out in the wilderness with that kind of thinking if we let him. God doesn’t want you out in the desert, God wants you in community, especially when you’re walking through challenges. It is through those people in your life that God will bring you His strength, His comfort, His peace. The people in your life are meant to walk the difficult road with you, helping you to carry the burden of your trial. Yes, it can be hard to open up and trust others to be there for you when you need them, but if you take that leap of faith, God shows up in some pretty spectacular ways.
I’m so thankful I belong to a community of believers who stopped me from trying to isolate when I was first diagnosed. The night before school started, the ladies in my small group confronted me rather directly and didn't hesitate to let me know my thinking was off track. I was headed straight for the desert and I didn’t even realize it. It took effort to get up on top of those feelings to isolate. I still wanted to keep it all to myself. I didn’t want to talk about it. But those ladies continued to block my entrance to the desert by challenging my thinking - that’s community. That’s why God calls us to live in community and not in the desert alone. We need to carry one other’s burdens, and we need to watch out for each other. We need to let each other know when we've started to wander out into the desert. Those ladies prayed for strength for me that night, to have the courage to tell others. It was still so incredibly difficult to share the diagnosis with my co-workers, but I am so happy I did. In them, I found strength and encouragement I would not have found had I kept it to myself in those first few weeks. I am so thankful that His plan is for us to live in community, supporting and encouraging one another, and carrying each other’s burdens.
Press on ~ you are loved
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