Toledo was a dreadfully lonely place for me when I moved here for graduate school. I left a small, private Christian college where I had many close and life-giving relationships and moved to a place where I knew no one. I was three hours away from my family, and the only person I “knew” was an acquaintance from my undergrad who was in medical school and getting married. I had never felt so alone as I went to sleep in my apartment that first night.
Things got better when I started classes, but my new friends did not share my deepest convictions. My life was spent in class, working to support myself, and studying alone. I tried several area churches but never found a place where I belonged. In fact, I felt ignored. There are few things worse than being in a church and feeling ignored by everyone.
Finally, out of desperation, I went to CedarCreek with the mentality that, “If I’m going to be ignored, I’d rather be ignored in a big church.” Well, that was over 15 years ago, and I no longer feel alone. I met my husband, made some life-long friendships, and found a place where I can minister to others.
This weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder interviewed Darci Ault, a health and wellness professor from the University of Toledo. Darci said that our bodies are hardwired to handle stress, and one of the ways that it helps us is by creating a need for connecting with others. The longing for connection with God and others is exactly what we need in the midst of our struggles.
We see through Scripture that we were created to be in community:
24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
The importance of connection in Christian community is threaded throughout the Old and New Testaments. When we are connected with other Christ-followers, we are able to encourage one another. When we struggle, we can confess our sins to one another and then pray for each other. In order to find freedom, we need rich connections with others.
We also need a meaningful connection with Jesus on a regular basis. In John 15, Jesus calls himself the “True Vine” and us the branches. Just as a branch cut from a tree withers and dies, so too will we wither and die if we are not connected with Jesus. In order to find freedom in our lives, we need authentic relationships with others and life-sustaining connection with Jesus on a regular basis.
Do you have anyone in your life who is able to encourage you in your walk with Jesus? How is your connection with Jesus? Do you connect with him on a daily, weekly, or “as needed” basis? What could you do to make these connections more regular?
Look up the following verses: Ephesians 2:22, Romans 12:4-5, 1 Timothy 3:15, Acts 2:46-47, Proverbs 18:25, 13:20, 17:17, 27:17. What do they say about relationships with others and/or with Jesus?
Consider joining a Group at CedarCreek. The directory is open and you can find a group that works for you today.
Thank you, God, for freeing me! You have freed me from sin and
from shame. You have freed me from the law and from striving to earn salvation. You have freed me from death itself! For all those things and more, I praise you. Help me to live as someone who is free. Don’t let me fall back into the posture of a slave, to fall back into serving the things that used to control me. May you be the only one I serve, for you bought my freedom and loyalty at a high price on the cross. In gratitude I ask, may your will be done in my life. Amen
For Friday’s prayer focus for parents click here.
Heavenly Father, I am not who I was before I met you—and it’s all because of you. Thank you for the growth I have been through, and thank you that you’re not finished with me yet! Teach me to be more and more like your Son every day. Help me to submit humbly to the situations you use to change my heart, even whenI wouldn’t choose these situations for myself. Above all else, may I grow in love for you and for others. In Jesus’ name I pray! Amen.
For Saturday’s prayer focus for parents click here.
Dear Father, I praise you for all you have done in my life and in my heart over these last 21 days. Thank you for drawing close to me and for leading me. Help me to continue growing and taking steps toward you throughout this year so that I might know you more and make a difference for you.
For Sunday’s prayer focus for parents click here.
This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.
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