The Lord’s Army
“God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to Him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”
Growing up in church, I have taken communion countless times but there is one time in particular that I will always remember. It was in the midst of my battle with anxiety. I happened to be alone at church that day, David had to work and my kids were with their grandparents and doing anything alone was a battle, but church was one of the few moments each week where I had peace, so I mustered up my courage and went. Only, I found no peace. It was communion week and as the bread and juice made its way toward me I began to panic. My anxiety reminded me how dangerous taking communion while living in sin was, my anxiety told me that even though I was battling everyday to overcome the thoughts that overwhelmed my mind that I could not take part in communion because the Bible says “Do not be anxious.” I can’t tell you how desperately I longed to take the cup and bread, I needed the renewal it brought, I needed to proclaim Christ to the very anxiety that was stopping me but when the cup and bread came anxiety won out, I did not partake and the peace I usually found in church never came. It was replaced by my anxious mind as it told me how worthless I was.
I don’t remember the sermon that day, I don’t think I heard a word of it, I just remember trying not to cry and bring attention to myself. When everyone was dismissed I stayed, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to be alone. God, however, had a different plan. Very few people knew of my struggle at this time, I was a closed book, having been hurt by people in the past I found it safer to never open up, but this particular battle was so bad that I began to share and as I sat waiting for people to leave I COMPLETELY regretted it, because instead of walking by not one, not two, but three people came and sat with me; my sister Mandy, her husband Mike aka Pastor Mike, and Amanda.
I experienced in that moment exactly what Bonhoeffer was conveying in his quote. For over an hour after church those three ministered to me, they reminded me of the truth that my anxiety was trying to hide from me. I was exhausted from battle, I was too tired to look beyond the next wave of anxiety to see what was ahead, so they did it for me. They were Christ’s hands and they held and fed me when I was too weak to do it myself. They made me realize that fighting anxiety was what I was supposed to be doing, the sin was allowing my mind to be soil for anxiety to grow, but I was no longer doing that, I was in the Word and on my knees everyday as God taught me to take my thoughts captive and think on things that were pure. Just because it didn’t happen overnight did not mean that I couldn’t partake in communion. In fact, I needed communion to help me win this battle. So, I took it. Amanda grabbed bread and a cup for me and then sat with me while I took it. I left church renewed that day, in fact, that was a turning point for me. The anxiety didn’t go away and I still battled, but I began to open up. I experienced church in a way that I never thought I would; the way God intended it to be, with people.
In Ecclesiastes Solomon puts it best:
Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
We were made to need community. From the very beginning God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Yet, sometimes it’s easier to hide. It’s easier to never be challenged, never be pushed to grow, it’s easier to wallow and be comfortable, but easier isn’t always better. Solomon warns us about the danger of isolation; stuck, cold, defeated and broken versus the power of community; lifted, warm, resistant, and strong. There is power in community, there is power in numbers, it is much better to go into battle with an army behind you than alone.
That is the lesson God taught me that day. The lesson that Bonhoeffer is expressing. The lesson we get as we read through Christ’s ministry with his disciples. We are not strong enough to face every battle. When the waves come we can only swim so long before we need a life preserver. The church is our life preserver, we are meant to come alongside each other and carry each other back to the cross over and over. We are meant to worship together, laugh together, cry together, to do life together, simply going to church is not enough. Opening myself was one of the greatest leaps of faith I have taken, it felt foreign and scary, but in the end it was the vehicle I needed to take me further than I ever thought I could in my faith. I now have an army behind me, and I rely on them more than I ever thought I could.