One evening, midway through my fourth pregnancy, I received a phone call from a woman in our church. After just a minute or two of exchanging pleasantries, she told me the reason for her call. “Judah told me that you’ve been having a hard time physically with this pregnancy. I was wondering if you would let me set up a meal schedule for you for a few weeks to help lighten the load?” I was completely surprised, as the thought of something like that hadn’t even entered my mind. Even so, I knew it was a direct answer to prayer.
It had been an intense season of ministry. As much as I loved hosting people in our home, I could tell my energy was steadily diminishing, as even the simplest tasks of keeping a home were becoming difficult to manage. The day before the phone call, I was sitting in my favorite corner of our bedroom, looking out the window as I rocked in our glider. I prayed and asked the Lord for grace and strength to do what He had called me to do, because I had no idea how I was going to keep up the pace at which our lives were moving. But God chose to address the issue in a much more practical way than I had expected. I didn’t know that my health was about to go downhill significantly, and those meals would be an incredible and welcome provision.
In my pride, I was tempted to graciously decline the offer, thinking about the many other church families whose babies had been and would be arriving in the days to come. Simply put, I didn’t want to feel like I was being a burden to others. But as this precious woman reminded me in a text a few days later, “That’s what the Body of Christ is for!” I knew then I needed to humbly accept this as a gift from my loving heavenly Father.
We Need the Church
American culture places a high value on independence and self-reliance. We pride ourselves on being able to do things on our own, and we see accepting help from our neighbors as weakness. Even when we desperately need assistance, we would often rather suffer under the weight of the burden than humble ourselves and ask for help. This mindset has even found its way into the Church; it’s often subconscious, but it’s there nonetheless.
This is not how God intended for us to live. He didn’t create people to be independent but interdependent. From the beginning, He designed us to live in community, helping and encouraging one another to demonstrate the love of God to our neighbors and a watching world.
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We cannot love in this way if we are not living intentionally in life-giving community with our local church. We must be ready and willing not only to enter into other people’s lives, but to allow them into ours as well. This takes vulnerability and humility, and it isn’t without risk. But it is this kind of love that will witness to the world about the God we serve.
Here are some ways we can intentionally love and serve the church community God has placed us in.
Too often prayer becomes a last resort rather than our first turn, and this should not be so! He will provide all the wisdom, grace, insight, patience, and forbearance that is needed for you to love others well. If you feel that the church body you are a part of isn’t modeling this kind of love and the servant heart of Jesus, my first encouragement would be to pray for your church. Pray that the Lord would help you all to love one another. You can pray with total confidence, knowing that God desires this even more than you do. When God’s people pray, He moves.
Do Unto Others
Many women deeply desire a strong, supportive community and feel a significant lack in their church. If this is you, practice the golden rule: “So whatever you wish others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt. 7:12). It starts with us. If we want to see love and unity and and strength within our local body, we have to be committed to extending it. Take a meal to the woman who just had a baby. Invite the new mom and her kids over for a playdate. Greet the couple sitting nearby, even if you’re shy. When we’re willing to step out of our comfort zones to love others in Jesus’ name, He’ll bless us for it. We might not see the fruit right away. But when we reach eternity, we won’t regret one ounce of effort we took to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Allow Others to Help You
If you’re anything like me, this is actually the hardest thing to do. Because of past hurts (along with just wanting to look capable), it’s difficult for me to be vulnerable and allow others to help me when I’m struggling. But sometimes we’re called to be the ones who receive rather than the ones who give. It could be as simple as reaching out and asking a friend to pray on a hard day. It could be taking someone up on their offer to clean the bathroom if you’re pregnant or dealing with chronic illness. Or it could be asking for help with a task that ended up being far more work than you expected. Whatever the case may be, let’s be willing to be vulnerable so our local churches can grow in love.
There are so many “one another” passages in the New Testament, and these can only be lived out in community with other people. Joyfully fill a need when you are able, and don’t feel guilty when you’re the one in need of help. God will give us the grace to both give and receive love within our spiritual family, and in it He will be glorified.