Note: This is entry 7 in a study guide series called “Four Seasons of Healing: A Pathway for Those Living with Chronic Illness.” For a list of entries click here.
Part II: Summer: Making Connections (June to August)
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it
(1 Corinthians 12:26-27)
Summer is a season for making connections. Winter symbolizes a season of isolation, while spring represents a season of personal healing and renewal. Summer, in contrast, epitomizes the relationships that positively address isolation. This season spurs on the friendships that provide a place for sustained healing and growth.
I enjoy hosting groups at the house for gatherings during this warm season. Out in the backyard, where I grill, a small group often forms around the barbeque to converse and exchange ideas. The time spent together is as much about the joyful fellowship as it is about good food.
Summer provides contexts to make these connections: break from school, exercising in the evenings with a friend, auditing classes and reading books, family vacations, walks in the park with the dog, day trips, and church retreats. Relationships flourish with lighter schedules and longer days.
In this season, focus on your relationships both with God and others. In particular, consider the role that these connections might have on your healing from chronic health conditions or other difficulties in your life.
June: Presence of the Divine
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Jesus makes fellowship with God possible by removing the distance and barrier of sin that separates people from God. Paul declares that Jesus became the peacemaker even as humans made God their enemy: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10). His amazing work on the Cross allows people to humbly receive grace, mercy, and healing before His throne. Indeed, at his throne God reconciles relationships that become the vital source of nurture and strength like a branch connected to a vine (John 15:1-6).
This deep-seated connection with God energizes and empowers in this season of light, warmth, and gladness. During Christmas celebrations, Christians remember “Immanuel,” which the Gospel writer tells us means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23). Immanuel reminds us what Jesus said to his followers before leaving them. He declared in the Great Commission that he would be with them to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Indeed, the Good Shepherd leads us out of the dark valley into green pastures and right paths (Psalm 23:4).
God’s presence is a powerful force in dark times. When I first moved into my university dorm I teared up after my parents dropped me off. I felt alone and afraid. I didn’t easily make friends at that age, partly due to the isolation I felt with a stigmatized and visible skin disease. I ate alone at many mealtimes in the dorm dining commons. One day I imagined that Jesus sat next to me in the empty chair. He didn’t care what my skin looked like. Jesus’ comfort overwhelmed me as I no longer felt by myself in the corner of the dining commons.
Believers over the millennia have engaged in spiritual practices and disciplines to enter God’s presence. This month’s focus is on prayer that connects you with him.
Share a time when you experienced God’s presence in the “dark valley.” What happened and how did His presence help you?Continue reading