Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ
Jesus established the family of God at the Cross where he brought his mother and the beloved disciple together for mutual care: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman,here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26f.). God’s family finds its basis in the mutual fellowship and support through Jesus’ last words. Paul points to this level of family love and care when he writes, “Be devoted to one another in love” where the word for “devoted” is a family-kind of love.
Making a connection with God during my freshman year at college led me to join a campus Christian fellowship. I made new friends there and even began to share my psoriasis story with them. One night I poured out my pain to a Bible study leader as I recounted a decade of struggles with skin inflammation. I truly experienced the power of being a member of Christ’s body as others suffered along with me. That evening revealed God’s presence and healing power through others to me.
Psalm 133 eloquently describes how God bestows his blessings on the community of faith. It’s where God sends the refreshing dew of Hermon and oil of Aaron that spreads from one person to another. As spiritual pilgrims journeyed together to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, they undoubtedly thought of how they needed God’s refreshment when they sang Psalm 133.
Mt. Hermon is about 10,000 ft. above sea level as the tallest peak in Israel. It is well known for its lush greenery even in hot, dry summer weather. Each morning the mountain waits expectantly for the next dousing of dew. The dew of Hermon would not fall on Zion, or Jerusalem, directly though. The distance between the two locations precluded it. But the psalmist sought to convey the idea that gathering in faith is like Hermon’s Dew falling among God’s people who gather there.
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 III: 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.
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?
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
The body I dwell in is only meant to be a temporary home. It is broken, weakened by the Fall where sin and death entered the world. Those who experience disease, illness, and sickness understand the longing for a new “tent” to embody. Those at home in this world find out soon enough how broken it is. Even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, would find death knocking once again at a future time (John 11). The suffering heart longs for a permanence greater than health and prosperity on this earth.
Paul knew this truth better than most. Besides struggling with the thorn in his flesh, he constantly faced death at the hands of his enemies. While he knew God continued to desire to utilize him for a higher purpose, he longed to be with his Savior. He explained his situation in his letter to the Philippians:
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (Philippians 1:21-24).
Later, during Emperor Nero’s reign, tradition tells us that Paul’s beheading allowed him to be with his heavenly Lord.
At the end of spring, one finds that even healing in this world is not enough. Ultimate healing will come at the end when the heavens and earth, including this earthly body, is renewed. I look forward to a fully functioning immune system and a body that does not age or sustain constant inflammation. The hope of renewal, including a new body, sustains in the meantime.
What are ways you observe the brokenness of this world—that it is not the way it was meant to be when created? List examples that relate to health and illness.