Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God [He] will come with vengeance; with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.
Between local in person bible study, online church bible study, online prayer groups, in person prayer and facetime prayer I seem to have spent a fair bit of the last five days alongside other believers in this work of encouragement – mostly on the receiving end of it, which is wonderful. As we read God’s word in community, we grow in wisdom and understanding; as we listen to one another’s stories and pray together, we grow in love and trust.
I fully believe that one of the principal ways in which God works to sustain us in the trials to which he calls us, is through one another. We are called to be his voice, his heart, his hands and feet to touch and aid one another. We are made in his image, and as believers, we are made new, set free by his overwhelming love for us to show that love to others. We are blest both in receiving and in giving, as God wonderfully binds his children closer to one another in affection and trust.
It takes humility to admit that life is hard, to accept that we cannot do it alone. But we are not meant to! God designed us in his image, and he lives in eternal community as Three-in-One, a relationship of delighting and harmony. We are made to be known, and once we realise that in Christ we are completely accepted as we are, we can open up to others, to love them and be loved by them. The gifts of God are to each one individually, for the blessing of the whole body of Christ – you have things which I need, and I may have things which can bless you. We need to be willing to both give and receive.
The passage in Isaiah is associated with a band of pilgrims, on their way home at last and with a vision of the glory awaiting to sustain and encourage them. But they are weary with the journey, wounded from struggles and long-carried burdens. And so the prophet’s words exhort them to encourage one another, saying, “Look!! The Lord Almighty is on your side, he is your Father and Champion, and is entirely for you.” If we walk alone, who can encourage us?
Are you willing to walk with someone a while? To be a fellow pilgrim, not a lone pioneer?
Let us not neglect opportunities to meet together, in small or large groups, so that we might encourage our fellow pilgrims by listening to their stories, sharing their joys and sorrows, bearing their burdens – walking in their shoes for a little way if we can. As we make ourselves available to be used by God in his church, we ourselves are encouraged and bound more closely to people who will in turn support and watch out for us lest we stray, who will pick us up when we fall, and bear our burdens when we have no strength or words to intercede for ourselves.
May God grant us increasing love, patience and gentleness as we walk together on the road, that we might be good for one another; keeping our eyes fixed on him and trusting that he will keep his promise and bring us safely home.