God Sets the Lonely in Families

When trouble comes, we can quickly isolate ourselves, but there needs to be an invitation to go deep and connect. God sets the lonely in families. 

We need others who will tag along and pray with us. 

It must have been a very lonely place.

He had done everything he said he wouldn’t do and had gone against his deepest values. With a shudder he realized that he was not the man he thought he was.

He was certainly not the man he wanted others to think him to be. 

The decision to go the way he went had its roots in something beyond his comprehension. There was a subconscious unawareness to his actions that now scared him to the bones. 

He was eating the pig slop of his own choices. Over and over again, one question haunted his mind. 

‘How did I get here’?

God sets the lonely in families

What’s your family like? 

Immediately you may well think of your biological family – Mum, Dad, brothers, sisters, Uncle, Aunty, etc. 

I am going to suggest that your real family are those that familiar with your journey.

They are the ones who have experienced similar life events and struggles.

People who have been there done that and will listen without any sense of judgment or need to give advice. 

There is a friend who sticks closer
than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Closer than a brother

Its always fascinated me how people who have been through or are going through struggles seem to find each other. There seems to be some sort of supernatural magnet going on. 

One of the saddest aspects of when I was in ministry was when people would push against this act of God ‘setting of the lonely in families’. 

Here is how it would work.

I used to be a pastor of a church for people who for the most part had ongoing Mental Health struggles. We had a Church service, camps and all sorts of activities would happen. 

Those who came fell in love with the simplicity and the realness of people’s faith. They had found a family they could belong to. 

There were those on the outside of the group that would say these people should be mixing with the ‘normal’ (whatever that means). They defined what ‘family’ should look like and who belonged.

They had a ‘model’ of what Church should be like, and everyone should fit into it. 

Yet, I sense, that all along God was wanting to set people in families of Gods making.

Shared values, shared experiences, and shared dreams. 

“We’re going with you.”

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends.

He was in many ways closer to Jesus than a brother.

The first nail that pierced Jesus’ heart was when Peter denied ever knowing him.  

What’s it like to have your closest friend stab you in the heart? To walk away at the time of your deepest need. 

It crushes your sense of humanity. You are no longer a human held. You’re a human abandoned. 

Then there is this delightful little post-resurrection story. 

Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”

The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” John 21:1-3

Peter goes to something familiar in his life.

Uncertainty causes us to look for certainty, security, a known path. Peter goes to the nets and the boat.

His friends stuck closer than a brother. “We’re going with you.”

Peter had been ‘set in a family’ of brothers who went with him. 

Who’s your family?

We so easily overlook the family that God has set around us.

We look to the professionals, the pastor, the church, our biological family all for some sense of deep connection.

All along God is setting us within communities of others just like ourselves. Others who would go with us, when we would want to go fishing, to return to the familiar.  

Prayer partners

I want a prayer partner. 

Someone safe who will listen to the deepest pourings of the heart and join with me in prayer.

I don’t want someone who will problem solve, give ‘good advice’ or rescue me all for the sake of themselves feeling uncomfortable. 

I just want to be known, explored, discovered, and touched

Recently I sat and listened to this Psalm being read on the Sacred Pilgrim podcast.  

I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,
    my heart heavy, like lead.
I remembered the old days,
    went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked,
Stretched out my hands to you,
    as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.
Psalm 143:4-6 The Message 

How would you respond if this was your friend saying this?

Remember, no fixing, advising, saving, or setting one straight.

When God sets us in families, we need to listen as God would have heard the Psalmists strife. Perhaps the act of listening is the rain that desert is longing for.

When trouble comes, we can quickly isolate ourselves, but there needs to be an invitation to go deep and connect. God sets the lonely in families.

 

Quotes to consider

  • In real community people know each other; they relate in ways only God’s Spirit makes possible. Larry Crabb
  • It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love. And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family. Curt Thompson
  • If we’re to live together in a kind of relationally loving community that requires the Spirit’s deep and ongoing work in our individual souls, we must not only assign priority to soul formation over ministry activities but also understand that soul formation is relational formation. Dr. Larry Crabb

Questions to Answer

  1. What is the family that God has set you in?
  2. What would it be like to be known, explored, discovered, and touched?
  3. Why do we rush to fix, advise, save, or set one straight?

Further reading

Please. No Fixing, Advising, Saving or Straightening Out

More of Ruth and Less of Dr. Bob – Being a Companion

Church and Mental Health. A place for the 5%?

Barry Pearman

Photo by J W on Unsplash