This next week we will begin offering two support groups—one for those experiencing grief and one for those who find themselves in the role of caretaker right now. I’ve been thinking about the name we give to such gatherings as these. Whether a group gathers because of a common experience of grief, caretaking, depression, addiction, heart disease, or cancer, we most often call such a group a support group. It is deeply accurate, but I can’t help but wonder if the name itself is a bit of a hurdle in our American culture.
First, we don’t like to show any struggles or weakness or need. We are supposed to be able to handle it all and handle it all on our own. And, if we can’t handle it all, we are at least supposed to pretend like we can. When it comes time to ask for prayer concerns, we are ready to lift up obstacles and hurts that others are facing, but often are reticent to name the hurts of our own lives. When it comes to having people over to our homes, we are hesitant because our lives might not be put together as well as others. When it comes to social media, we curate only the best moments to show for the likes of the world. When it comes to asking for help, we simply don’t ask even though we desperately need it because we don’t want to be a bother. So, in a culture like ours, it might be hard for us to claim we need support.
Second, we are highly individualistic—except that is a bit of an understatement these. I think we have gotten to the point where we are dangerously individualistic. We are supposed to be self-made. We are supposed to brave the wilderness of life on our own terms. We are supposed to be able to have the world on a string while we do it our way. So, in a culture like ours, it might be hard for us to claim we need a group.
But here are some of the claims of the gospel that I find in Jesus. We all need help from outside ourselves—we need help from God and from brothers and sisters. Sometimes we need that help because of the mess we make, often we need that help because of the mess life throws at us. We are never called to do anything alone—Jesus walked with 12 and shared intimately with 3, and any time he sent his followers out, he sent them in pairs of two. And then there’s this—we find our life by losing it, and we discover God’s strength in our weakness.
The truth of the gospel and the truth of life is that we all need support groups along the way—whether they are formally organized or just a gathering of true friends around a dinner table. We need people with whom we can be honest about our struggles, our failures, our weaknesses, our deep needs. We need a community that will hold space for the new things God does when we get honest about what we can’t do on our own. We need people who know they are fellow travelers and strugglers and therefore walk graciously right by our side.
I hope you will let go of the false claims of our culture that you have to be able to handle it all and you have to be able to handle it on your own. I hope you will embrace the truth of the gospel that we need God and one another and that powerful things can be birthed out of weak places. I hope you will find the support group you need—one of our officially named support groups, one of our Sunday School classes, or just a gathering of trusted brothers and sisters. I know my life has been changed for the better because of the support I have gotten from folks willing to be fellow travelers on this journey of life.