What a wonderful encouragement the apostle Paul offers…
“we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”2Cor. 4:8, 9
Some of you may not know, but about 7 months ago my sweet wife died. It was fairly sudden, ultimately resulting from an accident at home. The grieving process has been full of downs and ups, but by the grace of God there are more ups now than downs, so that I feel (as Paul put it) struck down but not destroyed. This has been due to God’s word, prayer, family, friends, and a great church family from both the Rock Hill church of Christ in Frisco, Texas and the Manchester NH church of Christ. I mention these two congregations last because I want to make a point: while none of the other supports (the Lord especially) are in any way unimportant, the importance of having a church family in times like this cannot be overstated.
There are lots of folks in the general population who think themselves religious without going to church. They are the “give me Jesus, but you can keep the church” folks. Their numbers seem to have grown significantly since the advent of COVID and “church by streaming services”. But God commanded (yes, commanded) that Christians come together every first day of the week (Heb. 10:25, 26) for a lot of good reasons, but one of the chief really good reasons is…we need each other. We need each other for spiritual encouragement, especially when our loss or discouragement or affliction is heartbreaking.
And church encouragement is going to be different and better than ordinary social connection. The world will have its own way of comforting us, advising us, encouraging us, and supporting us — but, let’s be honest about it, they are seldom good and wise ways. The church’s spiritual encouragement will help put things into proper perspective, provide divine and time-tested wisdom for proceeding from here, and give a hope that is more than a kindly wish — a hope that is a confident expectation.
And the fellowship of the church isn’t the sort of thing that you can conjure up “on demand” as you run into occasional hard times. It is something that takes some time to cultivate. So, prepare now for the difficult times that will come — you know they will, right? Come back to church — the Lord’s church (not just any “church” will do) — in person — and find the blessing that God’s great plan for you in the church has provided.