I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio for most of my life, and at forty-years-old, after being well-established professionally and well-connected personally, I moved to Dallas, Texas to support my husband’s career. The timing was right for him, as well as for our children, who were just beginning elementary school. We knew if we were ever going to transition to another city, this was the best time to make the move for multiple reasons.
I was in full agreement, too, especially since I had been feeling called to make a professional shift and focus more on faith-based initiatives. It was where I was being led, and I was very excited to submit to that calling. From a personal perspective, however, the move was much more challenging and isolating than I had imagined it would be. I had left behind dear, close friends, all my family members, deeply engaged, like-minded business partners and a church community we loved. It was a lot of intimacy and connection to leave, and I felt the effects.
I felt ALONE.
I hadn’t planned for it to hit me that hard. I didn’t realize I could be so impacted, and yet, that’s exactly what happened. It dropped me to my knees…but, ultimately, being on my knees was right where I needed to be. It led me into a deeper relationship and fellowship with God.
Since then, I’ve learned we’re not made to be alone. We’ve been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and God, Himself is not, nor has ever been alone. He has always been in existence together with and as part of the Trinity (Genesis 1:2, John 1:1-3). He exists and lives in community and fellowship, and we are made to thrive in the same way — together.
For us, the Bible encourages “together” through fellowship in two ways: 1) fellowship with God; and 2) fellowship with other believers.
Fellowship with God
Leaving no room for question, God assures us that He values relationship. There are a plethora of scriptures that speak to his fellowship, abiding and dwelling WITH us. That’s his ultimate desire – to share life (and eternity) and all that He has for us – together in fellowship. He’s so intentional to show us this, He even calls us by intimate names and relational references: beloved, chosen, children of God, your God, my people. He beckons us to come closer to Him and promises He will come closer to us too (James 4:8). He’s made covenants – promises to us – similar to the kind of commitments that a husband and wife promise to each other, and He’s even jealous for us, knowing that it’s in our best interest to remain faithful to Him. God is all about time spent and intimacy gained through fellowship with him. He desires a close, healthy relationship with us, and we reap countless benefits when we abide.
As I fell to my knees in Dallas, feeling so alone and so broken, it caused me to turn my sights to the Lord. I clung to my Bible like I had never done so before. Every day, I searched for hope, comfort and peace. Every day, I had a longing I was looking to fulfill, and every day the Lord proved faithful. He revealed more of His character and love for me. He pointed me to His promises in scripture. He gently assured me to be patient, while He showed me He was with me and working in me for my good. I learned that His Word is not only true, but it’s also dependable, trustworthy, filled with hope and the most beautiful love letter ever written. Most importantly, God taught me the value of fellowshipping with Him daily. He showed me that when I invest in my relationship with Him; when I seek to know Him more, He shows up. He cares. He hears. He speaks. He guides. He comforts. He loves to an overflowing; to a place of fulfillment that can only be gained through intimacy with Him. During that dark time, He taught me the lifelong value of fellowship with Him, and it brought light to my perspective.
Fellowship with Believers
My strengthened fellowship with God was the first step, but I knew I needed people in my life too. Without other like-minded people in my life, I was lonely, disconnected, had no accountability, nobody to spur me on or to protect me from lies that can swirl in my head; never mind the simple fact that I desperately wanted to share a lunch or a conversation about ANYTHING but the weather!
Regardless if you’re shy or outgoing, introverted or extroverted, it’s a deep need within all of us to be connected with (and accepted by) others.
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. ~ Tim Keller
It is human to need to be known and loved, and we can’t do that in isolation or with fortified walls built around us. Not only that, but we are called to gather and encourage one another, so it’s an act of obedience. Even if it’s not in our comfort zone, it’s something we can do to honor God and it has positive benefits for us too. We need others to spur us on, encourage us and hold us accountable (because we are HUMAN, and we can easily slip into becoming lazy and self-centered.) As well, we can’t forget that fellowship is encouraging and fun, it invites the Holy Spirit and it’s woven together by a bond of faith.
Seven years ago, I sent an email blast to my daughter’s kindergarten class, begging anyone to join me in my home for Bible study. I knew nobody, but I couldn’t take another day of small talk. I needed the grounding that only sisters in Christ can bring. I needed sharpening and encouragement. I needed to have fun and depth all at once, and I needed others in my life that God could work in and through shared experiences.
God blessed me extravagantly with the women who responded to my pitiful email. (I wish I could say it wasn’t really pitiful, but it was so terribly sad and miserable!!! Thankfully, I can look back and laugh about it now!) He wanted fellowship for me, and He delivered the sweetest group, who all “coincidentally” (see also God Wink or His perfect timing) were looking for Bible study and fellowship too. Years later, these are some of my closest, dearest friends. I’m pretty confident they would say the same, as we’ve traveled rough, challenging terrain and celebrated joyful triumphs and everything in between. TOGETHER.
I’ve heard that a good friend doubles the joy and divides the pain. Imagine what a group in fellowship could do. Imagine what could happen when each person is in fellowship with the Lord, too. Fellowship is powerful. It empowers us to overcome, and it enables us with greater faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.
That’s what it took to cure my once lonely heart. It’s filled now….and always on the lookout for others who just might need fellowship. Are you looking too?
Pray with me…
Lord, thank you that you love us and want to be in close relationship. It’s an incredible Truth that the Creator of the universe knows and wants an intimacy with each one of us. Draw me in, Lord, and help me to prioritize time to commune and fellowship with you daily. Let it impact my heart, mind and soul for my joy and your glory. Please also bring others into my life or strengthen existing relationships to create meaningful fellowship. I desire to share life, ease burdens and celebrate joys with others. You know exactly who and what I need. Please give me courage to seek others and connect us, Lord, in the ways that only You can. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.