Bible, Christian Life, Christianity, Church, community, despair, devotional, empathy, encouragement, faith, God, hope, inspirational, Jesus, motivational, My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, New Testament, Old Testament, Road to Friendship, Starlight Glimmer, Trixie Lulamoon
Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Road to Friendship”
As you may have noticed, I spent a long time trying to think up a message for this one. I ended up having to watch the episode again for the review before I saw something that struck me.
My head had been going over and over this episode, but I only focused on the arguments between Starlight Glimmer and Trixie Lulamoon when their attempt at a road trip for Trixie’s show degenerated into a nightmare due to their constant missteps and disagreements. The second time I watched it, however, I noticed something different. Although their entire trip was plagued with misfortune, it wasn’t until later in the trip that the misfortune actually became a problem. Early on, especially through the more dangerous legs, the two remained friendly and on good terms while working together. As a result, the trip actually went, from their perspective, very smoothly. In fact, later in the episode, when Starlight tried to go the same way alone, she realized she didn’t notice how hard and miserable the trek was before when she had Trixie along.
That, in turn, made me think of a different message.
As you may have guessed from earlier devotionals, I am anything but a “social butterfly”. I tend to prefer my own company, that of my family, or one-on-one interactions with friends. That being said, I know the value of having a friend to talk to and be at your side. I’m sure there are people out there, especially young people, who will maintain that there are some individuals out there ideally suited to a solitary existence or being loners. At this point in my life I no longer believe that; especially not for the majority of people. Whether you consider things from a biological perspective or a Biblical perspective, humans are made to be social creatures. Even if one tends to enjoy being alone, there are times where they need human contact to feel validated, accepted, appreciated, or encouraged. People need relationships and communication with others in order to grow and, in some cases, even to challenge them to become more than what they are alone. And, as this episode illustrated, having a friend by your side can always make a terrible situation more bearable.
Even in the earliest parts of the Bible, the Creation in Genesis, it points out how the first human was unhappy in spite of having the favor and friendship of God and all the creatures in creation as companions. It wasn’t until God created a second human that he felt satisfied, because now he had a relationship with another person (Genesis 2:18-24). Likewise, there are several references in the Old Testament to the need for friends and companions and the virtues of having one.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Ecclesiates 4:9-10)
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Furthermore, while there are many strong men and women of the Bible who exemplify virtue, very few of them ever operated completely alone. Moses had his assistant Joshua and his brother Aaron. David had many upstanding warriors and counselors in his service that stuck with him through thick and thin. Even Elijah, a prophet who had to do most of his own mighty work alone, had a protege and successor named Elisha who followed him everywhere.
Yet the true emphasis on the dependency upon others, to me, is not until the New Testament. The Church community that Lord Jesus died for is often referred to as “the Body of Christ”; indicating that the community itself (empowered by the Holy Spirit) is the true means by which Christ moves and acts in the world now. While the need for repentance and conversion is on the individual level, the life of the Christian from then onward is often emphasized as their place in the Church and in working together with other Christians.
While it’s not as much of an issue in the Western World, one of the most important roles of the Church both in the Bible as well as in countries where Christians face persecution (and can be hurt or even killed with impunity and no legal recourse) is simply to act as support for one another. But even in places where this is not true, the role of the Church is vital to the Christian’s well being. When a Christian is feeling discouraged, it’s up to the community to build them up and encourage them to keep going. When they’re dealing with trouble or fears, it’s the community’s job to comfort and strengthen them. When they feel they are called to an insurmountable task or ministry that grows overwhelming and taxes them to their limits, it’s the community’s job to bear their portion of the load and to provide emotional as well as physical support.
Most of all, when a Christian is going through depression, feels no answer from God or his presence, and is plagued with doubts, despair, and thoughts of abandonment or self-destruction, it’s the mission of the Church to be there for that person. Not necessarily with any inspiring quotes or verses or anecdotes, but to simply be present and weep with them.
As the Church is the “Body of Christ”, so is it its duty to represent Christ “in the body” to all of these individuals. To let them know His presence is there because they are there. There is no overstating the importance, both for the Christian and for everyone, of how great it is to know that someone is there mourning with you; validating both your pain and suffering as well as you being worthy of consolation and concern.
As this episode pointed out, even if it doesn’t actually resolve the difficulties in your life, simply knowing that someone will always be there at your side for the ride, to pick you up when you’re down or cheer you when you’re feeling miserable…or simply just to go with you the whole way no matter how long or dreary…makes all the difference in the world. It makes the tasks and trials we must face not only seem more bearable but, in some cases, even possible to overcome. It’s small wonder that Jesus Himself pointed out the value of having just one friend by your side to feel His presence. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
The analogy that I saw in a different message once is a fireplace filled with hot coals, in which one is removed and set alone by itself. The coal may remain hot for a time, but eventually it will cool and become dull, lifeless ash. It’s only when it’s brought in contact with others that are “on fire” that it regains its own heat and blazes forth. In the same way, when an individual is feeling discouraged, defeated, or their own faith has “grown cold”, it’s through the community of believers in the Church, whether that be a group or simply another faithful individual and friend, that their flames are reignited, their spirits are restored, and their hope is renewed.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord Jesus, thank you not only for your assurance to always be at my side no matter what, but for all the times that others have been at my side and helped me continue when I felt at my lowest or like quitting. Please help me today to act in the same way. Whenever I see someone beset with loneliness, despair, or hopelessness, help me to be a true friend who will stay by their side just as I know you always stay by mine, and grant that we may bear each other’s loads and keep each other’s ‘fires burning’. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”