For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 3:9–13
In our current time and place, the importance of individual achievement can easily overshadow our strong need for community. Unchecked, this emphasis can map onto our understanding of faith. We can assume that it’s all up to us to maintain a fruitful relationship with our Creator. And when we go through dry seasons where it feels like God is distant, we may feel like it’s somehow our fault or that there is something wrong with us. We see others around us flourishing, growing in leaps and bounds in their faith. A natural response is to compare our lives with theirs: perhaps the stark differences make us feel ashamed, jealous or bitter. Further isolation follows as we pull away from them. There is a better example to emulate.
Paul’s response to his own distress and affliction is to rejoice in the strong faith of loved ones, thanking God and asking that anything lacking in them may be restored (1 Thessalonians 3:9–13). Though counterintuitive, if we do the same, we can find our weakened faith to be bolstered by those near to us. Thankfully, it is not our job to regulate our faith as if it is just another personal dimension of life, like education, physical fitnes, or social status. We can share the faith of others, and take comfort in their strength when we are weak. And one day, these same neighbors may need to draw on the strength of our faith because of their own struggles. We are created to rely on and comfort one another, especially as we experience the ups and downs of a life of faith.
Dr. David Keep is an assistant professor of music.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.