Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
The coach gestures to the ref. A timeout is granted, and the teams gather by the sidelines. For 30 seconds, each team has a chance to hydrate, catch their breath, and regroup. All court activity ceases for this brief but needed break.
Though we may not be athletes on a sports team, we all as human beings often wish for a timeout in our lives. To blow the whistle and take a break from the activities, the rush, the difficulties filling our days. To enjoy a few still moments when the whirlwind of activity ceases. The desire to pause seems to surge when we are experiencing one of two extremes – when life is wonderful, and we want to freeze a special moment, not wanting it to pass, or when painful circumstances or devastating news grips our lives, and we long for relief.
One of the gifts of our salvation in Jesus Christ is our adoption into God’s family as sons and daughters. As children of God, we are not only reconciled to God and brought into communion with Him once again, but we are also united to fellow believers. More than individuals on the same team, our union as brothers and sisters in Christ is described in Scripture as a body made up of many parts.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. And so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (I Cor. 12:12-14)
In Christ, we are united to one another, as the family of God, as members of one body! Paul celebrates this reality in several passages, but in Colossians, he further declares that the head of the body of believers is Christ Himself.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Col. 1:18)
In His goodness, God has placed His children in a family. In the company of brothers and sisters, we have the opportunity to tangibly experience the love of Christ and the comfort of His Holy Spirit.
Indeed, Christ desires His children to know His love in greater measures as we love one another.
My command is this, He tells His disciples not long before His crucifixion, love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12) Hours later, Christ prays to His Father that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:26) What a marvelous gift and mandate we’ve been given from our Lord. Christ’s love for us is not just to be bottled up and hoarded; it is be released and extended to our brothers and sisters in Christ and furthermore, to every person we meet!
One of the most significant ways I have experienced the love of Jesus and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ has been through prayer. Like the timeout in the midst of a heated basketball game, I crave relief from the heaviness of my life as a caregiver. The Lord provides pauses and breaks in a number of different ways, but it is often in those moments of prayer with another believer that I receive the greatest comfort and renewal.
I stayed in my seat a little longer after the Sunday service had ended. As I waited to speak with my pastor’s wife, I began to silently pray for someone very dear to me. Their name had popped in my head, but as I began to pray, a heaviness settled on my heart. I tried to gather myself as my pastor’s wife sat next to me. She greeted me, but the growing emotion kept me from saying much in response. The heaviness moved from my heart, and I began to cry. The words tumbled out, and after several pauses and deep breaths, I asked her to please pray with me. And she did. I’ve prayed countless times with fellow believers, but in those brief moments with my pastor’s wife, I felt such relief and release, greater than I ever have before. Beyond her physical proximity to me, I knew I was sitting next to a woman who was shouldering my burden with me. I didn’t have to bear this alone. Quiet joy began to fill my heart, slowing easing the heaviness. Her prayer was simple but sincere as she spoke to our Heavenly Father with boldness and humility. We said Amen, and I hugged her long. Thank you so much, I managed to express. We said our goodbyes, and I moved out from the row. As I left church that afternoon, gratitude and awe welled up in me – what a gift to have my burden shared by another and together bring it to the Lord.
I will not forget the comfort and love of Christ that swept over me as I prayed with my pastor’s wife that Sunday morning. Paul’s words to the Corinthians come to mind as I reflect on the unity found in the body of Christ –
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (I Cor. 12:24b-26)
Our burdens – the painful realities that make us want to yell timeout – and our joys – the special moments we want life to pause for – are to be carried and celebrated together, as members of Christ’s body. This is both a gift and a responsibility for each one of God’s children. By the grace of God and in His strength, we can step forward to bear one another’s burdens in prayer as well as rejoice with genuine celebration.
We can truly be the hands and feet of Christ to one another, we can freely extend His comfort as we pray for one another because Christ first came close to us to carry our greatest burden.
This passage from the hymn How Great Thou Art reminds us of this very truth –
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
Our greatest burden has already been lifted from our shoulders; for in knowing Christ and trusting in Him alone, we no longer carry the weight of our sins. This is a reality to be rejoiced in. Every day and with one another. As believers, we have been released from the burden of our sins! It is then, with hearts of gratitude for what Christ has done for us, that we may enter into the difficult places and bear one another’s burdens in prayer.