We are not meant to be alone, and fellowship in the church is an invaluable picture of that fact. Without honesty, though, that picture loses meaning.
Fellowship is a gift from God. There’s a reason the word is part of our “Christianese” dictionary: fellowship doesn’t truly exist outside of Christianity. There is a bond that believers can only have with other believers. Christians seek each other for advice and encouragement because they have the Truth, and therefore, have the wisdom that comes from it. Too often, though, we ignore it—at least, we ignore its depths. Fellowship doesn’t mean simply hanging out and having fun together, something that anyone can have with anyone.
Honesty is paramount in such a relationship, which I must admit has always been a little terrifying to me. To tell you the truth, I have an honesty threshold. I’m more open than the average person—if you ask me how I am and I’m not good, I’ll usually admit, “I’m okay.” However, if someone inquires about something emotionally or spiritually deep, I clam up and lock my true feelings inside.
I’m not talking about discussion of the latest drama (that’s gossip, and we should avoid it), and sometimes, it’s inappropriate to share too much personal info even when it isn't gossip—but that’s a topic for another time. I am saying, however, that we have to confess our real struggles, hopes and confusion to those who are able to lift us up in prayer and encouragement.
The very person of Christ calls for the togetherness that comes from relational honesty. The fact that the church is called the Body of Christ underscores the fact that it represents Christ to the world. If nonbelievers see Christians holding back their deepest pains and trying to wrestle with them alone, they may wonder if Christ cannot be trusted with their needs. If they see Christians smiling on the outside, but never going deeper than conversations about the latest movie, they may wonder if Christ’s impact is equally shallow. They may wonder if His church can handle their own struggles.
Furthermore, opening up in the midst of pain demonstrates the power (and normalcy) of Christian suffering. People will see that Christianity is not “I accepted Jesus and now my life is sunshine and daffodils!” Instead, they will hear the raw, real words, “I am hurting more than I can express, yet I know that God is still good.” Being so vulnerable requires us to trust one another—a lot!
What exactly does this honesty look like? For me, it was a long process of learning to ask for help during my moments of weakness, not just after them. You see, I wouldn’t do it at first. Then, after much encouragement, I began simply texting requests for prayer when I was having a hard day. Now, though I don’t always have the courage to do it, I have several trusted woman on speed dial whom I can call during crises or times of deep hurt. The can offer counsel, encouragement, or the thing that usually helps me most of all—simply knowing that I’m loved.
We should pour into the church, but it must also pour into us. If you do not have someone you trust enough in the church to have honest fellowship with, you need to work on developing relationships and trusting others. If you still cannot find people to be open and honest with, you may need to find a new church.
Let us show the world that the Lord can be trusted with our feelings and hurts. Let us portray God’s faithfulness in our relationships. Let us point to the Father who created the image of family that the church portrays.
Let’s not waste the amazing opportunity to receive encouragement and prayer during hard times—it is a truly great privilege.