I am participating in a Bible study right now that focuses on the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). It hasn't been that close to my heart until this Tuesday when I finally made the connection (I don't know what took me so long) that the study is all about pilgrimage. Every year the Jewish people made several journeys to Jerusalem for different holidays, feasts and events. And do you know what? They did it together. There were no lone rangers on these journeys. Why? Because it afforded them safety and company. And they had a shared destination.
On the way they faced many dangers and evils-just like we do on a daily basis. We may not see it and it may not be as obvious as the dangers these pilgrims faced but we do. Jeremiah 41:1-10 tells the story of pilgrims who made the journey to the Feast of Tabernacles when a man named Ishmael attacked and killed 70 of them while the rest of them were taken captive. It's dangerous out there. And we need each other.
Forgive each other. Don't hold a grudge. Unforgiveness is like a poison. It separates and destroys. Beth Moore writes that we need to wise up and not be outwitted by our enemy's schemes (she is referring to satan as the ultimate enemy). Unforgiveness leads to isolation. And slaughter. We don't just want people to be sorry, we want them to "be sorry". We want to see them pay.
Second, we need to encourage others. Look for opportunities to build people up. People get discouraged-it creeps up on us all and blindsides us. When you give someone a positive word you don't know what it will do for them. It might make the difference. We've all heard the stories of people who have determined to commit suicide (literally) unless someone smiles at them or talks to them before a set time. My heart aches for those people who just want a word or a smile. From anyone. Can you just say something so simple to someone that is encouraging? As Beth Moore says "A woman will even take 'that is one cute purse you have!'". So easy and so vital. To encourage means to infuse with courage. Think about that.
And last-this is the one I really wanted to write about here but felt I needed to give credit to her study ("Stepping Up-a journey through the Psalms of Ascent") and set the background.
Love each other deeply. People need that. We live in a world with more contact than ever (social media, email, phones everywhere, texting...) and yet we don't really spend time with one another and know each other. I've felt this for a long time but who wants to say it? It sounds whiny and pathetic. People don't have time for friendship. Why do we text? To avoid getting into long conversations with people. I do it. You do it. Beth Moore admitted to it. I have even seen it in my children's friends. They are so busy with 100 extra-curricular activities that they don't have time to be kids. To be friends. And I've seen the loneliness that it leads to for others. When people are too busy to love, to be friends, it makes others feel insignificant. God created us to need companionship. No matter how much we want to fight it, we need other people. Beth cited studies proving health (even cardiac health) benefits to our relationships. Those with close, deep relationships were less likely to die!!Deep relationships. Not how many friends you have on facebook or google plus or whatever. So what if you have 546 friends on there. Do you really know them? Do they know you? What makes you smile? What makes you hurt? I'm not saying that social media has no place in our world and life but it canNOT take the place of true friendships. The kind with a shared cup of tea or coffee. A hug. A real conversation about what makes you tick.
We like to think that when we need no one we will have arrived. We will be successful. At what cost? I think it's safe to say that loneliness is pervasive in society today. But it doesn't have to be. If we just take time to know people-quality over quantity-we can help each other on this journey called life.