About 12 years ago it fell to me to find round-the-clock caregivers for my dying mother. I went about this task as I stayed with my dad in Indiana over the weekend, so she could come home from the hospital, to die in her own home.
As I worked on this my church families came to my aid. The Evangelical Congregational denomination lifted me up in prayer. Morris Chapel United Methodist church, my home congregation, went to work bringing food to the house and also praying for us.
Hospice was especially helpful as we ordered the necessary equipment and gave me tips on whom to call. About a week later, I was able to thank those who helped us through that time with a familiar ad and political movement, "We've got people."
Soon-to-be King David had people too. He had married into the royal family of Saul but his father-in-law was jealous of him. Saul turned on David and tried to kill him, driving David out of his inner circle.
As the King stalked David all over the country, a band of crack fighting men, 600 of them, rallied to the fugitive hero. Finding refuge among Israel's enemies, the Philistines, David and his men volunteered to fight with them against Saul and his Israelites.
But the Philistine generals did not trust David and sent the volunteers away. When they arrived home, David and his men found that their wives, goods and families had been raided and carried away.
His tired band of brothers angrily talked of stoning David. He was alone. It was then that David remembered a skill modeled for him by his loyal friend Jonathan.
As he was leaving the royal court and life in Israel, saying his last good-byes to Jonathan, we are told that "Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh and strengthened his hand in God. (1 Samuel 23:17)
When David had needed encouragement the most, his friend was there for him. Now David is alone. Jonathan is dead and his loyal band of brothers has turned on him.
But the Bible says that it was at just this point that "David strengthened his hand in God." (1 Samuel 30:6)
His friend had come alongside him when he needed him the most and now, alone, David is able to muster his own courage in God.
Centuries later, the Apostle Paul points to this same paradox as he writes to the Galatians in chapter six. There he urges the brothers and sisters who are "spiritual" to restore ones who had been caught in a transgression, "in a spirit of gentleness." (Verse one).
He then tells the church to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Verse two).
At some point in our lives, we each need each other to strengthen our hands in God. And what is the outcome of this interdependent fellowship of burden-bearers? "Each one will carry his own load." (Verse five)
How do we get strong enough to stand alone and carry our own load when faced with a sin or an obstacle? By accepting and learning from others who help us when we are vulnerable.
So let me leave you with two questions as you face inevitable obstacles in your life. First, who has been a Jonathan to you, helping you "find strength in God?"
Question two is to whom have you been a Jonathan? Who have you come alongside to help?
Jesus invites us to come to him because "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." He does not promise a life free of burdens.
He offers to share them with us. We have people. Jesus is our people, and we are people to each other.
Find strength in God.
Pastor Gary Brown former pastor at New Zion Evangelical Church in Emlenton serves as associate pastor in Winnebago, Illinois.