As we saw in my last blog post, Elijah felt terribly alone. When God asked the prophet why he was in the cave, Elijah answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:14-emphasis mine) God then revealed that there were 7,000 who, like Elijah, hadn’t abandoned the faith.
It’s common to feel we’re alone in our suffering. Cumulative stress can lead to clinical depression. Isolation is a common characteristic of depression. A life-giving supportive group is the best remedy I know to combat a pervasive sense of aloneness.
In the 1930’s two men discovered the power of community to help themselves and others deal with alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous has helped millions achieve and maintain sobriety. Today, the 12-step principals of AA are used in many support and recovery groups.
In the 1960’s a woman named Jean invited a group of friends to her home to talk about how to succeed in losing weight. Weight Watchers grew from that group. Other groups like TOPS have tapped into the power of community in helping people who struggle with weight problems.
God designed men and women for relationship and community. In God’s perfect world, the man and woman He created enjoyed perfect relationship within a perfect community. But, ‘perfect’ didn’t last. When the man and woman God created chose to do life on their terms rather than God’s, relationships became complicated.
The primary community is usually our biological family. Families are vitally important, but they are usually not the best source of help when we’re struggling with complicated ‘issues.’ In fact, family dynamics and generational patterns of behavior are often a big part of our ‘issues.’
Religious and social communities are also extremely important, but they are usually too large or diverse for building close personal relationships and too broad based to help deal with targeted pain.
In my years of experience, I’ve both observed and benefited from participating in authentic, supportive, non-judgmental groups. Some have been community or professional support groups. Ron and I have developed dear friendships in small church groups. I’ve loved participating in several women’s groups where we’ve all been focusing on the same topic.
At Lake City Church where I work part time, I’m privileged to serve as a liaison to various care, recovery and support groups, including Celebrate Recovery, the Genesis Process, Pure Desire, and Grief Release. I’ve seen first-hand the hope and healing groups bring to many men and women.
Joining a group when you’ve never been in one before is intimidating. Here are some of my suggestions:
- Are you feeling a nudge to join? If so, listen with your heart. That may be the ‘still small voice’ speaking. Pray about it. Trust God won’t let you down. Listen for confirmations. I have a listening rule of thumb. If my spirit seems to be saying “go,” I listen. If another confirmation comes through a friend, sermon or something I hear ‘randomly,’ I imagine the Divine Spirit is saying, “Listen up, girl!” If a third confirmation comes, I figure God cares enough about me to hit me upside the head (of course, figuratively and not literally speaking!).
- Make sure a primary tenet of the group is confidentiality!
- Avoid the temptation to go it alone. You can purchase curriculum and do bookwork on your own, but nothing replaces personal support and accountability. On-line groups can be a good alternative for some.
- Transparency and sharing are vitally important in a group. Exposing privately held pain that’s been stored in the dark basements of our hearts to the light is a major step toward healing. Having said that, though…
- When in DOUBT, DON’T. Listen to your gut. A warning trigger may mean it’s not the right time or place for disclosure. Exposing a little bit of your story at a time is all right.
- Examine honestly your discomfort. If doubts or uncomfortable vibes continue, talk to a trusted friend or counselor.
- Realize group members are not professional counselors. Some events have been so traumatic, and it’s better to work with a professional. Sometimes, glimpses of deep trauma are revealed within the group process.
- You don’t need to stay in the same group forever. If you’ve been helped significantly, you may want to stay and even aspire to become a leader. Or, you may want to join a different group with a different emphasis or explore a different– perhaps deeper, layer of healing. What’s important is to keep on growing!
I hope these suggestions have been helpful. As always, I welcome your feedback.
Blessings on the journey….
This amazing pod of pelicans reminds us that God designed us for community. We ‘do life’ better together.
- lakecity.church/celebraterecovery/ ↑
- http://lakecity.church/genesischange/ ↑
- http://lakecity.church/betrayalandbeyond/ & http://lakecity.church/puredesire/ ↑
- http://lakecity.church/griefrelease/ ↑