This line is from a letter that Paul wrote to the people of Thessalonia around AD52, and it strikes me that it is as relevant today as it was to those people back then, almost 2000 years ago.
There is a saying, “no man is an island” and this verse from Paul lines up nicely with that, and nobody can live and survive without the support and encouragement from others. We begin our lives being encouraged and built up by our parents – if we’re lucky – and our peers at school begin to take over as we grow as children. Our teachers (should) then take up the baton and do their bit in helping us grow and thrive and eventually we arrive at adulthood, a product of the input, guidance and sometimes hindrance from lots of people.
But the story doesn’t stop there does it? As we mature and age we rely on others to keep us going when life gets hard, and we take our turn in urging others on in their lives too. We support our friends, our children and our parents, but equally we rely on them to help and encourage us too. Personally, I couldn’t have got through my OU module this year without the encouragement and support of my family and friends and I’m sure you could think of any number of things that you couldn’t have done on your own.
But to be realistic, as there are many times when we live and thrive with the love and support of those around us so too are there many times when we find ourselves utterly alone. We have all had them, haven’t we? The times when we lie awake with worries on our mind, or decisions that have to be made where there is no “right” answer. Those times when we feel that no matter who we turn to we will be judged for the mistakes that we have made, or are about to make. Those times when we may have done something or fear something so bad that we cannot put it into words to anyone.
What then? What do you do in those times? Who do you turn to? How do you manage?
As a Christian, my answer is obviously to turn to God. I pray, I meditate, I simply empty myself into the connection I feel with him even in my darkest moments. I feel his presence and hear his words in the actions of the people around me, but what if I wasn’t a Christian? What if I didn’t follow a religion? Would it be possible for me to get through life just relying on myself and in my own strength alone?
I think that the 2000 year old piece of advice from the apostle Paul above is spot on and the answer is that we can’t do it on our own. We do need people to help us, guide us, chastise us even, to get us through life, and we do need to have the chance to return that support to others. It’s what makes us human. We are vulnerable, we are not as strong as we maybe think we are, and we certainly don’t have the answer to everything that lets us down or troubles us. We need to be needed by others too. We need the opportunity to be that person that someone turns to for advice, or help, or even maybe a proverbial clip around the ear when they step out of line or are about to make a mistake.
So go on then. Go out there and do your bit in encouraging other people and building them up to be the people they deserve to be. Who knows what might happen if we could all do that and instead of tearing down relationships we build them. Or what might happen if we encourage children instead of putting them down. Or even what might happen if we put someone else’s happiness before our own.
Wow, what a world we could build if we all built other people before we built ourselves!