That They Might Have Joy- Psalm 34:18, 94:18-19; John 14:18

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

COMMENTARY

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart
Previously we observed that those whose hope is based in heaven are less likely to feel distressed by the setbacks of the world. But that isn’t meant to suggest that the faithful must never experience sorrow. Indeed, even Jesus wept when he heard of the death of his friend Lazarus.
Even with the hope of heaven, there are still some moments that will make us sad down to the soul. To express sorrow in these moments does not show a lack of faith, and there is no shame in mourning life’s tragedies.

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you

The gospel is a message of gladness, but it does not promise that we will never feel sorrow again. What it does promise is that we never have to be alone in that sorrow. We can be sad, but we can also be comforted.
Many have noted, and I would agree, that that promised comfort feels comes as a companionship. It feels like some invisible friend is sitting with me in my hardest moments. And through those moments I have discovered that one may feel sorrow and joy at the same time.

Knit Our Hearts- Summary

This study has been a very good place for my mind to dwell. Personal relationships with others is an element of my discipleship that has been lacking, and through this study I have been able to identify the reasons why. And knowing them, I have been able to choose practices that I believe will help me to improve.

Specifically I have committed to reaching out to neighbors around me on a weekly basis, whether to serve them or to just to share in a positive experience. Also I have begun a daily “forgiveness” meditation, where I reflect on the day’s frustrations, acknowledge those negative feelings, and then vocally forgive the perpetrator. Including when that perpetrator is myself.

If while reading through my study notes you had ideas and behaviors come to your mind as well, then I would encourage you to take those seriously. Perhaps God is speaking to you through these verses just as He has to me. Here are the core concepts that stood out to me from this study.

We are made for companionship

John Donne was correct when he penned the words “no man is an island.” We are designed to be social, to be connected to one another. I sincerely believe one of the greatest blights in our world today is how isolated so many of us are. And merely being in public places or attending group gatherings is not the same as having social connection.
All of us require personal, one-to-one companionship with others. We need someone to know us by name, by face, by heart. We are incomplete beings after all, there is no getting around that. It will never work to try and fill all those holes with by sheer force of will. Sooner or later we need to let another person complete us instead.
Genesis 2:18- And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
Proverbs 27:17- Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Relationships Are Built On Sharing

Being lonely is unpleasant, and those in that state of being will surely try to escape it. But how exactly to do so can be a mystery. One might master the art of telling jokes and stories, go to a social gathering, be incredibly entertaining the entire evening, and all the while still feel hollow inside.
Having good manners and knowing how to “get along well” with others are good things, but they are not the things that real connections are made of. Vulnerability, shared experiences, working together for a common cause; these are the things that form true bonds between people. Each of them is uncomfortable or difficult in its own way, and everyone is tempted to find an easier path. In the end, though, how can we hope to have a meaningful relationship, if not by meaningful effort?
Amos 3:3- Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Closing the Rifts That Grow Between

Whenever we succeed in establishing a meaningful relationship with another, there will always arise an opportunity to end it. Whether one intentionally wrongs the other, or there is a misunderstanding, or even just a gradual drifting apart. Each of these situations sets a trajectory, one set upon dividing the two permanently; and unless that force is intentionally curtailed it will succeed. There must be a moment of turning back together.
We all know that we must repent of our sins and seek forgiveness from God, but every human relationship requires reconciliation as well. If we never learn how to both forgive and seek forgiveness, then we will never learn how to make anything that lasts. And isn’t that one of our great purposes here in life? To make bonds that hold through all things?
James 5:16- Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
Matthew 18:15- Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault…if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Knit Our Hearts- Amos 3:3, Genesis 2:24

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

COMMENTARY

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
I’ve already mentioned that an essential element to building a companionship is sharing a cause. When two agree on a principle, then they can agree on an action, then they can walk together. Not only do they achieve the fruit of their labor, they also sow a relationship with each other in the process.
Sometimes finding that shared principle takes some work, but I am convinced every two individuals can find one. We all come from the same divine source, after all, we are more alike than different.
Perhaps one brother could be your companion in community service, while another sister could be your companion in wholesome creation, and yet a third could be the one you are accountable to in your repentance.
Not any one person is meant to be all things to us, but all are meant to be something.

Therefore shall a man…cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh
I would be remiss to do a study on mortal companionships and not make note of its most significant form: the marriage covenant between husband and wife.
In every other relationship we can have brotherhood, sisterhood, and friendship. We can unite our strengths, and we can mutually improve one another. And of course, husband and wife should also have this same standard of brotherhood and sisterhood, and also of being friends.
But to that base marriage adds something more. It is the union of the two distinct halves of humanity. One male, the other female, each essential to creating the one. Masculinity perfecting the feminine, and femininity perfecting the masculine. The two find completion in one another and discover God within their oneness. A union so consummate that God has reserved to it the very creation of life.

Knit Our Hearts- Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, 12

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

COMMENTARY

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow
A threefold cord is not quickly broken
A single strand does have some strength to it. That is why when it is weaved with another it is able to increase its power. But two cords woven as one has more than double the strength of each individually. Similarly, two oxen, when pulling together, are able to carry far more than a double load.
A man alone is in danger of falling to all manner of temptation and self-harm. This is why in addiction recovery they teach individuals to make connections to one another, to be accountable to each other at low times. Once one has a companion in the hard place, the likelihood of a relapse begins to plummet.
The bonding of two souls is one of the most enchanting mysteries I know of. Somehow the two retain perfect individuality, yet also become a single unit. No matter how big a number it is, it can only become greater by addition. Similarly, no matter how strong of an individual you are, you will always be greater with a companion.

Knit Our Hearts- Genesis 2:18, Genesis 11:6

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

COMMENTARY

The people is one…and now nothing will be restrained from them
If one seeks evidence that there is great power in united individuals, that person need look no further than God’s own perspective of such unions. From verses like this it is clear that God respects the awesome potential of humans coupled together. In this moment God is speaking of a time when the people had a perfect understanding of each other, and of them He said that they had the power to accomplish whatever they imagined.
Think of how different that message is from the one of the world. Consider heroes like James Bond, Indiana Jones, or Superman. These are individuals who are truly individual, men who need no one but themselves to win the day. They are tantalizing fantasies, but they are fantasies. Yes, relationships are complicated and sometimes it seems that life would simpler if we could just stand by ourselves. But the reality baked into our humanity is that “it is not good for man to be alone.”

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him
In my last study I explored the idea of a united community, something that God is clearly in favor of. However a community is not the social unit that He created in the beginning. First He just put two together, and for then that was enough. For this study I will be looking at these more intimate ties: those of companionship, soul mates, bosom friends, and kindred spirits.

How Do We Pray for Others- John 17:11-12, 14

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

COMMENTARY

…that they may be one, as we are
Perhaps the most succinct expression of Jesus Christ’s entire gospel: simply to bring unity between God and man. And notice that he is praying for this blessing right as he is about to go and perform the one action that will make this union possible.
Sometimes I fall into a habit of asking God to grant wishes like a genie, hoping that He will take care of things so that I don’t have to. Really I should have my own plan for accomplishing good in the world, and then ask Him to bless me in those efforts.

I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept … I have given them thy word
Jesus further reinstates that idea of doing our part to accomplish the good in the world. Can you see how he is affirming the fact that caring for these disciples has been a partnership between him and God? God gave them to Jesus to care for, Jesus in turn kept them in God’s name, and he did so by giving them God’s word. This is not a one-sided affair, this is two companions working with a shared objective. It’s the same partnership God wants with all the rest of us as well. A partnership where we work with Him to bless the lives of others!