Shortly after getting married, my husband Zach and I decided to join a LifeGroup. We wanted to start marriage off on the right foot and knew having friends in a new town was important. We never could have predicted how key this group would be in our lives, or what tough times our first year of marriage would have in store for us.
The first couple of months in our marriage were sparkly, new, and filled with bliss—until a series of events turned our world upside down. It started with an evening I got a phone call from my sister that my grandpa, who had practically raised me, was diagnosed with cancer. The next week, Zach’s grandpa unexpectedly fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. He passed away that same month. After Zach graduated from college, he looked everywhere to find a job—he was passed over for his dream job not once, but twice. So we struggled, trying to live off one income for almost 5 months. And after that, I had an unexpected trip to the emergency room that we later found out was due to undiagnosed endometriosis.
Our first year of marriage wasn’t exactly going as planned. But here’s the crazy thing. God knew what was going to happen before we ever could have. Before we ever found out about any of those trials, we had already decided to find friends through a LifeGroup at our church.
Our LifeGroup started the first week of Pastor Craig’s Hope in the Dark message series. I remember sitting in week one’s message thinking “Wow, this is great stuff. Luckily, my life is going great right now, so I’ll just hold onto this truth for later.” That same week, I got the phone call from my sister about my grandpa, and a few days after that, our LifeGroup met for the first time. Because we were obedient to God when we felt prompted to join a LifeGroup before our trials, He was able to give us support and comfort during our trials.
Don’t get me wrong, when we showed up to our LifeGroup’s first meeting, I was nervous! Showing up to someone’s house to meet a group of people you don’t know? It was a little awkward at first. You could tell we were all trying to get to know each other and would quickly fill any awkward pauses with more questions. But we kept showing up. Eventually, it became one of Zach’s and my favorite nights.
All those awkward pauses eventually gave way to laughter and, honestly, sometimes tears. Zach and I were able to let our guard down and share what we were going through. To our surprise, some of our new friends were going through tough times, too.
Embracing the tough times life threw at us wasn’t easy. In fact, it was extremely hard. There were times I didn’t know if we could keep going. But through every obstacle, we had friends to help walk us through it. They didn’t always know what to say, but they were there. Just simply having people who would show up and listen reassured Zach and me that we weren’t alone.
Every time we met, our friends prayed over us. Our LifeGroup had the strength and faith to believe in us even when we didn’t have it for ourselves.
Having a group of friends to just do life with was something we didn’t know we would need so desperately. And the thing is, you don’t have to be going through tough times to need community. We have people to celebrate the good things in our lives and to pray with us through the tough times. And that’s what God had in mind for all of us.
We weren’t meant to do life alone. Life is better in community. I want to encourage you, if you’re feeling prompted to find community, do it. I know it feels uncomfortable. I know it seems weird and you might wonder if it’s even worth it to try. But I promise you, it is.
Maybe you’re not ready to join a LifeGroup, and that’s okay! Maybe your next step is to invite someone over for dinner, or go to church with someone. There are people all around you whom God can use to do something in you. Maybe it’s neighbors, people you go to school with, people you work with, or someone you’ve seen at church a few weeks in a row. Decide that the reward of having friends is greater than the risk of rejection. Trust that you may be the answer to someone else’s prayer for a friend.
We never could have imagined how having friends would get us through so many tough times. So jump in. Schedule the coffee, reach out to that friend, or plan the dinner you’ll host. You may never know what God wants to do for you through others and for others through you.