In English, you say: “Misery loves company.” Looking at it now on my computer screen, it’s not a very nice expression.
In Hebrew, we say: “צרת רבים חצי נחמה” ― which means, “The sorrow (misery) of many is partial comfort to a single individual.”
We humans are such bags of contradiction. We want to stand out. We want to be special. But we also want to belong, to be a member of a group, to find identification with others, and perhaps even more so when we are struggling. The way we handle good fortune and success, as well as the way we handle difficulty and hard knocks, is determined by our personality, our upbringing and, certainly, our cultural proclivity.
In Israel, there is a humorous cultural phenomenon, which I am sure must also exist elsewhere, that of almost a “complaining competition.” This challenge, to see who’s more pathetic or more wrought with suffering, can get pretty ridiculous. On a superficial level, this sociological sport may be entertaining. On a deeper soul level, though, it blocks us from responding seriously to each other’s pain.
On top of that, in this strange new reality where we are instructed to physically distance ourselves from those around us, we instinctively respond with suspicion to every one we meet: they may be sick, contagious or dangerous! This reaction does not really foster a peaceful, harmonious, trusting atmosphere.
The Bible tells us to “bear the burdens of one another, for in this way you fulfil the law of the Messiah” (Galatians 6:2). When we stand together and insist on trusting and confiding in each other, encouraging and exhorting one another to hope and to faith, very simply put, we are doing the right thing. I know that when my kids follow the rules we put in place in our home, it blesses this mother’s heart. That’s what the phrase ‘law of The Messiah’ sounds like to me. When we bear one another’s burdens, we are pleasing the very heart of God. This requires effort from both sides―effort to trust and effort to be trustworthy.
On Tuesday mornings, a group of women meet up at the Tents of Mercy congregational building to talk, pray and share Scripture with one another. The makeup of the group changes from time to time when job schedules change or children’s needs prohibit moms from participating, but it is consistently a diverse group. Although we speak together in Hebrew, the current conglomeration includes women from six different backgrounds―Ukrainian, native Israeli, Estonian, Argentinian, American, and Russian. During the weeks of lockdown we met by video chat, and then resumed meeting in person when regulations were relaxed.
We love getting together and we love one another, but it is always an effort to make the meetings happen. It actually feels as though it takes supernatural effort, which is, in fact, the reality. The devil’s agenda is to get us to blame, mistrust and distance ourselves from one another. But God designed us to support one another, walk with one another, to trust and obey Him together. The fact of the matter is that, while relationships are the hardest thing, they are also the most rewarding things. When we stand together, it pleases God’s heart. Just like it pleases my heart when my kids love and support one another, help one another and forgive each other. Not only that, but it is also God’s design and desire that this love would draw others into the kingdom: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
It’s a simple plan, but it’s NOT easy
We must insist on walking together in trust and love, even when we hurt one another. We must have the humility and forgiveness to continue walking together and know that God “has our back” and, out of that place, to serve those around us. That’s what is unique to God’s kingdom: humility, trust, and forgiveness.
The autumn Biblical holidays give us a tangible opportunity to put this plan into action. As a community, we, at Tents of Mercy, have packed over 800 food bags and are distributing many of them door to door. It has been exciting to watch God provide the funds to buy the goods and provide the volunteers to pack and deliver the bags. Praise God for His faithfulness and goodness to give us life, to sustain us and to bring us to this season!
In the first chapter of Isaiah, we read:
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
“Come now, and let us
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”
The fall holidays with the Sounding of the Trumpet, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles offer a perfect opportunity to reassess if we are living according to this divine plan.