Challenges, Community, Confessions, Living Free, My Story

Two Are Better Than One!

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Revelation 12

Hard times come. How do you act when they hit?

Honestly, I’ve typically dealt with challenges terribly. I remember a college professor of mine describing how “Overcomers” view challenges as opportunities. Everyone else views them as arduous — & these people are debilitated by the same hardships that Overcomers use as stepping stones to higher ground.

What?? Like how, I always wondered. I was walking through some serious trauma in college, & I felt largely alone grappling with it. How could I view these difficulties in a positive light? NOT THAT STRONG, I used to think.

The reality is, no one is that strong… alone. The secret of many overcomers is that they have a community around them, lifting them up in their most broken moments. I needed support, to let people in. I’d been disappointed in my darkest days when people close to me walked away when I needed them most. I realize now that God was teaching me dependency on Him, but I took it too far. I shut down.

I wanted to be an overcomer, but I was like that biblical character who found himself alone on a cold night. I couldn’t keep warm by myself! But two people can cuddle together & overcome the coldest, darkest night. As it is written…

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.

For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.

Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4

What a beautiful passage. It describes how I’ve felt in the past. I wasn’t overcoming (& haven’t in recent times) because I’ve been trying to do it on my own. Every time hard times hit me since college, I’ve shrank away. I haven’t told those closest to me some of my deepest struggles because I expected abandonment again. I learned to handle it on my own, but the reality is I haven’t been doing that well. I’ve been drowning.

Oddly enough, I’m a very private person. I know I write on this here public blog — but it’s taken me years to write about personal matters because I considered that trivial & vain haha 😉 I didn’t expect anyone to care or read, yet I longed to articulate the spiritual truths the Lord’s been teaching me — I just had no one to share them with (or so I thought). Upon the encouragement of some wonderful people in my life {irony fully intact here!}, I began this blog, making each post as “spiritual” & impersonal as possible.

But what does Scripture say lends our words’ power in the world… our testimony!! My personal story is complex & very beautiful in some ways, but so broken in others. I’ve bottled it up, and thus been devoid of His power in my life in many ways. As Revelation 12 says,

There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.

We not only need to share our own stories, but other people need to hear them, too! Hearing each other’s testimonies emboldens all of us, not just ourselves. It’s powerful and life-transforming to hear people’s challenges & how God delivered them!! As ‘the Teacher’ in Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun, and 1 Corinthians tells us that even our temptations are shared — so we all benefit from hearing how others overcame the same struggles we face ourselves.

I’m so grateful for an excellent example of openness & relationship in our old pastor Ross Parsley. He always led us back to a community-oriented faith, not “faith in isolation”. Ross preached frequently on the key to our spiritual growth — other believers — sharing a beautiful portrait of the New Testament church that grew greatly in numbers, influence & impact because of its emphasis on relational Christianity, not “me + God VS the world”.

Ross’s continual challenge to experience God together and be open with our stories flew in the face of cultural (& millenial) Christianity, which says “I’ve got this. I can do it on my own.”

Truth be told, many a millenial like myself came to this sad conclusion because we found few people to rely on. This must break God’s heart because it’s only through community that He is revealed! God created man in His own image… male and female created He them.” God’s very image is relational! How did I miss that? “Be fruitful, and multiply!“, He commanded us. In other words: Create new people to commune with! Don’t live life alone ♥♥

Maybe the reason we haven’t overcome certain struggles in our lives is because we’ve closed them off from other people. Maybe that’s why they haven’t seen breakthrough either.

Is it easy to share our failures & struggles? No, it makes us feel weak & vulnerable, but there is no better way to grow strong & truly celebrate each other’s victories 🙂 I believe this is the very pathway God’s chosen for us to live from victory to victory (or “glory to glory“!), as it is written…

The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 

2 Corinthians 3

What brings us freedom & transformation? God’s Spirit — and our unveiled faces looking at Him. One translation says “with open face” — our unmasked selves, openly revealed before God & others! That is how we become like Him.

I need to hear your story. You need to hear mine. What a big responsibility. Maybe we are our brother’s keeper after all. Pray with me about ways we can help others by sharing our journeys. Who knows what God will do through our stories, not for our glory but His.

I’ll leave you with this powerful song on overcoming, by our old pastor & the Desperation Band {how apropos} 🙂