One of the great problems of our nation is isolation and loneliness. So many feel cut off from the rest of society. They feel this nagging sense of longing that they can’t seem to resolve. One of the bi-products of this loneliness is heightened conflict. People seem angrier than ever.
So what’s behind it all? This might surprise you, but the very things we cherish most are partially responsible for the overwhelming emptiness many feel. People long for comfort, and privacy. And yet those two things are keeping us from unity.
The key to belonging is sharing a struggle.
Paul writes from a prison cell:
(Philippians 1:7) For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.
This gives us a clue to the circumstances. Paul is writing from prison. He’s in Rome under house arrest. Back in Philippi they receive sporadic news. Remember, Philippi is in modern day Greece. Paul was in Rome. So without the internet and email and all of that, it was tough to keep track. They prayed for him daily. They took up offerings and sent them to help with his needs and the defense. At the end of this letter he said, “I have everything I need, don’t send anything else.”
Even though they weren’t in Rome with him, they were in the struggle with him. And he knew it. And they knew it.
Nothing pulls us together the way struggling together does. The shared struggle builds belonging. I’ve told you before about my uncle George’s lesson on the bees.
My uncle was a bee keeper. And he said that when you lose a queen, you can lose the whole hive. Trouble is, bees don’t get along. If the bee comes to the door of the hive and does the wrong dance, the other bees in that have will attack it. So how do you put a hive without a queen together with a hive that still has a queen? Uncle George told me that they do it by taking one hive and placing it on top of the other hive. They put a bunch of newspaper between the hives. The bees in the box above can hear the bees in the box below and vise versa so they start tearing through the paper to get to the other bees.
But something happens in the process. They eventually forget how much they hate the bees and start to collectively hate the newspaper. By the time the newspaper is gone, the two hives are one. Amazing idea. And it really illustrates what I’m trying to say about shared struggles. You grow close when you struggle together.