From Beth Karadeema: There is a new book out called Side by Side by Ed Welch. The premise of the book is that we would grow in asking for help and giving help and in doing so we would contribute to a growing, Christ-like culture in our church. It has also been a wonderful supplement to the messages on Romans 12 we have heard recently. The chapters are short and very practical and I think anyone who reads it would benefit personally and our Body would benefit corporately.
The first part of the book reminds us that we are needy because life is hard and suffering exposes the sin in my heart that is my biggest problem, not my circumstances. And yet I have been delivered from my biggest problem of sin through the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ. It has motivated me more and more to be careful to confess my sin throughout the day to the Lord, asking for His help, as well as confess it to others for their help and accountability. There were practical, specific examples given of how I can share my situation as well as how others can pray for me and include Scripture to ask them to pray that were very instructional and helpful. It keeps us from just sharing the need without us even thinking about how we can be prayed for and therefore helps us as well as those who want to pray for us. It also keeps us all close to and rejoicing in the gospel.
There was an illustration of a man who heard the devastating news that he had terminal cancer and his response was “Nothing has changed.” That really spoke to me as he said the circumstance doesn’t change his confidence in God’s love towards Him because Jesus gave His life for his. Jesus loved him yesterday and loves him today just the same. It was a great reminder to me and a great thing for me to remind others as I hear of their suffering.
The second part of the book is about how we are needed in the Body and we are ALL qualified to help each other because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. As Aaron challenged us in a recent sermon, this book explained how we need to reach out and be proactive and take initiative to greet others intentionally and move towards them. As one of the new people in the church it would be easy to sit back and allow others to reach out to me (which many have and I am so thankful!) but it is also my responsibility to reach out and get to know you all better. One helpful suggestion is that we should commit to greet one person we don’t know or don’t know well each week. Our priority should be to greet visitors first, introverts or those sitting alone second, children third (Jesus singles children out as examples of those marginalized), as many as possible after that, and good friends last because we can usually communicate with them during the week. Now that I am pretty much learning who is married to who I am going to start asking whose kids are whose and trying to interact with them as a result of this book.
After greeting one another, we need to engage in more thoughtful conversations and the book gave many sample questions we can ask of one another to draw others out and find meaningful ways to engage and find out how they may need help and compassion and prayer. One way I recently did this was to ask someone to draw me a picture of their family tree so I could better understand and follow what they share in home group about their family. As she shared about each one, I also found out more ways I can be praying for her and her family. Then it mentioned how key it is to actually do pray for and with them if you can, and then follow up, and ask them how it is going when you see them next.
Aaron asked in a sermon recently, “Is there anyone you are allergic to?” This book has a chapter on helping us look for good in each other, or someone has said to “look for evidences of grace in others”. It is Practicing Affirmation (which is another good book by Sam Crabtree) as we intentionally look for and tell others how we see God’s character being formed in them, how we see them being gifted by God and utilizing those gifts in the Body, and how they are spiritually maturing.
Another chapter is on being alert to Satan’s devices and has reminded me of the lies about God and self that Satan seeks to tempt us all with. We are not unaware of his schemes (2 Cor 2:11), and so it has challenged me to really think about the situations that ladies have shared in their lives with me and how Satan may be tempting them to doubt His love for them, or cause them to fear, or fire accusations at them such that they need reminders of God’s great love, care, presence, and forgiveness for them. As a result, I have been praying more for them according to these lines as well as communicating the truth to them as friendly reminders to hopefully encourage them. Others have done the same for me.
There is another great chapter on how God calls us to help one another face our sins. This can be fearful but this chapter gives courage and direction in how to do so. Some occasions for doing so are when someone faces temptations, when we have seen sin, and when someone discloses and confesses sin to us. Again, practical ways to prepare our hearts as well as what to say to someone are given. It reminded me of a time when my son was in Jr high and I was a helper in his Sunday school class and another older, godly woman saw how I spoke to him. She asked me to come outside with her and she pointed out how what I said was not loving and I had not even recognized it. I was so thankful for her courage and willingness to confront me on that in love so I could make it right with the Lord and my son.
As I finished this book I had recently been encouraging another mom in the church to affirm her child and seeking to hold her accountable to it because she had opened up and shared her struggle and sin with me. As a result, I found myself alert to not only ways she could do that and suggesting them to her, but I was quick to see how I could do it in response to my own children and was doing it more and more also. When I told her, she said, “This is just the way the Body should function!” Double blessing!
Overall, this book has motivated me to not stay in a shell, but rather has given me the courage to reach out and love others as well as humbly share my own suffering, temptations, sins and needs in order that I may be loved, all in the midst of my (and your) sin and suffering and need of a Savior. May we all grow in basking in the mercies of God, be ambushed by His love, and therefore be motivated to better “one anothering!”