On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open. We ask—What’s going on in your life? What does the Bible say? Where are you headed? Where have you been? What do you need? How can I pray for you?
It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.
I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same. They are my traveling companions.
And this is what we need, really. Community. Strength from relationships. Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too? Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God. Widow Naomi. Now childless Naomi. Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone. With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing. A new home. Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields. Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage. And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.
All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.
Then there’s Elijah. The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel. Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water. The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).
Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).
Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone. He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself. Alone. No companion to speak truth into his heart. No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God. No accountability. No encouragement. No truth-speaking. No love.
It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.
And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness. God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice. The very next thing God did was give him a friend.
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).
Elijah needed Elisha. Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.
Not just any traveling companion will do, though. Who we walk with determines where we go. Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.
Just ask Abraham.
Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.
Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).
God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction. And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot. But, something happened along the way. It’s a mysterious blank. We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion. Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination.
They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8. They settled there. And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again. That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.
Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises. They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home. Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.
The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy. Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night. Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles. Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.
And Paul and Titus. In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).
Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.
Still, Paul was frightened at times, too. Just like you and me, he had his moments. God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness. Instead, God provided for a need. Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days. Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.
Paul knew this truly. He usually traveled in partnership. He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).
It seems contradictory at first. Carry each other’s burdens. Each one carry their own load. But there’s a difference here. Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle. Do it yourself. Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.
Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership. In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.
That’s the way God designed us—to travel together. Ruth with Naomi. Elijah with Elisha. Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy. You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together. Alone we will not make it. Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King