One of my favorite Old Testament stories is found in the Book of Exodus. The Israelites are under attack and Moses tells Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long a Moses held up his hands the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army (17: 8-13).
Aaron was Moses’ older brother, and Hur was a trusted companion. Both were friends to Moses. I am encouraged to know that the great heroes of scripture can grow tired and weary, and sometimes they must rely on help from their people to accomplish what God has called them to do.
The value and necessity of community is a vibrant thread that runs throughout all of scripture. The truth we are created to live and work and overcome obstacles with our people is woven into bible stories from Genesis to Revelation. And yet, when life feels strained and hurried it is tempting to withdraw from those around me and put my head into the wind in an attempt to muster up my own strength to finish my work. But I have consistently found that – even if goals are accomplished – a strategy of self reliance eventually leads to overwhelming discouragement and burnout.
God doesn’t lead us to hard places where we must overcome obstacles on our own, he sustains us in hard places by sending supportive people to carry burdens with us. Because God’s love and provision is often shown through community. When I’m feeling weary and strained it is more important than ever keep gathering with my friends and family – and to trust that God’s help will show up through my people. Especially when I’m not feeling entirely able to manage my life and tasks on my own.
Because I don’t have to be perfect, but I do need to be present.
I need to invite friends and family into the messiness of my life, as I willingly step in to the messiness of theirs. I often find that in the midst of a hard or hectic season, when I sit with my people to share a meal or a cup of coffee or a walk in the sunshine – my heart, soul, mind, and body are refreshed. It is much better to finish the work before me through an abundance of care, rather than the thin reserves of my strength.
And yet in our culture it so easy to slip into the default of self reliance, and I continually need the reminder of Exodus 17 that when life is demanding, when I’m facing an obstacle to be overcome, and when I’m fighting a long battle yet to be won – sometimes the best thing I can do is sit down on a rock and receive the help of friends and family who gather to hold up my hands for me. Likewise, I need to prayerfully keep my eyes open so that I can see the family and friends counting on me to be a arm holder for them.
Reliance on community is how hard battles are won. In our weary hours, the help of our loved ones will keep us steady till sunset.