“The beacons are lit!”

One of my favorite scenes in Lord of the Rings comes in Return of the King when the beacon of Minas Tirith is lit to start a chain of lit beacons spanning Middle Earth and asking for any who can to come to the aid of a city on the brink of attack.

Why is this one of my favorite scenes? Because it involves someone humbling themselves enough to admit help is necessary. Also, because it involves others coming to help  even when they hold no obligation to do so. They choose to help because it’s the right thing to do.

Wouldn’t it be helpful for us to light beacons when we’re under attack? But we essentially do the opposite. We do what Lord Denethor did, retreat and “die in what way seems best.” In other words, we hide our struggles which often results in our own demise spiritually, physically and/or mentally.

Let’s be clear that I’m not advocating the airing of dirty laundry or even of many, if any, of the details of a situation. What I am saying is that we simply need to ask for help from someone with the ability to come to our aid. I am saying that sometimes the battle is too much for us to fight alone.

For Christians, this principle is akin to being a part of the body of Christ where “its parts should have equal concern for each other” and where “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12).

Another principle at play here comes from Galatians 6:2 which says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” God clearly instructs members of His body to lift each other up when one part goes through a struggle. But so much of the time, a person goes through battles alone, never sharing struggles by asking for help. In other words, fulfilling this “law” becomes impossible when burdens remain unknown.

Being a part of the body of Christ means little when one member chooses to live as if independent from the rest of the body. This is, of course, impossible, since the rest of the body still becomes maimed when a member falls away.

So, what’s the solution? When you struggle, light the beacon. Tell someone you are struggling.

Recently, I struggled with feeling disconnected. I saw younger women hanging out together and connecting, and I felt alone. I saw myself as young, still, but I didn’t really fit in that group anymore. Yet, I also know that Titus encourages the interaction of younger and older as does the life of Timothy.

In the past when I struggled with disconnection, I fought the battle on my own. Sure, I turned to scripture and prayer, and of course God brought me through. Yet, I have come to believe that often God wants to bring us to victory through others. Sometimes, we hide ourselves in the Bible to avoid admitting our struggles and asking for help.

This time, I actually reached out to other women. I shared my struggle with disconnection and fitting in and felt almost immediate relief after doing so. No, the battle didn’t go away immediately, but sharing the struggle and having others bear it with me definitely encouraged me and gave me strength to endure.

What’s more is that I found that my struggle was not unique. Satan wants us to feel alone and as if no one can understand our struggles because he knows we aren’t as much of a threat when we struggle alone.

DISCUSSION: Do you struggle alone in something and need to light the beacon to request help? Are you preventing someone from “fulfilling the law of Christ” by hiding your burden and struggling alone?

Check out the related post Oh, God, I Am Lost and So Alone by T. Neal Tarver at A Curious Band of Others for more on this topic.

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12 Replies to ““The beacons are lit!””

  1. Kari,

    Excellent post. I think it seems(may not be true) that people fall on opposite ends of the stick here. On one end you have people sharing everything about their life, every struggle, every stubbed toe to the point you want to run when you see them coming. They seem not so much to want help as to want attention and to want to be built up for suffering so much. Then there is the other end where we share nothing at all. This is where I tend to be. I think sometimes I do not want anyone to know my business, sometimes it is I do not want them to know I struggle, and sometimes I think it is my ego saying "you don't need no help big guy… suck it up".

    I do try to reach out to people I think might be having a rough time with something. I also appreciate when a friend reaches out to me when does not occur much. That could be me in the sense I put on the good front regardless.

    There is a part of me that does not want to share with someone who has no investment in me. If they have not shown any concern towards me I am not interested in seeking anything from them. To me they seem like the queen who comes by and throws a few coins on the ground for the peasants. Does not do much for the peasants but makes her feel good.

    So this makes me think that if I want to help people in a meaningful way I need to be investing in their lives in the good times and the bad times. I also need to be humble enough to admit I do not have it all together and could use help at times.

    1. Thanks, Mark. I agree that people in general tend to go to the extreme. I struggle with those who share EVERYTHING but who remain stuck in their situation unwilling to do the work to change it. I also tend to hide more than share, so I have to intentionally make myself share when I struggle. For me, though, it's more that I think people really don't care or don't have the time to care. What it boils down to is having relationships established before you need them in the though times. In other words, prepare for rain. Humbleness, as you noted, is also a key. Whenever I humble myself and ask for help in a struggle, relief comes almost immediately. It's as if God was saying, "I was just waiting for the humbleness."

    2. Your "in the good times and the bad times" reminds me of what I read in Proverbs today. "The person who shuns the bitter moments of friends will be an outsider at their celebrations" (Proverbs 14:11 The Message).

      From a different perspective, I have little trouble inviting friends into my celebrations but struggle with letting them into my "bitter moments."

      I have learned that certain struggles blow into my life and strengthen into hurricane-force winds when I suffer in silence. They dissipate pretty quickly when I not only pray to God but speak with others.

      1. I have found the same thing to be true in my own life. God didn't mean for us to struggle alone. That's why we are one body after all. I like the sentiment of the Proverb. Gotta go thru the tough times to truly celebrate in the good times. I am terrible at celebrations, and getting better at opening up in the bitter moments. Perhaps a "how to" on that is in order. Maybe that would force figuring it out more. Maybe you'll cover some of this in your post.

  2. Thanks Kari. I tend to be too open. I know that can be a burden to others, as I have had people do that to me also. But you are right about needing friends, especially prayer warriors who will simply keep you and your needs before God when life gets to busy and we fail to do so ourselves. One of mine died recently and I will always remember her willingness to pray with and for me at any time when my late husband was so ill. Just weeks before she died we prayed together over the phone, which is how it usually was done with us.
    When I was serving as a pastor I found it difficult to help those who did not want to share anything about their situations. You did not even know how to pray for them sometimes.
    I am proud of you for taking the step of lighting the beacon! Remember Jesus says ask….then you will receive.
    I rejoice that you made a connection with others and pray that will grow and bless all of you!

    1. I don't think being too open is necessarily a problem. I think that being too open with the wrong people and being too open without a teachable spirit and willingness to change are where the problems come up. In other words, openness is fine and can be a blessing, but not when the person remains stuck in the situation. I'm not saying a situation would necessarily go away but that the person is seeking God more and looking for what He wants them to learn or do or whatever. So, don't think you're openness in itself is a bad thing. Sorry to hear about your friend, but what great memories you will always have and can even create by being that type of person to others. Thank you for your words of encouragement once again.

  3. Kari, This is sooo good. I agree that we often share too much. Yep, especially with the wrong people. I've been guilty of that myself. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. You're right, the alternative is not to struggle alone. That's why a community of believers is so important. Prayer and even a hug on occasion. So thankful for the blessing of mentors and friends.

    1. On our own, it is SO hard to tell the difference. We NEED the Holy Spirit to do this life thing right, don't we? Struggling alone certainly is not the answer. I've tried that, and it does not work. I know people who have fallen away from the church when they used that approach. In the adult class at my church, we are studying the importance of the Christian community and our parts in it. We're talking about our parts but also the part it's supposed play in the life of the body parts. I too am thankful for those who can be trusted, the mentors and friends God has blessed me with.

  4. Kari, I've written but have yet to post an article similar in tone and subject as yours. Your words of wisdom line up well with what I would encourage. The one passage in Scripture you brought to mind was James 5:16, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed."

  5. I lead a small life group (basically a Sunday School class), and this is one thing that really gets me. I want so much for people to be open and vulnerable. We've had people who have gone through some pretty tough things and have never shared. Not only does that keep the atmosphere of the class superficial, but – just like you said – it denies the class the opportunity to minister.
    Of course, when the tables are turned, I'm not nearly as vulnerable as I could be.

    1. This is so very hard to do, but I think that only emphasize tthe importance of doing it. Let's purpose to lead by example. I am having the same experiences with my church family, and I have found a new determination to seek change in this area. I've seen too many people fall away and stumble because they try to live as an island and pretend like nothing is wrong. It almost happened to me, and I don't want to go there again.

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