I have learned that belonging is not something that happens to you; it is a commitment you make to the community God draws you toward. We are each called to belong.
In John 17:22, Jesus is praying for His disciples and for all future believers, “…That they may be one as we are one—I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”
To belong is the greatest desire Jesus has always had for you.
“It Is Not Good To Be Alone.”
God had a pattern with making the universe: create things, and then take a step back to look it over and remark proudly, “It is good.” But He broke the pattern when He created man and then saw that he was the only human that existed. He said about Adam’s lonely state in Genesis 2, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We would think that Adam was the last person in humanity to need another person in his life—he had God as his constant companion! Why on earth would he need people? God knew, however, that because Adam was made in the image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, he was created for more than just one relationship. God decided to make more people to connect not only with Himself, but with each other, because multiple kinds of connections would let us experience the full range of His love. Full connection with God looks like becoming a part of His family—and as we read through the Bible about the ways He commands us to love each other, we see that He believes this is a choice we can make.
What If God Was Right?
What if we were not meant to simply wish we belonged, but it is a reality He has been inviting us into? Maybe the seemingly impossible accomplishment of belonging is more of a choice than we realize; perhaps we can commit to this rather than wait for it to happen to us. Some of us have spent years wanting to belong with a group of people, only to be hurt by others and left with wounds that work to hinder us from having meaningful relationships. But God is the healer of all hurts, even social ones, and this is a healing we actually can choose to receive. From the very beginning, He has created us to belong with Him and others, and to thrive in that belonging. Relationship is a gift from Him!
So how do reach that place where we belong and then thrive within that? Before anything else, we have to set aside the victim mentality and go after the mind of Christ. For some of us, this means maturing beyond the allure of being a misunderstood loner; for others, it means setting aside the self-pity of being always surrounded but always alone. I have lived on both sides of this scenario and have discovered that these two approaches to relationships are, at their core, a fear of man. But what if I told you that God did not actually create any personality to function out of fear this way? That for even the most introverted character, or the most left-out extrovert, He did create you to belong in other people’s lives?
1. Committing to Belong
Here are five personal commitments to belong I have learned from living in both a YWAM community, and most recently in a more widespread environment that requires more intentional relationship-building. Make these commitments to yourself and to the community God is drawing you toward; not only to belong, but to help others belong as well. We live in a world of lost people aching for true connection but addicted to media-driven comparison and loneliness. This is how the body of Christ shines in a world bombarded by false connections: as a family that invites others into our lives to experience real, God-intended belonging.
Commit to fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This daily commitment must always come before any other. Intimacy with God fills the deepest longing for connection in our heart and is central to every other part of our relational world. Jonathan Helser says, “The God that you see is the man or woman you will be.” If we know who He truly is, then we will know who we truly are. We will not need to look to outside sources such as relationships and accomplishments to reveal our identity because we will already be affirmed by the Father. He longs to grow us into a place where we can be in constant, open conversation with His Spirit. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness melt when His voice chases every other voice away inside of us. Even if He is your only friend right now, you already belong.
2. Commit to personal wholeness: healing, growth, and maturity.
Matthew 22:39 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are actually called to love ourselves, not neglect what’s happening on the inside! If our ability to love others as ourselves is hindered by memories and fears that have wounded us, often wounds from other people, there is just the person for the job. You are so important to Jesus that He sent a friend, the Holy Spirit, to help you become whole. It is His relational commitment to you. Invite the Holy Spirit into your inner world: the conversations you have with yourself, the hurts from your past, the way you see yourself, others, and the Father. Watch how He not only takes you through His process of healing you from the inside, but brings you even further on a journey of growing into a place of maturity where you become like Him in the way you build relationships on the outside. This is how we love ourselves: we allow God to act on His commitment to our wholeness. Then we will no longer belong to the affirmation of others and feel empty inside when we do not receive it. Instead, we will be restored, guided, and empowered by the thoughts of God to be fully ourselves.
3. Commit to trust and to be trustworthy.
From infancy, the foundation of human relationship has always been trust. A community of people that trust one another is a people that are unified in openness and love. This commitment will require you to be vulnerable with some and honest with all. Seek out relationships with other Christians who you can trust processing your heart with, and do the same for them. Ask God to put mentors in your life who have wisdom and experience to counsel you in the steps you are taking toward your relationships, and ask Him for deep friendships where you can open up your heart to people who will cheer you on rather than tear you down.
Be willing to trust the people He places in your life, and be trustworthy in return! This does not mean you expect yourself to be perfect, but to be worthy of trust. Honor your commitments to your relationships; learn how to have healthy conflict and approach relationship blocks head-on rather than gossiping or letting problems grow ignored beneath the surface. Focus on creating a culture in your fellowship with people that allows trust to be at its center. Knowing we can trust and be trusted is one of the fullest ways we feel that we belong.
4. Commit to having a heart of humility.
Jesus’ life on earth in the Gospels is the model for thriving in every area of our lives, especially when we are in community. Everything He did for His friends, He did out of love, as a servant, and then commanded us to do the same. Humility teaches us how to be comfortable when we are by ourselves and to approach our relationships without an agenda of receiving, but rather an agenda of giving. Have you noticed that we are most often drawn to people who are confident enough in who they are that they can enjoy being around us without the fear of rejection or the need to always be needed? The root of true confidence like this is the kind of humility Jesus displayed toward others. It dissolves so many relationship barriers and broadens our perspective of our role in people’s lives. Choose to discover how God’s calling on your life is not intended for you, but for the benefit of others. You will find out what He has created you to do, that no one else can do, when you choose to belong in a way that is selfless.
5. Commit to intentional relationships.
This final commitment will require you to have the courage to reach out. Choose to come out of retreat mode and the mentality that your most meaningful relationships will simply happen to you; this approach to community is a lesser version of ourselves that eventually leads to isolation and believing the lie that we are unwanted and invisible. You don’t have to know everyone, but you need to get to know someone. As your journey toward personal wholeness allows you to become your true, God-given self, let Him excitedly challenge you to be brave enough to love others in the same way. Look for people who may be outsiders wanting to belong in your community. Invite them into your circle; if you don’t have a circle, perhaps this is how God wants you to create one. Call out the gold you see inside of their personality and their story—being part of a family means being intentional about letting no one who enters your sphere feel left out. Reach out to the ones you admire for their confidence, their ability to make friends easily, rather than distancing yourself out of comparison or self-doubt. Take small steps to be intentional in your relationships and let the Holy Spirit guide you from there.
Intentional, healthy relationships are possible for even the most insecure or socially-wounded of us, because Jesus, the healer of your heart and the Creator of connection, lives inside of you. He makes you able to be more than you are and will empower you to make an impact in the lives of others in a way that shows them they are loved, valued, and wanted in the family of Christ.
Right in this moment, how can you choose to belong?