"By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped." Ecclesiastes 4:12 (The Message)
In a culture that prizes the individual it's easy to forget that strength to make it through every day, every trial, every disappointment comes from others. The Teacher (King Solomon) included this "saying" in his book of wisdom but it wasn't original to him. It was a common axiom in the ancient near east.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh there's a scene where Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu take 50 men and travel to the "the land of the living" (literally, a land of cedar trees) where Gilgamesh falls into troubled sleep. Worried for his friend, Enkidu tries to convince Gilgamesh to leave but Gilgamesh replies, "Two people will not perish! … No one can cut through a three-ply cloth!"
We should remember two things about strength. First, we should always seek to be the strength others need, especially in their time of need. Second, we should not run in our rabbit holes when things get bad. We should, rather, call on a friend.
Interesting how in the verse we see a progression from two, to three. Apparently three isn't a crowd. It's just right.
Think about the times you've been most encouraged. For me, the times praying with my wife or sharing a hardship with a friend come to mind. And still other times brim up in my memory, times when I was surrounded with a group of people whom I loved. We shared, we sang, we prayed, we laughed and I left with strength to overcome.
In sports we hear about "team chemistry" and how important it is for a team to possess it. But if players isolate themselves, or act selfishly, they weaken the team. If players, on the other hand, bond and place the needs of their teammates first, they find success.
It's possible to be, to work, to live within a group of people and yet remain isolated—many things put us there. Things like shame, fear, selfishness and greed—all stemming from a vision turned inward, toward the dark, toward our selves.
The greatest conqueror among us, however, finds new vision in the hope of conquest, in the light of service and in the strength of brotherhood.
Jesus said, "I call you friends." Then he went and died for us. Oh to wrap ourselves around him—each of us, locking arms, locking hearts. Strong.
Today's Prayer: Lord, we are strong only in Your strength. Help our weakness. Be the strand we wrap ourselves around today.
SIGN UP BELOW TO DOWNLOAD IT NOW
Timothy Willard loves to sit with his wife by the bonfire and make up stories about Tom the Backyard-Badger for his three lovely daughters. When he's not carving up the Appalachian Mountains on his Salsa El Mariachi, you can find him busy writing a book, collaborating on a book, or reading a book written by someone dead and gone. Timothy studied beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis under theologian Alister McGrath. The author of five books, including Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society (Zondervan), Timothy is currently finishing The Life-Changing Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019), preparing his doctoral thesis for publication, and trying to find a publisher for his first novel The Tempest and the Bloom. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.