Therefore, when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind in Athens alone, so we sent Timothy to establish you in your faith. I Thess 3:1,2
Paul uses some strong heart language here. What is going on? He is writing to a small group of believers in Thessalonica whom he had brought to faith in Christ. But after their conversion, he had to flee for his life and he knew that once he left, they would also be persecuted. What could be the outcome if he left them alone? They might deny their faith. When authorities came knocking on their door and demand that they recant or go to jail, would they still believe that the decision they made to embrace Jesus as the Messiah was a sound one? Would they be strong enough to handle the persecution?
Now Paul is in Athens with Silas and Timothy. If Paul goes back to check on his new converts, he will be killed. He knows that. To use the words “when I could bear it no longer…” is pretty strong language for how worried he is about them.
Has anyone ever worried about you? Overprotective parents who smother the life out of their child will ruin future chances for an “Apostle Paul”. The concern of a mentor might feel like the familiar invasion of boundaries. Straining for independence, legitimate loving concern is pushed away.
More often than not though, this is not our experience though. We live in growing isolation inside the church. We put on our best face, take up a spot in a pew, and rarely reveal how tenuous our faith is. No one knows that they should be worried about us. Imagine, if throughout our lifetime, we were used to getting a phone call that began with, “I could endure it no longer without checking on you.” Many will read this today and cry for the want of it.
This is the level of discipleship that pleases God. If your church doesn’t provide that, either be the catalyst to shake up things or find a church where you can be part of a small group that practices true soul care. Life is hard, disappointments are plentiful, and pressures are nearly unbearable. You must be in a place where others look out for you. There is someone out there, like Paul, who longs to stand there with their arm around your shoulder, cheering you on to stand in truth, and serving you in faithfulness. And what’s equally true is that there are many who need the same from each of us.
Biblical soul care was your intention. What is my part? Amen