God’s presence can be embodied through community 

Written by Zammie King

I used to be an “I don’t need people” person. I was hesitant to ask for help due to the hurt of past experiences where people dismissed my groans, and my pain was not welcomed or heard. For too long, I believed that my suffering was a secret to keep. I thought admitting I needed support was a sign of weakness I needed to outgrow. 

Then came the Christmas of 2020. My mother had passed away from cancer earlier that year, and with the world’s turmoiled state, the season felt like a long walk through a dark valley, not a joyful advent.

The term ‘Advent’ is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming. It is a liturgical period of the Christian calendar, during which Christians reflect on Christ’s first coming and the anticipation of His second coming. I didn’t know it then, but as I wrestled with doubt and asked complex questions about God’s presence amid the suffering, I was embodying the spirit of Advent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” Instead of denying the darkness, this liturgical practice invites us to slow down and reflect on the promised star amidst the night in our lives. Advent reminds us that God appears at our weakest, most vulnerable state.

Jesus came to meet us in our despair and bring redemption to our broken world.

On Christmas Day, 2020, a family from my church invited my dad and me to have dinner with them. We shared stories while sitting at a candle-lit table that winter night. We listened to one another’s laments, prayers, and thanksgivings. 

In the past, shame and fear had caused me to shy away from vulnerable moments such as these. Now, this honest communion made my suffering feel less like a secret and more like a sacrament. The welcome of our weakness made way for God’s strength and comfort. 

God did not design our bodies to bear our burdens alone. The sooner we accept that, the better it is for us as a Body. When we let others hold space for us, our bodies can momentarily exhale the solemn weight of pain and inhale the solace of support.

Our communion as a Church becomes more potent when we stop shying away from our suffering and weakness and let God show us, through others, that His power is indeed made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Luke 5:18 narrates an account where a group of men laid a paralyzed man at the feet of Jesus. This story has always struck me as a beautiful re-enactment of what a church community should look like. In certain seasons of life, we need others to remind us of God’s truth and place us at the feet of Jesus so we may be rejuvenated and renewed by Him.

There are seasons when we cannot easily foresee the end of our pain, and hope seems heavy. Letting others hold us in hard times is not an act of cowardice but a courageous act of faith. 

God is the Father of compassion and our eternal comfort through trials, but sometimes we need to experience the physical presence of others in times of difficulty. The church community is precisely that, truth with skin. 

Platitudes and toxic positivity don’t aid us through the dark. Presence does. And God recognizes that, which is why He invites us to let others sit with us in our pain and comfort us as He has comforted them. And through them, we witness the presence of God at the times we need it the most.

It takes courage to be willing to make room for raw honesty and shared humanity—to let the village of people the Lord has placed in our lives become a beacon in the dark days. There’s a deep beauty that comes from healing among friends and family. Receiving support builds thick ties of trust and vulnerability in our communities. And God works powerfully through this giving and receiving, turning our desert experiences into gardens.