One of my favorite ballads of theirs is "Everybody Hurts" (from Automatic for the People--listen to it here) and is sung live on the CD. The band's frontman, Michael Stipe, often has deep insight into the human condition. On this particular song, the message of human hopelessness comes out loud and strong to me, though I really don't think that was his intention. He, along with the rest of the world, find their hopes in and draw their strength from things that may bring temporary relief, but typically are shortlived:
When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on
Don't let yourself go,
'cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes
Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it's time to sing along
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on
'Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts. Don't throw your hand.
Oh, no. Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone, no, no, no, you are not alone
If you're on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on
Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts. You are not alone.
If misery breeds company, and I think it does, then what hope does Michael Stipe, and the rest of the world with him, when they say that when you feel like giving up hold on because your friends are there for you? This is the best the world has to offer (much better than turning to substances, activities, etc.)--to cling to your friends when life is hard. Yet this is only the best they can offer. Taking comfort in the fact alone that everybody hurts, is no hope at all. It is true that everybody hurts and knowing that your circumstance is not uncommon to man (1 Cor. 10:13) is a deep help yet the basis for encouragement in 1 Cor. 10:13 is not found in the fact that others have gone through it. The deep encouragement is from the faith given to them by God Himself through His grace which enabled them to persevere through the difficult depression. The faith is sourced in God Himself as the Ultimate Treasure. He is the Supreme Being who is the only person who is worth putting hope and trust in.
But what is the place of people in our lives, particularly, believers? I think the common thought in the evangelical church today (regardless of your particular denominational flavor, strictness or liberality) is that "fellowship" itself is simply doing things with each other, particularly, hanging out and/or eating. That is the very shallow view of fellowship. In that sense, those outside the Faith, experience the same thing. I think this is a great example of why in the church we must define "fellowship" much more clearly. In "Everybody Hurts" we see a glimpse of one aspect of fellowship (but obviously lacking the Foundation)--the fellowship of suffering, the common condition. However, in the Church fellowship is a multifaceted diamond with the core being the Cross.
While I would love to take the time, to delve into defining fellowship's many facets (and I probably will over time on this blog), a good place to start is what John Loftness has to say about it in the book, Why Small Groups. Take some time to read chapter 2 for free to get a better grasp of what I'm talking about.