I don’t know if this is true all over the planet, but in my little corner of the world, there has been a lot of suffering and trials in the past year. Both in my own close family as well as our church family as a whole.
Relationships strained or shattered.
Heavy and hard trials that have the power and energy to be crippling.
Over the past weeks I seem to find myself reading scriptures speaking to this very same issue.
The one thing that I keep finding consistently through these verses on suffering is that there is often a reference to a “we” or “us”.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Though we experience every kind of pressure, we’re not crushed. At times we don’t know what to do, but quitting is not an option. We are persecuted by others, but God has not forsaken us. We may be knocked down, but not out.
2 Corinthians 1:4
He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us.
(italics are mine)
And in so many instances when there is encouragement for the trials being faced, the letter (the book of the bible) is not written to an individual, but to the church as a collective.
Now I acknowledge that these truths are valid, and downright powerful, even if spoken to individual hearts. Because, let’s be real, this is God’s word and it is amazing.
However, I can’t help but notice that God might just be trying to tell us something about the value of suffering as a community.
1. We are not intended to suffer alone.
We are made to be a part of the BODY of Christ. If you haven’t heard that term before, it simply means that we are designed to do life with others.
1 Corinthians 12:25-26
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.
Have you ever stubbed your toe but your head suddenly had a sharp pain?
Or maybe you have a sore back and your knees start to feel pain?
Perhaps you have a tummy ache and then your head starts to feel dizzy?
When one part is affected, it suddenly creates a ripple throughout the entire body. And the entire body gets on board to help solve the problem and heal the part that is damaged or hurting.
2. Together we can find the healing we need.
Two are better than one because a good return comes when two work together. If one of them falls, the other can help him up. But who will help the pitiful person who falls down alone? In the same way, if two lie down together, they can keep each other warm. But how will the one who sleeps alone stay warm against the night? And if one person is vulnerable to attack, two can drive the attacker away. As the saying goes, “A rope made of three strands is not quickly broken.”
When we do life together, in Christ, there is what I like to call the “Exponential Factor” at work.
Perhaps you have heard the example of draft horses?
Two draft horses pulling together cannot pull twice as much as one. They can pull three times as much. The two draft horses that can each pull 8,000 pounds alone can pull 24,000 pounds working together. Alone they can do something. But together, they can do so much more!!
There is so much more power to heal, grow, impact and love when we do it together.
The older people can support because of their experience and ability to give wise advice.
Your peers can walk you through the day to day.
Those younger than you can help you have hope and stamina for the moments when you can’t find it yourself.
Through Christ and the power of Holy Spirit working in the body of believers, there are no limits to how our hearts can be ministered to. Together, the impact is exponential.
3. Somehow God uses this COLLECTIVE suffering and healing in our body to reveal the amazing truth of what Jesus offers his followers. It becomes attractive and we can help more and more people find their home in his body. Our light gets brighter, together.
1 Peter 1:5-7
Through our faith, the mighty power of God constantly guards us until our full salvation is ready to be revealed in the last time. May the thought of this cause you to jump for joy, even though lately you’ve had to put up with the grief of many trials. But these only reveal the sterling core of your faith, which is far more valuable than gold that perishes, for even gold is refined by fire. Your authentic faith will result in even more praise, glory, and honor when Jesus the Anointed One is revealed.
Through all this suffering and trials and struggle, TOGETHER, we can find ourselves in a place of strength and joy that goes beyond our current circumstance or even our understanding.
We support one another and strengthen one another.
We pray for one another.
We love one another.
We find acceptance in his house.
We find healing and wholeness in his presence.
We can suffer well, in a way that is attractive to others.
Because, after all, it is the presence of God that really ignites healing in us.
And scripture tells us that where two or more are gathered, He is right there with us.
We need to do this together. Collectively.
So why doesn’t this always work?
I believe amid the suffering and trails and struggles, there is often a lingering temptation.
An underlying belief system in our hearts that whispers things like:
“I am better off alone.”
“I don’t need anyone else.”
“No one cares about my struggle.”
“No one wants to hear it.”
“No one will understand.”
And we allow ourselves to stay or become isolated.
When we find ourselves weak, vulnerable and struggling..... that is the BEST time to plug in and connect to the body of Christ!!!
Yet we often pull back. Disconnect. First from people, then often from God.
And we wonder why we can’t seem to find victory.
We need Christ. We need our saviour and His Word to be at the forefront of our vision.
But just as importantly, we need his body.
We do this together.
We suffer together.
We rejoice together.
We have victory.
We find our joy.