What’s Happening Wednesday: Fellowship of Suffering

The last few years have been a trial for all of us. We came through a world-wide pandemic, only to be faced with war and economic uncertainty. Those things happened on a global scale, to say nothing of the storms many of us faced in our personal lives. There was job insecurity, unstable living situations, and a general anxiety about what the future held.

You would think that since each of us, and all of us, were in similar situations that we would lean on each other for support. Instead, of listening to one another’s stories, we became more entrenched in our feedback loops. We could have, and probably should have, come together as a community. But in a world where we have every opportunity to connect with each other, we chose to find reasons to separate.

I imagine that many of us think we have found our tribes during this time of uncertainty. I hope that’s true. But if we take a closer look, I believe what many of us have truly have found is people who parrot our own thoughts. That is why conspiracy theorists find each other online. It’s also why you and many of your friends tend to vote the same way in elections (if you vote at all). While it is great to have our own thoughts validated, it is not the truest form of fellowship. True fellowship can involve walking through life with people whose lives are not like our own. It is finding value in and adding value to the lives of people whose stories differ.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church talks about the fellowship of suffering. We all want to fellowship with the savior because we want the power of His resurrection. It is much easier to imagine the suffering of a man whom we won’t get to see until the sweet by and by than to walk with flesh and blood human beings whose suffering we can see, touch, hear and smell.

Nevertheless, we are called to a life of mourning with those who mourn. We are called to walk beside those who are suffering, and to bear each other’s burdens. It can be tough. It can be nasty. It can be ugly, but something beautiful happens when we get to witness and be a part of someone triumphing over their circumstances. It’s amazing to witness a resurrection up close and personal, but you only get that privilege if you’re willing to walk through the muck and mire.

Fellowship isn’t necessarily supposed to be easy. It can be challenging and even hurtful. As hard as it is to watch someone in pain, it might be even harder to allow someone get close enough to you to sense your pain. Living together means being vulnerable enough to bare your own scars, but strong enough to bear another person’s bruises.

Jesus of Nazareth hung on a cross, battered, bruised, and dying, carrying the weight of sins that were not his own. This is what true fellowship looks like.

The good news is that the relationship doesn’t end on the cross. Resurrection power extends beyond the grave, and gives new life.

I pray you find and embody that kind of love.

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