I normally don’t try to write a book for a blog post, but it just happened.
The church I serve at is going through some of the broader goals we believe God has for every believer: loving God (soaking in the gospel and responding to it daily), growing up (building our lives on Jesus), and serving all (taking the gospel out into our communities and the rest of the world). This past weekend we focused on the growing up part of the process. We are learning that growth comes with individual study and personal communion with God as well as growing through community and living along side other believers. Let me just say, I have such a sweet small group of people that God is allowing me to find community with. I might not be speaking for everyone else in my group, but I feel we are learning more and more about one another and starting to feel more and more comfortable with one another. Through the safe place we desire small group to be, we are attempting to let our guards down and be honest and open with where we are in life. What’s crazy is, we are finding that we have so much in common. Included in this common ground share is suffering.
Suffering might not be the most popular topic of conversation, I understand, but it is a theme that is found throughout scripture as well as a theme found throughout the lives of people. Not addressing suffering and struggle when it comes up is like not addressing a flesh wound during battle. Yes there is a need to journey on despite our wounds, but I would venture to say that some healing needs to take place if we are going to be effective in battle. The beauty of community is seen when suffering is shared together.
There is a sweet passage from the Old Testament book Hosea. If you haven’t read the book, go read it -if you have, go read it again. This book is much broader than suffering itself, which in affect can help us put suffering in appropriate context. We are going to look at verse one of chapter six to help us learn what to do with our suffering.
Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
Suffering needs to be exposed:
Some people will disagree with this statement, but I believe suffering in life is caused by God in some cases -and in all cases, it is allowed by God. If you don’t believe me, it might be because you didn’t read the verse up above (don’t worry, I am guilty of skipping over scripture too). “He has torn us..He has struck us down.” Clear enough? Before you decide to take the advice of Job’s wife to “curse God and die,” I suggest you keep the topic of suffering open in your life and let God’s Word have supremacy in your understanding.
Suffering needs to be shared:
Just as the title of this post would imply, I believe that suffering is to be shared together. “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.” Although us includes singular “you” it also must include at least one other person. Sharing the burden of suffering is needed if we are going to persevere and grow. Believe it or not, sharing joy as well as hardship is commanded in Scripture. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” When we share joy it multiplies and grows, when we share suffering it divides and shrinks. My sister just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy this past Thursday, and I have been bragging on that little dude the past four days. While sharing burdens isn’t near as easy as sharing joy, it is equally necessary for us to do in order to live a healthy life.
As Jesus was led to Suffer, our Suffering leads us to Jesus:
More could be written on the suffering of Jesus than all of our suffering combined. Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He knew pain better than we will ever know pain, and yet he despised the shame and endured the cross because of the joy that was set before him (see Hebrews 12:2). The joy that was set before him was to see sinners like you and me return to the Lord. He took our sins away by the shedding of his blood that we might draw near to God. In the same way, the suffering that we deal with isn’t meant for us to retreat and pray ourselves out of it, but rather it is meant to bring us back to Jesus. In the kingdom of God suffering is never wasted, “And we know that for those who love God all things (suffering included) work together for good” (Romans 8:28).
I don’t know what you’re walking through, but I do know that God is greater and he purposes to use your suffering that he may heal you. So together may we return to the Lord.