What are your thoughts on God’s work during suffering, in the individual and on the community of believers who uphold that individual?


(Anjeanette "AJ" Roberts) #1

Hi, Sharon.

I am really encouraged to hear the topics that you have engaged in and focused on! Glad you’re the answer-man (so to speak) for the week! :slight_smile:

I wonder, not being previously familiar with your work, if you have thought much about how we often try to understand our suffering on a personal level, and maybe have missed thinking about our individual suffering in the context of community or being part of the body of Christ. It seems to me that God is at work in individual suffering both in the individual and in and through the community of believers who surround and uphold that individual. Have you thought at all along these lines? Would you please share any thoughts or reflections you might have on this please?

God bless and uphold you!

(Sharon Dirckx) #2

Dear AJ

Thank you for your question. I think this is a really important question, especially for Christians. The church is a body and St Paul reminds us that ‘if one part [of the body] suffers, all suffer with it’. We are also told to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. For many, their suffering is made worse by the sense of isolation they feel, whereas part of the way i think God intends to bring comfort is through the ‘hands and feet’ of others around us. But this is not easy. For this to work, several things are needed. Firstly, there needs to be a permission given by the church to be real and authentic. Church at its best should be a place where we can take off the mask. This makes it easier to ask for help when we are struggling. Secondly, there is always room for growth in how we respond to a person in pain. The opening chapters of Job highlight how hard this is. Learning to grow in listening well, appreciating that sometimes someones pain is so profound that words cannot capture it, and recognising that sometimes silence is better, are all important. Jobs friends comforted most effectively when they were silent and simply sat with Job and no doubt silently prayed. Learning to listen well, not trying to assert the reason for the suffering (prematurely or at all!), and allowing room for mystery and profundity are areas we can all grow in. Thirdly, the sufferer, should be willing to open up to others. Whether this is with one or two people, or a small or large group setting will differ depending on the person. But the main thing is not to suffer in silence. In a healthy setting where all of these dimensions are at work, Christian community can truly help someone walk through the valley they are in, in ways that would not have been possible without it. And, as you say in your question, watching someone go through suffering impacts the spiritual life of the church family. It can serve as an encouragement, because ‘if they went through this and are still standing at the end, then perhaps i can too’.

I hope this is in some way helpful,
Every blessing,

(Kay Kalra) #3