I recently opened a devotional* and read, God is "a very present help in times of trouble." (from Psalm 46:1) This ministers to me, but not in the way it used to. I recognize, now, the need for those around me who will make this a tangible reality in my life... An ever present help in times of trouble...
I am learning that, in a time of such brokenness, in the midst of catastrophic loss, a person needs not only the masses, the local body, the church at large, but the few. I needed to ask myself, Who are the few? Who are the few who will come alongside and be ever present in my time of trouble?
This is not a job for everyone. It is a different ministry than that of the masses. I cannot have 400+ people engaging up close in my suffering, no matter how loving and wonderful they are! This is not about church ministry, it is about friendship. It is about a deeper fellowship. It is about a higher commitment to suffering that says, I am in this with you. When you suffer, I suffer. You may not know what you need, I may not know what to say, but I am here for the long haul. I am here every day. I am here to make sure you get out of bed in the morning. I am here to bring you coffee. I am here to play with your children so you get a break. I am here to listen, and to pray. I am here to be strong when you are weak. I am committed to holding you up and walking you through this every step of the way until we reach the other side.
Is this kind of fellowship possible? Does it exist? How many of us have longed for it? How many of us have longed to move beyond the pleasantries, to tear down pretences, to scream and rage in our loss with someone who stands by till the end? How many of us long for what Jerry Sittser calls, a community of brokenness, the kind of community that seems to reflect God's heart for his beloved bride... We long for it, but we forget... that it comes at a cost!!!!!
...to find a community of brokenness, it requires a choice on the part of those who want to provide a community for suffering friends. They must be willing to be changed by someone else's loss, though they might not have been directly affected by it. Good comfort requires empathy, forces adjustments, and sometimes mandates huge sacrifices. Comforters must be prepared to let the pain of another become their own and so let it transform them. They will never be the same after that decision. Their own world will be permanently altered by the presence of one who suffers. It will bring an end to detachment, control, and convenience. It will prevent them from ever thinking again that the world is a safe place full of nice people, positive experiences, and favourable circumstances.
No one can be that for everyone. But are you that for someone? Do you still adhere to the belief that the world is a safe place full of nice people, positive experiences, and favourable circumstances? If so, you are missing out! You are missing out on the fellowship of his sufferings. (Philippians 3:10)
I know that someday, when I have walked this journey to the other side, holding the hands of those who stepped forward as my few, that together we will rejoice in the depths we have seen and known and experienced together. And we will be ready for the next journey of suffering, the next sister or brother to link arms with in a time of great need, and say, Now rest! We will be strong when you are weak! We will hold you up! We will lead you, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the other side, from glory to glory, from step to step on the narrow path through the narrow gate, in the way everlasting... FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE!!!!!!!
Be blessed my friends.
*Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles Cowman, (Thank you Uncle Weldon and Aunt Brenda!).