Sharing Stories, Sharing in Suffering
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
~ Job 19:25
When Job wrote these words, he was in the midst of incredible suffering. His entire family and all of his accumulated wealth had been destroyed in a moment. To Job and those closest to him, there was no way to make sense of the tragedy. He was a God-follower. Why would such tragedy strike his life? His friends told him that he must have sin in his life that he was clinging to. If only he would repent, he would be restored. His wife told him to turn his back on God. Why serve God when so much trouble had come upon him? God must not care – or worse yet, God himself must be afflicting Job.
This is a familiar scenario. Often, people we encounter in our ministry are some of the best-intentioned, hardest-working people one could picture. Yet they may have a failing marriage; an addiction they can’t seem to break; or a child lost to senseless violence. Neighbors have asked, “Do we have some sin God is punishing us for? Are we not working hard enough? What are we doing wrong?” When Liz and I experience suffering in our own lives, we find ourselves asking the same questions. Questions that draw us away from the truth rather than closer to it.
In our Rescued Church community and our Neighborhood Life Group (Bible Study), we are reminded that God has endured the greatest suffering known – betrayal by His people, abuse, torture and eventually crucifixion. And despite the ways we turn our backs on God daily, He still pursues us relentlessly. This is the firmest ground one can stand on in the midst of suffering.
As we share stories of pain and suffering with neighbors, we are moving into new territory. No longer are we good neighbors or Christian service providers. We are brothers and sisters supporting each other on our journey toward peace and wholeness with God. There is no experience like realizing you and your neighbors are experiencing God’s healing of the heart and soul while seeing your neighborhood transformed physically. This is what it means to build and nurture a strong community characterized by God’s Shalom.
~ by Ben Cressy