Maybe the best thing about the fellowship of suffering is the mutual encouragement we receive to persevere from others in the circle. Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting did this for me. His struggle was in a totally different area of life, but the last chapter on his vision for enduring in suffering and temptation ministered deeply to me. When my friend admonishes me from his wheel chair to not quit; when my rejected sister in Christ reminds me that there is nowhere else to go, for Jesus alone has the words of life; when the woman dying of cancer writes of mundane faithfulness to the bitter end; the fellowship in this suffering empowers me to persevere, to count the loss not worthy to be compared to the glory of knowing Christ.
"Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ ..." (Phil. 3:8, KJV).
If you are suffering, your first reaction, especially if you are early on in your suffering, is likely to find others whose suffering reconciled. The estranged couple who worked it out. The cancer patient who recovered. The parents of a rebellious child who saw their child return to the faith. But as your suffering continues, you'll find a deep treasure in those who have endured without earthly resolution to their pain. Their perseverance will bless you as they know this world is not our home and look to the treasure that lies ahead.
"Look! I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed" (Rom. 9:33, MEV).
Enter into this fellowship with Jesus and His body. Do not be afraid of it, for it is life giving in the garden of faith. You are not left to walk this road alone.
Adapted from Wendy Alsup's blog, theologyforwomen.org. Wendy has authored three books including By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman's Identity. She is also a wife, mom and college math teacher who loves ministering to women.
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