Fellowship of Suffering

What does it mean? The fellowship of suffering? I thought fellowship was a coming together of like minds. Enjoying the company of common ground. A friendly association with someone of like interests. But suffering? I’ve not really bought into that.

Honestly. The suffering that I’ve experienced probably isn’t true suffering. Compared to what I see and know of others. My life is mild. Oh sure. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. Fears. Loss. Discouragement. Trying times. Typical life difficulties.

But I’ve never hung on a cross and died. For myself or for others. I’ve never been spat on. I’ve never been stripped naked and forced to carry a heavy cross on my raw beaten back. I’ve never worn a crown of thorns. 

I’ve never received a life altering diagnosis.  I’ve never been handcuffed and stood before a judge.  I’ve never been served papers.  I’ve never been beaten.  I’ve never lost everything. Oh.  I’ve lost.  I’ve lost family members.  I’ve lost jobs.  I’ve lost friends. 

So what do I know of suffering?

I’ve never been put on trial for crimes I didn’t commit. And then sentenced to death. My mother never wept for my cruel death. 

Oh. I’ve been betrayed by those I thought I could trust. I’ve been handed over to others who carried out their own plans for me. I’ve had cruel words spoken to my face. I’ve been bullied.

But have I really suffered? Is it suffering when someone publicly outs me for words spoken in private? When I’ve felt safe to express my opinion but then publicly called on the carpet for it?

Where is the glory in suffering? Where is the fellowship? Is my suffering a product of my own doing? Or of my own undoing?


And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17


Elisabeth Elliott says that suffering is never for nothing.  There are hard lessons to learn during the time of suffering.  She says that suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.

I have to wonder if I’ve caused some of my own suffering. Am I my own thorn in my side? Do I blame God and others when I need to remove the mote from my own eye? Is my suffering another name for the thorn in the side I’ve been given? And can I get past the bitterness in order to use that thorn as a source of ministry to others just like me?

Will I look back on these days in awe and wonder that I survived without a scratch and thank my heavenly Father that I didn’t really suffer? Or will I realize that what I thought was suffering was not even a drop in the bucket of misery?   Only time will tell. 

What if my suffering is still in front of me. What if my current state of suffering really isn’t suffering at all.

I have to ask myself the question. What does my suffering produce? Does it lead to anger and bitterness? Lashing out at others about the unfairness of God? Trying to punish God for treating me so poorly? How could a loving God allow this? Or do I surrender in knowing that my God is carrying me through the depths of pain and loss and uncertainty? Do I find joy in a closer relationship with a God who loves me even when unexpected twists and turns come in life? Do I allow myself to be wrapped in the sweet arms of Jesus and just be held?

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? Romans 8:35

It’s in the surrender and acceptance of my situation that leads me to fellowship.  Once all the thought of getting even or standing my ground passes, the knowing of God’s love gives the sweet peace that nothing else matters.  The pain.  The loss.  The heartache.  The hurt.  The healing.  The new normal.  The surrender of my will to a loving God brings a sweet fellowship that surpasses everything else.  The trust that God will be with me every step of the way gives a calming peace to my soul.

Better Together

Two churches stand poised to make history. A history of faith and obedience. Or a history of fear and rejection. Oh. That may sound harsh. But hear me out.

Both churches are in the midst of change. Both churches have been praying for a miracle. Both churches need a miracle. Just not the same miracle. But sometimes God’s miracles aren’t what we expect. Sometimes someone else’s miracle is also our miracle wrapped all in the same package. Just with different gifts inside.

One church has a beautiful property. They can no longer afford it. Upkeep has stalled. Ministries have been underfunded. The bank has come calling. They face an uncertain future. Time is running short. They need a miracle.

The other church has sold their property. When God said move, they sold their facility and began a search. Even when they had no place to move. They’ve been looking for a new location. Nothing fits the bill or the wallet. Time is running short. They need a miracle.

I know these churches. I love both churches. I’m part of one now and was part of the other in the past. Both churches have great people who love God. Both churches are filled with people who want to obey God. Oh. Yes. They’ve each been praying for a miracle. They just didn’t know what that miracle would look like.

And now. God has placed a miracle in front of us. All we have to do is reach out and accept it. Oh. It sounds so simple. And it is. Obedience is a simple act of faith. When we pray for a miracle, it’s God’s miracle to perform as he sees fit. We don’t design our own miracles. We need to step back and let God do what only God can do. And he’s doing it.

God has opened the door for both churches to come together in the one location. Sounds so simple. But it requires change. For everyone. We like to think we like change. But really. Change is hard. Change demands obedience. Change requires…well….change. For everyone. Everyone will find a level of discomfort as they adjust to the newness required of them. Bold steps of faith will be needed.


God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Ephesians 3:20-21


When God walled off the Jordan River for the Israelites, all they had to do was walk across. If they hadn’t walked across, they wouldn’t have reached the promised land. They accepted the miracle set before them.

The first church has what the other needs. The second church has what the first one needs. But that’s beside the point. Its what we have together that counts.   Together we can build a strong church that reaches a neighborhood. A city. A county. Together we can work toward increasing God’s kingdom in our corner of the world.

Gideon needed a miracle from God to defeat the Midianites. In the process of transforming the Israelite army, God told him to release all but 300 of his men. But God let him know that they would win the war. He also gave Gideon a glimpse of that victory as he slipped through the enemy territory. He overheard words spoken by the enemy that confirmed the miracle God said he would perform. And so Gideon led his army to victory. In spite of the odds. They won as God said they would. They didn’t let fear of the unknown hold them back.

We may not know what the miracle we’re praying for will look like. We haven’t been given a glimpse of the future victory. We need to open our hearts to the miracle when God hands it to us. Because it is a miracle. It is an answer to prayer.

The two churches have much in common. Both are filled with Christ followers looking to obey God. At the end of the day, both want the same thing. The common ground in doing this work of God together as a larger group is just a taste of heaven. New lifelong friendships. Outreach to the lost. New ministry opportunities. Missions trips. Working together as one body. Together we can achieve what each church can’t do separately. We are better together.

A New Way to Walk

I’ve been told I walk wrong.  When I take a step, I step off on the ball of my foot instead of with my heel.  Apparently, that isn’t the way walking should be done.  So I now have foot problems.  Bunions.  Morton toe.  And they hurt.  They can disfigure a foot.  And they cause problems with wearing shoes.  If I wear shoes that I think look stylish, my feet are screaming by the end of the day.  Oh.  There are remedies.  Surgery.  Toe separators.  Exercises.  Orthopedics.

I stretch my toes with Yoga Toes.  I use Yamuna balls for a foot workout.  I get foot massages.  These things help my feet.  I can feel the difference afterwards.  But I’m looking for long-term relief.  I want relief from the pain I feel from wearing certain shoe styles.

I’m told there is a correct way to walk and an incorrect way to walk.  I try walking the correct way.  It takes deliberate concentration to walk just right.  With each step, I have to think about how I’m stepping.  Some days I do my best to walk correctly.  Heel first.  Roll to the outside edge of the foot.  Then roll from the pinkie toe to the big toe.  That’s what I’m told.  It is less pain.  My feet feel better when I walk like that.  But it takes concentration.  And there are days that I don’t feel like concentrating on how I walk.

I find it’s easy to slip into the habit of walking in the old way.  The incorrect way.  It shows, too.  After I’ve walked incorrectly for awhile, my feet don’t feel good.  The ball of my foot hurts.  The muscles feel tight.  The bunion aches.

I saw a new massage therapist.  As he worked on my feet, he noticed the problem immediately.  He could sense the tightness and soreness.  He applied pressure in tight areas.  He worked to ease the discomfort.  The momentary pressure brought great relief that will last longer than any discomfort I had been feeling.  Oh.  How good it felt to be able to stretch my feet without the tightness.

I’ve probably been walking this way since I learned to walk.  It’s a natural walk for me.  After all these years, it’s hard to re-learn to walk.  After all, I didn’t know I was walking incorrectly.  So when I try to walk the correct way, I have to think through each step of the process.  That certainly slows down the walking.  But I’ve noticed that the discomfort and pain are lessened if I walk the right way.  Maybe there is something to this new way of walking, after all.


But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son, purifies us from all sin.  1 John 1:7


I think of the one who has recently made the decision to walk with Christ.  They asked God to forgive them of their sins.  They’re starting over.  They’re walking in Christ’s footsteps now.  They need to learn a new way of walking in this world.

Oh.  There will missteps.  There will be pitfalls.  There will be tests.  There will be trials.  and there will be temptations.  Temptations to walk in the old way.  The way not of Christ.  Old habits die hard.  Tempers flare.  Words are said.  Attitudes are set.  Behaviors once thought conquered may reappear.

The new walk may sometimes be painful.  Learning to walk in the footsteps of Christ can be invigorating.  humbling.  empowering.  peaceful.  forgiving.  This walk is not impossible.  But it won’t be a perfect step.  This new walk is a walk of obedience.

The thing is.  This new walk is not meant to be a walk of solitude.  It’s meant to be a walk in step with others.  It’s a walk with those who have walked those first baby steps of faith.  It’s a walk of companionship.  Camaraderie.  Fellowship.  A walk with fellow believers.  A walk with someone who can  disciple and mentor a new believer along the path of faith.  This walk can’t be walked alone.

We Really Do Need Each Other

We get home from the dog park and pile out of the car.  As soon as her feet touch the cool concrete of the garage, she lies down for a breather.  Panting hard and enjoying the cool floor, she lies still for what seems like forever.  Not wanting to move.   She’s worn out from the hour spent with other breeds of her own kind.

A liver spotted Dalmatian.  3 Huskies, 2 of them pups.  A friendly Pit Bull.  A Golden Retriever.  Some half breeds.  Some pure bred.  Others are a bundle of mix and all mutt.  But all dogs.  Playful.  Fun loving.  Energetic.  Dogs that love to run and chase balls.  Rough house with each other.  Establishing dominance and order.  Finding a friend for the moment.  It’s a dog’s life, after all.

Once their owners get out of the way, the dogs will navigate amongst themselves and discover the leader of the pack.  The leader is always sure to stand out.  Some dogs hit it off immediately.  Others warm up to each other slowly.    Some dogs are aggressive.  Others so passive, they roll over and submit without a fight.  And then there are the loners.

These dogs need to be with their own kind so they’ll know how to be dogs.  They learn from each other.  Social behaviors.  Pack rules.  Being a lone wolf isn’t all it’s cut out to be.  Dogs need their pack and each dog plays a role.


As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  Proverbs 27:17


I saw the text immediately.  Pray for me.  She said.  I don’t know who else to turn to.

I stopped everything and prayed for her right then and there.  My friend was in need and I could help by praying.  You see.  I’ve been in similar situations.  I’ve had moments when I needed to reach out to others.  Asking for them to pray for me when I couldn’t.  When I was hurting and confused.  When my world had fallen apart.

We need Christian friends who can hold us up in our time of need.  The Christian walk isn’t for the faint.  And it isn’t to be done alone. We need each other.

I have friends.  Christian friends.  They’re all different.  Some are my age.  Others are  younger.  Some are moms.  Some are grandmothers.  Some work.  Others don’t.  Some are single.  Others are married.  I call them friend.  Friends I count on to encourage me in my Christian walk.

I have a friend who will unexpectedly text me a thoughtful note or an encouraging Scripture right when I need it.  Others have sent texts saying they were praying for me.  Still others ask how I’m doing.  Some ask specifically how they can pray.  I need them.  I need each of these friends. Each one of them has a role in my Christian walk.  They hold me accountable.  They listen to me.  They give godly advice.  They quote Scripture to me.  They pray for me.  I need that.  I need them.  I can’t do this Christian walk alone.

We need fellowship and friendship with each other.  We need fellow Christians to walk alongside us during our heartaches and trials.  When we can’t walk alone.  We need friends who will be Jesus to us right then and there.  That’s how God made us.  That’s what he wants for us.  Oh. We can deny it.  At times, we choose to ignore it and try to be a lone wolf.  Have you heard a lone wolf’s cry?

Reuben Welch said that in the midst of all our likenesses and similarities, there can be fragmentation, division, insecurity and loneliness.  Mostly loneliness.   Oh.  He said that in the late 70’s.  He even wrote a book about it.  But it still holds true today.  Reuben Welch was right.  We really do need each other.