Sunday, July 16, 2017

Suffering Love

I just got home from a great week of counseling Jr. High Camp--livin' the dream! Not only did I make new friends and see old ones, we had a LOT of fun. Be amazed to know that 367 young people listened to 45 minute sermons twice a day--without power point, videos, or technology. They had no phones or devices. They listened. They interacted with God's Word. They asked questions, made observations, were convicted, encouraged and equipped.

After an evening session on suffering, I visited with a young lady I'd never met before pour out her heart. She is facing painful circumstances that are out of her control but the most painful thing of all? No one wants to listen. It's uncomfortable. It's awkward. It's not fun. And it doesn't feel good. Instead of listening, they get distracted, leave the conversation or change the topic.

When I think of loving others, I don't usually think about suffering with them, but that is what Jesus did for us. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.... He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:11, 17-18).

Dr. Bob Kellemen, in one of our class lectures, told the story of Africans transported in the hold of slave ships. Because they came from different tribes and languages, they were seldom able to communicate with words. But they shared one another's sorrow with groans, cries, and song. Grief and pain are not intended to be suffered alone. God suffered for us. He suffers with us. And He has given us His body of believers to absorb the weight, pray with us, and help us see His hand at work.

But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

James says there's room for everyone, regardless of our situation: Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.  (James 5:13-15)

This week, however, I was challenged to love others by suffering with them.

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails... ( 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

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