“If one suffers, all suffer together.” –– 1 Corinthians 12:26.
We are living in a season of increased grief, difficulty, anxiety, sickness, and disappointment. Bad news seems to come more frequently than maybe it did three months ago. Suffering and sadness seem closer to home in recent weeks.
When we hear of struggle and affliction happening to another member of our church, we must not merely think about them for a moment, feel sorry for them, and move on. We are called to suffer with them.
The church is a called a body (1 Cor. 12:12). When you break your foot, you whole body is hindered for weeks. When someone is hurt in the body of Christ, we all hurt.
This is simple in concept, but so hard to live out. By our sinful nature, we tend to be inward focused, looking more to our own interests than the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4). It’s often hard to suffer with others in the way Christ calls to as a church. We can all relate to this.
Four Ways to Suffer Together
How do we walk with another believer through the dark clouds of affliction? Here are at least four things that Bible calls us to do as fellow members of the same body.
Mourn with them. We should feel their sorrow and pain as if it was our own. We are called to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:14). When we hear of our members struggling, what is not helpful in the moment is our advice or opinion. It is to cry with them. When Jesus saw the frustration and sadness of Mary after the death of Lazarus, he does not merely give her a theological response. Instead, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
Pray for them. Let us not merely say that we will pray for someone only in a halfhearted gesture. Genuinely stop and pray. Set reminder on your phone to pray. If you are present with the person, or on the phone with them, ask them, “Do you mind if I pray for you right now?” We must pray for them, lest we be deceived into believing that we are their primary source of help. Our help comes from the Lord (Ps. 121)! This is why we are commanded to “pray for one another, that you may be healed” (Jam. 5:16).
Share their burden. Our brothers and sisters cannot carry the boulder on their back. It is too heavy. They need us to help them carry it. God calls us to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Men, tell your brother that you will stay by their side till the darkness lifts. Ladies, tell your sisters that you will sit with her as long as she needs. Make yourself available to meet any practical need. Let us “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9).
Comfort them with gospel promises. Our suffering siblings need hope. They need a bedrock of unshakeable promises that will carry them through the darkness and into a closer intimacy with our Savior. Remind them that this suffering is light and momentary (2 Cor. 4:17). That God is working all of it for their good to make them like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29). That God is with them (Matt 28:20). That goodness and mercy will follow them all their days (Psalm 23:6). Jesus bled and died for us to give us these promises to sustain our faith in the purifying fire of affliction. He walked among us in our mess, so that we would have a High Priest who is sympathetic with our weakness and pain (Heb. 4:15–16).
Let us learn how to suffer together as the family of God. Our suffering is temporary. There will be a day when there is no more pain, no more pandemics, no more marriage strife, no more disappointment, and no more tears (Rev 21:4–5). Until that day, let us be the church that looks to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Cor. 1:3–4).
Related Resource: God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison