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Share in Suffering

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (ESV)

In our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week, Paul reminds us that part of love is sharing in the joy and the suffering of the target of our affection.  Let me share a story about a friend who used to work with me in wilderness therapy.  

One day, one of our teenagers was upset.  He didn't know what to do with his anger, so it turned inwards.  He started to punch a tree.  Blood was running down his hand, and my friend Carlos was tasked with deescalating the youth.  He evaluated the situation, and then he did something strange.  He punched the tree.  The youth hit the tree again, and so Carlos hit the tree as well.  A bruise began forming on the older man's hand.  They sat in silence, observing each other, but not saying anything.  The youth hit the tree again, and Carlos followed suit.  His skin broke and blood began trickling down Carlos' hand as well.  The youth asked "What are you doing!?".  Carlos simply responded, "When you hurt, I hurt."  This is where the conversation began...

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."― Fred Rogers

There are a lot of people suffering right now.  If you are among the "helpers" that Mr. Rogers describes, remember that sometimes you need to suffer with them to pull them out of the muck.  Similarly, if you are among the "helpers" that Mr. Rogers describes, remember that you also need to share their joy and comfort because it will keep you encouraged and strong enough to remain among the "helpers".   

Lord, help us to be among the helpers.  Help us to love fiercely enough to suffer with them.  Help us to honor your work in them enough to also experience their joy, relief, and comfort.  And, to those of us in need, send us your helpers.  - Amen


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