Endurance by Shared Suffering
There are twin ditches in preaching: saying everything, and saying not enough. As I reflected on the sermon last week, I think I would have included this, or said it in a following sermon: our sufferings are meant to be shared, that we would endure them in hope.
Gloryifying God in this fallen world, in a life stained everywhere by sin, involves much suffering - Paul says as much in the middle of Romans 8. Thus He places us in a priesthood of saints, and one role of a priest is to console, to weep, to suffer alongside those who are suffering.
One of the more interesting Proverbs that speaks to this is 27:10: “[In the] day of calamity . . . Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.” We members of the priesthood look first to our “neighbors” who are close - those of our community of saints - in the day of calamity, rather than running to physical family. Our union together with Christ goes deeper than blood, at least physical family blood; our souls are knitted together by being comingled in the blood of Christ.
How to share in others' sufferings? For some of you, that’s the most obvious question you’ll hear in a long time. For me, it’s a reminder: don’t forget to lament. For myself, and with others. We humans have so much longing, so much desiring, and so much disappointment. Not all the time, of course. But more than we talk about.
And we who know so much of the Bible can so easily skip past lament, and move to verses that comfort. We who major on the white keys of joy and hope on life’s piano can forget that there are black keys too - minor keys, keys of lament. There are fewer black keys, thankfully. But we’re meant to play all 88 keys, not just the ones we know best.
It is surely no coincidence that, as I write this, a friend interrupts me and tells me about a book I recommended to him a year ago - D.A. Carson’s “For the Love of God”. He’s read the book daily for the last year. Of all the possible blessings from that book, he tells me about the morning after he received disappointing, depressing news about his job. The blessing? That day's reading was a reflection on Psalm 88, which ends decidedly on a “minor key” note. It put words to his lament. It brought God close. God’s presence became power to endure.