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Engages Us with Suffering

Encounter: Read or listen to Paul’s letter to the Corinth church in 2 Corinthians 1:1-7. Write verses 3-7 in a notebook or journal and underline or highlight the word “suffer” and “trouble” then do the same for the word “comfort” where it appears in this passage.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort…

Jack gave me a few days on an island for my birthday this year. I’ve been wanting to spend time on Mackinac for many years and we stole away for a few days this past week to experience its wonder. It did not disappoint and I couldn’t help thinking about what it would be like to live there year round. There is literally no crime except for an occasional bar fight and with the only noise of transportation being the sound of horse hooves on the pavement, I can understand how attractive island living can be.

But I couldn’t get away from the USA Today on the front table of our inn each morning announcing to us the suffering of multitudes across the waters in all directions from where we slept in comfort. As I sat in a quaint coffee shop on the tranquil waters of Mackinac bay, the words of a poet kept whispering deep in my soul, no person is an island.

I imagined what it would be like to gather up all the leftovers from breakfast and rescue, feed and comfort the strangers whose faces I cannot get out of my mind. And I knew like I know today it is Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Living God who dwells within me, who will not allow me to just escape to an island of my choosing, whether Mackinac or my own self-preoccupation.

As uncomfortable as it all makes me, I have a deep knowing that I have not been created to hide from the challenges of this world. But to impact them with the hope of Christ.

When we follow Jesus, He will take us to the hurting, the lonely, the hungry, the suffering. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God gives us (v.4).

Trevor Hudson writes in Holy Spirit Here and Now,

“As we endeavor to become more open to the Holy Spirit, we must avoid being drawn into a “spiritual bubble” away from those who suffer. Any form of discipleship that separates us from human need is counterfeit. It betrays God’s passionate love for every human being, denies our shared life with one another, and results in what has been described as a “false inwardness.” We do not become the person God wants us to be within a private religious zone but within God’s broken and wounded world. A life genuinely alive to God’s presence will increase our awareness of our neighbor’s sacredness, connect us with their tears, and make us responsive to their pain. Any true work of the Holy Spirit in our lives will engage us more deeply with those who suffer.”

As much as I would like to pack up and hide on an island somewhere, Holy Spirit will not let me forget the need in our world and in all the ways God has comforted me, that comfort will move through me to another.

And just in case we become overwhelmed with the great need and extreme suffering of others, (which I did this week) I am reminded…it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. And comforting those who are suffering pleases him. Holy Spirit will transform our human abilities and transcend our human inabilities. We only have the capacity to do this because of God’s power working in and through us.

This Sunday we will discover more about what this invitation to engage in suffering looks like. We will sit with the question, where is God calling us to engage in the suffering of others? And then we will be ready to live into and respond to this invitation. Let us be in prayer together asking, seeking and knocking for the answer. For God’s justice and love is made visible when we bring comfort to others.

Engaging in suffering with you,

Pastor T

Reflect: What human cry in your surrounding community disturbs you the most right now? How about in the global community?

What blocks the Holy Spirit from making you more aware of others’ sacredness?

What does it mean to “be with” someone in his or her pain?

Spiritual practice: Intentionally spend time with someone in his or her suffering this coming week

Gather: Share with your small group one experience when you realized the Holy Spirit had transformed your human abilities and transcended your human inabilities

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