Good morning, friends.
I've been listening to a new podcast, and since last week's episode with Margaret Feinberg, I've been thinking about the "fellowship of the afflicted."
Something happens to us when we walk through pain. It can carve deep places out in us - places for a new kind of joy and a deeper sense of compassion.
It is the doorway to the "fellowship of the afflicted," that invisible group of us who have been marked and shaped by suffering. We are the ones who know what it is like to walk through the valley, who have been brought face to face with the ways our world is broken. We know that life doesn't have easy answers and explanations do not dull pain. We have fought in the trenches for faith and hope and joy, and we've learned that they don't always take the sanitized Sunday-school form.
I don't know why it is that pain doesn't universally make us better comforters. I suppose it has something to do with our own response or openness to its work. Some become hard and bitter. Some become chronic fixers, explainers, and solvers, convinced their experience will give you the golden ticket. But those precious ones in the fellowship of the afflicted - you'll know them when you find them.
These are the people who refuse to give quick and easy answers. They're okay with the tension of unanswered questions. They're the ones who drop care packages at your house, because they know you need one. They're the ones who continue to check in, not letting you disappear into pain and isolation. They let you show up half-okay and not-okay, and demand no explanation and no show of cheerfulness. They keep company with you in your grief and anger and sorrow. They give the ministry of their presence.
I'm deeply thankful for the fellowship of the afflicted. I'm thankful for the ways they've ministered to me.
And I'm deeply thankful that our Savior is among them. He knows suffering. He did not talk away our pain or tell us to pull it together. He entered into it. And he gives us His presence in the midst of it. Thanks be to God.