Are you willing to suffer? I remember our first visit to a member who had been away from church for a while. He was the head deacon and he and his wife had not come to church for months. The pastor asked me to take my wife and go by and see him and his wife and see if we could encourage them to come back.
My wife has some natural gifts at visiting with folks we have never met before and so that part was easy for her. We went by and had a nice visit with them. And then I asked the question, “So what’s keeping you from church”? It got quiet for a moment, a long moment it seems. I had no training that told me what to do next or how to wait patiently, or to ask a followup question. I just didn’t know what to do. So I waited.
The deacon was working on an answer. It was a chance to open up an old wound and it would take more than a sentence or two to to explain it. Finally, he began to speak and share the story of how he was hurt by some church members while he was performing his duties as Head Deacon.
He had suffered at church. My wife and I felt bad about it all and thought about finding those hurtful members and straightening them out. Well, I don’t know if my wife did actually, but I did.
I soon learned though that there are at least two sides to every story and maybe as many as four sides. I also learned that I could feel for someone who has suffered without judging someone else who may have caused the suffering. I also learned that sometimes there was no reason to suffer in the first place. That the suffering was not as real as imagined.
Here is an interesting perspective by Ellen White from Ministry of Healing page 485.
“We should not allow our feelings to be easily wounded. We are to live, not to guard our feelings or our reputation, but to save souls. As we become interested in the salvation of souls we cease to mind the little differences that so often arise in our association with one another. Whatever others may think of us or do to us, it need not disturb our oneness with Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit.”
“What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” 1 Peter 2:20.
After reading that, I am convinced that there may always be suffering of one sort or another in church. It becomes a matter of how we handle it, doesn’t it? It might be that a church that is suffering in some way might become a church of great healing as well. In fact, a church without suffering in it, might never reach it’s full potential for healing.
So deacon, elder, social committee leader, pastor, woman’s ministry leader, church clerk, new member, longtime member; are you willing to suffer? Have courage as you look at Jesus sufferings, they made all the difference in the life of the church. So will your sufferings.