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Community Trumps Suffering

When anyone is suffering, it is the easy response to say, “Well, God must have had a reason,” or “God works what is evil for good.” These statements are true, but they become increasingly difficult to say (and mean) when standing by the deathbed of a cancer patient, or comforting a young woman who has had a miscarriage or spending time with a man who has just lost his job and can no longer support his family.

When we or someone we know is suffering, it is easy to either isolate them or isolate ourselves from other people, as if suffering is contagious or “too much of a burden” to put on our friends. James does not just encourage prayer during times of stress, however, he encourages community.

Prayer becomes powerful in community. If our eyes are on Christ and our identity in Him, our natural response to suffering should be support, encouragement, prayer and forgiveness. Ephesians 4 uses the term “body of Christ” to describe Christians. Ephesians 4:16 states, “From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” James concludes in James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Reflect:

  • When you or a friend is going through a time of suffering, do you tend to run toward the problem or hide from it? Why?
  • When we, as Christians, adopt the identity of the body of Christ and accept the truth that prayer becomes powerful in community, how should that change the way we face challenges?
  • How should this knowledge change the way that we love our friends who do not know Christ?

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