Let me guess: you think suffering all by yourself seems noble. Well, it's not, not at all. One might even suggest that suffering alone is actually cowardice, a fear of being vulnerable to another human being -- another human being who is also vulnerable and in need of others. When the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth that God, the Father of mercies, will console the one who is suffering any kind of affliction, he explicitly taught us that God uses other people to do so (2 Cor. 1:4). Jesus isn't going to magically appear in your house and speak words of comfort to your poor, aching soul. God uses others for that.
This is part of what being a member in the "body of Christ" is like: that "the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it" (1 Cor. 12:25, 26). How are you suffering with others who are suffering? Are you willing to be honest and open about your own suffering, so that the other members within the body of Christ can suffer with you -- can be used of God to console you?
Granted, for me, I was far more willing to suffer with and for others than to open up to others and allow them to suffer with me and attempt to console me. That was because I was consumed with debilitating pride, fear, and shame. Henri Nouwen offers us insight here:
"Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others. Different people have different ways of being present. You have to know and claim your way. That is why discernment is so important. Once you have an inner knowledge of your true [calling], you have a point of orientation. That will help you decide what to do and what to let go of, what to say and what to remain silent about, when to go out and when to stay home, who to be with and who to avoid."1
Indeed, realize that by being open and vulnerable is not an insistence that you disclose every minute detail of your pain (or temptation or sin). But pray that the Lord will give you discernment to understand what you can divulge -- that which would be beneficial to both you and the one in whom you confide, the one who can comfort and help you.
But in the midst of your pain, difficulty, and struggle is not the time to abandon yourself to isolation. Again, Nouwen encourages, "Your own growth cannot take place without growth in others. You are part of a body. When you change, the whole body changes. It is very important for you to remain deeply connected with the larger community to which you belong."2 I had to keep reminding myself of this truth and not flee from the larger community in which I was raised.
When I came back home, in the midst of incredible pain -- pain I had both caused and suffered -- I was encouraged and challenged to stay put, even though staying would be difficult. I learned that the difficult path was the pathway to my healing.
At length, Nouwen continues:
"It is also important that those who belong to the body of which you are part keep faith in your journey. You still have a way to go, and there will be times when your friends are puzzled or even disillusioned by what is happening to you. At certain moments things may seem more difficult for you than before; they may look worse than when you began. You still have to make the great passage, and that might not happen without a lot of new distress and fear. Through all of this, it is important for you to stay united with the larger body and know that your journey is made not just for yourself but for all who belong to the body."3
Again, I am reminded of the apostle Paul's admonition to the believers in Corinth, that he and the other leaders of the church received
"so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings. So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering, so also you are partners in comfort." (2 Cor. 1:5-7 Common English Bible)
Your trials are not arbitrary. You suffer, you're consoled, then you use that consolation for the time when others suffer, so as to bring them comfort; the cycle then repeats itself. But this can only happen when you are deeply connected to others in genuine community. If you're going to fight your demons, it is best to fight them among your friends.
1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1996), 67.
2 Ibid., 57.
This post was written by William Birch. For the original post go to: http://classicalarminian.blogspot.com/2014/01/fight-your-demons-among-your-friends.html
BE A MAN.