Shared Suffering . . .

Even as I prepare to “hunker down” here on Reesers Summit today, feeling the stress of having to adjust to new financial pressures, car insurance changes, uncertain living arrangements, and ordinary human frailties, the Internet brings me news of other folks across my world whose lives are in states of psychological, emotional, and physical stress.

Iraqi refugees in Arizona are suffering from culture shock, loneliness, alienation, and maybe even dispair in the face of changed circumstances and relocations. Families in Nairobi are living their lives amid toxic waste and garbage, trapped in homes and neighborhoods that threaten their lives. Adoptive families locally and across the world are struggling with issues related to new and lost relationships.

The changes that scare me, threaten my own safety and comfort, and send me running, like a frightened child into my Father’s arms, are replaying themselves out in a thousand different ways in the lives, hearts, and minds of my brothers and sisters everywhere.

I know the panic and fear that keeps those Iraqi families locked behind closed doors, peering out uncertainly from their apartments. I have felt the desperation of those kids in Nairobi slums, unable to change their circumstances, trapped in families, houses, and neighborhoods where living, breathing, and even washing is hazardous to your health. And I have even felt the pain of losing family and feeling like an orphan in communities where family times and celebrations are integral to everyday life. I have been, and continue to be, alone in a community where family life is “normal.”

I have lost my own natural family, by reason of death, abandonment, unforgiveness, and sin. For years, I lived in unfamiliar cities and neighborhoods, and spent much of that time isolated and alone. As I read the stories today, tears come, and I cry out to my Father, “Heal them Lord, protect them, and send them friends whose hearts are righteous, merciful, loving, and open to all Your orphans.”

As traditional family holidays approach here in the US, I will share their isolation and grief again. So I will go volunteer, probably at a local food kitchen, knowing that if I don’t have family to share Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations, neither do they. Their losses are my losses, their sorrow is mine too.

We’re bound together–in our suffering, in our need for family and community, and in our humanity. Being His disciple requires me to step outside my comfort zone, let go of the impulse to “hunker down,” and open my life and heart to my brothers and sisters, no matter where they are, what they need, or what I feel about sharing my resources. That’s what a *real* family member does.

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here…God is building a home. He’s using us all–irrespective of how we got here–in what he is building. (Ephesians 2:19)

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