Lesson Six: In Community with the Reality of the Present
Scripture: Hebrews 2:10–18 and 10:34–35; Mark 8:31–38
Turn on the news any given day and you’ll see stories of natural and human-made disasters, death and dying, accounts of physical and sexual abuse, and so many more things that contribute to human suffering.
This time of year brings our hearts and experiences alongside the foci of the church calendar—with Advent and Christmas already past and Lent just over the horizon. Whatever our personal situation, our stories are reflected in the positive and difficult aspects of the lives and characters we meet.
In your winter worship services, hope and despair walk in the door together. Love and loneliness share a pew. Life and grief live in the same heart.
This is the story of humanity. It’s this humanity that Jesus shared as a vulnerable newborn. It’s the humanity he lived with his family in poverty, and that accompanied him and his parents into Egypt as refugees. It’s the humanity Jesus carried as he began the road to his cross.
The writer of Hebrews understands the deep truths of both suffering and hope. We’ll deal with hope in Lesson Seven, but here in the sixth lesson we concentrate on suffering.
Hebrews speaks to an audience whose corporate suffering is a result of persecution. But we can also extrapolate lessons about personal (and corporate) trouble and hopelessness that every human being experiences, including those to whom this letter/sermon was addressed. Including us.
We have losses. Friends abandon us. Our doubts increase. We get sick or depressed. Without the recognition of suffering, our faith is weak and lacks real meaning. Why? Because suffering is real, because suffering is unavoidable, and because God is with us in our suffering.
As you reflect this month on the reality of human suffering, think about how the presence of God is made known in the midst of suffering, through loved ones and memories; through the help of friends and of strangers. Through the one who walks alongside. Think of what a difference it makes to you when someone acknowledges your pain and helps you through it.
When you see the news stories of tragedy and difficulty, remind yourself that God is present even in the worst circumstances. God suffers with us.
The God of love is here. And that presence is most deeply expressed when we help to alleviate the suffering around us.
Melissa Bane Sevier
Look for the Cloud of Witnesses blogs by the first of the months of February (lesson seven), March (lesson eight), and April (lesson nine).
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