I find myself in a unique position. I am a ‘friar’ in two different communities. One is the Threshold Missional Community and the other Street Hope. This week I spent a couple of days with my Threshold sisters and brothers as those of us in the Maritimes cloistered. It was a powerful time where we were honoured to hear one another’s story. Story after story told of; heart break and hurt, pain and suffering. Each has experienced devastating brokenness and found hope and healing. All discovered that this hope has a name, Jesus. United we spend our lives to share the hope! We were altogether beautiful in our brokenness! Evangelists as wounded healers in a hurting world!
My Street Hope Community is also a community of people who are familiar with suffering and brokenness. I am privileged to hear stories of my friends’ pain filled lives. I am pleased to share stories of my own. No one need pretend and no one need feel judged. We have become a safe place. Like my fellows of Threshold we cloister and like my Threshold Community we scatter for the ministry of ‘comforting with the comfort we have been comforted with’.
At a Steve Bell concert recently I heard him tell the story of his dad, who seemed on his death bed. Steve’s dad said that he was not “scandalized by suffering” and that Steve needed to “make peace with powerlessness.” Suffering is not something we enjoy! It is though inevitable. It is not pleasant but it is not unproductive either. If those in my communities had not suffered could they be the good news bearers to the wider community? If we had not been broken could we point people to the Saviour who offers wholeness?
In Romans chapter 5 Paul says “we rejoice in suffering because we know suffering produces …” Christ redeems and uses the worst this world throws our way and creates something. Suffering in the mysterious economy of God is productive! Paul goes on to say that suffering sets off a dynamic chain reaction. It produces perseverance. Adversity trains us to keep on! We have come through so we know we can go through, in company with the One who redeems. This in turn produces character! This character becomes evident in our lives and becomes evidence in our community. Character lived out in this way creates a hope set on that Redeemer. We grow in confidence in his ability to take us through whatever we may face. Finally Paul gives us a glimpse past this world’s suffering as he tells us that the hope produced in this fashion will never disappoint.
I was honoured to hear and see of God’s mighty activity of turning suffering into a sign post of his Kingdom. As I spent time with this precious community I witnessed the great exchange; the ashes of our broken lives for his beauty! I am one grateful friar.