“The fellowship of His sufferings” is, of course, the widely-known phrase written by my dear Patron St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians. I have found myself puzzled by what has seemed in the past to be a lofty and somewhat inaccessible concept. This also has come under much finer inspection as I encounter a most difficult and painful season in my life.
Inasmuch as St. Paul found great joy in knowing the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, I have been circling for a landing on the practical meaning of this phrase. Seemingly inadvertently, I have recently been enlightened—or at least I think—and in the following discourse, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, as well as the saintly.
I go to church and have fellowship with many fine people. I also work fairly closely and have friendships with other Christians of all stripes. What has come to my mind is the following:
Mary, single mother of two, has recently had a bout with breast cancer;
Joe, a father of three and a dear friend, has had bipolar syndrome for many years;
Ellie, a beautiful young wife and mother, has multiple sclerosis;
Judy, an advancing-in-years daughter of a best friend, has spinal and neck issues, while at the same time is having trouble finding work;
Jed, a gift from God through his generosity and mercy, is plagued by depression and headaches;
…and there are many more.
What I am learning from my fellowship with these saints is that the extent to which I pray for these and in any way extend the hand of mercy to them is the extent to which I embrace, and know, the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.
May God help me through your prayers to be thus merciful.
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