Once a month my staff meets on a virtual site for our soul care hour.  We call in from around the world. I like seeing glimpses of each person’s backdrop:  Ruth Ann led us from Japan last month; Lorrie came on line from Berlin; Cristina called from her car, where the internet connection is better than in her apartment.

While our literal backgrounds shift each month, we’ve been sharing a common theme lately: suffering.

Betrayals, loss of work, robberies, struggles with adult children, church closings, church openings, health concerns, money problems, and relational struggles. And I’m only reporting what can be put in print.

When I was younger I often wondered, “Is it supposed to be this hard?” With age and help from a gospel-saturated community, I’m learning to lean into suffering. If you think that looks like a gentle, peaceful embrace of hardship, let me clarify. I’ve been tired, hopping mad, impatient and have let my family take the brunt. But I know without a shred of a doubt that suffering isn’t a sign that God is mad at me.

Instead, a sign of a real Christian is that we continue to serve God especially IN suffering. (Check out Acts 4:24). If we are only serving God for what we get out of it, then we are just in it for the benefits.

Serving God in suffering doesn’t mean we aren’t bothered or that we don’t wrestle with God about it.  What it does mean is that we still turn to Him. (Job) We take our wrestling, our anger, our questions and our sorrow to Him.

In Acts 4:28, Christians say that God allowed what has occurred. They know that nothing happens outside of His control. Check out that chapter for help learning how to pray in suffering. They respond to God in the midst of what is happening rather than asking to be taken out of it.

The place where they are meeting begins to shake, but they have become unshakable (vs. 31). How so? Matthew 27 and 28 talk about two quakes; one when Jesus died and the second when he was raised.  Jesus was and is the one shaken on our behalf!

Ultimately, we don’t have to be shaken by what is befalling us. Notice I use the word, ultimately. For yes, our first response is often fear. (If God were not aware of how fearful we are, He wouldn’t address it so much in scripture.) Fear is part of being human. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. If we believe or return once again to believing that He is sovereign, our worry begins to dissipate. No, it’s not a once-and-for-all experience. In the midst of a crisis, I often vacillate. The point, however, is that we too, can become unshakable. (If these words sound familiar, I first heard them from Tim Keller.)

You may have felt a longing when you read my opening paragraph about our soul care call. Or wished you had a group of gospel-saturated friends to help you become unshakable. Of the people you know, who points you to Christ rather than to self-made fixes? With whom can you be vulnerable, knowing they will care for your heart and keep confidences? Pursue these people. Call them especially when you doubt and struggle. Don’t worry if you haven’t talked with them in six months. This isn’t about protocol! It’s about living out the gospel with each other. Extend them the same acceptance you desire.

And if you are in church planting or church ministry, check out our virtual groups, which can offer this type of support.

Shari Thomas