“How can I pray for you this week?” my friend recently asked. It’s a question she asks on a regular basis, and it’s one I’m glad to answer. Whether it’s prayer for an immediate need or a request for a family member or prayer for strength in the temptations I face—whatever I ask her to pray for—I am encouraged in knowing that she brings those things to the Father. But there’s more. As I share those prayer requests, my friend also encourages me with the truth and hope of the gospel.
As she does so, I am reminded that I’m not alone.
We Never Suffer Alone
As believers, when we face trials, heartaches, temptations, or other challenges in our life of faith, we often live as though we have to bear those burdens on our own. Yet God did not create us to live in isolation; He made us to live in community with others. The church is our God-created community, made up of brothers and sisters adopted into the family of God through the saving grace of Christ. Every redeemed saint—past, present, and those yet to be born—are our siblings in Christ. We are united to Christ by faith and also united to one another.
In John 17, Jesus describes this union in His prayer for the church when He prays “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (vv. 21–23). Christ is one with the other members of the Trinity, we are one with Christ, and we are one with other believers.
The Apostle Paul often describes the church’s union with Christ and one another like the union of a human body with Christ as the head and us as the parts. We all work together to make the body—the church—grow (Eph. 4:15–16). And just like a human body, when one of our members is hurt, we all feel it. “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3). Because we are united to one another, their pain and sorrow becomes our pain and sorrow. We weep with each other in our losses, griefs, and suffering (Rom. 12:15). We walk with one another in our battles against sin and temptation. We bear each other’s burdens.
This means we never suffer alone.
Walking Together in Suffering
There are many ways we share one another’s trials and sufferings. Here are three practical ways:
Preach the Gospel to One Another
Many believers have heard the phrase “preach the gospel to yourself.” It’s an important practice we all need to do, for the gospel isn’t something we hear and respond to only at the moment of our salvation; rather, it’s the truth that we need to turn to over and over throughout our lives. We need to remind ourselves of who Christ is and what He has done. We need to look to the cross each time we sin and remember anew what Christ has done to redeem us, appropriating that work in repentance and reliance upon Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death in our place. We need to remember the gospel in our sufferings as well, reminding ourselves of Christ, the Suffering Servant, who is familiar with grief and sorrow. He is our hope and peace in the midst of sorrows.