Pronounce that title with a Sean Connery accent for better effect.
Did you try it? See, that’s one of the many reasons I love you!
In all seriousness, today I tip my hat to Tolkien. His Lord of the Ring series helped to shape my understanding of the concept of “fellowship”. Due to the exorbitant number of church potlucks I’ve attended, the mere mention of “fellowship” conjures up images of casseroles and cobblers. But lately the phrase “the fellowship of his sufferings” keeps popping up in the context of friends trudging through painful valleys. That type of fellowship is harder to get my mind around and doesn’t sound nearly as tempting as cobbler.
Enter the elves. Do you recall the heart-pounding empathy you felt for Frodo as he departed the Shire with wicked Ringwraiths nipping at his heels? You knew that the little guy with the big feet needed some serious help in carrying out his mission. Thus, with backing from the elf kingdom, The Fellowship of the Ring was formed. One motley crew of men, hobbits, a dwarf, and an elf provided protective cover, reassurance, redirection, and much-needed rest so that Frodo could accomplish his grueling task. That’s precisely the type of fellowship Christians are called to share.
I’ve been blessed to witness “the fellowship of his sufferings” often in recent months. When we nearly lost Levi at birth a band of good-deed-doers appeared to feed us, watch our kids, clean our house, and put an arm around us to pray over our baby’s tiny frame. The same scenario is being played out in the lives of friends without jobs and in dear families being raked over the coals of suffering through fearsome diseases. What turns that suffering into “the fellowship of his sufferings”?
“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted , it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” 2 Cor. 1:5-6
Whatever we learn from our own suffering should be used to help others who now bear the same burden.
Suffering becomes fellowship when we bear it as one. When doubt bombards, we remind each other to take our eyes off of circumstances and turn them to our Savior. When grumbling threatens to overtake us, we redirect one another toward thanksgiving. We provide protective cover by meeting material needs. We do everything within our power to see to it that when suffering comes, we endure as Jesus did – without complaint.
Has God used fellow believers to see you through a trial and heal your hurts? Then let’s join the club; return the favor.
Here’s the one time it’s cool to be an Elvish Impersonator.