By: Gabriela Yareliz
I read something that I loved (and struck a chord with me) in Prayer in the Night, by Tish Harrison Warren. It was this idea that sometimes, we carry such deep burdens. There are times in life when we are drained to the core and can barely look up.
Warren makes the distinction between suffering and affliction. Suffering is the fact that people go through trying moments. The church is good at dealing with suffering– bringing five casseroles, doing a couple visits, praying for someone at the hospital. Something the church is ill-equipped to deal with is affliction. Affliction is different because it is not momentary suffering, but instead, it’s lives that are steeped in grief for long periods of time. Sometimes, from beginning to end.
Affliction could be a parent dealing with a wayward child or a parent who has a disabled child who depends on them for the rest of their lives. It could be family members with an addiciton… there is so much that happens in people’s lives that is not just momentary suffering but adds up to a life filled with weight, trauma and affliction. Grief is ever-present.
And while the church, (and we are the church) is ill-equipped to deal with affliction, community is critical to our well-being. There are so many prayers in scripture that are for the church. They provide collective blessing. Warren mentions that when creeds in worship are recited, they don’t say “I believe in God the Father…” she writes, “because some weeks I do and some weeks, I can’t climb that high. Instead we confess, ‘We believe…'”
She continues and writes, “Belief isn’t a feeling inside of us, but a reality outside of us into which we enter, and when we find our faith faltering, sometimes all we can do is fall on the faith of the saints. We believe together. Thank God belief isn’t left to me and my ever-fluctuating faithfulness.”
There is so much power in community. I think about this continually as sometimes I feel so disappointed in community. Maybe the disappointment stems from the fact that I know it has so much power. We cannot alone, but together, we can help fill in the gaps for each other. And there are gaps. There will always be gaps, as long as we are human, flawed and vulnerable, as only humans can be.
Remember, when you feel you don’t have enough faith, it’s not just you– we believe. And if you see someone who can barely hold his/her head up, someone who is afflicted– pray for him/her, with him/her, believe for him/her. Hold that hand for as long as it takes. You fill in the gap. There is power in we.