"The Sweet Fellowship of Suffering" - Marley Penalosa
Recently I received an email of news that one of my housed neighbors was in jeopardy of losing her unit due to her behavior- relapse into drug use, having sketchy guests over etc. The team had just worked so hard to advocate for her to find a place to call home again and the thought of her returning to the streets was paralyzing. As I read over this email the words penetrated deep into my chest and I felt the anxiety well up from my toes to my tear ducts. I got this email while on a visit with my parents, I immediately regretted opening the message on my cell phone. When I left the house, I got into my car and then, without realizing it, began to weep.
I wasn’t losing the roof over my head. I had not forced this neighbor’s hand back to the pipe. I had not held the back door open for the enemy and yet, in this moment, this burden felt as though it were mine. Along with the sorrow, rose indignation. Is she ungrateful?! The ebb of anger flowed back into grace. She said she was lonely in a neighborhood she had never lived in. Those sketchy guests are her only family.
I nearly always have a calm demeanor, so I think I shocked myself with the amount of the emotion that came pouring from me as I sat alone in my old Saturn in my parents driveway. I don’t think the joy that I felt when this neighbor moved into her unit could have competed with the pain I felt for her now. My little human mind could not see the future, I was only remaining faithful to what I saw in the present and trying my best to guide this neighbor on the path towards home.
As I am called to eagerly walk alongside my neighbors towards positive life transformation, I am equally called to partake in the fellowship of their suffering. All of the messy, unforeseen, unexpected pain of failure and tragedy that might befall someone. This call leads me back to what Christ did for me and the call that I am to partake in the fellowship of His suffering. He lived, in all aspects, a humble life to bear the burden of flesh. He spoke to the crowds when he was exhausted. He washed the disciples feet when they were unworthy. He wept over the rebellion of Jerusalem. He died for me while I was still a sinner.
Fellowship speaks of people united in the same purpose and experience. The intimacy of joy and the intimacy of pain. In my pursuit of God, if I want to be like Christ, I need to welcome death to self by living in community and being willing to obey his call, fully aware of the pain to come, also fully aware that the same pain can usher in glorious joy of closeness with God and with others.
HOW TO PRAY:
Pray for our neighbors in Bellflower who are suffering
Pray that God would show you how to be present with the people in your sphere of influence (family, friends, work, church) who are suffering
Pray for individuals and families who are facing eviction this month
Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”
Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
About the Author: Marley grew up in the Bellflower community and now works at KCB as the Housing Navigator for the housing program.