Solidarity in Suffering
Though my review of Aimee Byrd's Why Can't We Be Friends? is now out, I still want to interact with portions of the material from time to time. Especially those portions that dealt with practical applications like suffering. Byrd titles her brief section "Solidarity in Suffering:"
"So while siblings in Christ don’t invoke suffering for ourselves or one another, we all still experience it. And, when we do, how do we practice suffering as Christian siblings? How do we do suffering? More particularly, how do we build sibling solidarity in suffering? Loving siblings often fall short here." (pg. 204)
The question that gets put forth to the church is how do we manifest our solidarity in real life situations? As with other portions of her book, I think Byrd provides excellent Christological insight on the issue:
"We are in solidarity with our Elder Brother when we suffer ... In Christ, we have solidarity in suffering. We have solidarity with the one who experienced the greatest suffering, in the utmost solitude, so that we never will. And all of us who are in Christ can practice this solidarity by being present in one another’s suffering." (pg. 206)
The answer is a very real presence. This starts with active participation in one another's lives but also being physically present as much as possible with the individual suffering. Throughout Byrd's section on suffering, I recalled a chapter from Wayne Oates' The Revelation of God in Human Suffering that contained some stimulating quotes in support of Byrd's thesis:
"Our comfort, our salvation, our hope—all these are the purpose of the suffering of Him who calls us to participate with him in the fellowship of suffering and the ministry of the word of the comfort of God.
This mutual burden-bearing is a fellowship of suffering, stripped of pretense and subterfuge and superficial claims of perfection.
This transformation of suffering into triumph is the durable hope that binds together the Christian community."
Because the church finds its very heart and soul in the suffering of Jesus Christ, it behooves us to strive for deep cross-gender fellowship that allows the community to suffer together. While there are many practical benefits of Byrd's work, I believe its effort to make solidarity in suffering a joint gender effort is among the most valuable.