Where Do Unhealthy People Sit?I stood at the entrance scanning the inside of the sanctuary. Slipping into the service proved harder than I thought. Every pew filled, a symptom of a healthy church. Where do the unhealthy sit? A deacon smiled and pointed me to the balcony. Reaching the top of the stairs, the view took my breath away. Hundreds were singing. An organ thundered along with brass instruments. Perhaps if you took that moment and injected it with steroids, you might have the view from heaven. It was the view my husband enjoyed. Two years now and I should be well over it, getting on with my life, and all the other clichés that have turned out to be myths. We have—well, I mean, I have—been a member here for 28 years. I know most faces up here. A divorced man who would slip in late and leave early. Another who battled depression. An elderly couple in failing health. Here we all sat—the invisible church, broken beyond any human’s ability to fix us.
Greater ClarityAnyone focused on their suffering feels the same. Corporate worship can remind us that Christ died for those pains—which are never beyond his reach. Peter writes, “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Pet. 4:13). I did my best to keep on. I looked toward the third row from the front, the old spot where my husband and I sat. Drowning in self-pity, I considered my losses. A husband to a premature death. A family shattered by the loss of its head. Friends who avoided me because they didn’t know what to say. My role as an elder’s wife—feeling useful among God’s people. “Open your Bibles to Philippians, chapter two,” our pastor said. I listened again to the words of Paul, who wrote of Christ’s losses—“he emptied himself, born in the likeness of men . . . he humbled himself . . . and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ’s sufferings now resonated with greater clarity because of my own. He alone understands my pain. When my pain makes others scatter, he draws near.
Precious in His EyesMy pastor lifted his hands and prayed, “Father, we are grateful for our union with Christ, by which you are able to rejoice over us with singing and quiet us with your love. Would you lift up every burden, every fear, every anxiety, that they might be filled with the loving kindness and joy of Christ their Savior?” My heart fought against those prayers. He read the words of Isaiah 43:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. . . . Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.The passage pierced through my self-focus. “I will be with you because I love you.” Those words washed over me. Christ voluntarily entered into my suffering—bearing my pains—even the most inconsolable ones. I am in Christ, and he is in me. I tasted only a morsel of the cost, but he endured the full penalty. https://twitter.com/DiveinScripture/status/728169895184236544 Elders made their way down front, one man less. Tears streamed down my face. Grief declared war on me even at the Lord’s table. Especially then. Communion is why I came. Jim’s friend stood in front of me, extending a silver plate of saltines. Exactly how does this translate into grace? There’s nothing special about saltines and grape juice until it’s called communion—a glorious reminder of “God with us.” Communion reminds us we are bound to Christ, and he to us.