I watched the rain drops drip off of the lowest branches of the Douglas Fir tree I was using for shelter. My back pressed against the trunk, legs tucked up underneath me, I tried to stay dry. The morning fog had given way to bands of rain showers on a cold September morning in the mountains of North Idaho. I thought back to my schooling on hypothermia and the methods to avoid it. Proper clothing (I was wearing light weight cotton), staying dry (Douglas Fir trees make good timber but rather poor umbrellas), starting a fire (wet Fir needles and one book of matches does not a fire make), and keeping my spirits high. At that point, my spirits were cold. I was tired, I was wet, I was shivering uncontrollably and I was alone. Looking back on that experience, my biggest mistake was the lack of someone else. I needed someone else to share my misery with. I needed a buddy of mine under a neighboring tree, just as tired, just as wet, just as cold as me. I needed somebody to complain too, joke too, and pray with. I needed the connection of community.
I am a member of a ‘chord team.’ A chord team is a group of guys who ‘do’ life together. We spend time together, eat together, hunt together, laugh together, raise kids together, and most importantly…worship our Lord together. This doesn’t mean we go to church together on the weekends, it means we ‘dig in’ together. We send each other Scripture to read, we pray together, we seek God’s will for our lives, we ‘do’ life in service of the King…together. There is a connection between my family and theirs that runs deep. We not only know and love the immediate families but that bond has grown into our extended families as well. At some point, the idea of family reunions took on a new and very extended meaning. Not to long ago, this connection was tested.
Mental illness, a rare physical illness, and an accidental death came calling into each of our families. My oldest son’s affliction of bi-polar disease came to fruition and we, through much prayer and counsel, decided to seek outside help in the form of a children’s home designed for such things. My fellow chord brother’s youngest son fell ill with a rare kidney disease and his young innocent life hung in the balance. My other chord brother, survived a boating accident while fishing, yet, his uncle…whom we all knew and loved, drowned. The timing of these events was like a duck hunter with a poor shot…boom-boom-boom. We were devastated individually and deflated corporately. We yearned for the connection of community.
It’s times like these when the most ardent Christian may wonder, “Why?”
As a Christian, what are our rights? Please understand here, I’m not talking about the ‘religious right’ or ‘human rights’…I’m asking about the one ‘right’ we possess when we follow Christ? I think Paul puts it best in Romans 8:14-17, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Our chord team was digging in, we were worshiping our Lord and striving to offer our lives as a living and holy sacrifice to Him. We were, and are, sons of God. We are His children, co-heirs with Christ to His glory to come…as long as we share in His suffering. This is our one ‘right’ as a Christian…to share with Christ. To not only share in His revealed glory, but to share in His suffering. Paul goes on to say in verses 18-19 of the same chapter, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”
When its your kid in the hospital, when its your uncle in the casket, when its your son being removed from the home…it’s tough to consider the suffering not worthy. However, the comparison is against the glory to be revealed. The glory that contains no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears of anguish, no more sin. This perspective is not a healthy one it is a heavenly one. It is an eternal focus on the hope only found in Jesus Christ. The key to this perspective is to understand that it is our ‘right.’ I like how Peter states this in 1 Peter 4:12-13, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
I took great comfort in having my chord team brothers lift up my family in prayer. I took great comfort in lifting up their families in prayer. These events, boom-boom-boom, caused us to ‘dig in’ even more. It resulted in days devoted to prayer, meditation, and fasting. It resulted in rejoicing. We rejoiced because we could see “God working all things for good”…we rejoiced because we felt His Presence through our need for community…we rejoiced because it was our one ‘right’ as a Christian.
We rejoiced…because we got to share with Jesus.