By Cameron Silsbee
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other. Have one person read James 1v22-25 over the group and then pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Read this overview
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” So writes Jacob, the author of the letter James, to his audience of first-century Christians. Far from a world of privilege and comfort, Jacob helped lead the church in the city of Jerusalem. It was a church under pressure from Jewish and Roman authorities, suffering through the ebbs and flows of persecution, and experiencing an economic catastrophe in the form of a famine.
And yet, his suffering did not become a noteworthy part of his identity. Jacob did not consider suffering a permission slip to wallow in bitterness and despair. Instead, he saw trials and suffering as things God is faithful to use to form us. It’s one of the ways God looks to undermine the brokenness and evil in the world – by turning it on its head and drawing good out of it. Suffering, then, is something we hold in tension: the pain, trauma, or tragedy is grievous and needs to be acknowledged rather than numbed, silenced, or avoided. And yet, as we hurt and acknowledge these things, we can also hold onto hope and even the joy that hope can produce. Our suffering will not define us.
Talk through the following discussion questions:
- Did anything, in particular, stand out or resonate with you from the teaching as meaningful or helpful? If so, what was it? If not, why do you think that is?
- Think of a previous season in your life that was marked with suffering (emotional, physical, and/or spiritual). Amid that season, were you able to “consider it pure joy” (whether quickly or eventually)? What about now as you look back on that experience?
Do this Practice right now as a Community:
As a group, spend time reflecting, sharing (if appropriate), and praying.
Start this time by having someone volunteer to guide the group through this time by reading this outline. Once someone volunteers, have them pray over the group once more for Jesus to speak clearly in this time. Then, slowly read Psalm 13 over the group. Notice the movement of the Psalm from despair and questions to hope and trust.
Once Psalm 13 has been read, spend a few minutes in silence reflecting on the following questions:
Which part of Psalm 13 resonates with me right now? The despair and questioning or the hope and trust?
Am I currently suffering (emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually)?
After a few minutes, ask if anyone would like to share the suffering they are experiencing with the group. The group merely needs to sit with them patiently and with compassion without trying to “fix” or give answers to the person.
If anyone shares about their suffering, take time to pray over the person as a group. We suggest having the person suffering sit or stand in the middle of the group and (if they’re comfortable with it) have the group lay hands on them as they pray. Be open to God’s Spirit as he may want to share something encouraging through prophecy.
(This can be a two-week process if the group runs out of time)
If no one is currently suffering in the group (or is uncomfortable sharing with the group), spend time asking God to relieve suffering in our city. These are some local (Vancouver/Clark County) issues to pray over, however, feel free to pray over any other situation of suffering in our city:
For God’s healing of the pain and broken situation the homeless population of Vancouver is in.
For God’s grace to flow through the foster care system in Clark County, particularly for the hurting children, for an increase in the number of foster parents, and for relief for overwhelmed social workers.
For God’s comfort to be experienced by the refugee families fleeing war-torn countries and making their homes in Clark County.
For the hungry to be fed, particularly for children without school meals during the summer and for families that are under pressure from rising prices.
Have someone read Matthew 9v35-38 over the group. End your time in prayer by asking God to use your group as he sees fit to ease the suffering of people around you.