The Lutheran Witness (March 2016, pages 14-15) includes an article by Rev. Ross Johnson, entitled, “Why Does God Allow Suffering.” It’s a fine article. I encourage you to read it. The article includes six recommendations a person might do when she feels like life is falling apart. The six recommendations include:
- Prayer is always good when you feel overwhelmed by the world.
- Attend the Divine Service, where you receive the ongoing forgiveness of sins and you are reminded that Christ is bodily present with you in a special way.
- Consider talking to your pastor to get wise Christian advice when you are overwhelmed.
- Consider talking to a pastor for private confession and absolution (1 John 1:9).
- Use your suffering as a reminder that you live in a broken world and that Christ promises to suffer right along with you.
- Place your hope in Christ and the Resurrection and not in this world or in sinful people who disappoint you.
These six recommendations are commendable and you are encouraged to follow them when you feel like your life is falling apart (or for that matter, when your life is going really well!)
As commendable as this list is, there is a noticeable omission … the role of laity in supporting people in crisis. Your Christian sisters and brothers are a tremendous God-given resource for you when your life is falling apart. On the flipside: you are a God-send to people who are struggling with life’s harsh realities.
- Laity pray with, and for, one another. James reminds us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
- Laity hear confession of sin and grant God’s forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9).
- Laity are instructed in God’s Word so that they can provide wise advice.
God gives the ministry of His Word to all His people. 1 Peter 2:9 states, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Not only can laity provide appropriate biblical insights to one another, but laity can forgive one another as they hear confession of sin. Martin Luther states, “The keys belong to the whole communion of Christians and to everyone who is a member of that communion, and this pertains not only to their possession but also to their use and whatever else there may be. … In these passages [Matt. 16:19; Matt. 18:19-20) the supreme right and use are granted and confirmed [to all] in the most emphatic way that they might bind and loose, unless we would want to deny Christ Himself the right and use of the keys, were He to be in the midst of two.” (Quoted in Walther’s, Church and Ministry “Concerning the Church: Part One” St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1987:57)
So, when you find life challenging and you need someone to pray with you, who among the laity might you turn? Of your Christian brothers and sisters, to whom might you seek wise, biblical counsel? To whom might you confide sin and receive absolution?
And, are you prepared to do the same when a sister or brother in Christ turns to you when their life is falling apart?