Many people are suffering in this COVID-19 pandemic.
Many workers have lost their jobs and livelihoods, or are in great danger of doing so. Some have been infected or have lost loved ones to the coronavirus. Many parents are overwhelmed by the emotional and mental stress of taking care of children stuck at home, and others face the same struggle in caring for elderly parents when day-care facilities and other services are closed. And most, if not all, of us are struggling with some loss of freedom and isolation amid the necessary restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of the disease.
How can we help “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) even when we are stuck at home ourselves? Here are some ways:
1. The Ministry of Consolation
The path of life is littered with losses. Job cried out in his agony, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart” (Job 1:21). This implies that life’s journey is about losing everything we have picked up! The things we shall lose include our health, our wealth, and our loved ones.
Suffering together means whenever any community member suffers a loss, we do not make light of his season of pain. We give our brothers and sisters ample time for grieving. We do not tell them to move on while they are still grappling with their losses. Instead we stay by them, offering a ready, listening ear and a virtual shoulder to cry on. Just as God comforted us, we extend His comfort to one another (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
2. The Ministry of Sharing Burdens
Burdens are the constants in life. Either we pick them up or they will be dropped upon us. The approach to handling all these burdens is the same: we carry them together.
In situations where our brothers or sisters are laden with emotional burdens, we invite them to unload their burdens by offering our listening ears. There are also other burdens like relational strains, health problems, and financial difficulties. We ought to share in these burdens too. The community may be roped in to reconcile members in conflict, look after the sick, and offer financial assistance to the poor.
It is always a great comfort to the sufferer when the community does not shun him and his troubles, but closes in on him instead. In fact, hardened members have been known to soften their hearts after encountering the love of the community, when they have experienced unconditional care from their brothers and sisters in the days of their troubles.
3. The Ministry of Travailing in Prayer
Travailing in prayer as a community is also a way of facing hardships together. We carry each other’s burdens by petitioning to God with those in need. We conduct prayer chains, we synchronise our prayers, and we fast together, in order to maintain solidarity with those who desperately need a breakthrough in their lives. Corporately, we take on a posture of waiting upon the Lord until He comes to our brother’s aid.
There has never been another time in human history when the world is so fearful of suffering. Just as our Lord entered the gateway of resurrection through suffering, may we follow in His footsteps, embracing hardship as a community, knowing that the glory of God lies beyond our afflictions. May the world discover hope from heaven as it witnesses the people in our faith communities drawing near to one another and loving even more deeply during times of adversity.