When one wishes to minister to pain…to be Christ in and through the pain one should ask if they were Christ in joy.
The story of Lazarus is instructive to us here.
Christ ministers to Lazarus’s sisters in their great hour of need as they mourn the death of their brother.
“Lord had you but been here our brother would not have died.”
Christ looks on confronted by one of the real and very personal consequences of death and as he makes their pain his own it says –
At this point he looks to the tomb and says simply “Lazarus come forth” and he does.
This is meant to be a demonstration of the resurrection that comes through Christ. Jesus could have demonstrated this by calling forth anyone at any time so why Lazarus? One word –
Christ’s ministry to Mary and Martha’s pain comes out of a relationship that already exists…they expect his ministry in the pain and welcome it BECAUSE he has been there with them through the ordinary times. Christ does not come only in pain – Christ responds to pain the way any friend would…a friend who has always been there.
This is instructive. Surely we can all minister to people in pain and it may be received. However a truly welcome ministry comes from those who have been there in the ordinary times…in the joyous times.
Christ is not merely some happy, morbid invader who breaks into lives at their most miserable – no, he is something entirely more and different. What this means is that so are we.
This is part if what koinonia means – the out working of communal fellowship of those ‘en Christo’.
In short if you want the privilege to be Christ in and through the pain of others then you need also to be Christ in their joy; Christ in their anger; Christ in their regular times.
The difference between a stranger seeking to help and a friend who has been there can be the difference between a balm that may soothe a wound for a while and a healing hand that may take the wound away entirely.
There are other ramifications to this way of thinking. When we find the lonely, the isolated and those outside of community we are driven to enter into genuine relationship with them that they will have someone who will be Christ to them and so doing they will become Christ to others.