When I think of "fellowship" I think of two things primarily -- donuts and coffee in "Fellowship Halls" and spending time with people that I love who have the same love for the Lord. Recently, I had a gathering in my home. Some people who are very dear to me were present, and I realized that due to my not being as involved during my current situation, that I really missed fellowship with them. I reflected back on different activities and committees that I was part of and my heart felt the loss of having to give those things up, at least for a season.
And then the Lord reminded me that I am not alone, but part of a fellowship, indeed, a very special and unique fellowship.
Philippians 3:10 says "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings ..." I stand in the face of the truth of these verses and I find myself passionately affirming "Yes! I want to know Jesus. I want to know all about Him. And I want to know and understand the power of His resurrection and what that means for my life!"
But admittedly, I stumble through the next words, guarded and uneasy, not quite as enthusiastic about wanting the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. Ouch! A desire wells up inside of me that says "Yes, Lord, whatever it takes." But my mind and body glance sideways and query "But do I have to do that?"
What does that or could that mean? The word "fellowship" in the Greek is "koinonia" meaning a state of joint participation and cooperation in a common interest or activity. It is the highest expression of a personal relationship, not just coffee and donuts and committees.
When we walk through the valley, we can take comfort that we do not walk it alone, but in fellowship with the One who has endured all things. He knows our pain and our trials. These very things that bring us affliction also are the things that drive us to Jesus. He has experienced more than we could ever imagine, and yet in His loving kindness, He fellowships with us in our sufferings. He is ever present. When we hurt, He hurts. When we weep, He weeps.
Dear reader, we must admit, that it is those people who have walked through a great amount of suffering whom we can depend on the most to enter in to our pain and give us the comfort of God which they have experienced. But with Jesus, it is even more so. Our companionship with Him in our grief and our sorrow and our struggles is bound together by the strong, long lasting ties of His love. Our heart grows closer to Him and richer with Him as we fellowship with Him amidst our suffering.
Do we want to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection? Yes, but we can not know Him apart from abiding in the fellowship of His sufferings. The things that we learn and the changes that occur in the school of suffering are permanently marked upon our hearts, and the relationship with Jesus that is experienced is far deeper that one can ever imagine. And in the darkest and stormiest of journeys through the valley this gives our suffering a purpose and a peace, and in that we can rejoice.