By STEFANIE BENNETT | CONTRIBUTOR
Week 2: Closer Than a Sister
Part 2a: Living With Sisters in Community, Chapters 4-6 (pp. 65-102)
Recalling the beautiful and communal nature of our Triune God and our design as bearers of this image, as Fox illustrated in last week’s readings, we are now compelled to act—to help our sisters, mourn with them, and rejoice together. It is a beautiful image, and one we have felt the benefits of many times. Women abounding in the love and unity of the Father have brought us a kind word, a warm meal, a meaningful exhortation– and we are better for it.
Drawing from Timothy P. Lane and Paul David Tripp’s Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, Fox connects our insights from last week to compel us toward action in these next three chapters: “When you and I serve, we are living out what God has made us to be: servants. It is when we are serving that were are most like the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit redeemed a fallen world through service and sacrifice. There is nothing more God-like than serving others” (qtd. in Fox, 71).
Sisters Help Each Other (Chapter 4)
And yet… we are often hesitant to help others. Why is that? Fox proposes an answer: because it takes sacrifice (71). Helping others is a sacrifice of time and resources. But Fox also invokes Bonhoeffer to give us some perspective:
We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God [ . . .] It is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God” (qtd in Fox, 72).
And certainly humility is needed when we find ourselves in a position of need as well. Because dogged determination and independence are prized in our culture, we can sometimes feel ashamed when it comes to asking for help. But in reality, the entirety of our faith runs counter-cultural. “We weren’t made to be autonomous. We were created to be dependent upon God and mutually dependent upon others in the Body of Christ” (Fox, 74).
Sisters Mourn Together (Chapter 5)
And the reality of our need for God and other believers is never more glaring than in our grief.
But, oh, the comfort of knowing our sweet Savior who is not only acquainted with all our grief, but who grieves with us even as he binds up our wounds.
Indeed, Fox reminds us:
- Christ knew loss as he mourned at the graveside of his dear friend Lazarus.
- He knew rejection because those from his own hometown attempted to kill him (Luke 4:29).
- He knew hunger and loneliness.
- He knew abandonment when his closest friends fled just when He needed them the most.
- He knew deep sorrow as He thought about the horror that awaited Him at the cross [ . . .] (Fox, 78, emphasis mine).
But this we also know:
“[T]he God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, [ . . .] comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
How is it that we are able to sit in the dust with our sisters and mourn with them, even when it feels unnatural and uncomfortable to do so? Christ.
How is it that we can listen intently and empathetically to our sister’s hurts without the need to “fix” or rescue her? Christ.
How is it we can speak encouragement and Gospel truth to a sister who cannot see her sweet Savior in her season of sadness? Christ.
Fox assures us that as we renew our minds in the water of the Word, we gain wisdom and surety about what we should do when our sister in Christ is suffering.
Sisters Rejoice Together (Chapter 6)
In some ways, however, it may be easier to genuinely grieve with a sister than rejoice with her. Fox explains that rejoicing with our sisters “means we ought to have joy for what God is doing in [her life]. Yet sometimes, such joy is hard, especially when the blessing in our sister’s life reminds us of the blessing we think is missing in our own life” (94-95).
Is it any wonder, then, that Fox spends the majority of the chapter addressing our disordered desire to envy others and begrudge them the good they have received? She points us to James to address the issue:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:1-3).
If we are to have any hope of countering this propensity toward envy, it will be by embracing the selfless love that the Father has modeled for us– one that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13: 7). And further, “as we seek to find our contentment in Christ, our sister’s joy becomes our joy [ . . .] for we know that she is united to us as we are united to Christ. The good that happens in her life is also our good and vice versa” (Fox, 101-102, emphasis mine).
And if, like me, by the end of these chapters, you are still feeling woefully weak and inadequate for the roles set before us to help, mourn, and rejoice well with our sisters, perhaps you will also join me in looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who encourages us with His word:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1: 5).
May we be encouraged by our good God, who both calls and equips his daughters for good works that He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them! (Ephesians 2:10)