But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13
There’s nothing that bonds people together like sharing life experiences. That’s why team-building retreats exist. I secretly hate team-building exercises because I usually come away annoyed with my team rather than bonded as blood brothers and sisters. Smashing strangers together on an obstacle course or asking them to catch each other as they fall blindly back into your arms doesn’t necessarily make them instant best friends.
One of my summer jobs required an outdoor team-building exercise where the gentlemen were asked to carry the women on their backs through an obstacle course that was actually a toddler’s playground. Let me set the scene for you: I’m feeling shy about being in a new place with new people—this is bad enough—but now I am asking a man I barely know to hold my weight on their back. I feel like I’m stepping on a human scale and relying on male politeness not to bring up the Chipotle burrito I ate on the way here. I think, “Are you sure you can really hold me on your back…while blindfolded?” We can laugh about it today, but it taught me that shared experiences and awkward first experiences can really can be the beginnings of true friendship Why? Because two people are forced to share trust and vulnerability and that’s the stuff solid friendships are made of.
Shared experience is a powerful tool to deepen a friendship with a gal you are getting to know, but feel free to skip out on the ropes course and just go eat Chipotle burritos.
As Christians, we have a unique base level for a shared experience—being saved. Our testimony alone connects us by the same values as awkward first encounters: trust and vulnerability. I love the idea that our shared experiences connect us because being a disciple involves entrusting the most vulnerable parts of your life with another person and seeing how God is redeeming your life.
Jesus demonstrated how he built his friendships on shared life experiences. His group of disciples spent years doing just about everything together. They travelled together from city to city, probably singing the greatest hits of the First Century and nursing each other’s foot calluses. They healed people together, ate meals together, fished together, fed crowds together, and even were run out of town together (hopefully, you don’t find yourselves experiencing this particular activity).
Now, Jesus was a perfect friend—in ways that we cannot be—but his perfection didn’t mean he kept suffering away from his friends. He shared his struggles, too. He told them “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33) And he was right. The disciples and the first church went on to experience a lot of suffering for the resurrected life of Jesus. And today, we experience our own kind of suffering for the gospel.
But, just as we connect over our fun, goofy shared experiences, we also connect over the shared suffering with Christ. And in 1 Peter 4:13, we are told that we can rejoice in that because we will ALL also experience the joy when his glory is revealed. So, as we create communities that are grounded in our faith and being built up by shared experience, I pray that we remember that we are not alone in the hard things, too. You don’t only have to seek to create these “one-of-a-kind” bonding girl trips when really what you need to grow together is sharing your hurts and pains.
Questions for Your Community:
What shared experiences have brought you closer to one another?
In what ways have you found commonality with Christians just because you share the same faith?
Why should we rejoice in our shared suffering with Christ?
Why should we share our suffering with one another?
Wanting to find a way to grow closer to a friend? Ask them their testimony! Get to know how they came to Christ and what faith struggles they experience day-to-day. Sharing your story to salvation is a sure way to grow together.