Recently, my friend Dee called me. Several years had passed since I saw her last. Hearing her voice after so long filled me with delight as it reminded me of my previous local church. On the outside, we couldn’t be more different than one another—her life was completely opposite from mine. She’s an older white woman with a Christian legacy who lived in the same small town in California for decades. On the other hand, I’m a first-generation believer, Afro-Latina, and from a major metro city. But our local church brought us, two distinct women, together.
When I met Dee, I was a new Christian, wife, and mom with a deployed husband while her husband struggled with declining health. She saw me in my struggle, and I saw her in hers. Her marriage and motherhood counseling comforted me, and she provided me with her years of biblical wisdom and teaching. Now, as we spoke on the phone, I discovered that our fellowship was also a gift to her. Through our friendship, she developed a deeper appreciation for the next generation of believers and learned from how I came to Scripture with a different ethnic perspective. Our conversation reminded me that God met us with varied grace while we struggled. It gave us the opportunity to grow this unexpected friendship that bore so much fruit in both of our lives.
Trials and Afflictions in the Christian Life
The Christian walk has various trials and afflictions that need varied care. In his first letter, Peter gives us this sobering reminder through a diverse group of Christians living under Greco-Roman rule (1 Pet. 1:1, 6). While we may not be under constant political persecution, we still struggle with various tribulations. My friend Dee struggled with her husband’s declining health. Meanwhile, my husband spent time in a war-torn country apart from our family. Our suffering required particular needs to be met while also highlighting our season in life. Neither of us was worse or better off. We couldn’t compare our pain with one another—we both needed tending.
As believers active in our local church body, we share pews with women who experience infertility, prolonged singleness, unemployment, physical suffering, and more. You may not be aware of the affliction that another sister in Christ is enduring in her season of life. These women all need tending in specific ways. We are to be honest and vulnerable with one another to foster a God-honoring and life-giving community. Despite our grief, God equips us to care for one another (2 Pet. 1:3). As painful as it might be to open up, our vulnerability can help others as we seek to live as Christian women in community. Through that weakness, we learn to be present for one another.
We Need Each Other’s Presence in Real Life
Thabiti Anyabwile has said that “[the local church] should be central to how we understand the Christian life.” There’s no denying its importance, but the reality is more difficult to grapple with because of our unique afflictions.
I once struggled to attend church gatherings because of my exhaustion from parenting and dealing with previous church hurt. Sometimes it’s not simple to gather your composure to attend a gathering of believers. Still, Peter tells us the significance of showing up for one another. 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Peter doesn’t intend this to be a scolding. Instead, it’s an encouragement that we should gather together with our specific forms of pain. Hospitality with vulnerability shows love in action (1 Pet. 4:8). And the reason for the admonishment? We’re each given unique, diverse gifts intended as varied graces that we use to serve each other (1 Pet. 4:10).
Diverse Gifts as Grace that Fosters Life
Our God-given gifts serve as modes of grace. 1 Peter 4:11a says, “whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies…” For my friend Dee, it was as simple as offering her time and her gift of teaching to me. Yet, even as a new Christian, I had a lot to offer. I prayed for Dee’s husband, offered my companionship, and provided a unique perspective. God gifted us fellowship in the middle of our struggles. Our companionship, in turn, fortified our local church.
The diversity of our spiritual gifts brings vibrance to a local community as well. As we tend to our specific ailings and sufferings, our gifts serve as a balm that only the Creator could perfectly assemble. Not only do we need the women in our church, but they also need us. Through this process of sanctification and healing, our local church bodies will begin to reflect God’s glory. 1 Peter 4:11b continues by saying, “…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” The gathering of a diverse group of people with a variety of ailings and gifts glorifies God.
Life in God’s Kingdom
My phone call with Dee reminded me of how God works through us and establishes his kingdom here. Her husband has since passed on, and mine arrived home safely. But in our grief, we encouraged and strengthened one another. Our fellowship pointed me toward the women I currently worship alongside in my local body both on Sunday and throughout the week—a picture of heaven on earth. Let us remember God’s promises, hopes, and the new life he offers. The various experiences and gifts of grace in our local churches do not need to divide our congregations. Instead, they can create new life and new unity as we seek to understand and serve each other.
Meet the Author
Neidy (pronounced nay-dee) is a Mexican-Guatemalan creative with a love of Georgia peaches, sweet tea, and cold brew coffee on tap. She lives on the Iowa side of the Omaha metro with her three incredible niños and firefighter-paramedic husband. Currently, her family is a part of a bilingual church plant that has a heart for diversity, and she works as the Exhale content manager. You can find her on her website, on Instagram, or every month in her newsletter.