Article by Chloe Pool
Communities of Hope in a Fractured World

We don’t have to be reminded of suffering, do we? Just this year, we’ve seen more mass shootings, an earthquake that snuffed out tens of thousands of lives, and the anniversary of a costly war. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the agony of our age.

We want to keep our hearts in the game, but sometimes the pain and fragmentation can feel like too much. This begs the question: how do we become people formed by hope?

A few years ago, I read through the book of Acts in a single afternoon. I could not put it down. The Spirit highlighted themes I never noticed, especially the tension of unimaginable pain and all the while… A burning, bright hope that ran through the earliest days of the church.

Stephen is stoned, but he is full of longing to meet Jesus, even as his life ebbs away.

Paul is imprisoned, and yet he sings.

Hope. Despite so much suffering, loss, and trauma.

I would expect the early church to be full of cynicism, self-protection, and apathy and, eventually, raise a white flag of surrender above the madness.

Instead, the early church shined with hope. Their example begs the question: how is it possible to be a community of hope despite wave after wave of sorrow?

Several attributes of the early church stand out to me, but these two rise above the others: the early church was discipled to depend on the Spirit, and they were instructed by Paul let love guide all that they do (1 Cor 13).

God designed community to be an avenue for healing and hope, a place of restoration when the opposing forces feel overwhelming. Jesus himself urged the disciples to be “one, as We are one” (John 14-17).

Yet, even as we consider that reality, we feel the tension. Community holds a complicated place in our hearts. In the words of Rich Villodas, “We are wounded in community, and we are healed in community.”


And healed.

Let’s take a deep breath and accept the reality that community is a tremendous responsibility. And the Spirit will meet us there.

Being a People Who Steward This Moment

As a church community, we’re learning to commit to the disciplines and practices of our formation, all while crying out for the Spirit to fan us into flame. Practices of community are no different: they require us to learn new skills.

This is vital to the command of Jesus to be one as the Trinity are one.

And this is vital to our endurance: God designed us to experience resilience through interdependence. There is no other way. The Trinity lives on a mission together; the Father sent the Son, the Son only did what the Father told Him to do, and the Spirit-empowered it all. In that same way, Jesus sent them out two by two—in community. Why would we think we can operate independently?

So if it’s that vital, let’s practice two skills: attunement and listening to the Spirit.

Attunement is the experience of empathetic and compassionate presence. We experience attunement when someone listens and responds appropriately to our suffering. Attuned listeners don’t try to fix our suffering—goodness knows that most suffering cannot be fixed through advice. Instead, an attuned listener enters our suffering, creating safety and engaging us in the process of healing through a caring relationship.

The power of this cannot be overstated: God designed us to experience healing when we gather in loving community. On a neurobiological level, we experience healing and integration in our bodies and minds as we share the heavy burdens of this life.

Here’s the miracle of attunement: attunement often produces healing even in spite of unchanged circumstances.
Your marriage is still difficult.

You still grieve the loss of a friend.

But through attunement, you also feel comfort, increasing your resilience and allowing you to enter the pain again. What could be more vital to us as Christians who will surely face suffering?

Earlier this year, I got together with a friend. I was processing grief, and I felt my resilience start to ebb away. My friend listened and asked some of the most touching and compassionate questions anyone has ever asked me. An hour later, I felt a resilience in my bones, a blazing hot comfort that did not exist before.
My friend loves me. She sees me.
God loves me. He sees me.

The power in that moment could not be found any other way than through a face-to-face, compassionate encounter. Because God Himself spoke it into our very beings. We are relational.

This goes against our preconceived ideas as Westerners.

We live in an information age. We think podcasts and YouTube channels will help us find the answers we need. Some guidance can, at times, be found in these spaces. But God also thwarts us: He allows us to need embodied presence when we experience suffering. He allows us to experience some types of healing only in community.
For He did not only say, “It is not good for man to be alone”… No, He designed us, from birth to death, to not be able to endure alone.

Why is this vital? Because Scripture could not be clearer: believers will face profound suffering. We have an adversary. We live in a broken world. We do the things we hate and experience the sin of those around us.

Let’s become a people that suffers well. Let’s learn to lay aside our compulsion to, as good Westerns do, provide tidy answers to pain. Let’s become a people who “comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3). And isn’t it often His very presence that we need most? Let’s walk in His footsteps: attune to your suffering friends. By doing so, you will be the instruments of His healing and His comfort. Be part of His work that tills fertile ground for the gentle whisper of the Spirit.

And the Spirit longs to whisper. He loves to whisper when we are willing to be silent… Dependent on Him… Listening to Him on behalf of a friend. Attunement is the fertile ground for the humility we need to not only listen to our friends but listen to the Spirit.

Our advice fails… And often makes matters worse. But the Spirit hears the voice of God and loves to guide us into all truth.

Listen to your brother. Listen to your God.

Friends, this is not an optional part of formation. God has always worked through a people pursuing the fullness of His Spirit, welcoming rather than quenching His voice. Community is a gift to us and for us until Christ is formed in us. Let’s be a church that commits to the practices of community, learning to endure and grow together for His glory and, by the power of His Spirit, taking hold of His abundant life.


Pastor of Community