Suffering: When Others Hurt [Part 2 of 2]

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when we talked about how we tend to explain away past hurts and difficult times in our lives? It’s perfectly natural to internalize and trivialize our own hurts. After all, it’s been drilled into us that we have so much to be thankful for, that to focus on hardship is to be ungrateful for all of God’s other blessings, such as food, clothing, shelter, employment, financial security, etc. We learn to tell ourselves that we can’t afford to indulge our own heartache and suffering because there are “real” people with “real” problems in other parts of the world, dealing with issues such as starvation, extreme poverty, diseased water, human trafficking, child soldiers, etc.

But to explain away hurt to such an extent renders our own sorrowful experiences powerless to transform us. Brushing it off or trivializing suffering often takes us further from the heart of the hurt. It allows us to distance ourselves from our former pain, to put a barrier between us and it, so it can never touch us again. And if we can never touch it again, never again access that helpless, why me? why now? feeling, never open old wounds and stir some salt around in them… Then how can we ever possibly hope to be present with anyone else during their difficult times?

Our own suffering makes a world that is not really about us, completely about us. But suffering is not individual. Suffering is corporate. We need one another.

Suffering: When We Hurt [Part 1 of 2]

Ever notice how good we get at coming up with answers and explanations for the hard times in our lives?

After we have come through a particularly difficult time ourselves, it becomes very easy—the further and further away we get from that difficult time—to look back on it and assign various platitudes and reasoning for why it was so awful. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

God needed to teach me a lesson.
There is a season for everything, and that was my mourning season.
That happened to me so I could use it to minister to others.

But when we’re in the midst of a struggle, of a difficult situation, the last thing we want—even though it might be the first thing we ask for—is an explanation. Because no explanation is good enough. No explanation will satisfy our questions, nor will it ease the pain. If God is truly omnipotent, after all, then God could manage to arrange a lesson-learning situation that doesn’t involve tragedy and grief. God does not cause situations of suffering and sorrow so good things can be brought out of them. The broken world we live in causes hurt—not God—and perhaps God, in God’s gracious omnipotence, helps us use our faith to learn something or turn our experiences into opportunities to serve.