All around us (by us, I mean Beve and me but perhaps I also mean you) people are suffering.
The other day a man sat on our deck with us and we cried together. He doesn't have a lot of places where he can cry. His wife is battling brain cancer so rare there are only a finite number of treatments. No one's doing research on this kind of cancer because only four people have ever gotten it. And our friend has to be strong for her. He doesn't have the luxury of crying, of letting his fears hang out like he's taken off his shirt and is sitting there in his underwear. But we let him do that. It wasn't brave of us or anything, it's just that Beve's used to such conversations and I don't know any better. I mean, I'd rather talk about the down and dirty, the grit and grime of life than stuff and nonsense. It's just how I'm wired. But when he left he said, "Thanks. That made it lighter for a little while."
But this friend isn't the only one.
I'm really not exaggerating when I say that all around us is suffering.
Some is of people's own making. Some people are the victims. Some are suffering because we live in a fallen world where disease exists and sooner or later we run into it, no matter who we are, how righteous, how Christ-like we're walking.
But what sometimes also happens when those around us suffer is that we look at our own lives and say, "Thank God." Thank God I've been blessed. Thank God my life is what it is. Thank God I don't have to go through that. We say that. Or some facsimile there of. It's instinctive to want to say such things, to think them. I know this because I've felt those words rise up inside me many times.
But you know what?
Those words condemn us.
They do. I'm not kidding.
They are the words of Pharisees. Definitely NOT the words of disciples of the Triune God.
They are words that separate us from suffering when we are meant to bear with those who suffer.
And--having heard sentences such as these myself--I can tell you that they are the very worst words a suffering person can hear from another human being. They close us off from each other. Such ideas are counter to what we're told we are; that is, the BODY of Christ. Even though I cannot completely know or understand another person's pain, I must share it. I must bear it. We are part of the body, and if one part of the Body hurts, the entire Body suffers.
It's absolutely true that I don't bear the full measure of pain of my friends who are suffering. However, my place is to bear what I can, to take their suffering to God, to ask Him to relieve it, to give them peace. As much as I am able, I desire to be a burden bearer. Bearing the burdens of those who are too weak and overwhelmed to carry the pain, to even walk on their own--and carry those things to Christ. This is a privilege inherent in Body life, inherent in life in the Kingdom.
So...how will you respond when you are faced with suffering of those around you?