Suffering by Comparison–Part 2: Enter the Pain

Yesterday we saw that we cannot offer compassion and comfort while simultaneously denying, enabling, or competing with someone else’s suffering.  None of those will allow us to enter into the pain of another person in order to offer hope.

Yet, without entering into another’s pain, we cannot adequately care.  It’s why Scripture admonishes us,

two girlsRomans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Yesterday we saw that Scripture calls those of us who have suffered and been comforted to pass the comfort along to someone who needs it.

Additionally we are commanded this:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Did you catch the result? 

We fulfill the law of Christ (to truly love one another) when we enter into another person’s pain.

True, this verse in Galatians is referring to the burden of moral sin, but I will tell you from personal experience that the burdens of grief and depression are profoundly spiritual things.  To keep these burdens to ourselves, to wallow in them, to depend on our own resources all the while excluding the love of Christian family, to fail to have our eyes lifted to Christ who is our help in times of need, is to say that we are not looking to God for an answer to our situations.

hold our Father's handDoes a refusal to look to God cheat Him out of what help is rightfully His to give? 

Does rejecting God’s help look like rebellion to you?  It should. 

We need a broader view of the spiritual ramifications of suffering and greater willingness to carry another’s burden.

Entering someone else’s pain is an uncomfortable place.  Most of us have enough pain of our own that we don’t really want to take on more.  We stand there with the command to care and to love.  What should we do?  We follow Jesus when we love someone else the way Christ loved us, and Who, in fact, entered into our pain.

Just when we convince ourselves to love and comfort a brother or sister, IT happens.  What is IT?  IT is a pair of inevitable and inter-related questions:

(1)   Do I have any right to try to enter into another person’s pain and to bring them biblical hope?  I find myself thinking, for example,”So-and-so’s daughter died.  I have a daughter who died.  I can bring them comfort and hope by showing that God got me through the tough times and I can encourage them from personal experience that God knows their sorrow, feels their grief, hears their cries, and will carry them through the valley.  In time, they can emerge with a new hope.  God is faithful!  Just keep the faith, even in the tough times.  I’m praying for you!”  But then the other shoe drops regarding entering another person’s pain.

Our adversary hits me with the second question:

(2)   Does my suffering really match up enough to enter into that pain?  I find myself wondering if I’m Suffering by Comparison.  Then I start pondering, “So-and-so’s daughter was a teenager.  Mine was a newborn.  How can you really enter into another person’s pain when they had their daughter for 16+ years and all the memories and all the interactions and all the investment of love and time?”  My adversary chides, “Barbara, you never knew your daughter alive.  It’s not the same and therefore, you cannot possibly know the grief of a person like that.  You’re just being arrogant thinking that you can minister to someone who has suffered far more than you.”

If you’ve been reading my writings over the years, you’ve probably detected something: Satan hangs around me like he’s my designated traveling buddy.  I want to dump this traveling buddy, but he seems to want to stop me at every opportunity, hold my hand, and lead me away from doing the comfort ministry we’ve all been called to do.

So I read my Bible and I pray to send our adversary into a herd of pigs and down a cliff.  It takes an act of God to free me from all the worry about whether I’m arrogantly Suffering by Comparison; it takes the Holy Spirit to teach me step out in faith and obedience; and it takes my will to submit to the Word that God has already spoken and to simply do what Christians are supposed to do by offering comfort.

The number of reasons we can concoct to get out of entering someone else’s pain are legion.  But the command stands firm: to be the good neighbor and to offer comfort because in doing so, we fulfill the law of Christ to love others deeply.

What about you?  What do you do when someone is suffering?

Questions for reflection:

1. What are your top 3 reasons for not wanting to get involved in someone else’s suffering?

2.  What lies does the adversary tell you?  How do those relate to question #1 above?

3.  How would life be different for us if Jesus had never entered into our pain?

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on July 8, 2014

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