What does it mean for us to suffer? Does our suffering have meaning? Since no one is sticking flaming spears into my extended armpit, does my pain count as suffering? Since I am a member of a privildged class and race, does my suffering bear meaning? Am I just feeling sorry for myself? I think these are all questions that many of us wrestle with when it comes to considering so many different things in which we experience pain but wonder if it is "real" pain or "relevant" pain. For those of us who sense that our culture is perhaps overly pre-disposed to find theraputic answers, we bite our tongues and bear it.
Unlike previous generations -- those who bore the pain of WWII and could never bring themselves to discuss it with their children. . . that generation in which men found it difficult to say "I love you" to thier kids -- we are more expressive than those who've gone before us. But our relative comfort has left us wondering if we actually suffer, or if we are just having a pity party.
I have become convinced that one of the aspects of our "wealth", one of our gifts from God, one of the very real aspects of what it means to be ambassadors of Christ, members of the body of Christ, brothers and sisters is the gift of the capacity to suffer.
Now obviously all people suffer. But as Christians we know that Christ causes "all things to work together for good for those that love the Lord" and this includes our suffering. We have been granted the joy of knowing that our suffering is not in vain. It is a witness to the love of Christ. As John Piper has said: the suffering of Christ was propitiatory, the suffering of Christians is proclamatory.
Furthermore, we have the capacity to enter into the suffering of others. For many of us our suffering is primarily the bi-product of others -- we enter into the pain of those God has put around us. Children. Friends. Neighbors. Family. Strangers.
Often this simply means sitting. . . .listening. . . honoring. The more you do this the more you realize the very real pain of others. When I say "realize" I mean "experience in a learning way, a way that helps others to see that the pain they experience is in fact real. We help others with our own question. Is my pain real? Yeah, I feel it too. Is my pain meaningful? Absolutely. Do I know exactly how it is meaningful or what the meaning is? No. that has yet to be fully realized.
First Corinthians 12:
22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.