Suffering, Part II

Last week’s article examined the ripple effect of one particular sin and how it has caused a degree of suffering to many of us. Admittedly, the suffering I described was relatively minor in comparison to the pains of those afflicted with disease, starvation, mental illness, and various other products of living in a fallen world. I have long recognized, though, that since the dark dawn of Adam and Eve’s downfall, loneliness – separation from LOVE – has been the primary, overarching consequence of sin. It defines and pervades all of our other miseries. This idea is well-described in the article Jesus Still In Agony? by Louis Dupre. He says:

“A great deal has been written about the purifying, strengthening qualities of suffering. These qualities may be known to him who has suffered, but not to him who suffers. Within my actual suffering I detect no meaning. I experience it as absurdly gratuitous….To suffer is to be alone. No one can follow the sufferer into this most private world…. It is like nothing else and, in it, I am like no one else. Indeed, it is the only part of myself that is exclusively me, that bears my name. No one enters this most intimate dwelling. ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ Yes, Lord, I was there in the only way I could be present to your suffering: in the solitude of my own pain.”

In many ways, I agree with Dupre. I would follow his account with these conclusions:

For sufferers: even in your very personal sense of abandonment, remember that the cries of the abandoned Christ are wider, deeper, and longer. Though you may FEEL alone, the fact is you are NEVER alone, for He has gone there ahead of you, and remains with you now. Gaze upon the crucifix, and see the truth. Or – if you can – dwell on the Christ of Holy Saturday, and His work for us that day.

For companions: If the main torment of earthly suffering is, indeed, loneliness, we are more than well-equipped to fight that. We may not be able to conquer disease, injury, grief, or pain, but we can certainly fight loneliness. It is Satan’s delight to tempt us all into thinking we have been abandoned: by our family, friends, church, neighbors, God – and then to trap us into withdrawing even further from Love. Let us not permit his tricks! Let us, instead, insist upon community: community built with service, mercy, compassion, and time spent together around the table… the kitchen table, the coffee table, the restaurant table, and especially the Eucharistic table. After all, the word companion does mean “with bread.” Let us recommit now to promote and uplift the Community – the Communion – of Saints: one sufferer and one companion at a time.