I remember someone who was suffering from self-pity, screaming at me in a pastoral setting, ” I mean, you tell me, who in this congregation has suffered more than me.” Well, I told them…they were not pleased.
Was I right or wrong to tell them? Was it wise or was it exasperation? Mmmm… not sure looking back. We all experience suffering differently is something I have come to understand. It is wrong to compare. It is right to want our suffering acknowledged but not to make suffering a matter of competition to establish our significance or worth, or even our greater worth over others. I have met people who seem to make their suffering their worth. It is not uncommon, perverted reasoning though it may be based upon. What they have suffered almost become their stubborn addiction, so that no happy thought, no relief, no positive experience is allowed to speak its voice. In fact happiness can be treated as an enemy of the story of their suffering, an enemy to be resisted, even fought against. Quite deliberately they can even spoil the happy moments of others, celebrations, even their friends “big days” by bringing attention back to their suffering.
Today/tonight/through the night/ early morning was a time when I realised I have an illness and from time to time the reality is I suffer from that illness. I feel so reluctant to use that word because of the wrongful intrusion of comparison. You simply would not believe some of the stories people have shared with me as a pastor, about what they have had to endure or endure still.
However in the small hours of the morning, I am aware of two things I want to share. Firstly, leaving aside the stupidity of competition it is simply true that there is always someone whose suffering is greater than ours. Secondly, that does not mean that our struggle does not matter or does not deserve to be mentioned or acknowledged. It really does matter….. don’t let the greater suffering of others make you hesitate in coming to The Father and saying, “I am struggling. I need your help.”
The condition I have, can have acute and chronic forms. Acute forms can look more dramatic in terms of symptoms, but passes. However there is something so tiring about lower grade on going effects of the chronic form of any condition or illness that just get tiring, in fact at times exhausting, as it persists over months and years.
Do you carry chronic long term low grade pain of one sort or another, of body, soul or spirit? Allow it to matter. You may have stifled its voice. It may need help from God to speak and be met with tender love. I believe Jesus is close to you right now as you are reading this. Tell him all about it, tell it like it is. That is part of worshipping in spirit and in truth. As you wait for, hope for, pray for the arrival of your healing, allow yourself to speak honestly with the One from whom nothing can be hidden.