Sometimes the suffering of this world is overwhelming and I don’t know what to do. We walk into our friends’s homes here in Kigali, Rwanda and the same story comes from the mouth of so many of the women. They tell us how they are unable to support their families and how they can’t afford student fees or even enough food to feed their families. And how, because of this, their husbands have left them to find new wives, but they will be back when that new wife can’t support them either. Our friends think that this is as good as it will get for them because that’s what society has led them to believe. I feel so helpless and want to cry and scream out for them for the suffering they endure. I want to ask God why. Why must they suffer so much? Then I read words like these from Jean Vanier from his book, The Broken Body:
“So, do not shrink from suffering,
but enter into it
and discover there the mystery
of the presence of the risen Jesus.
He is hidden there, in the sacrament of the poor.
And do not turn aside from your own pain,
your anguish and brokenness,
your loneliness and emptiness,
by pretending you are strong.”
Jesus is there in our suffering. Jesus is there in the slum. Jesus is there where all hope seems lost, where if feels like this suffering will never end. Jesus is there, just like he’s always been, always dwelling with us through it all. We don’t have to pretend to be strong, we don’t have to be the ones to shoulder the burden of suffering; Jesus is there to do that for us.
“Go down the ladder of your own being
until you discover—
like a seed
buried in the broken ploughed earth
of your own vulnerability—
the presence of Jesus,
the light shining in the darkness.”
Vulnerability is vital in community. Vulnerability with those who are suffering allows us to feel their suffering, not perfectly, but a little better. I personally process things by crying, and crying with those who are suffering helps connect me with the one who is suffering. My tears are saying “I don’t have answers, but I care about you and I’m here for you. We will enter this suffering together, you’re not alone, and the one who can pierce through the darkness and overcome the pain is walking with us. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t abandoned our friends in the slums of Kigali. He hasn’t turned away from our suffering, he has entered into it with us.”
“The road is not always an easy road to follow.
There will be times of discouragement and anger;
there will be many setbacks,
times of ups and downs,
times of doubt.
But little by little
if you are well accompanied on this journey,
you will begin to see the light in the darkness,
you will drink the water which springs from arid land.”
(Jean Vanier, The Broken Body)
Instead of looking at suffering as an invitation to pain we can look at it as an invitation to come home. To return to the one who will extend his hand into our suffering and bring hope to us once again.
CONNECT WITH ANNIE: