Yesterday, my pastor started a conversation for our church on suffering. Throughout the week this week, hundreds of people from my church will gather in living rooms and around kitchen tables and open up about this topic that is, by definition, painful. Why would we do this? Why poke around on such a sore subject? Wouldn’t our suffering heal faster if we don’t scratch it?
Like other wounds, emotional suffering does heal slowly with time. But also like other wounds, the healing can be accelerated with some attention. You have to clean the wound, and dress it. You have to endure a little pain in the treatment to prevent an ugly scar.
Our church includes some people who have endured ungodly suffering: abuse, betrayal, addiction, loss. The kinds of suffering that makes us wince or moan or sob or shake our fists at heaven. The kinds of suffering that we all know, innately, to be wrong. Things that make us shake our heads and whisper, “This isn’t right."
We naturally want to live in a world where evil doesn’t exist, where we don’t have to face suffering. And our temptation is to pretend that we do live in that world. Maybe, like the boogie man, if we just close our eyes and ignore suffering, we’ll wake up to realize it wasn’t there at all.
But that’s an illusion. Suffering is real. And we have to face it in the real world.
All over my city this week, there will be painful conversations about spiritual, emotional, and relational pain. In many cases, the participants will wonder if it’s worth it. But in every case, healthy discussions of pain will lead to healthier expressions of healing. The gospel proclaims that Jesus came to seek and save all that was lost and broken. The first step in our redemption is to admit that we are both.