I have been thinking of suffering a great deal lately. This place where I am is incredibly beautiful. Not what you think of Africa to be like. There are huge trees and tropical plants, all green from the rain. The people here are beautiful and so are many things about this culture. It is such a contrast with the suffering that happens here. People are suffering. More than once a day you see a “funeral truck.” Most people that you talk to grew up with only one parent. Death is frequent and so are things such as hunger, homelessness, abuse and neglect. Shame is a part of this culture and it is ingrained deep. Adults suffer with children they are unable to care for, lack of food, lack of work, sickness and shame. Children suffer with hunger, homelessness, abuse, neglect, being alone and having no voice. Life is hard here. Everything takes longer and nothing is easy.
We can handle some suffering, the kind that comes with an expected death of a family member or an accident that causes a prolonged incapacity. We know what to do with that. We pray for them, take them meals, call them and check on them and within a reasonable amount of time they are back on their feet. Moving forward.
Answering, “I’m fine,” to the age-old question.
But what do we do with the people who don’t move forward, whose suffering lasts longer than we are comfortable with? Elisabeth Elliott says, “Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered, not by those things which he enjoyed. I don’t want suffering or sorrow. I want to be happy and I want everyone and everything to be fine. I don’t want to be uncomfortable nor do I want to watch anyone else walk through things almost too much to bear. The Bible says that in order to fit us for His purpose both here and in eternity, He lends us sorrow. And, He bears the heavier end of the Cross laid upon us.” He lends us his sorrow? More later....