Views 107 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 3 - 2015 | By: Katherine Kwong
Suffering and trials have been mentioned in the last few chapel talks as a means of character cultivation, faith strengthening and hope-creating. Those are good and beautiful things.
However, in grasping for the beautiful and good qualities that suffering can produce, let us not sideline the process of grief, the period of mourning and the painful phase of suffering. We must honor suffering as a valuable part of the persevering journey. By honouring suffering, we become comfortable with grief, we accept the sacredness of shared silence and grow in community together.
I am by no means creating a step-by-step process for how one enacts their suffering. I am speaking first as someone with a chronic illness: Lupus, an autoimmune condition. Second, I am speaking from experience gained in walking with people through their suffering and trials. Third, I desire Westmont College to be a community that welcomes and supports its members both in joy and in suffering.
Often we are uncomfortable with suffering because we are not sure how to approach it. People who are suffering or who are in pain tread a delicate balance by which they wish to be left alone. At the same time, they wish people to ask them how they are or if anything is wrong. Because, sometimes, the best way to deal with pain and suffering is to admit it: “It hurts;” “ My life feels awful right now;” “I’m a mess.”
Once vocalized, remember we were not made to walk through life alone. Much less walk alone in the valley of shadow and death. The grit and perseverance mentioned in this week’s chapel talks and focus week activities sidelined the necessity of community during the time of trial.
Although it was spotlighted well during Wednesday’s chapel, I think it’s an emphasis that must be mandatory for a time of suffering, a period of pain or phase of grief. What we need to emulate as a community is the sacredness of shared silence. It is a silent acknowledgement between two people that one person is suffering and the other person is a presence. The presence of someone willing to say, “I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I am here, if you need me or if you don’t need me. I am here for you.”
When we share sacred silence together, we don’t have to have the answers, come up with a hope speech or tell our friends life will improve. In time, trust that it will, but for those who are suffering, less is more. Presence is powerful.
Scripture is laden with verses that tell us to mourn. Job writhes in the agony of abandonment, the Psalmist laments, Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything: both to laugh and to mourn and Habakkuk declares his trust of God despite the desolation of exile. We are told to mourn with those who mourn.
A community that has shared suffering can grow in its transparency and trust. In turn, this creates a safer space for vulnerability and a greater depth of understanding about what makes us human and what it means to be in community with one another.
As much as we are told individually to preserve, rejoice and give thanks for trials, let’s carry pain, hold suffering and take time to mourn together.