Posted by: janpierce | February 26, 2012

I Feel Your Pain

  This past week I watched the evening news and saw a two-year-old Syrian child die from shrapnel wounds. I watched his father hold him and vow revenge and ask anyone who would listen, “What has this child done to anyone?” I read the account of the Pastor in Iran who has been condemned to death for his faith. I watched prisoners die in a fire in South America and in riots in Mexico.

Closer to home, a long-time friend died suddenly, we have a dear friend with cancer, another with heart problems and my mother is in a rehabilitation center after breaking her hip. In the midst of circumstances that break our hearts, I’ve been asking myself this question: How do we adequately show our compassion for one another? How do we truly share in one another’s pain?

We say things like “My thoughts and prayers are with you.” We may even go the extra mile sometimes and write notes or send e-mails or do a kind deed. But I’m pretty certain that we never fully enter into another person’s pain. We stand beside them and offer the bit of empathy we can gather, but then we go back to our daily life–we do the laundry, go to the bank and decide what to cook for dinner. If we’ve personally experienced the situation another is facing, it helps, but still, it’s another’s pain and suffering, not our own. It lives a distance away from our heart. It’s not that we’re cruel or uncaring people, we’re just limited in our capacity to really experience another’s grief.

I have a theory, but I might be wrong. I think a thousand years ago people lived in little communities  and knew just a small group of people. There were other villages a distance away and they were either the enemy, or a place to find marriage partners. Life was simpler and quieter and people didn’t watch all manner of carnage on screens each evening. There might be violence and war from time to time, but people only knew about the losses in their own community. They didn’t carry the weight of a whole world of trouble. How can we care about five or eight or twenty million people? How can we take in the sheer scale of evil and disaster over the face of the earth?

The truth I always come back to is this: we can’t do it, but God can. When I try to care deeply for others I will always find my responses wanting. I’ll feel deeply when the pain is mine or if it belongs to someone I love very much. I’ll feel it less when it’s a friend or acquaintance. I’ll barely react when it’s someone I don’t know. But here, finally, is the good part. Because God lives inside me I can, when prompted or when I seek Him wholeheartedly, walk in selfless, agape love. I didn’t used to think that was possible, but yes, it is. It is costly though. That love is like Lucy’s healing elixir given by Aslan–it’s very precious. I want some.




  1. Me, too. Thanks, Jan. I rarely watch the news anymore–I just can’t do it. But I don’t want my compassion to shrivel up, either. I just need the Lord’s direction as to how and where to send it.

  2. Grounding & encouraging, thank you Jan – as always, your words bless me & intern, those I abide with!

  3. Wow, Jan! Such a thoughtful piece…and so timely! So many parents of friends….will have to print this and pass it on!

  4. Words of wisdom. We need God. Thank you, Jan

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