Why do we suffer? It’s a complaint humanity has lodged with God through the long centuries of our relationship, and it’s as unanswerable today as it was to the early Israelites. God never promises that we’ll not suffer; what he does promise is that we won’t be along. And just as we know Jesus us beside us in our pain, we too can be with others when they are hurting. We can be presence to them. But… how?
- Remember God is there. God doesn’t rush in to fix things or to sugarcoat anything; God is there for us for the long haul, though everything. If we remember that, it helps us to just be with someone else who is suffering.
- Validate the other person’s pain. The worst thing you can do is say “Cheer up, it’s not really that bad.” Even if it doesn’t feel “that bad” to you, it feels that way to them. Respect that and don’t minimize others’ feelings.
- Be Christ to the person in pain. Don’t try to come up with answers; just offer Christ’s presence. The most difficult thing is to do nothing and just be; but you’re not doing it by yourself.
No one understands why we suffer, and there are no “right” prefabricated answers to pain. All that there is, is presence. You can be that presence; you can make sure that the person in pain is not alone. The ability to freely enter into the suffering of another is a reflection of God’s love, and it’s what we’re all called to do.