“When we do suffer with someone else, even a little, we may be sure we are moving on the wave of God. We are doing what God does.”- Lewis Smedes, How Can It Be Alright When Everything Is Wrong? (1992)
“There is a world of difference between sharing the experience of suffering and endorsing despair.”- John Ortberg
As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 10 of I’d Like You More . . . , he describes two ways to suffer. As somebody once wrote, you can suffer from something, or you can suffer with someone. Pastor Ortberg explains:
“As a victim of adversity, I suffer from illness, or injury, or mosquitoes. But I suffer with someone when I choose to take that person’s suffering unto myself as an act of intimacy, a shared experience. . . . Suffering with is an act of tremendous intimacy.”
However, as John reminds us, a world of difference exists between sharing the experience of suffering and endorsing despair. A friend of John’s once took his ten-year-old son Andrew fly-fishing. For three days in a row, they fished for a few hours after lunch. They caught nothing. But, another fisherman observing their futility told them to try at 5:30 AM.
By 7:45 the next morning, they still hadn’t caught a thing. After hearing Andrew’s pleas, the father permitted five more casts. On the fifth cast, Andrew caught a northern pike. As a result, Andrew reasoned, God’s name must be “the God of the fifth cast.”
In relationships, Pastor Ortberg observes, suffering often leads to impatience. Yet, one thing enables us to sit quietly during times of suffering – knowing that we serve “the God of the fifth cast.”
When philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff’s twenty-five-year-old son died in a mountain-climbing accident, he didn’t find a God who explains our suffering. Rather, Nicholas found a God who enters our suffering. In Lament for a Son, Nicholas writes:
“GOD IS LOVE. That is why he suffers. . . . God is suffering love. So suffering is down at the center of things, deep down where the meaning is. . . . The tears of God are the meaning of history.”
Finally, John states, to keep hope you must give it away. As you give hope to others in love, you receive it most yourself.
Today’s question: How do you move on the wave of God as you suffer with someone else? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Embraced by God – making space for others”