The woman in my office cried quietly as she related her story. She had come because she didn’t understand the nature of suffering. She didn’t know what to do with it. It seemed so meaningless. Her series of disasters began with the sudden death of her only son at the age of twenty-eight by a freak aneurysm. It continued when her husband was killed in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver crossing the median. Cancer came next, requiring a radical mastectomy.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”
I told my new friend that I didn’t have answers the size of her questions, but what I did have was a willingness to walk with her some distance down her path and that maybe together we could learn a thing or two.
Over the years I came to understand that was a primary reason for the church’s existence—a collection of folks prone to suffer in one way or another, sharing the journey as compassionate companions. Compassion derives its meaning in relation to suffering. Without suffering, there would be no need for compassion; it’s a crucial component of the spiritual equation sprung from our being born and having to die, and in between, making our way in fits and starts, offering and receiving loving support to and from others.
Though prompting too many thought-streams to be considered in this short piece, I observe that the focus of our faith at Christ Church was himself a great sufferer, born to die, like us, but also a very great lover. His days were filled with astonishing compassion for the least, the last and the lost. Indeed, that came to summarize his mission, and for those with the heart for it, their mission as well.