Shared Suffering

from Shane's Muslim Connect

I’m speaking on suffering at a conference tomorrow and I’ve got to say I don’t really like it. Don’t like suffering, of course, but also don’t like talking about it. Don’t like the fact that it exists. Don’t like that even as I mourn my own suffering, I’m ever so slightly aware that the briefest glance at the suffering of the people sitting within ten feet of me right now would bowl me over. I hesitate to think beyond that radius.

Do you feel it, too? Maybe you wrestle with chronic pain. Broken relationships. Financial stress. Fear of an uncertain future. A child that isn’t turning out as you’d hoped or the dreamed about and prayed for one who has yet to arrive? 

Even if Muslim Connect allowed the space, I lack the smarts for a treatise on suffering. But there is this: Your suffering, our suffering is a point of connection with Muslims. A popular narrative stresses the suffering they inflict, and that certainly happens, but Muslims also struggle with their own trouble and trauma. 

Whatever causes you or me pain and heartache is also having similar affect in a Muslim’s life. What if God allowed a relationship in which you were able to share your pain with a Muslim friend? What if we took a chance to show weakness and vulnerability? 

If my refugee friend lost their family and fortune to warring raiders and now can’t even find a minimum wage job, I’m going to feel a little foolish sharing the suffering I’m facing with our second car needing repairs or the recovery process for my knee replacement. But hang around with someone for long enough and you’re going to get suffering overlap. Share it. 

Hardship is universal. Shared suffering build bonds. And we do not mourn as those who have no hope.