Friday, February 25, 2011

My Suffering is Greater than Yours

Two tragic situations weigh heavily on my mind like crushing weights upon my back: the earthquake in Christchurch and the revolution in Libya. The only thing these have in common though, is death.

With 113 confirmed deaths and 228 still missing, presumed deceased, the violent indiscriminate wrath of nature manifested itself yet again in New Zealand recently. Aftershocks continue. There is fear, shock and great sadness. I feel it from afar but I'm not there. It's not my suffering. I cannot experience it, nor can I imagine it.

Inspired by their Arab brothers and sisters in Tunisia and Egypt, the people of Libya began a revolution. Their leader, the despot Gadaffi responded to calls for his departure and a transition to democracy with angry defiance and bloodshed. He went on state television and called his own people cockroaches. He told them he would send soldiers to hunt them down and kill them. Libyan protesters, who were doing something which we take for granted in our free nation, were shot mercilessly in the streets by hired guns. Firing from the ground, and from the air in helicopter gunships, mercenaries murdered innocent people. Libya is closed. Nobody really knows what's going on there and we have seen very few pictures of the carnage. I feel great rage towards the madman Gadaffi, and tremendous sorrow for those who have suffered death and injury. It will continue but I'm not there. I cannot experience it or imagine it.

When we are suffering we tell ourselves that there is always someone worse off than us. It's a way of reassuring ourselves. Our loved ones, or even acquaintances, may offer similar platitudes in an effort to rescue us from despair or from the mire of self pity. But no one knows a person's suffering better than that person themselves. Making comparisons with other people's tragedies may provide a quantum of solace but it doesn't necessarily ease the pain or remove the source of suffering.

I long for the day when suffering and sorrow will cease and every tear will be wiped away, but until then the only encouragement I can offer is that it won't last forever. Even if it lasts a lifetime. Even if it seems to be endless, suffering will end one day. While we wait for that glorious release from this prison, let's be wise and sensitive, and above all gracious, kind and loving. It's not hard. In one way or another, we are all suffering together.

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