Suffering. Depression. Pain. Sorrow. These are the words that define so many. When I say this, I mean something very different than most. Pain and suffering is all around us. It’s in the city streets. TV. Internet. Film. Music. Art. These mediums show us pain and suffering everyday. We may be numb to pain and suffering, but we are not numb when it finds us. Emotional suffering seems to be the only suffering we care about. We are often reminded of the poor and the injustices of the inner city, yet we only see pain in our own lives as worth noting (I say this because I am a hypocrite). Immigration has become that latest socially accepted form of racism—causing real suffering—and all many churches can speak is depression caused by an unfulfilled life without God—rather than showing a God that stirs people to love others.
It is quite easy to ignore social pain and suffering and simply focus on individual pain and suffering. After all, what happens to those “others” is not happening in front of us. They are dying under somebody else’s watch—it’s their fault. The mind plays a wonderful game. All one needs for this mind game is some denial and a closed mind. Guilt may slip in but it’s easily managed by shady logic.
When people go through their own form of suffering—which is normally not as bad as the suffering many others—they usually bask in the suffering, thinking only about that which is hurting them the most. What would happen if, in the midst of our own pain and suffering, we tried to help others? If we took a more communal approach maybe this could help ourselves. It could help us see the world around and remember that we are not the centre of anything beyond the drama of our own inner monologue. It’s a thought, but who’d really go for that?
Many will say that all suffer in different ways and, while some will suffer physically and others mentally, all suffering is not harder or easier but simply different. Only a middle-class white family could create something so user-friendly. All pain and suffering is horrible, but the facts speak louder than sentiment. If you’re emotionally in the suburbs, it’s a hell of a lost easier than watching your family get murdered in Rwanda. If you’re physically suffering in Orange County, it’s easier to get care than if you’re mentally suffering in Pakistan because, while you may be fine for the moment, your family can’t eat and you’re worried about the son you recently sent off in hopes of getting him smuggled into England for a better life (ultimately, mental suffering in other places less privileged than the rich world leads back to physical suffering).
By the time these words have been written and read, how many people will have died today, gone unfed, and been abused. By the last word, how many new sermons will have been written by the thousands of churches in the richest country in the world on becoming a voiceless for the voiceless—and using our money for something else rather than masking our inaction in an empty and unmeant prayer. Someone once said that no one gets into heaven without a reference from the poor. I cannot help but find that to be true. But as I write these words, I can’t help but remain depressed because of my own baggage. In the end, I’m another selfish American who would like to move, but suffer from a mix of apathy and social paralysis. I acknowledge the contradictions within this text. I further acknowledge that I am not giving due credit to individual pain. I understand that this is a defensive result of what John Locke refers to as “mythic American individualism.” Yet, this is what my mind is throwing up right now.
In closing I simply pray, “Lord, grant us the ability to find the answers to questions we have yet to ask.”