They say there’s always one doing it tougher than you, yet it isn’t always the case. We all take turns at being bottom of the wood pile.
But most of the time there’s at least one person doing it tougher than we are. One person we know. Someone we know who isn’t being or cannot be transparent.
A male. A female.
Someone older than us.
A person who’s recently suffered a loss, but we imagine they must be okay by now. Surely they’re better by now… yet grief sneaks up like a thief in the night.
Someone who’s experienced a trauma we don’t know about; could be bullying at work or a sexual assault or some other violation.
Another one contemplates self-harm and they don’t know why or how to stop. There is one (at least one) we know who is thinking suicide.
A person who covets a secret addiction they’re mortally afraid of being found out about. Or the person who’s tired of running and wants to be caught – how desperate are they?
For many it’s the inability to pay the bills or put food on the table. Poverty is no surer way to hopelessness.
And others cannot anticipate having the children they wish to have. A grief that takes a thousand deaths to die.
The person who’s angry and doesn’t know why; could be one of ten reasons or several of the whole bunch.
The man (or woman) in the car behind you shaking his fist for you to get out of his way.
The woman (or man) who is so paralysed with anxiety they cannot look you in the face.
The child (or adult) who acts up because they’re tired of being misunderstood.
The person with chronic illness, depression, and fatigue; the despair they face every single day of their life.
The strange thing is, whenever I face spiritual attack, having been in the torment of it, I see others on the way out of it. I see the litany of others struggling at every level under the sun.
It’s like I’m haunted by a sea of anonymous faces. All people with needs. At the precise moment after I’ve felt like the only one oppressed. Always after, not in the midst.
I get so tired of being the one in the firing line, but the enemy loves that sort of defeatism. Even as I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, that moment, the Lord breaks through, crushing my elegantly arranged city pity party.
Here’s some of what I hear:
There are others, too.
They’re suffering worse.
Not that we can scale the trials anyone is facing.
You might prefer what you’re struggling with if you knew what they’re struggling with.
This sort of perspective sharpens both my resilience and the acuity of my sensitivity for others. At no time has God the Father dumped the entirety of human sin and suffering on my shoulders like He did with Jesus.
The truth is there are millions of fragments of suffering borne within billions of lives. And only God knows every single shard of rubble.
Meanwhile it is the case that my case is done a favor in recognizing there’s someone out there, and possibly someone I know, doing it tougher than me at the same time I’m in my deepest struggle.
And one thing needs always to be remembered:
To suffer alone feels like hell, yet to suffer together is some kind of heaven.
No matter how bad we have it, we’re helped enormously in knowing we’re not alone in our suffering.
Indeed, encouragement is thin when things are going well, yet encouragement is a force thick with reckoning power when things are dire. And encouragement always comes from another, from common unity.
How blessed we are, having traversed our own pain, to find others in theirs along the journey; the pain we experienced made it possible we would see each other.