Those who do not run away from our pains but touch them with compassion bring healing and new strength. The paradox indeed is that the beginning of healing is in the solidarity with pain. ~ Henri Nouwen

Christ knew no sin, but joined the solidarity of our pain by willingly taking on the pain that should have been ours. Everywhere He looked He saw His people dying so He died to save us from dying. In that tortuous death He felt what it was like to be rejected by the Father, to be separated from the Father by sin. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He who knew no sin became sin for us in order to heal us.

Even though I have known for a long time, intellectually, what Christ did for me on the cross, I am just beginning to understand it as healing. Christ, moved with compassion, committed Himself to suffer so that I would not have to suffer. The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” More virtuous than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering. In the same way,  if I am willing to enter into the world of the sufferer, if I am willing to feel their pain, that is when healing can begin. As I take on the pain, a resolve takes over that says, “Defeat is not an option.” The one needing healing, who is weak, ill, tired, defeated, can draw energy from my resolve. Pastor David Schriber calls it salutary empathy. (“Models for Intercessory Prayer,” 2009)

As I went about my day today, I really tried to listen to the person interviewing me for a job. I really tried to hear what she wanted for her business. As I worked in the clinic today, I listened beyond the words to see why the person was really at the clinic. When I came home to my husband for lunch, I really tried to place myself in his seat and feel what he was feeling as I said the words of my day. I can take lessons from my dogs. They really feel what I am going through, at least they act as though they do. I want to be like that.

My sister said today that she changed her cell phone number. I told her I would take her out of my cell phone and put her back in. She said, “When you do could you take 50 pounds out when you put me back in.” I heard her heart’s cry. She had lost 90 pounds and has gained it all back. She is having to start over to lose again. I feel her disgust with herself and her shame for uncontrolled eating. I have disgusting ways and am out of control in ways that bring me shame. I hear her. I hope she can feel the co-suffering as we draw energy from one another’s strengths.

With Ann as I walk with Him this Wednesday,



6 comments on “Co-suffering

  1. Dawn, I felt my heart being ripped out as I read this! Your words, in and of themself, are full of compassion, and I felt that. It is so easy these days, in a world of short text messages, telegram style emails, and community websites to say that we care, that we pray, etc. Yet, the true compassionate heart reaches out to take away the pain of the other, even if it means bearing the pain itself. And it seems to be that the ones who do it best are those who have suffered and come through it without a bitter heart, but rather, one that has learned how to see others as Christ sees them. It is US who are the channels by which He gives his heart to others, yet, how often we close up that channel and turn away. You and I, Dawn, we are the older generation now, and I guess it’s up to us to be light, life, and the compassionate heart of God and examples of what that looks like. Thank you for this today. May I be willing to share in the suffering of someone who crosses my path tomorrow!

    • Oh, Cora, I just have to tell you about my Linda. She needed to get a social situation straightened out and she did. She needed to get financial coverage for her cancer treatment and prescription coverage. She contacted my friend who specializes in this and she took care of it all for her. She needed to face radiation and was terrified she’d lose her hair. My sister went through radiation therapy with her husband and she told her she wouldn’t lose her hair with radiation. She was elated when she heard that my brother-in-law wasn’t sick with radiation treatments. Soooo, in the course of 24 hours, Linda has had all her immediate needs met. I just simply link with others, pray, and together we channel (direct) our God-given energy toward Linda and she is helped.

      Does the word “channel” bother you? It bothers me. I think of channeling when I think of seances, mediums and clairvoyants. God warns us against those who try to contact the world of the dead or rouse dubious spirits. Becoming a place where the Holy Spirit can flow and work is what I intend, but I see the word channeling in the literature.

      • Dawn, I grew up singing that song, “Make me a blessing, make me a blessing! Out of my life may Jesus shine. . .” The only word available to what that means is to be a channel where God’s blessings flow through us, and on to someone else. I’m just sooooo thrilled to hear about Linda and getting all these things straightened out. It’s always amazing to me how, when someone gets the news about cancer, they set their focus not on living or dying, but on some small thing . . . like HAIR. . . of all things! I wasn’t sick with the radiation either, just burnt to a crisp (don’t tell her that!)
        I think the word, “channel” bothers me only because it could be misunderstood by the new age, underworld mediums, etc. I try to stay away from words that have been used by other than true-to-the-Word believers. It causes too much misunderstanding. It’s a good word, but I rather call myself a vessel to be poured out, or something like that.

        It’s amazing what God uses, isn’t it? In my younger years, I thought I needed great talent, letters after my name, speaking ability, etc., etc., for God to use me in any way. Who would have thought that He could use “information” gathered through experiences like. . . . CANCER! Where to get funding, what to eat and not to eat, how to prepare, what to expect, etc. I can truly testify to the fact that my experience with cancer opened my mouth. It gave me a voice. It gave me arms that embrace and hold people up. It gave people a “go to” person in their time of trouble and fear.
        Here I am, taking up your comment space!!!!! But I just loved this today. THRILLED!

  2. Cora and Dawn… that is why so often we hear stories of how suffering is a friend… or cancer….because they have the ability to allow us to become more Christ like… as we suffer we are able to help those who suffer… as we receive compassion we are able to show compassion.
    What you two ladies have is a God gift, right down to the tips of your toes and it sets the heart to dancing.
    Blessings dear friends

    • It sets the heart to dancing AND the feet, Susan. Last evening I was putting chicken corn soup in the crock pot and I put praise music on and danced and sang while I chopped the vegetables and de-boned the chicken. It is truly going to be a holy healthy soup! Yum!

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