The Problem of Pain

This afternoon one of my co-workers stood in my office sobbing.  Every few seconds she would catch her breath, sort of gaining composure, only to drift back into tears.  She poured out, between the bursts of sniffles, her gutwrenching story of an inexplicable break up.  The boy she loved claimed to no longer love, or even worse, no longer to need her.  It was actually more complicated than that really.  I suppose it always is.  As she neared the end of her story, she asked candidly, “What do I do?” 

Ugh.

And what do I say? My mind is a perfect blank slate.  I just sort of stammered something already obvious and then offered a hug.  What’s amazing about that encounter is that I see it happen often enough.  All of our high flying talk about “the cross” and “suffering” and “love” and “the impossible” and “miracles” and “resurrection” and “choice” disappear in the face of pain. The problem of pain for me isn’t the inability to explain its existence. The problem of pain is simply knowing how to love the person who doesn’t NEED the explanation. While we can glibly say that the hug is enough, and it may be for some, there is still the expectant look on the other’s face waiting for the words that will irrevocably release them.

I have no such Word.
While I can say something pious such as “God sees when even the smallest of sparrow’s falls to the ground,” the inevitable response is simply that the sparrow still falls…now what?

It’s then that I’m left with saying the most honest thing imaginable, “I don’t know what to say.

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One Response

  1. “I don’t know what to say” is probably the best thing. There’s nothing to say that can help. Christians are full of fine words but lacking in kind actions. But I do love the sermon by MLK, where he says the darkest night precedes the dawn.

    [Or you could try this].

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