In one of the letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother while serving in WWII he describes a trip into town that he and his supply sergeant made. I’m not certain where exactly in France they were, but he mentions the area of Commercy, France.
They stopped at a bakery to buy some cookies to take back to their unit. The French family who owned the bakery was so thrilled to have the American soldiers visit that they insisted on feeding them pie and having their youngest daughter play the violin while they ate. During their visit, the owner of the bakery told a story to describe just how terrible the German soldiers were while occupying France.
One day the Germans came to the home of a family down the road and insisted on taking the children to work in their factories. When the father refused to let the soldiers take his six-year-old son, the German soldiers killed him and then shot the young boy in both legs, leaving him both fatherless and crippled.
I was shaken for days after reading this story. I had experienced loss and injustice in my own life but nothing like this. I still cannot fathom the grief that mother felt.
There is a quote from Regina Brett that I often return to:
“If we threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”
I was explaining this all to a friend the other day and she warned, “You shouldn’t let other’s tragedy diminish the pain that you’ve experienced.” That is the fear, is it not?
Suffering and grief have a tendency to draw us into isolation, and in that isolation we develop the habit of focusing solely on our own pain. We fear that in taking our minds off of our pain to consider the suffering of others we will somehow devalue its severity and urgency.
But what it really does is loosen the grip that pain has upon us. We begin to see that we are not alone in our suffering. Others have suffered and are suffering still. We are not the only ones who have felt the depths of despair. There is power in knowing that our suffering is not unique to this world; it is part of a larger story of suffering and injustice.
And yet this is not enough to keep us from despair. It is only in the light of a loving God who not only hates the injustice we have endured but has come to earth to join us in our suffering and has claimed redemption for us that we have reason to hope this is not the end. The Suffering Servant has given us victory over the grave.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”