Facing the Dark Suffering of the World (Part 1)

Sooner or later we are confronted with abject horror in the world. It is everywhere, but particularly certain places. When discovered, it can totally wreck any ideologies built on hope that we have constructed. When found, everything else adjusts.

When one discovers that 1/3 of the world is so poor that selling their sons and daughters into slavery sounds like a good idea, it is overwhelming. How can this be? And why on earth do I have it so well? How can it be so unfair?

It’s been said 1/3 of the world is dying of causes related to starvation and 1/3 to overeating. Those kind of realities will fundamentally mess with who we think we are and what life is all about. We go from thinking one way to having to think another.

All the joy, beauty, and hope we find to be so binding and needful in our existence seems to deflect meaninglessly for these realties. There seems to be no intersection, or that the reality of our world can only remain in the ignorance of theirs.

Yet surrendering to suffering has a counter-intuitive effect. It does not bring us closer to caring for and serving the person in need. Ironically us being miserable does the world no good. We must internalize the suffering then transcend it.

I personally will never forget playing guitar music for a homeless shelter once. I was feeling the weight of their situations and what was coming out was darker blues music. A teenager rebuked me: “man this is a homeless shelter, we don’t need blues.”

What I thought was an attempt to connect was actually getting me the exact opposite. I was pushing away, and ultimately thinking very selfishly about the whole thing. I was feeling the blues, but that is not what was needed.

*Somehow it is incumbent upon the leader to look square in the face of the suffering but not be swallowed up by it. God is good. There is always hope. If some chose to find none there is nothing we can do. Find hope. We must find hope.

Where can hope be found? That is the only question. Where can we find hope in the places of such suffering? Where can we hear and see progress being made, despite what appears like only cyclical patterns of poverty?

That is where a new sort of hearing comes in. It is not the kind that hears and sees only what is there, but what could be. It starts with what is good, it sees potential, it harnesses the power of vision, it is the heart of a new generation.

It doesn’t have to stay the same. We can retain the essence of what is good without accepting the necessity of what is not. We can realize the mercy of God in the now and the power of God in the future. We can trust in transformative process.

But it will require suspending immediate belief. It will require not accepting what seems inevitable. It will challenge our sense of calling, our scope of responsibility. It will lay things at our feet we once thought had no business there. Are you ready?