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    Community of Suffering: How Sharing Pain Heals Lives

    When calamity strikes us, it often does so when others around us are living calm lives. Like a tornado that touches down only on a single house in a subdivision, we are struck while everyone else is left standing. We feel marked, singled out, different. Our personal chaos takes place while others continue to live their everyday lives.

    The first question we ask is, “Why me?”

    RANDI’S STORY

    When breast cancer hit at 32, Randi was caught completely off guard. She was young. This wasn’t supposed to happen. When her hair began to fall out from the chemotherapy treatments, she felt strange no matter what she did to hide it. No wig, no hat, no scarf looked right. Angry that nothing seemed to work, she started making excuses for staying at home. If she couldn’t conceal her baldness with a hat outdoors, she’d hide it by staying indoors. And it wasn’t just external things like the hat. It seemed that when she did want to talk about the cancer, the person she was speaking to avoided the subject like the plague. If she didn’t want to talk about it, sure enough, someone would call her up to find out how she was doing. At those times, the sympathy from healthy people was more than she could bear.

    Living with deep pain can be an all-encompassing experience. The pain keeps drawing our focus back to itself. Inwardly focused, it’s easy to believe that other people don’t understand what we’re going through. Our pain becomes a badge — a “C” for cancer, a “D” for divorce, an “L” for the loss of a loved one. The pain becomes our identity. So, as we look around at others who wear no such badge, we assume we have nothing in common. We feel alone.

    However, suffering is universal. Since many of us choose to suffer in private, we are often completely unaware of the individual paths to healing others have taken. We assume, since others appear normal, that nothing challenging or hurtful has happened to them. If we investigated further, we’d be amazed at the wealth of experience, help, and compassion that’s available through others.

    The solution is confession. James tells us that we are to “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16). Pain is not necessarily sin, though much of our pain comes because of sin. Yet confession is cleansing.

    We need to be open and honest with each other about the pain in our lives. We need to be willing to ask. When asked, we need to be willing to share. We need to be willing to pray for one another. This is the connection that brings healing.

    SOURCE: Chapter 7: “Connections,” God Can Help You Heal by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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