Written by Help One Now CEO & Founder, Chris Marlow
There is so much happening in our world right now; international and domestic conflicts, human rights abuses, assassination, natural disasters, political unrest, and injustice. As a Help One Now supporter, we invite you into a lot of hard conversations and situations. You are all fantastic people with a heart for serving others, so you enter these conversations with empathy and compassion. However, it is okay to acknowledge that this news is heavy and can be a lot to process. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. You are not alone in feeling this way. I wanted to write a series of articles where we can work through what we are feeling together. In this series, we will process what it means to have a partnership, how it looks like to process trauma together, and how to move forward in hope.
The Origin of Suffering
When we think about suffering, it is essential to remember the origin. I don’t want this to sound like a Sunday School lesson where I oversimplify a highly complex reality. However, I think it’s important to start by touching on a few lessons from the Bible. Genesis 1 outlines the magnificent creation story. Here we get a glimpse into what life should have been before the Fall of man; humans living in harmony with God’s creation of the earth in a garden full of life, in joy, and a deep connection to God.
However, we all know that the story does not stop there. To ensure we were living as people who have free will, planted in the glorious Kingdom full of life was a tree and a command. God gave Adam & Eve access to everything in the garden but commanded that they do not do one thing. However, temptation overcame them, and that was the one thing they did. This moment was when sin and suffering entered the world.
After the tragic Fall, which separated humans from God, we see the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, where Cain murders his brother Abel out of jealousy. The Bible moves from Heaven to hell in just a few chapters! Not only are we separated from God, but we also find ourselves in conflict with one another through jealousy, envy, greed, lies.
The truth we glean from these stories is that we live in a world where sin and brokenness exist, and from that brokenness comes suffering and pain. So, what does all of this mean for experiencing this kind of pain and suffering in 2021 and beyond? How can we move forward together? The best way forward is to embrace the truths of suffering, restoration, and hope. We must seek tools that will allow us to navigate and process suffering physically, emotionally, and spiritually to not feel hopeless.
Suffering exists for every single human. This suffering is on full display in a world of social and mass media, where each day, we can watch, read, and scroll. Now, we have to deal with our personal connection to suffering in addition to the suffering of others on a global scale. With one scroll on Instagram, I see Haitians at the border of Mexico, women in the hands of the Taliban, a friend’s dad losing the battle against Covid. I see updates from acquaintances, whom I barely know, mourning the loss of their child. I consume all of that news in a matter of seconds; it is mind-blowing!
I am not sure how to deal with this information overload. I’m not sure humans we’re supposed to know this much, be this connected. Every day it’s like we’re standing under a massive waterfall of information. There is a burden of having access to so much information that is full of heartbreak and suffering. Often, I am left feeling hopeless.
However, we must resist the urge to feel entirely helpless. We embrace that suffering does take place and that we cannot ignore it. If we ignore suffering, we will not know how to deal with grief when it shows up unexpectedly at our doorsteps. Believe it or not, we can be proactive when it comes to suffering. It won’t be easy, but we will be ready, we will have tools at our disposal and the self-awareness to know that suffering will come, but that does not mean that light is not on the other side of the darkness.
Know Scripture and Know God
While I realize that knowing God and knowing scripture is not as simple as it sounds, I also know that in order to navigate the complexity of this broken world, we need to understand the source of our hope and whom to go to for strength and support. I’ve personally dealt with deep suffering: cancer in my family, injustice, and death. I know what it is like to deal with the darkest moments, where it seems like waking up in the morning is just too much to bear.
In these most critical moments, being connected to God is by far the most important thing we can do. In Luke 8, Jesus shares the parable of the sower. In short, a sower scatters his seed on various terrains. Some he spreads on rocky ground, and the seed is lost and produces no crop. But when his seeds fall on good, fertile soil, it grows and flourishes. This teaching is a powerful reminder that believing in God is one thing, but knowing God is different.
When we suffer and see others suffering, people deeply connected to God are the ones who can hold on no matter what. In these dark moments, we can find hope, light, and strength. It is not easy, and although I often run to God, I sometimes feel angry with God. Why is this happening? Why is there so much suffering? The internal conflict we face of frustration and hopelessness is valid. We need to process these emotions to find healing.
Partnerships are a Two-Way Street
As we navigate suffering and lean into the hard things and the pain of the world, we have to ask ourselves: how do we seek justice, care for the oppressed in a long-term way, and not lose our way? The scripture reminds us not to become weary in doing good. This is a cautionary tale. Many start on the path of loving their neighbors, but they eventually run out of fuel.
Over the last few months, the Help One Now community has seen so much suffering in our world. Haiti is in deep turmoil, starting with the assassination of their President and then enduring another major earthquake. It all just feels so unfair. To add to the suffering, we are all facing this COVID-19 pandemic. This seemingly never-ending storm has affected us in traumatic ways and divided us as a country in many ways. Everyone is fighting some battle; they may look different and perceive them with varying levels of extremity, but it is important to know that everyone suffers.
So, how do we persevere in these moments? We go to God, and then we lean on each other.
One of the many reasons we value friendship at Help One Now is that we know the power of community and caring for one another. In partnership, you give, and you also receive. When we ask for your prayers and support for those we partner with worldwide, we genuinely want you to feel connected to them. Help One Now invites everyone to be a part of our “wide table,” meaning that everyone with a heart for doing good has a seat, regardless of our differences. When a community comes together, we get to celebrate the good and mourn the hard. We know we are not alone, and we have each other! That is why vision trips are such an essential part of our work. That is why we share photos & stories of impact consistently. You are not just helping faceless people around the world. These are your friends, whom you are deeply connected to whether you’ve traveled to meet them or not.
A Haitian proverb has encouraged our community during this time: “Vwazinaj se fanmi” or “The Neighborhood is the Family.” At Help One Now, when we say the neighborhood, we do not just mean someone who lives close to us; it is someone whom we link arms with and support regardless of proximity.
The community will help us in our darkest times personally. When we suffer, we do not suffer alone. When we see others suffering, we can rally together and carry the load to lessen the burden by helping each other. In the process, we experience the joy of connection and the hope that we can create a better world together.
In the next installment of this series, we will work through questions everyone asks amid pain and how we can process trauma and suffering together.
We hope that you have peace knowing that we are all in this together. Our greatest gift is one another. We can experience suffering together, but we can be empowered together too.