Written by Genessa Newberry, Help One Now International Programs Manager

In the last installment of this series, Chris introduced the true meaning of partnership and what it means to walk through suffering together. He talked about how visiting our partners in their communities, sharing stories and updates, and supporting the work on the ground are intentional ways to build connections. All of these opportunities allow us the incredible honor of experiencing life alongside our partners and the people they serve.

However, as we continue to walk alongside our partners in Haiti while also navigating the impact of a global pandemic, we find ourselves sharing the heaviness of each other’s burdens. Our empathy for their pain and trauma can suddenly begin to feel uncomfortably close to the pain and trauma we experience in our own lives. This discomfort leaves us grappling with emotions and questions, unsure of what belongs to us. What is ours to feel, and what is ours to do in the midst of it?

The Value of Partnership in the Midst of Pain

It’s an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? To experience someone else’s pain as if it were your own? This is because the human experience of both suffering and joy is universal. Universally, we move through pain and suffering toward the joy that is set before us. 

This, again, reminds us of the value of partnership in times of joy and in times of pain. Walking through pain together reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering. Though our experiences are different, the pathway to resilience and healing is often very similar. While we may carry the weight of suffering and pain together, the good news is that the joy of resilience and recovery can be shared collectively as well!

So, what does it look like practically to move from suffering and pain to resilience and joy together even when it seems there is no foreseeable end to the suffering? Before we can move into a place of joy, we must first embrace the reality and the weight of the pain.

Embracing The Weight of Pain

Many of us know that suffering and pain impact our entire being – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is why when we say things like “We belong to each other,” we literally feel the weight of those words in our physical being as well as in our spirits. It resonates on a meaningful and deeply connected level that speaks to the soul in ways that words alone can not express.

Our response begins with awareness and confession. We can’t understand, act on or normalize what we haven’t brought into our own awareness.

Awareness & Confession

Processing painful experiences, whether they are our own or the stories of our brothers and sisters in Haiti and other parts of the world, begins with noticing and naming the different ways we are impacted in the midst of it and sharing that with others. Simply sitting down with someone else to confess and acknowledge the hard in itself can bring healing and lighten the load.

Take a pause and notice as you think about the things causing you suffering, then take some time to share what you notice with someone else. 

What thoughts come to mind?  Do you find yourself thinking things like, “I don’t know what to do.” “This doesn’t make sense.” “Why is this happening?” “How can I possibly fix this?” “I don’t not want to go through this again.” If so, you are not alone.

What emotions come up? Do you feel helpless, confused, sad, shocked, or just exhausted from the neverending stream of bad news? If you do, then you are not alone.

How is your body responding? Does your stomach drop or feel sick? Does it take your breath away? Do you feel like crying, or do you just feel numb? If so, then you are not alone.

What questions are you asking God? Maybe you find yourself asking: Do I even matter to God? Has God forgotten me? Is my God the same as the God of others? Have I done something to make God mad? If you are asking these questions, then you are not alone.

Through this process of awareness and confession, you may find that you are not alone and that the weight of pain and suffering is not only yours to bear. Our brothers and sisters around the world are feeling the same feelings, thinking the same thoughts, and asking the same questions as you. We can find comfort and healing through this process and offer the same to our brothers and sisters on this journey.

We Will Persevere 

Together, as we embrace suffering, we will persevere toward joy, finding comfort in knowing that we are all in this together and God is with us. In our next installment of this series, we will talk about how we can access joy together amidst global and personal experiences of suffering and evil.