The Joy of Entering Another’s Suffering

Comfort. Entertainment. Vacation. TGIF! Sound like what you want to live for? Of course, doesn’t everyone?

A life of comfort, gratification, no worries—that’s what most of us pursue. We live for the weekend, holidays, and retirement. Why would we ever want to enter into another person’s suffering?

Our normal response when we see trouble coming is to run in the other direction as fast as we can.

That makes me think of the many stories of first responders running to the scene of a tragedy passing others fleeing in the opposite direction. What motivates first responders to run headlong into an unknown challenge?

I admit that I am not automatically drawn to someone who is suffering. If it is emotional or relational, I tend to “not have time.” If it is physical, especially traumatic and sudden, I don’t have the stomach or “ability” to help.

However, most of the time when I enter another person’s suffering, the joy it brings surprises me. Talk about a paradox.

Sharing Memories of a Beloved Friend

Wednesday, September 4th, was the birthday of a good friend of our family. Many of you know Cheryl Fain. She would have been 54 this year. She passed away in November, 2012 at the young age of 53. She battled cancer for over three years.

Cheryl’s husband Stephen and two grown children, Sanora and Anthony came over to our home for dinner.  It was my wife’s idea to invite them. She is one of those people who are like first responders. When she sees other people hurting she runs to them.

We talked freely about Cheryl at dinner. After dinner we continued our conversation that included fun and painful memories. We looked at pictures of Cheryl and talked about how the year has been since her passing.

Yes, some of the conversation was painful, but a sense of joy accompanied the sorrow. An intimate joy that comes only by moments of shared suffering. It is a depth of relationship that we can’t attain in times of vacation, entertainment, or escape.

It is a paradox. But true. Why is it that we shy away from opportunities to share in another person’s sorrow?

I am thankful he ran to me in my suffering

I think of Jesus’ life. He did not shy away from a person’s pain and suffering. In fact, he was drawn to those who suffered. One of his many names was “Man of Sorrows.” He not only entered into our suffering, he also suffered for us.

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:3 NASB

Thank you Jesus for not running from suffering. Thank you for inviting us into a deep, intimate relationship filled with joy in the midst of suffering.

One thing I learned over the past 10 years—embrace emotional pain. It brings more joy than trying to escape from the suffering.

Instead of running away from pain try entering another person’s suffering. It will bring a deep, intimate joy.


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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

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