Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Deep Joy Of Shared Pain

"Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with." It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty ... such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others."
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
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There is nothing quite like being in the presence of someone when they are in deep pain and suffering, or even near death. I have had the personal honour of spending time with 3 of my dear relatives in the hours and minutes leading up to their deaths. Something more than sadness occurs; it can become a holy time, a cherished time, and yes, as Nouwen writes, a deeply joyful experience. The same can be said with experiences that are not near death. As we sit with a friend who has just lost their job, or a relationship, or are uncertain about which direction to go in in life, we may hold their hand or stroke their arm, and in those moments we connect and can experience a deep joy.  This does not necessarily take away the pain, but  joy can now be intermingled with it; I have found that this is not usually the case when I go through pain alone, though a deep relationship with God/Spirit can indeed bring joy as well.

Let's try to be avenues of joy for and with each other.

Mark Andrew Alward