I am drawn to suffering. It is surely the universal experience of being alive. Hope is universal, too, but less quickly recognized, less likely to offer the ready recognition of common experience with another. We all suffer.
Some suffer from unexpected events—tragedies of loss: of a loved one, of a dream, of the fruits of years of labor—some because of chronic challenge, some because of the brokenness of the world under the weight of injustice. Sometimes, all there is to say is, “Life sucks.” Sometimes, I can only speak: “Lord, have mercy.”
I suffer myself. I suffer with fragile self-esteem because of mild attachment disorder. I know suffering well. It has been my constant companion these many years. When I was old enough to realize that all others suffer, I became part of the human race. So now, I can share the suffering of others.
I hope with others, too. Hope begins for me in the tiny joys—dew on grass blades, summer-blue sky, a perched hummingbird, still for just a moment. Hope in the midst of deprivation is captured in a small sunflower somehow finding just enough water to bloom ostentatiously against the drought-brown land. Hope is in the turning around of perspective, the opening of possibility, next steps that become clear. Hope is in the willingness to listen, taking time to delight, sitting in silence together, or simply hanging in there.
Hope swells from the small things to bigger possibilities: maybe conversations will become possible, treatments will be effective, a job will come through. Maybe the flow of generational pain will be broken, patterns of injustice will be shattered, and new opportunities for healing—even flourishing—become real.
Hope becomes real next to suffering, in the juxtaposition of pain with seemingly unlikely possibility. I believe Jesus who faced into suffering—his and others—with paradoxical statements and actions of radical hope.
“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God”
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Hope comes alive in Jesus who chose suffering in solidarity with those who suffered oppression of all kinds, so that generations of sufferers would know that life is more than suffering.
Suffering is for a time; hope is forever.
This I believe.