Friday, May 08, 2009

Vicarious Suffering

Vicarious Suffering is a term used to describe one person seeking to ease the suffering of another person by taking on their suffering. I understood this yesterday when I took my daughter Amy to hospital. She had developed an enormous abscess at the base of her spine – which was surgically excised under general anaesthetic. I wished that I could have eased her suffering. I wished that she could give me some of her pain so that she could be more comfortable. And when the nurse caused pain during the changing of the dressing this morning I wanted to take it away.

The best I could do was to be alongside her / hold her hand / cry with her.

And in this moment I understand how God chooses to share our human sin/suffering as a way of leading us out of our mess. God suffers with us: bearing our sin, sorrow and sickness. In Jesus, God bears our injustice, abuse, pride, helplessness, doubt, hypocrisy, and hopelessness so that nothing would separate us from him and from Life. God thus becomes human and enters into our messy lives in solidarity with us. So Jesus died for us, with us, even as us...but not instead of us. Following Jesus is not the avoidance of suffering. In fact his death calls us to come and die with him. As we help those who suffer we discover that this exactly where God is to be found.

7 comments:

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I hope she is well again soon. Strength!

Wessel Bentley said...

Thinking of you guys.

Love.

Wes

digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Much prayer and blessing for a speedy recovery.

Dion

Paddy said...

Love to you all.

Paddy

Andre said...

Never easy - but so great that she has someone who cares and loves her. Hang in there!

Steve Hayes said...

Have you ever read Charles Williams's book Descent into hell?

It deals with that theme.

Barbara said...

Oh, Pete, I'm so far behind on everything you've been going through. How is your daughter? I hope she has healed up - I'll pray for her anyway. Please give an update!