Sympathy Pain


“pray for one another”

James 5:16



I got some sad news a few weeks ago ~ two very dear friends of ours are getting a divorce.  That’s the second couple we heard about within a month.


It’s hard news to hear, and we don’t have a lot of experience with it, really.  I mean, I know plenty of people who are divorced, but they got that way before I met them.  And I think most of the people in our circles are strong Christians, and I think they often work harder to make their marriage work than people who don’t see their commitment as having been made before God.


*That’s not meant to be a judgment on anyone.  I know there are non-Christians who work hard to save a struggling marriage, and Christians who don’t try hard enough.  I’m just making a guess as to why I haven’t seen very many marriages end.


The friend who gave me the news a month ago is someone I’ve known from Bible study who had only been married a year and a half.  I guess the basic problem there is that they got married “too fast”.  To hear her side, it really sounds like they didn’t know each other well enough, and their incompatibilities were in the extreme.


The news I got last week was from a friend I’ve known for nearly 15 years.  I met her first, but then we started going to the same church they did, so we got to know both of them, and their children.  They are an amazing couple ~ solid Christians, both of them having taught Bible study at different times in their lives.  Truth be told, I don’t know any couple who has worked harder at living the life we are called to as Christians.  Neither of them is perfect, I know.  And at different times, each of them has said something or done something that was hurtful to me, or made a decision that I thought was unwise.  So I know that we all make mistakes.


I don’t know what happened with this couple.  We don’t go to the same church anymore, so we don’t see them on a regular basis.  I have seen her several times over the past year, but never in a scenario where she could let on what was happening in her life.  And when she told me the other day, it was clear that it was something she’d been having trouble saying out loud.


In both cases, I was just shocked when I first heard the news.  Stunned.  Now?  I’m just grieving.



It’s so hard to know, sometimes what love is supposed to feel in situations like these.  I feel pain, but truthfully, I’m almost not sure why.  After all, it’s not my marriage that has ended.  


Part of it is that I love them.  They are each in pain, and it’s hard to know they are hurting.  I also feel for their kids (grown), and their parents.  Whole families are affected by divorce, and since we all went to the same church, I am hurting for all of them.


And I suppose part of it is also “the end of an era”.  Things will never be the same.  Although I know I’ll stay friends with her, it will be harder to connect with him other than Christmas cards or birthday greetings.  Will I ever see him again?  And if I do, will we ever have the opportunity to enjoy in-depth theological conversations the way we used to?  And if I am lucky enough to have continuing friendships with both of them, will I struggle with guilt for befriending him and not showing “loyalty” to her?


How much pain should we have in another’s pain?  The simple explanation of a Christian’s peace is that we trust, even in the hard, that He’s going to work all things for our good.  Knowing that can help ease the pain.  But when the pain is someone else’s, sometimes I think my hurting is amplified, because I’m worried about them.  You know, like when your child has a cold, and you’d rather it be you.


To not feel pain in someone else’s hurting is to be unsympathetic somehow.  But if I’m supposed to be at peace in my own difficulties, then certainly I am in others’ difficulties as well.


Friends divorcing… friends with hurting children… friends with chronic or terminal diseases… friends who have lost spouses… Unexpected pain is lurking behind every phone call or email.  We just never know when.  But He comforts us as we comfort others, and peace is never far away.


~ “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our tribulation,  that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble,  with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” ~

2 Corinthians 1:3-4


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