I have written many times about pain.

If you type the word “pain” into the search option provided by WordPress on this blog, you will find the word occurs in at least 24 titles . In thirty-seven years of sharing intensely in peoples’ lives, I have seen an unimaginable amount of suffering.

I have seen loss, grief, destructive life choices, violence, cruelty, abuse, betrayal, injustice, sickness, and enough death to last a lifetime.

Some of the words I have written in this space about pain, are words to which I would largely still subscribe today.

But I worry that, in the face of terrible suffering, too many of my words have sought to diminish the pain. I have hoped perhaps to find an answer to the dark bewildering confusion pain always brings. I have tried to pour soothing balm on deep wounds.

Surely, this is my role. Surely, even if I have no way to make sense of so much of life, I should at least be able to offer some word of comfort. I should have some hope to hold out, some way to point towards the possibility of healing in the future.

But, I am no longer convinced words of comfort are much help. I am not sure they offer any real light in the face of darkness that seems so overwhelming.

All I can say today in the face of the reality of suffering is that I am immeasurably sorry.

I am sorry you are having to go through this. I am sorry that life is so profoundly unfair. I am sorry that the circumstances of life have wounded you so deeply. I have no answer for your pain, no solution to your suffering.

Any attempt to solve your heartache only diminishes the journey you must make. I have no right to take from you the anguish you experience. I have no program to get you through safely to the other side of this pain.

But, in my own experience, I have seen that there is another side. People do find a way through even the darkest ordeals.

I have traveled through my own pain without adequate answers. I have never solved the problem of pain as if it were a mathematical conundrum. But I have experienced the power of life that is enough at least to keep me putting one foot in front of the other doing the next necessary thing and then the next thing after that.

I know I am not alone. I know people who have come through the most wrenching agony imaginable and somehow have carried on. They have begun eventually to perceive again the beauty and holiness of life. They have not been finally destroyed by difficulties I might have thought would crush the strongest person.

Much of the pain may never be fully gone. As long as we continue this journey on the material time-bound plane we will hurt. But, in time, we may touch again that indomitable life-force that has carried people through the darkest distress. This is the power which, in Christian tradition we call “God”. It is the force of love we believe we hear in the teaching of Jesus and believe we see embodied in his  death and resurrection.

This love is not an abstract concept. It is not a philosophy, an idea, or a story in a book. It is a force that draws us to stand together. As people have stood with me in my pain, I have held the hands of those who see no hope and experience only darkness. We do not abandon one another when the road is rough.

This love that accompanies you on the journey has many names and is manifest in a multitude of forms. We may not always know how to express it perfectly; but we stand together united as a community of wounded and scarred survivors who know we have been mysteriously enriched and deepened by the hurts we have borne.

Is this enough?

It may not be. But it is the most I can claim with any degree of honesty and certainty. It is the most hope I have and, for now, it will need to suffice.


In response to the above post, I was sent the following song written by Jane Sieberry,

Calling All Angels (Jane Siberry)

A man is placed upon the steps, a baby cries
And high above you can hear the church bells start to ring
And as the heaviness,
Oh, the heaviness settles in
Somewhere you can hear a mother sing

Then it’s one foot then the other
As you step out onto the road, step out on the road,
How much weight? how much weight?
Then it’s how long? and how far?
And how many times, ah, before it’s too late?

Calling all angels, calling all angels
Walk me through this one
Don’t leave me alone
Calling all angels, calling all angels
We’re trying, we’re hoping
But we’re not sure how it goes.

And every day you gaze upon the sunset
With such love and intensity
Why it’s almost as if you could only crack the code
you’d finally understand what this all means

But if you could, do you think you would
Trade it all,
All the pain and suffering?
Ah, but then you’ve miss
The beauty of the light upon this earth
And the sweetness of the leaving

Calling all angels, calling all angels
Walk me through this one
Don’t leave me alone
Calling all angels, calling all angels
We’re trying, we’re hoping,
We’re hurting, we’re loving,
We’re crying, we’re calling
Cause we’re not sure how this goes.

sung here by The Wailin Jennys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6Y6p-BRIaU