Friday, November 14, 2008


It all started, I think, when I was a child, with Ulf Oldenburg and his fiery eyes and vivid persecution stories. I would lie in bed cold with fear and horror, thinking of Christians "behind the Iron Curtain" being tortured in a hundred different ways, and imagine myself in similar suffering someday.

The weight of human suffering seems to be something that accumulates in my head. Happy stories can come and go, but terrible stuff sticks. Every time we drive to the Midwest I imagine those poor pioneers, especially the women, crossing Wyoming with their covered wagons and I just about can't stand it that here I am breezing along at 75 mph, in air conditioning yet.

When I drive to Emily's I imagine the wagon trains crossing the mountains and having to ditch their precious heirloom furniture, and at Tombstone Pass I always think of the teenaged boy who is buried there and what his parents must have suffered. [The wagon train had just climbed to the top of the pass and they were there resting I guess. They saw a deer, and this boy wanted to shoot it, so he reached into the wagon and pulled the gun toward himself, not knowing that something was caught on the trigger, and he shot and killed himself. His tombstone is there somewhere, hence the name of the pass.]

Holocaust stories give me nightmares, especially since we visited Majdanek in Poland and saw the gas chambers and thousands of shoes. I see trains go by here and I think of all those people shuttled off in freight cars to die.

I would not make a good counselor because I would get emotionally involved in everyone's abuse stories, and when I hear of a case like this, of a little Afghan girl having to support her family, I can't stand it because there's nothing I can DO. And of course then there are chilling stories of injustice in Yemen from my sister and sad stories of sickness and death from our friends in Kenya.

Then there are orphans and wars and the persecuted church of course, and obviously I could go on and on because human suffering doesn't seem to exhaust itself and with the vast supply of information at my fingertips there's a constant stream of suffering-stories to add to the pile in my obsessive mind.

The Bible tells us to remember the poor, to be compassionate, to remember those in bonds as though bound with them. But how do you keep it from getting overwhelming. I wonder, how much would I have known about if I had been, say, Dorcas in the book of Acts. Probably not much besides what went on in the neighborhood, and that was within her power to do something about, so she sewed coats and garments for the widows and orphans.

Hmmmm. A lesson there, perhaps.

Quote of the Day: [which has nothing to do with suffering]
"I try to get a bunch of different kinds of ramen noodles so I get a balanced diet."


  1. Your brain works like mine!! What are the odds we write about the same little girl? I seen her story this morning.. and feel so sorry for her..

  2. I think Jesus addressed this when he said, 'The poor you will always have with you.'

    I remember being a kid, learning of the holocaust, which was pretty close to home because it was not all that long ago when my family emigrated from Germany. And I thought that was the worst thing imaginable.

    Then I learned of the killing fields in Cambodia...and have since learned of countless other atrocities throughout history and all over the world. And God's words to Cain, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground."

    With every little thoughtless word we speak, selfish act, rude look--our brothers' blood cries out to God from the ground. My grandma used to say, "Adam and Eve sterted it [sin], but we have done a fine job of keeping up the tradition."

    I used to say that God was "schizophrenic" because he could simultaneously mourn and rejoice...But then we all can. And we are instructed to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn". We are to "bear one another's burdens", which I think we do when our hearts ache for those we cannot help--but we CAN help, through prayer at the very least...

  3. psssst, Arlene! I read it first on your site!

  4. Great post, Dorcas. Quite a few times I have begged God to just erase a terrible story from my mind, because having it in there was more than I could bear. And the older I get, the less of it I seem able to handle.

    Matt's quote was hilarious. I remember being in college, with the tiny crockpot-looking thing that plugged in, living off top ramen and PB&J!

  5. Sounds like a mercy gift in overdrive. I'm sure glad God put so many people in the world who can feel such compassion, it sure helps to know someone cares so much when life is the pits.

  6. i was thinking about the wagon trains too, this weekend when we were going over the mountains. i was thinking that we were driving in about ten minutes what it took them all day. i think i would have went bonkers!

  7. You have mercy for the suffering, yet you have your own unique suffering in dealing with on-going illness - God has blessed you. Keep focusing on the Worse stories, and your own life is much more bearable. But don't obsess!!!!!

  8. Love the QOTD! Matt, do you also balance you diet by drinking different flavors of pop? Pauline