Common suffering has a unique way of building community.
It starts with those small and inconsequential struggles. Two moms with tantruming toddlers throw sympathetic smiles to each other at the park. A knowing glance is cast when the woman in the checkout line buys chocolate, ice cream, tampons, and Advil. There’s a collective groan at the airport when a group of people realize their flight was delayed.
But when the shared struggles go deeper, the bond grows stronger. It happens when we share a similar diagnosis, have children with similar special needs, have been betrayed in similar ways, or have suffered similar loss. I had a miscarriage in between my two sons and a band of women surrounded me to offer words of wisdom, encouragement, and empathy. They had lost babies too, so their company was a comfort because they understood.
Yesterday I witnessed a unique bond. I met men and women of 5 different nationalities whose common thread of tragedy was in being forced to flee their country. Though they’re from different cultural, socioeconomic, educational, and religious backgrounds, they all bear the title “refugee.” With this title, they share the pain of loss and the struggles of making a new life here.
I encountered a Burmese and Afghani woman—neighbors for over a year, unable to communicate with each other because of language barriers—who displayed the affection of sisterhood. Rather than growing a friendship because of common interests, their hearts were knit together because of adversity.
There are distinct bonds found in brokenness. We find comfort in knowing that others relate to our pain and sorrows. We long to be understood, to have our burdens carried, to find encouragement that we can make it another day. We can find some substance of this understanding in each other. But even this is limited. Those who share the title of “refugee” still face individual trials, just as those who share a diagnosis still bear different burdens. We’ll never understand each other completely.
The One who created the world and then came to the world as a “man of sorrows” who was acquainted with grief.
The great High priest who not only sympathizes with our weaknesses, but has been tempted in every way we are, yet remained without sin.
Jesus intimately knows and shares our sorrows. He was born in poverty and became a refugee. He was misunderstood by his family and betrayed by his closest friends. He experienced fatigue and physical pain. He was falsely accused and so vehemently despised that crowds chanted for his execution.
And at one point, He was so desperate that He begged the Father to remove the cup of suffering awaiting Him. But in love and submission to God’s great plan of rescue—those blueprints of redemption that were laid out before the foundation of the world—He went to the cross. Though He’d been perfect, He bore the guilt of our sins. His substitutionary blood secured forgiveness for anyone who seeks Him as Savior and reveres Him as King.
In Jesus, we find everything. We find the forgiveness we so desperately need, and we find the friend we so desperately crave. In Jesus, we can be fully loved and fully understood. In Jesus, our suffering is fully known and our burdens fully carried. He weeps with us in our sorrows, and someday, He will wipe every tear from our eyes.
When we suffer in community together, loving each other but aware of our limitations, we have this great hope—there is a Savior who suffered for us, so that we could know the fullest, deepest, and richest community in Him.