“But my suffering isn’t as severe as hers.”
It sounds courageous and compassionate. If you believe it, you avoid playing the victim card, and the victim card is as unattractive as it is unhelpful. So who would have thought that these good intentions could go so bad.
There is No Suffering Gauge
The truth is this. There is no suffering gauge in Scripture, as if being burned at the stake scores a 100, Stage IV cancer is an 85, a broken friendship is a 50 and uncomfortable shoes are a 5. If there were such a system, a person whose suffering topped out at 80 would have to defer to the one who measures 81. The one with the less severe suffering would have to suffer in silence. He or she would have no right to seek the comfort of others or God. To do so would be hogging time that could be better used by more qualified sufferers.
There is No Compassion Meter
And here is something worse. A suffering gauge would inevitably be accompanied by a compassion meter. We would show more compassion to the one with the greater suffering and dole out a fraction of compassion to the one with less suffering. God too would have full-on compassion for a score of 100, but he couldn’t be bothered by the uncomfortable shoes.
Too many of us believe that such a system exists.
God, however, never compares our suffering to anyone else’s. Never. He doesn’t even compare it to his own suffering. There is no, “Let’s see, you just got divorced. Hmm. Do you want to know real pain? I suffered and died for your sins.” Instead, his personal familiarity with human pain assures us of his compassion—not of his comparisons.
Call Out to God—Always
The Psalms constantly invite us to call out to the Lord, which is another way of saying that our God constantly invites us to call out to him. We might not identify with the Psalmists who are being pursued by blood-thirsty enemies, but we can always find a Psalm that speaks on our behalf. Consider Psalm 130. It is one of my favorites because the Psalmist doesn’t specify the nature of his trouble. Instead, he is wonderfully vague. The only entry requirement for this Psalm is that you have to hurt.
The danger in establishing a pecking order within suffering is that you feel authorized to call out to the Lord when things are really bad, but you remain isolated and silent if your pain is below the national average. This, of course, can never be. If there is anything we know about ourselves and Scripture we know this: we were made to speak both the joys and sorrows of our heart to the Lord. He delights in hearing our joys and shouldering our sorrows. The most human thing we can do is call out to him. Any system that restrains the cry of the heart is suspect at best. More than likely it has diabolic fingerprints on it.
So expose this wretched system. Jettison it now. Get mad that you were duped into believing that your God doesn’t care about the details of your life. You can still say, “My suffering is nothing like what she is experiencing, which makes it that much more amazing that God hears me and cares.”