We are told that we are unique and that we are special and that there is no one quite like us.
These things are true. God creates, no clones. Each of us is totally unique. Except, of course, for the myriad ways that we are exactly the same. You and I are pretty similar. Not only do we share 99% of our DNA with each other, we even share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees. That’s bananas. But beyond genetic similarities, we have a lot in common. Most of us have the same hopes, fears, joys, and even failures. We want peace for our communities, health for aging parents, and success for our kids.
Sometimes when we go through hardships we forget this. An unfortunate pattern in our faith journey goes like this: we go through a struggle; we feel embarrassed and worry what others would think if they knew; we keep our struggle to ourselves; we feel lonely because we walk through it alone; we feel more isolated and embarrassed. That can be a debilitating cycle.
Yet in most cases we will continue to go through it alone. We hit a financial hardship and don’t tell anyone, while piling up debt. We get hurt by a friend and keep it to ourselves, thinking we shouldn’t get bothered by something so small. In each case we fail to remember that most people we know can empathize with our plight. They’ve faced hardship and they’ve experienced hurt. They may not know what it’s like to experience our exact pain, but they know what it’s like to feel hurt.
Paul says that our sufferings enable us to console others in their time of hurt (2 Cor. 1:3). This means not only that we are expected to help others, but also that we should be open to help from others. They may not know everything we’re going through, but they know what they’ve been through. And everyone’s been through something.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4 who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.