Life is hard sometimes. There are seasons of the soul that are characterised by ardent struggle not blessed rest. There are moments when winds whip hard and the furious squall of the sea surrounding us threatens to take us under once and for all. Yes. Life is hard sometimes, and there is not one realm of humanity left untouched. Tragedy strikes multimillion dollar penthouses and it strikes slums, pain threatens to make an end to both the wise and the foolish, fear knocks on the door of the entitled and the forgotten. One of the universal truths that holds us all together is every human heart knows what it is to be in pain.
And yet the wind, the squall, the furious gale do something a little topsy turvy with this universal truth, in fact it turns it on its head and declares, “You’re all alone in this. NO ONE understands.” Sounds plausible, but it couldn’t be further from the truth, because if we think about it we know there is no such thing as a human being who doesn’t understand pain. If we sit back and look long enough it is obvious that every person we will ever meet has experienced betrayal, loss, disappointment, failure, hardship. Sure their brand of pain might be different, wrapped in another company’s logo, but inside it is still pain. The one thing you can be sure of is that people understand.
And surely this understanding should do something to humanity. Surely this understanding should make us more… well, understanding. Surely this common currency of pain should bind us together… But there’s a problem with that glorious dream and the problem is this; pain makes us look inward not outward. When our souls throb and our hearts ache we forget to look up and look out. Our own individual pain consumes our entire focus. And in those moments we lose the power pain can bring us, the power to connect with a broken world in the midst of our common brokenness. Instead we end up isolated victims of pain, angered not empowered by our wounds. As the anger grows other people get swallowed up in our pain. We make them the source, the cause of our pain and we begin to believe the lie that you can’t trust anyone, everyone must fend for themselves and community isn’t worth the hassle.
Listen, I get it. I write this because I feel it. I write this because I am fighting these same battles with pain. And yet a voice deep within me calls me. It calls me to look up and look out. To remind myself that, while my pain may be very real, I am not the only one who hurts. It calls me to face the terrible truth that even those who have hurt me are hurting too. They carry pain as I do. And while we want to believe the worst about people, the truth is we are all victims of a broken world. We are all in pain.
So God whispers to my spirit, moves me to remember, that in a world this broken, I must be COMMITTED TO KINDNESS. That means that kindness can’t be something I only do when life is easy and community is gracious. I must be committed to kindness because commitment is what it will take. It will take commitment to be kind to others when I am struggling. It will take commitment to be kind when the world is not. It will take commitment to look someone who has caused me pain in the eye and return it with kindness.
Kindness is not an easy path, not a road for the faint hearted, but I believe in it so deeply. I trust kindness to guide me when anger would destroy me, to chart a road forward I won’t regret taking. I trust kindness. It won’t always lead me down a path I want to walk but it will always take me to a destination I want to arrive at. So today, for better for worse, for richer and for poorer, I commit myself again to kindness.
This world needs your kindness, for there is nothing more beautiful than eyes still filled with kindness when the heart is filled with pain. This pain you feel right now may threaten to destroy you, but know this, your pain becomes powerful when you use it to connect with a world in pain. Your pain is a tool in your hand because compassion cannot be forged without it. You cannot sit well with the broken until you yourself have been crushed.
If for one brief moment we could take our understanding of pain, look our enemy straight in the eye, and see they too carry this burden, maybe we would discover they aren’t our enemy at all, but just another injured soldier in the battle of life, fighting just like we are to survive.
Yes today, though it takes all of the strength within me and the strength of my Abba behind me, I choose kindness. In spite of the pain, no BECAUSE of the pain, I choose kindness. For my enemy is not my enemy, just another injured soldier.