“The greatest dignity the church can give people who suffer is to tell them that their cries of anguish are worthy of God’s ear.


The most shameful thing the church can do is tell people who suffer that there is something wrong with them for suffering.”

—Matthew Richard Schlimm.

I think of that quote in the context of scripture.

An honest reading of the Okd Testament teaches:

  1. Tragedy strikes everyone.
  2. Honest prayer includes your anger and sorrow and honest prayer is needed to communicate with God.
  3. With honesty, faith can survive tragedy and loss.

Reading the Old Testament you will find many, many prayers that express suffering and loss. Lamentations is all anguish. Pain and loss and despair are almost a third of Psalms.

Consider the themes of the books of Habakkuk and Jeremiah. There is more. Consider Job.

Especially consider that when Job complains, God validates him as speaking what is right (Job 42:6-8).

There are two approaches to the anguish of others.

One is to deny tragedy and loss or to say that they are deserved, like Job’s friends did. That approach leads to a religion and faith that is inadequate to adversity, inadequate for real life.

It also resulted in Job’s friends being roundly condemned by God.

The other approach in responding to someone else’s pain is to read and remember the scriptures as giving honest voice to the pain and grief that people truly feel.

That approach is to recognize that the journey, the response that scripture teaches includes finding honest communication with God that makes possible an honest hope.

And that honest hope can sustain faith in tragedy and loss. Which is why when God spoke out of the whirlwind he validated and honored Job.

For our readers:

  • Do you think we should minimize or validate other’s pain?
  • Do you think some pain is too small to count?[1]
  • Does anyone deserve Christ’s mercy? Does everyone?
  • What have you seen in your life?

[1] I personally think that someone’s pain is their pain. The scripture calls for us to mourn with those who mourn, not take out a measuring stick and tally up who should be mourning and who should just suck it up.