“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3 The other day, my family and I were watching Disney’s “Big Hero 6” in our living room. The movie is just a silly cartoon about a boy who gets to be a superhero. However, the story itself was a bit harsh in that the main character is a young boy who has lost both of his parents before he was a teenager and then loses his beloved older brother who dies in a building fire. But before his brother dies, his brother creates a robot that would personally protect and care for the younger brother. Throughout the movie, this robot is doing just that as the boy has many adventures. But in the end of the movie, the robot has to figure out how to help the boy escape a particular danger and its’ only option is to sacrifice itself for the sake of the boy and the robot brings the boy to safety at the cost of its’ own existence. The scene is fairly moving for a silly cartoon, and the robot is of course virtually human. My five year old son burst into tears in authentic weeping when he saw the robot falling to its’ doom. It was very touching to see his tender heart grieved by the loss of this good character, as well as a little painful for me as a father to see my son grieve like that. In the end of the movie, the robot is recreated and reunited with the boy. My son told me, “If I knew he was going to come back, I wouldn’t have cried.”
Reflecting on this, I realized that both of these responses are completely appropriate Christian responses to suffering, and particularly suffering caused by persecution against Christians. It is completely appropriate that we should burst into tears for our brothers and sisters in Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan, when we learn about the kidnapping of their sons and daughters, the burning of their houses, the murder of their family members, etc. And it is also completely appropriate that we should be comforted by the fact that God will bring them back again through resurrection and all will be made well. Jesus will “wipe every tear from our faces” (Revelation 21:4).
But it is important that first we have the tears. Sometimes, we are tempted to avoid hearing the stories of suffering and persecution. Sometimes we even avoid allowing our neighbors, coworkers, and friends to share their wounds with us because we are afraid that there is more pain there than we can handle. But be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17), including grief, sorrow, suffering or death.
It is so very important that we allow people to share about the things that have caused them pain and to listen to their hurts. That in itself is often a great beginning to being healed. We must not be afraid to suffer and to weep. It’s part of what makes us human. It’s better to love and to hurt than to never love. It’s better to remember those who are in chains as if you were chained with them. And it is possible to do this ONLY when we know how to grieve, though, as the Apostle Paul said, “not as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We certainly do have hope. We serve a risen Jesus who promised that He would be with us, “Every minute of every day for all time” (Matthew 28:20). “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies…” Romans 8:11. Like my son taking comfort in the end of the story, so we can take comfort and find courage to face trouble in the present, knowing that our end story will be resurrection and life!