The harsh realities of pain can often blur our vision or even prevent us from seeing the gentle realties of peace. Too often we feel unprepared, inadequate or helpless when we or someone we love is overwhelmed with suffering. Luke 24:13-32 illustrates how Jesus walks and talks with two individuals who were in a place of pain and suffering. Regardless of your religious preference, this passage provides a model for us to consider as we walk and talk with others who are in pain and suffering.
The story begins with two individual who were moving away from a place of peace (the proper name Jerusalem is roughly translated as place of peace in the Hebrew language) and were moving toward a place of pain (the village of Emmaus was known to have natural hot springs). The two people were on a journey west, further away from peace and further into the pain.
Do you know anyone in your life that is moving away from a place of peace and toward a place of pain? Consider these simple acts of kindness:
1. See and hear others’ pain (Luke 24:13-16). Pain is often expressed in our body language, our facial expressions and tone of voice. Rather than ignoring them, Jesus chose to join them in their journey without preconceptions or judgment. Instead he listened for ways to connect with their story. The harsh realities of life can blind the vision of even the most faithful and devout.
2. Engage them in their pain (Luke 24:17-24). As the two share their story, Jesus encourages them to keep talking by asking open-ended questions like: “Tell me more about …” or “Help me understand … .” This is basic active listening, letting the one with blurred vision know that you see and hear them. Jesus was not afraid to walk and talk along with them in the dark of the night.
3. Affirm and acknowledge their pain (Luke 24:25-32). Not once does Jesus placate their pain with platitudes such as, “God only gives you what you can handle” or “God works for the good of all who love Him.” Instead, he reminds them of their value and worth as individuals.
We all know what it’s like to walk the road of pain and suffering. We might be walking that road right now or walking with someone else who is having a hard time seeing the gentle realities of peace. One of my seminary professors always reminded us, “YOU might be the only sacred text others will EVER read.” Take time to walk and talk with others. Together we overcome the harsh realities of pain. Together we become the gentle realities of peace.
David Benavides is pastor of Rock United Methodist Church.