They started telling me their stories. It caught me off guard when the children who decided to speak shared about their mothers. “My mother brought me a huge cake,” as the extended arms indicated the enormous dimensions. “My mother is beautiful,” another declared with loving eyes. “My mother is going to come and take me from this place,” the oldest of the group at seven years old crossed her arms in defiant determination. The possiblity may exist due to the foster type care that we provide children. But those words shot forcefully from that little mouth straight through my heart.

Suffering doesn’t touch you until you touch the suffering. And until you are touched by suffering you will not touch a sufferer.

I used to say that I would much rather learn from the Good Book that God has provided for our benefit rather than at the cruel school of hard knocks. That is not the case now. I see value in feeling, to bring me to a new awareness not attainable by facts on a page.

In my ignorance of pushing suffering away from myself I also pushed the sufferers away. As I have learned to embrace the hardships in my life I have also embraced the suffering people. Skirting the valley sent me tumbling down in only to realize that there were others going through as well.

Three days to break the body of Jesus and see it revived again with scars to testify. Thirty-three years suffering with raw and blistering humanity to break his heart, never to see it fully restored. He is a man acquainted with suffering. Can I be acquainted with him yet ignore his empathy and compassion? Doubtful.


15 thoughts on “Acquainted

  1. Amen!
    My husband and I have gone through some deep valley times in our marriage, and as hard as they were at the time. I would not change them, they were used by God to bring us to our knees and to surrender lordship of our lives to the one and only Lord. Hard lessons, but we now long to walk the valley floor with any who will let us walk with them and witness of our Lord’s grace, peace, love and forgiveness.
    I worry that walking with orphans could actually break my heart though?!?!? How do you do it?

  2. mmm… this is so good.

    i told someone recently that i’m working on my phD at the school of hard knocks. and while it knocks me off my feet at times, i’m glad to be learning for real. and not just in some cognitive academic way. but you’re right, that involves feeling. true growth doesn’t happen pain-free.


  3. Good. Very.
    Feeling is so good, and yet it is so undesired sometimes. Because the good is in what comes of it. The immediate satisfaction isn’t always there, and that makes it a hard thing to want. Empathy hits a few nerves. Sympathy isn’t good enough. Truly knowing someone is being able to empathize. And that includes God, with his sufferings and with his heart for the hurting. Oh, so much in this one. Thanks.

  4. “Suffering doesn’t touch you until you touch the suffering. And until you are touched by suffering you will not touch a sufferer.” — ABSOLUTELY powerfully said!! (It belongs in a book!!) I also think the last paragraph is amazing as well.

    Some folks say that suffering makes you stronger…I believe that my suffering has made me stronger only through Christ! I’ve also seen how the trials life has brought my way have helped me to better relate and reach out to others who are walking through hard times and life’s crisis.

    Amazing post Ang!! Sounds like the beginning of a really good book!

    God has given you a precious gift in raising 21 kiddos who would be lost and most likely neglected without you! Clipping finger nails, wiping snotty noses and dealing with emotional and behavioral baggage that accompany these youngings is not a job for the faint in heart! May God give you the words to comfort and encourage them to blossom and the favor to provide for each of their needs! And the strength needed to walk with them as they heal from their hurts!

  5. “Suffering doesn’t touch you until you touch the suffering. And until you are touched by suffering you will not touch a sufferer.”
    Oh man, I LOVED that part.
    We heard something in church recently on a sermon on how we “deal” with homeless people. Our pastor said: “Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.” That has really been speaking to me.
    Children, no matter, what has happened in their life, always seems to have a little glimmer of hope.
    Thanks for the new nickname! Lol! I always obtain new ones.
    Brandy Bear, it is. :)

  6. @ngie, I think this is my favourite post of yours so far … In the first part when you described what the children were saying, my heart really went out to them, and then to you, as those hurt words shot through your heart, ow, I know how that feeling feels.
    Then the part that Libby and Brandy have highlighted where you talk about being touched by suffering. Wow. It reallly made an impact. Suffering is messy, painful, lonely, raw. When you go through it, you feel like the pain will overtake you sometimes. But I am finding that God uses it as something invaluably precious as we relate to others. You are right, it can’t be learnt in the same way from a page. Thank you.

  7. Birgit – wow, to hear that is your favorite post yet warmed my heart. it was not easy to write but it ache made it flow so I went with it. Thank you.

    Brandy Bear – yes, the glimmer of hope in the children is staggering.

    Libby – You do flatter me… Thank you for your prayers, they mean so much to me.

    roo – You say: The immediate satisfaction isn’t always there, and that makes it a hard thing to want. I can’t say that I have ever wanted it; but I do appreciate it. Thank you.

    to the future Dr. van Rensburg – so how much longer do you have in your studies?

    Carin – That trying time will serve you so well here on the mission field, both to help others and to provide you with a pure marriage strong enough to withstand the pressure that comes with living in a new culture. Per your question… I don’t know…

  8. “Suffering doesn’t touch you until you touch the suffering. And until you are touched by suffering you will not touch a sufferer.”

    im with brandy. amazing statement!

    thank you! thank you for what you do. thank you for putting it into words like this. for gently helping us to evaluate ourselves. our thoughts. our priorities.


  9. Truly well written, Ang.

    My husband was lamenting to me the other night how many things in his life seem not to be going the way he wanted them to. Frustration and “why aren’t I seeing the results I want?” were clamoring at his heart.

    Then in the midst of it, something must have occurred to him and he said, “He didn’t know the outcome, did He? Jesus. He didn’t ever know the outcome. He went to the cross without knowing if it was going to work, huh?”

    He hit something. Jesus did know prophecy about Himself … but He was man. He wasn’t all-knowing God. He couldn’t see the future any more than we can. He had to obey without knowing – like we do. It’s easy to see Jesus as more God than man. We think “well, of course Jesus did/said that. I mean, He’s God.” But when you look through the eyes of his humanness… He really knows us. He knows what it’s like to really face something and not know what is on the other side. That (and this) really moves me. Thank you.

  10. I read this:

    Suffering doesn’t touch you until you touch the suffering. And until you are touched by suffering you will not touch a sufferer.

    again, and again, and again.

  11. Amy – I was concerned that line would be unclear or misunderstood. But it seems to be the one that captured most people’s attention. I appreciate your comment.

  12. my heart breaks for those children–I pray that the love and care you give them help them to grow into strong healthy humans despite the rejection they feel.

    I got my nails done yesterday (after camping and hiking, they were horrible) the young Vietnamese girl told me how much she hated this town, and wanted to be in california where it wasn’t so boring. her english was really tough to understand, but i had worked to draw her out. she then told me she had two children,ages 3 and 5 in California. I told her “oh honey, you need to be there, they need you”….she finally told me that she had taken pills because she was so depressed, (just once! she kept repeating) and that her ex-husband had used that against her to get custody of the children. she is heartbroken–says he has lots of money and she is only here to work for her cousin. my heart breaks for the pain that divorce causes, and the helplessness she feels, the lack of language skills which certainly hampers her ability to get legal help, all the myriad of difficulties she is facing.

    I told her I would pray for her, and felt that was very little and very inadequate.

  13. Peri – Hmmm… thank you for sharing this story. I would say that your listening ear and your gentle touch combined with the assurance she would be prayed for did more than we can hope to know for her. If that ‘just once’ with the pills affected her life so much than this ‘just once’ with you can make a big difference as well. Maybe it will not be the last time you talk with her.

    Thank you for your prayers, friend.

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