Saturday, August 05, 2023

To Love Deeply Is to Suffer Deeply


(Linda and I in Green Lake, Wisconsin.)

The one who loves much suffers much.

To surrender to love is to risk. To risk is to be vulnerable. It is to be open. This includes openness to suffering, because eventually, there will be loss.

Examples abound. Our family loved our dog So-fee. When she became so sick that we had to put her down, it was painful. It made me think that I never want another dog, because I never want to go through that dark valley again.

Suffering can cause one to stop loving, since loving entails suffering, a hurting-with (com-passion) the beloved. When we open ourselves to transparency and vulnerability we invite all things emotional, from celebration to mourning. 

Will Hernandez writes: 

“It is equally accurate to say that only one who has known the experience of deep suffering can freely love and give love with true abandon. If suffering happens to be the consequence of true love, then that same love also becomes the fruit of real suffering.” (Hernandez, Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension, K231)

Henri Nouwen has written: 

“Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear” (IVL:60; cited in Hernandez, K240).

Just what might that fruit look like? One example for me, and Linda, is when our baby son David died. I became a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Out of the roots of our grief, much fruit has grown. It began when the HOPING group at the hospital David died in asked us to become their pastors, and minister to parents who lost children in the hospital. To do this with greater effectiveness, one must be familiar with the valley of the shadow of death.

To immerse yourself in the sufferings of others is to grow in your capacity to love others, one’s own self, and God. “Love and suffering are bound to change anyone radically.” (Hernandez, K240)