Novel coronavirus: Let’s suffer with the suffering

Dr John Ng // February 9, 2020, 12:44 am

Suffering With_John Ng_080220

"Along with the global spread of the novel coronavirus, let there be equal sharing in the suffering," says John Ng. Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls: the most massive of characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran

Tens of thousands are infected by the Novel Coronavirus. Hundreds have died. The figure is likely to get much worse in the next few weeks.

The verse I have been reflecting on is Philippians 3:10: I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

Most of us look at suffering and ask: “Why?” Jesus looks at suffering and asks: “Why not?”

When something good happens to us, we never ask: “Why me?” When something bad happens to us, we never ask: “Why not?”

Most of us think of suffering as something we should avoid at all costs. Jesus expects us to suffer with Him as the smallest price to pay.

There are two types of suffering: Suffering from and suffering with.

Suffering from

Suffering from is to put up with some inconvenience or some uncontrollable event that happens to us.

We suffer from an unintended injury, from bad relationships, from health failures, from dysfunctional families, or from a sudden death. There are more than 30,000 who are suffering from the novel coronavirus infection.

There is no resurrection without a crucifixion. 

Today, some Christians live by a misguided theology which, in promoting the health and wealth gospel, wants to take pain and suffering out of our lives.

There is no resurrection without a crucifixion. 

If there is no cross, there is no empty tomb. It takes a cross to fill the tomb in order to give the resurrection a chance to empty it.

Lewis Smedes wrote: “We need to suffer some of the cursed wrongness of life in order to find its deep rightness.”

Suffering with

There is another type of suffering that Paul refers to in this verse: Suffering with.

This is the fellowship of His suffering.

Fellowship of His suffering is not suffering from but suffering with. Jesus’ suffering is the suffering with. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be a man, to be like us, to experience our full humanity: Hunger, thirst, joy, pain, suffering and death.

Jesus chose to suffer with us.  We are called to suffer with Him and others.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2: 8)

Jesus chose to suffer with us. We are called to suffer with Him and others.

We are called to suffer with people. We suffer with people when we choose freely to let their hurts hurt us, to share in their pains.

When we suffer with people, we suffer with Christ. We experience Christ.

A great example of this is Dr Li Wenliang, a doctor who worked at the Wuhan Hospital. He was the whistle blower to warn the hospital authorities of the coronavirus.

He died after contracting the same novel coronavirus he had told his medical school classmates about in an online chat room. He joined the more than 600 other Chinese who had died by that time, in an outbreak that has now spread across the globe.

Then, there was Chen Hui, 53, a volunteer among hundreds in Wuhan who helped deliver hundreds of boxes of food and protective gear to hospitals. 

Another health worker, Yao, had planned to travel to Guangzhou to spend Chinese New Year with her family. She decided to volunteer in Xiangyang instead. “It’s true that we all live one life, but there is just this strong voice inside me saying, ‘You must go’,” she told BBC.

Let’s learn to suffer with by:

  • Praying for those who have been affected by the virus and all the health workers/volunteers who are risking their lives to keep people alive
  • Grieving with those who grieve
  • Becoming less xenophobic, less paranoid or judgemental but coming alongside those who are suffering
  • Checking out and sharing right information and not spreading fake news/rumours
  • Being responsible by putting on a mask when we are sick and keeping up good hygiene
  • Assuring those who are fearful, anxious and feeling hopeless
  • Sharing masks and giving up (not hoarding) our food supplies with those who need them
  • Donating generously to those who are in need.

“If you visit a man in prison, you visit Me.
If you put clothes on a naked person, you clothe Me.
If you give a hungry person something to eat, you feed Me.
If you open your door to a stranger, you open the door to Me.
Whatever you do to the smallest of them all, you do it to Me.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

It is when we learn to “suffer with” that we will know and experience the fullness of Jesus.

Malcolm Muggeridge describes Mother Teresa in this way:

“In a dark time, she is a burning and shining light; in a cruel time, a living embodiment of Christ’s gospel of love; in a godless time, the Word dwelling among us, full of grace and Truth.”

It is when we learn to suffer with that we will know and experience the fullness of Jesus.

My prayer during this tumultuous time is: God, thank You for calling me to suffer with Christ. Forgive me for my unwillingness to accept suffering as part of my Christian faith.

Give me the courage and the grace to suffer with people, to move out of my comfort zone to reach out to someone, to see a hurt and heal it, hear a need and touch it, experience a rot and arrest it. In so doing, to experience You and Your love more fully.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the author

Dr John Ng

John is the Chief Passionary Officer of Meta Consulting. He provides transformational leadership development, radical cultural change, and customer-centric consultancy to top international corporations. He serves as Honorary Chair of Eagles Communications, and founded Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre (EMCC).