A few weeks ago, my friend Erika Ahern blogged about comparing crosses. She's pregnant and suffering and could certainly use some prayer. In this post she writes of the tendency we all seem to have of comparing our struggles. We look at someone else's pain and say, "What do they have to complain about? I would give anything to be in her shoes!" or, in contrast, we look at someone else's cross and think about how heavy it is, and feel that our own doesn't matter. Why is our cross so hard to carry when others have it so much harder?
The simple truth is that we all have our crosses to carry, designed by God especially for each of us to help promote our spiritual growth, and they ALL hurt. Which cross is heavier? There is no way to discern that. It is like trying to compare two different size cups of water filled to the brim. Which one is more full? They are both carrying as much as they can.
It can be tempting when we are hurting to fall into that comparison trap. But, that only adds to the pain of all involved. If you tell someone else that their cross doesn't matter, that they shouldn't hurt, you have just devalued them as a person and added to their pain. Admittedly, sometimes this is done in a spirit of helpfulness, as an attempt to offer perspective. "You should be thankful for your pain. After all, you could be starving, homeless, etc. . . " All true, and yet, in the midst of pain, not all that helpful, because now you have just contributed to making the person feel guilty for feeling bad and added to her cross.
By the same token, when we try to minimize our own cross, we are failing to respect the work God is trying to do in us. I'm not saying we need to wallow and share our pain with everyone who comes within five feet of us, but we all need someone to talk to and be with us when we are hurting.
All of us know what it is to hurt, and when we are hurting, we want someone to be there for us, to care, to offer comfort and to listen to our pain. Most of the time, it is not within someone else's power to remove our cross. It is usually something we need to go through. However, knowing that someone cares, is praying for us, and is willing to simply be with us in our pain is a great gift.
We need to respect each other's crosses. They are all heavy and it always helps to have someone encouraging us as we shoulder the burden.