Last fall, my husband and I went to hear Rob Bell speak about suffering. He talked about how suffering unites people. To prove his point, he had us all write down on an index card "I know how you feel." Thousands of us scribbled this with pencil onto the cards on our laps. He said, "Stand if any of these questions are true for you..." and he started asking...
"Who has face financial difficulties in life?"
Most of the room stood and awkward giggles scattered, and he continued, "Turn and hand that card to someone you don't know." I exchanged my card with a girl behind me. Bubbly script read, I know how you feel.
He asked again, "Who in here has been affected by cancer, either yourself or someone you know."
Almost the entire room stood. Some sniffles, somber smiles to one another.
A man in front of me turned, smiling meekly and we exchanged cards. I looked down to see some stranger's chicken scratch that read, I know how you feel.
"Who has experienced the pain of infidelity, whether it was you or someone you love?"
The room went painfully silent as we stood, chairs creaking and cards fluttering through exchange. I handed my card away and received the next one, strong handwriting that read, I know how you feel.
He had proved his point. Suffering united the room, in laughter and finally tears as we now held the card of strangers, echoing our own sentiment, "I know how you feel."
He went on to tell this...
“In the last novel of Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series, the confident, self-righteous Bishop Charles Ashworth finds his boxes smashed and insulators destroyed when his beloved wife, Lyle dies. He ends up in a conversation with an old acquaintance who can’t get over how vulnerable and honest the bishop is being with him.
‘God, isn’t life bloody sometimes?’ (asked his acquaintance)
‘Yes.’ (he replied)
‘Are you just saying that to be nice to me?’
‘Thank God. Lord, this is a damned odd conversation to be having with a bishop! Excuse me while I just pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.’
‘It’s no dream. Good to meet someone else who’s gone through hell lately.’
‘Isn’t it wonderful? It makes all the difference to know there’s someone else screaming alongside you – and that’s the point of the incarnation. I can see that so clearly now. God came into the world and screamed alongside us. Interesting idea, that.'
Perhaps that’s why people across the religious spectrum, for thousands of years, continue to identify with the cross. It speaks of our longing to know that we’re not alone, that there’s someone else, ‘screaming alongside us.’”
When I am weeping when things don't go as I want, Christ says, "I know how you feel."
When I feel alone and unsure if I can survive, He whispers, "I know how you feel."
When death haunts this world, when I cry more than I laugh, when my breath feels ragged and there seems to be darkness surrounding me, Jesus cups my chin, lifts my red eyes to his and says, "Andrea - I know how you feel."
And then comes the rumble, the stone rolling, the piercing sound of a woman crying in a garden, and we rejoice as we cling to final hope to hear once again, "I know how you feel."