Thursday, July 07, 2016

Should black people just get over it?

Whenever race problems are brought to the foreground in the USA, a considerable number of people say that blacks should get over the pains of the past. Even when race isn't the issue, we have a natural human tendency to want people to get over the things that are hurting them. We say things like 'come on! Pull yourself together! Get over it! Put your chin up!' We expect people who have suffered to get over it.

The apostle Paul was a man who greatly suffered, and who learned how to deal with suffering:
If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. (2 Cor 1:6 NIV) 

Paul had experienced both suffering, and comfort. He'd learned that when suffering, its the ensuing comfort that produces patient endurance. If it was written as a mathematical formula it would be:

Now it seems to me that us humans often want others who are suffering to have patient endurance without us giving any comfort. We don't want to have to give comfort to others, we just want people to do really well on their own, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When we apply this to race issues in the US, it appears some white people want black people to patiently endure suffering. Sometimes this is applied to the ongoing pain of past-slavery and lynchings, sometimes to the present pains of seeing horrific videos of black males (men and children) shot at point blank range. Some people feel that black people just aren't patiently enduring stuff. The thing is that from 2 Cor 1:6, we see that we can't patiently endure suffering without receiving comfort. We can't expect African Americans to patiently endure suffering if they are not being comforted in their suffering.

Sadly on social media, I've seen some people give the opposite of comfort to people who have been rocked by the sudden deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. Some have been like Job's comforters offering their expert opinion on why Alton and Philando (like Job) deserved suffering. I don't want to be judgmental or cause division here because I myself have many times offered commentary instead of comfort when I've seen friends and family suffering. Even sometimes when one of my children hurts themselves, rather than comfort, I quickly say, "Well you see, that's what happens when you run downhill" If we're honest we've all been like Job's comforters at some time, we've all pontificated on someone's suffering instead of comforting them.

Jesus doesn't call us to pontificate on people's suffering, but instead to mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:15). He also doesn't tell us to tell people to get over it, instead he gives us the formula that people can patiently endure suffering if they receive comfort (2 Cor 1:6). As God's people, let's give comfort to those who are suffering, and help them patiently endure suffering.