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Communal Lament And The Humanisation Of Suffering (via Eugene Peterson)

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When faced with suffering, pastoral ministry does not try to fix the one who is suffering. Instead the one who suffers is taken seriously and offered a fellowship of faithful companionship to be with them in the darkness.
This is not therapeutic, it is is ministry.
Encouraging grief and suffering to be expressed in isolation, or separated from others is not strength. It is a denial of the community and humanity which suffering can lead to.
From Eugene Peterson.

One of the strategies for pastoral work is to enter private grief and make a shared event of it. The biblical way to deal with suffering is to transform what is individual into something corporate. No single person’s sin produced the sufferings consequent to Jerusalem’s fall, and no single person ought to mourn them: response to suffering is a function of the congregation.
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When private grief is integrated into communal lament several things take place. For one thing the acts of suffering develops significance. If others weep with me, there must be more to the suffering than may own petty weakness or selfish sense of loss. When others join the sufferer, there is “consensual validation” that the suffering means something. The community votes with its tears that there is suffering that is worth weeping over.
Further, community participation insures a human environment. The threat of dehumanisation to which all pain exposes us – of being reduced to the the level of he “the beasts that perish” – is countered by the presence of the other persons whose humanity is unmistakeable. The person who, through stubbornness or piety, insists on grieving privately not only depersonalises himself or herself but robs the community of participation in what necessarily expands its distinctiveness as a human community as over against the mob.
Again, when the community joins in the lament, sanction is given for the expression of loss – the outpouring of emotion is legitimised in such a way as to provide for catharsis and then renewal.

Eugene Peterson, Five Smooth Stones For Pastoral Work, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992 ed., pgs 142, 143.

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