“Happy is the one who is never without fear,
but one who is hard-hearted will fall into calamity.
– Proverbs 28:14
We are wont to exaggerate in many circumstances because, more than convincing others, we want to convince ourselves that our lives are unique and have significance. An athlete says, “I left it all out on the field,” just after walking off it. Hmmm? “No one has ever given more to the company than me,” says a disgruntled employee, when there is no clearcut way to accurately and fairly measure it (though operations engineers keep trying to find and define it).
In the same way, we exaggerate our burdens because of the nagging fear that no one will notice them. “I have the worst teacher ever.” “No one has had to put up with as much as me.” “One more request and my head will explode!” Why do we regularly seek to convince others that our lives are more difficult or burdened than theirs?
Even the Apostle Paul was not immune to the compulsion to justify his faithfulness by cataloguing his burdens. “Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death.” And yet, in calmer moments, he clearly understood that whatever challenges he endured could not compare to the hope he had come to know in Christ. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” We have no need to make a competition out of our list of scars and woes, for if Christ endured the cross, surely he knows and understands and appreciates how we feel. Christ bears all pain with us. Thus, through his resurrection, we are never without hope. Our pain is seldom unique to us, so our calling is not to out-suffer others, but to join hands with them in the hope of the risen One who makes the broken whole.