I don’t want to do a deep dive on suffering, Associate Professor of Psychology and PsyD Program Chair Cynthia Eriksson told the FULLER studio editorial advisory board last year. She preferred to focus on what it means to “suffer with,” she clarified, rather than delving into what it means to suffer alone.
So began an investigation—for her and her colleagues who have graced us with their writings in this issue’s theology section—on what it means to accompany those who suffer. Familiar territory to Dr. Eriksson, who specializes in, among other things, posttraumatic stress disorder. “In the deep work of trauma recovery,” she once wrote, “understanding the human response to tragedy and grief is especially important. This knowledge orients us to a position of grace as we work to create places of safety, rituals of grief and connection, and opportunities to connect for trauma survivors. Walking with others through trauma, attending to our own pain, and engaging in God’s healing work can certainly grow us in mutual transformation.”
There are several stories in this issue, too, as with every issue of FULLER magazine, of those who have given their lives to walk with the suffering and found their lives enriched for it. Every cup of suffering is full, I have heard it said, acknowledging that pain is not only universal but a basis for such Christlike empathy. In an era when suffering is, for some, a strangely motivated competition, “suffering with” breaks the trends of individualism and inches us toward communal life and the transformation Dr. Eriksson writes about.
Mutual transformation is the goal here at Fuller—part of our ethos as well as an element that defines our aspirations, especially in the era of disruption that we are facing.+ Our choosing to “suffer with” connects us deeply with the incarnation, reverberating the love of a God who chose to become human—God with us—so that we would not be alone in the sometimes dark journey toward hope.
+ Lauralee Farrer is storyteller and chief creative at Fuller, editor in chief of FULLER magazine, and creative director of FULLER Studio.