Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

Divine Solidarity with Suffering

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Father Richard believes that Jesus’ cross reveals God’s solidarity with suffering:  

When we try to live in solidarity with the pain of the world—and don’t spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will encounter various “crucifixions.” Many say pain is physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance, denial, and sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. I know that is very true for me. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. Pain is the rent we pay for being human, it seems, but suffering is usually optional. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with the pain of the world. Reflecting on this mystery of love can change our lives.  

I think the acceptance of that invitation to solidarity with the larger pain of the world is what it means to be “a Christian.” It takes great inner freedom to be a follower of Jesus. His life is an option, a choice, a call, a vocation for us, and we are totally free to say yes or no or maybe. We do not have to do this to make God love us. That is already taken care of. We do it to love God back and to love what God loves and how God loves! We either are baptized “into his death” and “resurrection” (Romans 6:3; Philippians 3:10–12), or Christianity is largely a mere belonging system, not a transformational system that will change the world.  

The “crucified God” as personified in Jesus revealed that God is always on the side of suffering wherever it is found, including the wounded and dying troops on both sides in every kind of war, and both the victims and the predators of this world; frankly, this pleases very few people. Our resistance to suffering is an entire industry now, perhaps symbolized by the total power of the gun lobby and the permanent war economy in America, the fear of any profit sharing with the poor, or the need to be constantly entertained. Maybe that is why some have said that the foundational virtue underlying all others is courage (cor-agere, an action of the heart). It takes immense courage to walk in solidarity with the suffering of others, and even our own. [1] 

If God is somehow participating in human suffering, instead of just passively tolerating it and observing it, that changes everything—at least for those who are willing to “gaze” contemplatively. All humble, suffering souls learn this from God, but the Christian Scriptures named it and revealed it publicly and dramatically in Jesus.  

We can’t do it alone at all, but only by a deep identification with the Crucified One and crucified humanity. Jesus then does it in us, through us, with us, and for us. Then we have become a “new creation” (Galatians 6:15) and a very different kind of human being. [2] 


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), 21, 22–24. 

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, 2022), 202, 203, 223. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—CAC Staff, Untitled, watercolor. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Izzy Spitz, Everything at Once, digital oil pastel on canvas. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Artist Statement (Izzy Spitz): “Chemistry of self” [collection of images] is a visual diary of varying emotions of my day-to-day life. It’s an act of presence in a world of existential overwhelm and grounding in the gifts of mundane life. 

Story from Our Community:  

I work for the Help Hotline in ____, making what we call “Telecare” calls. I have a list of 26 people that I call weekly. These are folks that are challenged, mentally or physically. They are frightened, in their last years…. I am amazed that for most of them, my disembodied voice is the closest thing to human contact that they have. As I get to know them, I realize more and more that they are people with the same hopes and dreams of us all. The difference is that many have lost a sense of their own voice and the understanding that they have choice in the world. As we become friends, I’m finding myself standing in greater solidarity with them. To me, they are no longer just voices, but real people with experiences like my own. I’m so grateful to God for this opportunity to share a bit of my life with them. —Brian K. 

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.