Have you ever felt sympathy for another person who was suffering, and then started to suffer yourself? Perhaps the individual was depressed, and you started to feel depressed, or this person was ill, and you started to feel ill? If so, it’s a symptom of what I call sympathetic suffering, which is any type of suffering taken on from seeing it in others and thinking of it as a reality. It’s not something to fear, but something that can be prevented through an understanding of God’s omnipresent love and care, which does not actually allow for suffering at all, let alone the transfer of suffering from one person to another.
I’ve learned the importance of defending myself from sympathizing with another’s suffering. Once when traveling with my wife to hike some national parks in the United States, on a very busy day of family activity, I developed a severe headache. In the past, this type of ailment would disappear quickly after prayer in which I acknowledged God’s allness and goodness. But in this case the pain was not budging. I felt ill, and my misery increased through a very restless night.
Struggling to muster enough composure the next morning to clean the breakfast dishes, I fervently prayed for divine inspiration that would break the mesmerism of suffering I felt locked into.