Guest Post – Co-Suffering, Co-Struggling – Lazar Puhalo

From the Monk Lazar

I have two things in my heart that I would ask you to share when given the opportunity.

“The Passions”

(1) Remind people that the word “passion” means suffering. When we speak about “the passions,” we are not talking about “sin.” Rather we are speaking of inner human suffering. When a psychiatric disorder is not at the base of human actions that are classed as “sin,” these actions are usually a projection of or release from the pressure of inner human suffering. This really needs to be reiterated. When we see someone regularly involved in negative behaviour our first thought should not be “sin” but “trauma.”


(2) Judgments about sin are far too often prurient. Even when we think of other people’s sins or notice their “sinful behaviour,” we often do so at some level of lasciviousness. In my view, we should always think about the passions as inner suffering and sin as a form of trauma, a projection of this inner human suffering, and not as something simply dirty or impure.

Earthen Vessels

We may see only “earthen vessels,” but too often will not see the treasure hidden in those “earthen vessels.” Often, we cannot see the beauty because we cannot see the pain, the trauma, and the inner human suffering in our brothers and sisters. But if we can open our spiritual eyes, we may see the beauty of the humanity gathered in our Narcotics Anonymous assembly. In their struggle, in every small victory of any one of our brothers and sisters, we see the flicker of the light of grace shining in the darkness.

We see such a powerful candle when each one of these people rallies to help the other, how each one proclaims that “we cannot keep what we have without giving it away.” Everyone speaks of the help of their “higher power”- no one here is an atheist.

A Higher Power

Yet sometimes the “higher power” they discover is an inner strength within themselves that they had not realised they possessed. They have begun to come out of alienation from their own selves and find healing for their alienation from God.

As Paul says, everyone has the “law of God” written “on the tablets of their heart.” In all the darkness that has engulfed their lives, a flickering light of grace has always burned within them. The nobility of my brothers and sisters gathered here is so easy to see manifested in their struggle – a mutual struggle made more powerful by the understanding that can only be manifested among co-sufferers. Those who are struggling to find the self-respect necessary for victory can find no greater reason to have this self-respect than the fact that Jesus Christ loves them and gave his life for them. How, then, can anyone respect them any less?

It is a powerful thing to see each person gathered, rejoicing in each step forward, no matter how small, that one of the brothers or sisters has made. I love this assembly so much and can only wish that all Christians would match these people in their manifestation of what Christ actually did teach us. They do not only co-suffer with each other but co-struggle together. Christians could change the world if we all did the same.

Picture of Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak

Bradley Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More