Please Scream Inside Your Heart

Acknowledging Our Pain and Connecting with Fellow Sufferers, Including Jesus

Sam Bush / 7.23.20

A couple weeks ago the Wall Street Journal wrote about how several theme parks in Japan have recently reopened, but in an effort to keep the coronavirus contained, they’ve banned screaming on roller coasters. To enforce this no-screaming policy, their message is this: “Please scream inside your heart.” Of course, it didn’t take long for people from all over the Internet to make this the official motto of the year. “2020: Please Scream Inside Your Heart.”

In response to the “no-screaming” campaign, one roller-coaster fan said, “There’s just no way not to scream.” Well, in all fairness, two executives of the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park released a promotional video in which they ride a 230-foot-tall roller coaster in complete silence (so, technically, there is a way). But I still have to agree with the fan’s complaint. Riding a roller coaster without being able to scream is simply no way to live.

In truth, it does feel like we are riding a terrifying roller-coaster and being encouraged to scream inside our hearts. Turn on the news for five minutes and good luck feeling like you can complain about feeling lonely or about having to parent young kids. If you haven’t experienced something truly devastating during these past few months, please scream inside your heart. In the game of comparative suffering, we are forced to keep silent knowing that someone else has suffered more.

It’s worth noting that amidst the doldrums of quarantine there is still so much to be thankful for. And by no means am I trying to diminish the suffering of people who have experienced tragedy. I understand that, especially in this age, it is important to maintain perspective and acknowledge that there are various degrees of suffering. But I’ve found that even those who have lost their jobs or lost a loved one still use qualifiers, saying that someone somewhere has inevitably suffered more. Our tendency to downplay our own sufferings can often do two things: it can keep us from connecting with fellow sufferers, and it can keep us from connecting with Jesus.

Suffering in America is as taboo as sex, money, or politics. That may be changing in the age of COVID, but it’s still difficult for people to acknowledge. It’s a reality most of us hope to overcome by denying its very existence.

Thankfully, the Bible encourages us to let it all out. The Apostle Paul describes the Christian response to suffering in his letter to the Romans. “The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains,” he writes. “Not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit.” In other words, everybody hurts. Paul makes clear that catastrophe does not discriminate and that Christians are hardly exempt from suffering.

And yet, he speaks of how hope can be found amidst suffering because Jesus can be found amidst suffering. Jesus knows what it is to suffer. He experienced loss in the death of his friend Lazarus, the rejection of his friends during his arrest and trial, public humiliation and an unjust execution. Worst of all, on the Cross, he felt abandoned by his heavenly Father. And yet, Jesus didn’t scream inside his heart. Rather, he cried aloud for all to hear, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” That gives you permission to do the same.

Rather than removing himself from suffering, Jesus entered into it. Likewise, rather than removing you from your current suffering, Jesus enters into it with you so that one day he may be glorified and that he may glorify you. He didn’t “scream inside his heart,” but shrieked to the heavens in anguish before he died. And because of that death on the Cross, you will never scream in vain. And because he was raised from the dead, you can rest in the hope that your cries will one day turn to singing. That, in itself, is enough to make me want to let out a little shout — this time, however, for joy and gratitude.