Suffering

May 06, 2019

 

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to his life.[1]

 

Suffering of all different kinds seems to be our lot in life on this planet. One could be sick or lose a job or a love one. Another might have a disability which limits his or her functioning. A child might be abused. Someone might go through a natural disaster like Katrina or an earthquake and lose everything. Another person might never have enough money to live or be homeless. Another might have been abused or never loved. Rarely is there only one kind of suffering that we go through in our lives. And some people seem to suffer more than others, but no one escapes. It’s how we deal with what happens to us that adds to our pain or lessens it.

 

The one thing that I have discovered about suffering is that we greatly increase our pain when we resist what is already in our lives. I know this to be true, because when my husband’s cancer returned and was raging three months after he had been declared cancer-free, all I wanted to do was to go to sleep and forget this horror that was now back in our lives. The Lord helped me with these words: “if you can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well then….”. As soon as I could do that, I realized that the one dreaded outcome that I was fixated on was only one of a lot of possible outcomes. I gave up my resistance and was able to help Hank, our adult children and our friends through this passage. The second help God offered was a gift of a faith so wide and deep that I felt like I was the house built on rock—nothing could have thrown me or pushed me off that rock.

 

First, I think it is helpful to look at our life here on Earth as a school that prepares us for the highest level of living, if we are open to it. Second, we have to go beyond what our culture says about suffering—that it is possible to avoid all suffering, If suffering is a given, then this is impossible. What we can do is to decide that we can learn the lessons that the suffering offers us and move on. Thirdly, if we can heal our suffering—with God’s help– then that area or type of suffering we endured is where we have the most to give to others who suffer from the same thing/disease/abuse/etc. And here is where we really thrive after suffering so much—we help others through the same issues. Can you imagine what that gift feels like to the one who can now offer it? Freedom from the suffering at last and yet giving what we’ve learned from going through that pain out to others in love. What we offer others is a gift; we can be a real gift to others! And on the receiving side, how much more grace is there in someone knowing exactly what you are going through?

 

When we heal the trauma in our lives with God’s help, whether it’s a mother who never understood me or a hell-fire-and-damnation church teaching that was so wounding or always living in doubt and fear about myself—the big ones in my life, then we are truly free, truly lighter; then we are carrying no burdens.[2] For we still contain the past and the present—after all they made us who we are today– but without resistance to the past. With my mother God healed that relationship, first by calling my attention to it, and then showering us both with His love. With that early church in my life, it has taken the better part of my life to find a resolution of all that negativity delivered in God’s name, down to what is really true about God. And, finally, I am content to be who I am.

 

For every suffering we endure, the goal is the same, to learn the lesson of the trauma and to move on. Then our traumas become our best teachers, showing us, as we put them up on the altar to the Lord, how we can truly be alive in our lives. Embracing trauma, embracing the truth about our lives[3] and our suffering will free us from pain! If that seems like an impossibilities, try it and you will see.

 

Questions to ponder over the weekend: Have I put all the suffering I have endured in this life on the altar before God to be healed? Have I invited Him into my pain and trauma? Have I loved Him with all that I am—the good and the difficult? Has He healed any of my suffering? Or am I keeping all my guilt and shame from Him? Do I really want to be free of it or am I hanging on to it? [Just ponder the question(s) that seem to call you.]

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Blessings for the week: May we be the people of God whose suffering is accepted and healed. May we feel the freedom from carrying these loads. May we use what we have learned from the pain in our lives to help others who are similarly troubled as we were.

 

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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life.

 

[1] David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, Random House, New York, 2019, p. 206

[2] Matthew 11:28-30

[3] John 8:31-32

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