Suffering. We’ve all been there. We’ve all faced it. Every one of us have stared suffering in the face! No one in this life is free from it. We meet suffering in the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job, or the loss of a dream. We feel it physically, emotionally, and mentally. Suffering screams at us when our desires are not met and we pray with “all our heart” only to the reply of a “no” or “not yet.” No matter what the situation, all of us face suffering. But few of us know how to suffer well.

When faced with suffering, our thoughts are often hijacked. We perceive suffering as an indication that we are doing something wrong. That we are being punished for some action or attitude. Our thoughts drift to, “This isn’t fair.” Or we ask, “Why me?”

I have been “suffering” with a physical issue for over 6 years. It’s a minor thing compared to what many people face. Yet for me it has been a struggle, always annoying, and at times painful. A few months ago, my issue got worse and my “suffering” progressed to a new level. A level that affected me mentally and emotionally like never before! So, what do we do in the face of suffering?

If you’re anything like me, you fight it. You refuse to accept it and prepare for battle. You get overwhelmed in emotion and ask (or scream in frustration), “God, why me? Don’t you love me? Why don’t you fix this?!” You finish a tantrum with God and dive head first into self-pity. You decide that God answers other people’s prayers – just not yours. Finally you accept that He is unconcerned about your pain and your suffering is meaningless. Yep! It doesn’t look pretty when I write it down, but that’s where I was!

So, what should we do in the face of suffering? In the dark moments of pain and suffering, is there a right response? I’m not sure! For me there have been no easy answers – just like most things in life. But after my tantrum, self-pity, and grasping the lies, I stopped listening to myself and started talking to myself!

Here are a few things that I need to remember in the darkness of suffering:

Be honest.

Cry out to God in honesty with your feelings. He can handle it! I don’t have to be ashamed of how I feel. I must acknowledge my feelings and invite God into them, only then can I move toward truth and hope.

God loves me.

Relentlessly. Unconditionally. Jesus proved on the cross that He is on my side! Through Jesus, I have been made a friend of God. Nothing can separate me from His love.

Growth will come.

It’s natural to focus on the immediate pain and darkness of suffering. The eternal is worth so much more than the temporary! Suffering leads to growth. Growth leads to confidence.

His presence is enough.

In the Bible, when Lazarus died, his sister, Mary, asked Jesus why this happened. Jesus didn’t give her an answer, He gave her a gift. In her moment of suffering, Jesus gave the gift of Himself. He embraced her emotions as his own and wept.

The Word of God gives us great hope in our suffering. Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) reminds us,

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”

Joy is not determined by the absence of suffering, but rather by our ability to deal with suffering. God never promised a life free from suffering, but He did promise His presence! Suffering comes and goes but our joy does not have to. Reach for the Truth. He will be with you in the darkness of suffering. And He will hold on to you when you can’t hold on to Him!