Suffering. We’ve all been there. We’ve all faced it. No one in this life is free from it. We face 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 hear the reply of a “no” or “not yet.” No matter what the situation, all of us face suffering.
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?”
So, what should we do in the face of suffering? If you’re anything like me, you fight. 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 headfirst 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. It doesn’t look pretty when I write it down, but I’ve been there more than once!
In the dark moments of pain and suffering, is there a right response? To be honest, I’m not sure. From my experiences there are no easy answers – like most things in life. One thing I have learned is I have to come to a place where I stop listening to myself and start talking to myself. It’s in those moments that I am reminded of some truths that I need to hold on to.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 and growth leads to confidence.
4. 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 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 with us in our suffering! Suffering comes and goes but our joy does not have to. Reach for the Truth. God will be with you in the darkness of suffering. And He will hold on to you when you can’t hold on to Him!