The Character of Suffering

16 March 2023

What is it about suffering that is so dreadful? It always seems like no matter what we do it comes knocking on our door. Or something just goes the opposite way that we want it. Often an unwelcome guest that is such a nuisance and a bother. Where do we go when this guest appears? It either makes or breaks us and our true colors come to shine. We either run and hide, escape reality, or we make everyone else feel the brunt of our emotions. None of these aide our spirits or the spirits of those we love. What is one to do when we find ourselves knocked down to our duffers? I propose to you, we wade into the shallows and wait for something to bring us deeper than what at first may seem to rob us. Do I mean to foolishly hope for puppy dog tails and rainbows? No. In every suffering there is a joy. A silver lining to a dark cloud. Do I mean to vainly try to puff ourselves up and pep us to the next great thing just to get us through? No. That response will only make us fall even harder the next time and leave us feeling empty.

Do I mean to sit silently and just wait for something better to come along? Partially. Something better will come if my heart is ready and my spirit willing. How, you ask, can something so negative and seemingly endless and painful bring about a goodness in the soul? When we allow for it to make it so. When we let it steep, we begin to see things in a new light. Does that mean that suddenly everything is okay and better? No. Perhaps sometimes that is the case but other times it is not. Why won’t that horrible back pain or headache leave? Why am I still anxious to meet new challenges and fear falling flat on my face with a little effort? That interview is going to be grueling. Ug the clouds are insisting upon making the rain fall. No sunshine. Sickness preventing us from going to that event that was being looked forward to for a long time. These are the moments when we have a decision to make.

The culture says, “choose joy!” It says, “take care of yourself and make sure you have some ‘me’ time”. Sure these are the quick fix and only partially true. Sometimes it is easier to look at what is better to not happen. Will being grumpy make it better? No. It only makes it worse and puts the focus back on us when we should be looking at Him. Should we take the focus off ourselves? Yes, that helps and is also a partially true statement. Because, if we are not careful to do that in the right way, it will also leave us feeling empty and wanting more. I am hinting at a way of being. We choose to keep walking. We choose to deal relationally with those around us through thick and thin. What does that mean? It means this. In our moments of pain we turn our gaze to Jesus and little by little a great transformation can occur. The secret is in prayer and prayerfully waiting. When our suffering is very great it is so easy to loose sight of the love that is given us by God through small blessings and the people that God puts in our path to be loved and to love us and see things from a different perspective. I guarantee that even though you may be suffering a lot someone else is suffering far greater.

Over time, and in that patient prayerful silence we begin to see things more sharply and poignantly than if we had not had the suffering in the first place. Things come into focus. When we have the eyes to look, we see Jesus beckoning us to embrace life in all its brokenness for something better that will come. Eternal happiness. Life is going to leave us feeling empty and wanting more. That feeling is a hole in our heart that is longing for God alone. We can try to put many things in that hole but nothing will give us joy in the way that God can. Nothing will give us peace in a way that God can unless our interior eye is looking to the example that our Creator laid out for us. No greater love has man than this than to lay down his life for his friends. What did Our Lord experience? The cross. Can we expect our life to be any easier when he carried so much? Wouldn’t we also in some small measure be expected to carry something with the same amount of grace? Yes, suffering may seem by appearances something ugly. Something that completely takes our breath away. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces and fail to even remotely carry anything. But God sees the heart and when we choose to love it is then that our heart grows and gets ready to lay down our life for others and also for the final time face to face.

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One comment on “The Character of Suffering

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