Be Unstoppable: A New Look at Suffering
Normally, we recoil from suffering. I know I do, and I’m not sure I know anyone who actually welcomes pain, outside a few exercise fanatics who live by the creed of no pain, no gain.
At best, suffering slows us down; it’s a hindrance, a hurdle to climb over, a speed bump to bring us to a crawl. At worst, suffering is debilitating. It knocks us to our knees, maybe even pushes us to our bellies, and holds us there, the bully with a knee in our back.
No one likes real suffering. We avoid it, run from it, hide from it, try to escape its awful clutches any way we can. And when we see it coming, stalking us like some creep stranger in a dark alley we either pretend we don’t see it and hope it goes away or start praying it somehow overlooks us.
We tell ourselves that suffering is not our friend, in fact, it’s our enemy, our foe, our greatest villain. It’s a great big, blistered and bleeding, bug-eyed, greasy-haired, stench-emanating monster that wants to shred our happiness and make our life as difficult as possible.
But what if we’re wrong? That’s right, I just asked that. What if we’re wrong about suffering? What if it’s not so much a monster as it is a blessing? Or at the very least a conduit through which blessings may pass . . . if we allow them passage, that is.
I’ve been through cancer, a monster in its own right. And that monster brought with it a hefty helping of suffering. Surgeries, chemotherapy and its awful side-effects, illness, depression, you name it, cancer was good for it. And one thing I learned is that while suffering is not man’s best friend, it’s not a jolly neighbor who brings laughter and happiness, and it’s no where near roses and lollipops, it is useful and can serve a very important purpose.
During my year of cancer battling I experienced God in ways I honestly didn’t think were possible, in ways I certainly had never experienced him before and most likely never would have. Suffering did that. It introduced a new room in my relationship with God, opened my eyes to see him in a different light.
See, during suffering we are most vulnerable, our emotions are closest to the surface, and we see the contrast most distinctly between our own fragility and God’s omnipotence, between our humanity and his holiness, between our weakness and his strength.
And it is during those times that we are driven to him, to his arms, his comfort, his love, his security. We see him as that loving father who tenderly cares for his child and protects her and comforts her and, while not taking the pain away, holds her in the midst of it.
Suffering does that. It opens our eyes and shows us our Father in his true light. It shows us the intricacies of his love, the dependability of his watchfulness, the gentleness of his care.
When we are sick, he is our physician. When we are depressed, he is our counselor. When we are lost, he is our shepherd. When we are frightened, he is our protector. When we are weak, he is our strength. When we are lame, he is our support. When we are bombarded from every side, he is our fortress. We we are burdened, he is our help. When we are lonely, he is our true friend.
Suffering does that. And without it we may never see God as he desires to be seen, or experience him as he should be experienced, or trust him as he deserves to be trusted.
Suffering does not need to be an obstacle. It doesn’t have to be something to elicit our repulsion. Suffering can be a blessing. A strange, odd, rarely understood blessing.
And hey, if you’re new or even relatively new to this blog, check out my other “Be Unstoppable” posts. Be Unstoppable: Fail Forward; Be Unstoppable: Nothing to Fear; Be Unstoppable: The Story of YOU
Posted on February 6, 2014, in Be Unstoppable, Christian Living, Life in General and tagged battling cancer, be unstoppable, Blessings, Cancer, overcoming suffering, Suffering. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.
You are spot on about suffering. The Lord will and does use suffering to show us how much we need Him. We will a side of Jesus that we wouldn’t otherwise.
And it’s a beautiful side, isn’t it?
I have definitely found this to be true as I struggle through chronic Lyme disease. He is more interested in the formation of our character than in our comfort. It isn’t easy, but I’m practicing being submissive to His will, even when that includes suffering that seems to have no end.
“He is more interested in the formation of our character than in our comfort” . . . powerful, Kyria. Thank you.
Thank you, Mike. I’m sure I heard it or read it somewhere. 😉
I want to add that it helps to have a long-term vision; in the end, all the suffering will be well worth the reward. “Do not, then, lose your boldness, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the desire of Elohim, you receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while – He who is coming shall come and shall not delay.'” Hebrews 10:35-37
Exactly. That’s the topic of an upcoming post . . . you’re getting ahead of me, Kyria! 🙂
Oops, sorry! LOL
this correlates with a study I’m in that includes a chapter on woundedness being a gift. not really what i want to hear 🙂 but along with what you wrote, i believe it. woundedness, i.e. emotional and relational suffering reveals our standards; survival and being nice or pursuing Christlikeness and redemption. my love of authenticity and not wanting to have a game face surfaces my own limitations. all that to say suffering offers a new lens to My Desperate of Him… and getting to experience Him in the depths instead of “where have I even stood but the shores along your ocean?”
excellent post, thanks for what you share of your life and story.
How true, suffering offers us a new lens to our desperation for Him. It reveals just how fragile we really are. Incredible.
Incredibly powerful post, Mike.
Just what I needed to hear. Thanks
Thanks Mike for always giving us a stimulating topic. When God created mankind He also made all of those things that make us human. Suffering is as much a part of human nature as pleasure, laughter and love. We do not need to avoid suffering, just as we should not avoid fun, learning or loss. Each serves an important part in our development as a complete person. As we encounter each remember, God only gives us as much suffering as we can handle. Just don’t get frustrated if He has a very high opinion of you.
For over 30 years I’ve battled several serious diagnosis. Life in the physical sense is very limited, but tremendous pain and suffering has given depth to my spiritual life. I know God, as you stated in your blog, in ways I don’t believe I would have ever known Him. I’ve learned He Is my everything. A very wise counselor once told me, “The price you’re paying is great. Even though I know it doesn’t make sense to you now, one day you’ll be able to look back and praise God for all that you are experiencing. The suffering will have deep meaning in your life.” He was right.