Note from the author: This piece was tucked away in my drafts from February of 2016. Finding it was a sweet treasure as I decided to revamp my blog and start writing again. I feel the timing of it is quite appropriate. I hope it blesses you today and always.
Seasons of life come and go, but one things remains the same. Inevitably, you will experience varying degrees of suffering in your lifetime. To some, suffering means living with a chronic illness or raising a child who has a fatal condition. To others, suffering means living in poverty with limited resources or even going through a trying time financially that causes one to stay up at night worrying. Suffering could also be a child losing their parent, experiencing a miscarriage, or being relentlessly bullied with no end in sight. We all suffer in different ways, just as we all walk different paths; nonetheless more awful than the next person.
While we all suffer in one way or another there is only one question that we should ask ourselves. Do I suffer well?
I came across a quote by St. Therese de Lisieux years ago and it had a profound impact on me. She was no stranger to suffering in her time, but she refused to allow her suffering to impede uniting her heart to Christ. In fact, she used her suffering to draw herself closer to Him. She believed that her suffering, in union with the suffering and death of Christ, could transform the world.
She said, “It’s true, I suffer a great deal. But do I suffer well? That is the question.”
Let that sink deep within your heart and mind, body and soul. Let her words resonate in your life right now. Think of the hardship you might be going through and ask yourself that question. Are you suffering well? Or possibly, are you using your suffering for another purpose?
When my son Connor was given so many grim diagnoses over a decade ago I felt as if God had forsaken me. Years and years of trusting in His goodness and He made my son less than perfect? I wondered how could He could permit this to happen to my son and my family.
It took about a year of deep prayer and adoration until God truly spoke to my heart and I was able to understand that He did not forsake me at all. The child He blessed me with was made in His image so how could Connor be less than perfect? It was through Connor’s suffering that first year of his life that put things into perspective for me. Connor experienced horrific seizures, multiple illnesses, hospital stays, blood draws, surgeries, and through every single trial that he went through he never let it dampen his joyful spirit. I know he experienced deep pain and suffering, and he often expressed it rightfully so, but the Holy Spirit was made present in him even in the most dire circumstances. My child had a heart for Jesus and was truly suffering just as his Savior did so many years ago. But most importantly, Connor was truly suffering well.
No matter what trial you are walking through right now, it is important to know that you are not alone in your suffering. Do not let your suffering make you run from God, but rather let it make you run to Him.
So, how can we attempt to suffer well?
First, acknowledge your suffering. Allow your feelings to flow rather than fester inside. Be vulnerable with your loved ones – letting them know if you so choose. Your openness about your suffering will allow others a peek inside your life and then in turn the love and compassion God instilled in their heart can flow back to you.
Then pray. Be small. Be humble. Be open. Call out to God about these feelings you’re having. Let Him in. Talk to Him in your darkest hours, and also in your brightest. Move away from excessive self-preoccupation, find others and listen to their suffering. Center yourself on others and how you can serve them even in your time of need. Lastly, don’t let your suffering stop you from enjoying the good that is all around you. Find the blessings in your life – the big ones and the small ones.
No amount of suffering you endure can ever separate you from Christ, it can only bring you closer to Him. Our suffering has a place in God’s redemptive love for us if only we can open our hearts to experience it.
When we offer our suffering to God it becomes a gift of inestimable value; drawing down from heaven more grace than any other action we can possibly make.
Go and suffer well, my friends.