Grow Up In Suffering
Some folks might describe it as "having a bad day" or that they are "riding the struggle bus." Others might say they are "feeling down" or "playing a bad hand."
There are still others that might refer to it as "a terrible season," a "stroke of bad luck," or say that it's "just something I'm going through."
Call it what you will; suffering is something that touches it all.
The culture within which we inhabit is suffering-averse, as I've mentioned here before. It sells a pipe dream to most of us that we shouldn't suffer if we are willing to do what it takes or pay whatever it costs to feel better.
And we buy what it's selling.
Even if what we buy is merely one more thing to numb our pain.
Then there's the issue of everyone else's expectations which we also deal with. When feeling gutted with grief, overcome with sadness and despair, we do everything we can to hide it from the rest of the world.
We're told we're "doing great" by friends and loved ones when we paste a smile on our faces and act like nothing is wrong, even when we're falling apart inside.
Hardly anyone ever tells us the truth about suffering---that it's nothing to be ashamed of, something we all feel and absolutely necessary to grow as human beings.
We aren't encouraged to embrace the suffering we feel, allow it to work on us, or let ourselves experience our feelings during tough times. We seldom hear anyone say, "You are allowed to feel this way."
Author James Baldwin once wrote:
People who cannot suffer, can never grow up, can never discover who they are.
I have tried to teach this to my children. I've told them they will learn far more from losing than winning. I've cheered their success enthusiastically and stood beside them when they failed or came up short.
You sometimes wonder how much of those life lessons sink into your kids- the lessons we have learned in our own right but also keep relearning. I know that I do. I want them to know that their feelings are instructive and valid when they are struggling.
I don't want them growing up with walled-up places in their soul as they hide their true selves from the world.
I also don't want them doing everything they can to avoid suffering, even though I know they will be sorely tempted like the rest of us.
God doesn't cause all things, so God is not at the heart of our suffering. God is not putting us through an obstacle course of tests to prove our worth. God doesn't cause all things but is present in all things.
It is this knowledge that should give us the kind of strength to let suffering do its work without overcoming us. We are held in the hands of a loving God with us through every hard thing we face.
We will suffer. And we will grow.
And God will keep holding us, covering us in love, grace, and life. We will not be shaken in the end. There is more on the other side of the struggle. We are more on the other side of the struggle.
May this knowledge give you joy, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.