Is Life Really All About Suffering?


The other day, during some of my devotional reading, I came across a quote from  F. Scott Fitzgerald that was both sobering and thought-provoking.  

Life is so damned hard... It just hurts people, and hurts people, until finally, it hurts them so that they can't be hurt ever anymore.  That's the last and worst thing it does. 

Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, died at age 44 of a heart attack brought on by years of excessive drinking.  Even though he attained sobriety in the last year of his life, the abuse had taken its toll. 

He would never know how important his work would become just a few years after his death and that Gatsby, a commercial failure during his lifetime, would one day be hailed as "the great American novel." 

Fitzgerald's brilliance was often overshadowed by his life's trials and tribulations, and knowing all of that, it's not surprising to read the above quote, realizing that as he came to an end, he looked back with regret and sadness. 

But what of that quote?  Is there any truth in it? 

There is, sadly.  For some, life feels like an endless series of body blows until finally, they grow numb to the pain, unable to truly feel, experience joy, find happiness and purpose. 

Most of us have had seasons when we've felt the same way, even if only for a time. The seasons may come and go, but we retain the evidence they were there, like an aching bruise that won't disappear. 

Life is genuinely "so damned hard" sometimes.  There's no getting around it.  And for most of us, when we are feeling pain, all we want to do is to make it go away. 

Fitzgerald had a point, though, despite the fatalistic view he embraced: If we reach a point where we no longer feel hurt, it is the "last and worst" thing. 

Avoiding the hurt, ignoring the ache, and numbing ourselves to the pain we feel from life's "slings and arrows" is not helpful; it's even more hurtful to us in the long run.  

We should not aspire to never be hurt again. Instead, we should aspire to transcend our pain, let it teach us, but never let it overcome us. 

Fitzgerald's assessment of life contains a not-so-subtle tinge of self-pity that also feels devoid of hope. It's sobering and thought-provoking, but it's also not an epitaph I want on my tombstone, if you know what I mean. 

We will feel pain in life, but how we deal with it determines the course of our journey.  

We can become resigned to what we believe to be our fate, wallowing in the pity we feel for ourselves, immobilized, morose, and fatalistic.  Or we can let ourselves feel the pain, bear it, recognize it, and learn from it.  

And then, in the words of St. Matthew McConaughey, the patron of Austin, TX: 

Just keep livin'

I should also add that we should not merely live but be alive.  Ultimately, this is what God wants for us more than anything.  We were not created simply to be driven down by the cares of life.  We were created for so much more. 

May we all come to know this and live more fully in it.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever.  Amen.  


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