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What Can Be Good About Suffering?


Not much to be honest. At least not in the way we would think.

I have been interviewing people on the topic of suffering. It is a hard topic with few answers. But I wanted to share some of the things that struck me as profound, and helpful for people to know when sharing life with someone who is suffering (and let’s face it, if you haven’t suffered yet, just wait. It’s coming).

It is impossible to cover the topic of suffering in one blog post. Actually, it’s impossible to ever really cover it completely. It’s so complex, and too painful for most of us to ever really dig down to the bottom. But I just wanted to share some of the raw, honest parts. And I quickly noticed a pattern with the people I interviewed. I noticed most said the same things, just in a different way. It didn’t matter so much what the pain and suffering was; what they said was the same. I interviewed people with cancer, those who lost their spouses or children, those who have broken hearts, and the list goes on and on...I learned that no matter the cause, pain is real and pain changes who we are and how we live our lives.

I have also experienced pieces of suffering in my life. Ten years of infertility, three miscarriages, health struggles, and a child with mental illness are a few. I have learned so much after talking to people who are hurting as well. I think it’s so important to learn how to be with and respond to a person who is deeply suffering. We have all been hurt by someone who was insensitive or just unaware of how to respond to us as we were experiencing deep grief. I put the list of thoughts (and quotes from those I interviewed) together below as a snapshot, a way to learn about how someone may think or feel when in deep pain. It is by no means an all-inclusive list. I found it so helpful to talk to people; I hope you find it helpful too. The goal is that we would all respond a little more like Jesus:

  • It is okay to ask God why. He made us and He made our emotions. He can handle the questions. You may not be thrilled about His answer, but you can ask Him.

  • When I am in the middle of suffering, when my body is sick or my heart feels shattered, my mind is also sick and broken. Our minds get sick too. We cannot see clearly and we cannot think clearly. I had never thought about this before. This is a critical time to cling to Jesus and stay in His Word so that we are hearing truth at a time when we are very vulnerable to believe lies. Our enemy attacks us when we are already down. He doesn’t wait until we are well again.

  • Giving God thanks and praise anyway, when we are broken and feel like we can’t go on, is “the bridge” to a glimpse of joy or hope in a desperate situation. Gratitude is huge in the healing process. We may not want to praise Him; but when we do it anyway, it becomes an act of faith and a sacrifice of praise to Him. I believe with all my heart that God honors that.

  • “One of my biggest struggles was envy of other people’s health. I confessed it to God, but it was so hard. I didn’t realize how sinful my nature was until I got sick and all these ugly thoughts and feelings rose up in me. I didn’t know I still had that in me. We often and quickly jump into the nearest ditch spiritually. But slowly God is bringing that garbage up to the surface in me, and skimming it off. I realized how big God’s grace toward me is. He repeatedly offers His grace and love to me. He never leaves me, even in the deep valleys.” - quote from a woman with cancer

  • When talking to someone who is suffering, do not offer suggestions or try to fix it. Don’t tell them to have more faith and trust God’s plan. There is a time for that. But when someone is desperate and broken-hearted or has a broken body, that is NOT the time. Just be with them. You don’t have to say anything. Often it’s best not to say anything. If you feel you need to say something, say...
    “This must be so hard” or “I am so sorry this is happening to you.” That’s all. No matter how ugly or messy the situation is, let the person know you are happy to be with them (by sitting close or touching them) and love them, no matter what. This is a healing balm to the heart.

  • Let the person struggle with their faith. Don’t offer advice or ways to feel better. Suffering causes struggle and causes questions. This is the fight we are in. We are human and we don’t want to suffer. But in this broken world, struggle is an unfortunate reality. Suffering makes us desperate for God. Our questions may drive us away from God or to Him. We can pray for each other, but it is a process. And it can be a long process. It takes time and tears, and God’s tender mercy toward us.

  • “Don’t make the suffering person feel guilty about being sick. God is sovereign. If He wants to heal me, He will. If He has another plan, then that is what will happen. Don’t question the amount of faith a person has or ask if they have sin in their life. People are devastated enough and this only makes it worse.” - person with cancer

  • “Some people say they aren’t afraid of death. But honestly, I am. I know I’m going to heaven so I’m not afraid of eternity. But I dread what I may have to go through, the pain I may experience here on earth, to get to eternity. I dread going through the valley of the shadow of death. I dread the pain of suffering, and the suffering of those who love me. I have to take this fear to God daily.”

  • “Since I have been sick, I look at other people in a whole new way. I have more compassion, I see their pain, and I’m sensitive to how I respond to them and love them. My priorities are totally different. I don’t care about stuff anymore.I have a huge urgency to tell others about Jesus and to share the gospel.”

  • My suffering was mental and physical. I didn’t think I could take it sometimes. But then I would think of Jesus. Not only did He suffer huge amounts of torture, mocking, and degrading...but He bore the sins of the whole world (past, present, and future) upon Himself. There is no way for our human minds to comprehend what He went through. He begged God for another way (three times). He begged so much that He was sweating drops of blood. But when He got His answer, He stood up and faced the crowd of soldiers who were coming to take Him away. The words He spoke as He prayed in the garden come to mind; “Thy will be done.”

The result: Jesus saved the entire world. Someday we won’t have to experience suffering anymore if we are in Christ.

Jesus is a King who understands suffering because He suffered deeply. He experienced all of the emotions we do. He begged and pleaded with God for a different way.

So we ask, is there anything good about suffering?

Mostly, it just really hurts. But if you look again, you may see some slivers of hope. You may see transformation of hearts. And you will see the love and message of Jesus being shared as we lean on those in our families and communities.

A song that I love. It’s sad and painful and it makes me cry every time. But I love it. I hope you do too..

Click on picture below to hear the song by Hillary Scott and The Scott Family called, “Thy Will:”

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If you are an imperfect wife, mom, daughter, or friend, struggling to stay focused on God in the craziness and find joy in the heartache, then we have something in common. I am a recovering perfectionist and daughter of the King, slowly learning to fully trust the One who sees me just as I am, and is already pleased. I’m so glad you are here.

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