Suffering . . . and How to Keep it From Becoming a Trauma


I‘m writing this as we celebrate our July 4 Independence Day in the U.S., and I wanted to write something upbeat, something about freedom.

However, in the past week or so it seems I’ve been seeing nothing but suffering in the lives of my friends, family, clients, and myself. And I’ve already written about freedom before, so if you want to ponder some thoughts on getting free from key and common heart issues, go here and here.

But if you are suffering in any way, perhaps the thoughts below will bring you some perspective and even comfort.

You are Not Alone

First, if you are suffering, know that you are not alone.

One of the things that makes a situation traumatic is feeling alone in it. (I wrote about that here.)

It seems to me that despite the world supposedly opening up to some kind of normalcy, there is a lot of suffering going on—often silently.

I saw it in the faces of a couple venturing forth from their home as I ambled along on my morning walk. The obese man was pushing an empty wheelchair, no doubt for his wife who was walking beside him, clinging to his arm. He probably didn’t know how far they would get before she would need the wheelchair. I said hello, but they didn’t even look at me, their faces vacant, suffering.

 A few moments later, I heard it in someone’s screams emanating from a house as I walked by. Later that day, I talked to a client, a medical professional, who told me about the heartbreak he felt concerning a woman with tongue cancer. She was 35 years old, had five children, and her prognosis was bleak. Some of us who are Highly Sensitive or empathic suffer just by seeing other people’s suffering. We can’t help it.

Another client shared about the unbelievable suffering she and her family experienced watching her daughter screaming in pain after the surgery to try to combat cancer.

On and on it goes. I attended a memory care support group and a woman there broke down and told us what she was dealing with just that day: a dying dog, her husband’s mistake of clicking on a link that gave the computer a virus, and all their bank accounts were hacked. Also, she had a 95-year-old mother with dementia who was having problems. Too much! Too much!

The Big Questions

How could a good God allow suffering? Why doesn’t he step in and do something? These are questions that we quite naturally ask when we are suffering.

Instead of an answer, I offer a question of my own: how could God the Father allow the unimaginable, unjust suffering of his Son at the crucifixion?

At the cross of Jesus, we see that unimaginable suffering is allowed, but only for a purpose. The Father allowed Jesus’ suffering, and Jesus was willing to do it, because there was a certain purpose in mind.

And it was a big purpose: the redemption of the world.

Also, his suffering was not the last word. Jesus rose from the dead, and Scripture tells us he is seated at the right hand of God, currently in the process of making all things new and reconciling everything to himself.

This has not yet been completed, and so we live in “the already and not yet.” Redemption is already secured, but we do not yet experience it fully.

However, we can know that we are not left alone in our suffering. Jesus, who himself suffered, comes alongside us, and really can comfort us. The Father, who himself suffered by seeing his own Son suffer, also understands.

Paul the Apostle calls God “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

We can find comfort, but only if we are willing to turn toward God and not away. As I told the suffering mother, if you turn away from God now, where can you go? If you turn away from the only Source of life and hope, what are you left with?


What is Your Worldview?

Suffering, I think, forces us to face the paradigm we hold of How Things Are (our worldview).

To oversimplify, it seems to me there are two main, and opposing, views.

One is that this world is under enemy-occupied territory. It is ruled by a spiritual enemy that is literally hell-bent on keeping people from God. This enemy is a liar, and his goal is to kill, steal and destroy wherever possible. People consistently make the choice to resist God, and so they fall subject to this spiritual enemy. This is where evil originates: first in Satan, then also in our own, bent-away-from God (i.e. sinful) heart.

In this worldview, however, there is also a God who is good, and who has done something himself about both Satan and the sinful nature of our own hearts. By taking on our humanity, God the Son died the death we deserved, and rose again to conquer death and sin and evil. Now he lives to make all things new—in our hearts first, and also in the world.

He is now actively working to reconcile everything to himself.

You may resist this view for the more “positive” world view, that the world is ruled by a benign force and everything works out in the end when everyone dissolves in the light of all being, or something. Some even seem to believe that there is no real objective world, everything is a projection of our own minds.

Which world view matches what you see and experience?

What I never understood about this second view is where evil fits in. If you hold the view that everyone is good and everything will all work out in the end (without the intervention of God), can you please enlighten me here? I sincerely want to know what you make of things like senseless shootings; how people like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot and other terrorists could rise to power and annihilate millions; the iron fistedness of Communist China; people murdering their own family members, etc. etc.?

It may be difficult and uncomfortable to believe that the world is more against us than for us. (Which, by the way, is one reason I believe that. It not only matches history and the world I see and experience, but also, since it’s not what we naturally want to believe, it seems more likely that it’s something we could know only by God’s revelation.)

But remember, in this world view, though there is a force that is against us, God is not! God is FOR those who trust in him, and greater is he that can be in you than he who is in the world. I can attest personally that God works in the lives of those who trust him. (My book, Abundant Gifts, is all about this.)

Finding Hope

When we suffer, it’s as if dark, stormy, threatening clouds obscure the sun, to the point where if we didn’t know there was a sun, we would despair of ever seeing light again.

But we know that the storm will pass, and we will see the sun yet again at some point.

If you can turn to Father God in faith that he, like the sun, is present though you can’t right now perceive him … if you can grab hold of the faith that your suffering is not for naught . . . if you can trust that God is able and willing to do something purposeful with the suffering, as he did with his own Son Jesus . . . then you will, I believe, find succor.

You may not see the purpose right now (or ever, in this life), but if you trust there is a purpose, you will find strength to bear your suffering, and sometimes, even deliverance from it.

It’s not easy, but it seems to me in the end, trust is the only option with hope attached to it.

Faith, hope, and the compassionate presence and love of a God who experienced suffering first hand—these will abide forever. Grab hold of them, and find strength.

My closing prayer for all you who suffer, whether for yourself or others:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

And if you ever need someone to witness and validate your suffering, and help heal the root of it, check out my coaching at HealingCodesCoaching.com.

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