Here is a scary equation: suffering – purpose = suicide. There is one thing worse than suffering and that’s being convinced that it serves no purpose. But, knowing, believing and acting on the fact that it does have a purpose is helpful in suffering.
Suffering is not senseless. It has a purpose in your life. Think with me for a minute. Isn’t it ironic that some of the greatest advances in medicine, charity and social justice have followed immense suffering? Suffering is a strange creature. It is like the Sun. It can burn you and give you skin cancer while at the same time be the source of warmth and life. The Sun melts the ice producing a flow of water and at the same time evaporates the very water it just gave. Suffering inflicts mental, emotional and physical pain and at the same time it can produce sympathy, empathy and love.
Suffering is not our greatest problem our response to it is. Choosing to believe that suffering has a purpose in your life won’t make your suffering go away or feel better. But, it can give you a sense of purpose and allow you to see a bigger picture for you life, which in turn can give you strength, resolve and hope.
Do you know what’s so hard about suffering for me? Seeing anything other than my suffering! Nothing blinds a soul like suffering. I’m going to go a step further. If this doesn’t apply to you stop reading. Honestly, suffering is the single greatest cause for introspective self absorption in my life and nothing fuels my depression and doubt more.
Ok, so what helps? One, knowing, believing and trusting that God sees my suffering, that He’s sovereign in it and that He is going to ensure that a great purpose is realized in it. Two, reminding myself that most of the major character advances I’ve experienced have come through suffering. It has a purpose. Here is a running list of things that I have personally experienced as God has worked His purposes in my life when I suffer: dependence, patience, humility, sympathy, empathy, grace, strength, sight, endurance, pleasure and the glory of God. Three, realizing my suffering can impact people in ways my success never will. People are watching and they watch more when you suffer than when you succeed. It may sound selfish but most of my heroes are people who suffered, Jesus being on top of the list.