Learning from suffering…
Everyone suffers. This is part of the human condition. Why is it then we seek to distract ourselves from it, run from it, eliminate it? It is impossible to eliminate suffering.
I recently heard a young woman reflect on the need for Christians “to learn to suffer well.” She was not promoting suffering but recognizing there are ways to walk through the inevitable sufferings we will face: those we don’t expect and those we know are coming. What does it mean to suffer well?
Rabbi Steve Leder suggests this: “Everyone of us sooner or later walks through hell. The hell of being hurt. The hell of hurting another. The hell of cancer, the hell of divorce, the hell of chronic pain. The hell of anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, a kid in trouble. The hell of a reluctant, shovelful of earth upon the casket of someone we deeply loved. The point is not to come out of hell empty-handed. There is real and profound power in the pain we endure if we transform our suffering into a more authentic, meaningful life.” (More Beautiful Than Before, Steve Leder)
As we live through Lent and anticipate Holy Week, remember this notion in the Christian tradition. Jesus died and went to hell, destroying it for the sake of transforming the world. Imagine that; Christ went to hell and did not come back empty handed but unlocked the gates to set all creation free.
Suffering does transform us. Our power in it is choosing how we let it shape us. Many people remember their suffering by reliving the feelings associated with the memory. But it is possible to remember something and not be possessed of the emotions associated with the event(s). It’s work to do this, make no mistake, but it is work that will transform us to be more whole, healed people.
Suffering is inevitable. It’s part of the human journey. Don’t go through that part of your trip without gaining something that empowers you to live more fully and beautifully.