On Suffering – 3

…the measure of every man’s virtue is best revealed in time of adversity — adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows what he is.  ~The Imitation of Christ by Thomas aKempis

We know what it is, we are beginning to understand why we are called to suffer, but do we understand how?  Is there a formula for suffering well?

First, I think it’s important to address what it does not mean to suffer well.  It doesn’t mean a stoic absence of emotion.  It’s not a holy “sucking it up” and getting over it.  Tears are perfectly legitimate, as is  verbalizing to God how we feel:

This hurts!

I feel vulnerable/embarrassed/humiliated.

It’s too heavy…I can’t do this…I need help.

I don’t like this.

Why?

How much longer?

Where are you?

Suffering well is not passive.  You can’t crawl back under your covers until the trial has passed, ignore it, or will it away.  It doesn’t work like that.   For an excellent example of this, check out Psalm 88.  This is not a quiet, passive, peaceful suffering; neither is it quiet resignation. But check it out, in the middle of the complaints, questions, and tears, there is prayer.  He knows where his help comes from; he addresses that Help in the first verse here “O Lord, God of my salvation”.  He recognizes the hand of God in his suffering, and even though he doesn’t understand, as he cries out in desperation “why?”, there he is “every morning” and “every day”, approaching the God of His help in prayer.  I can relate to this, can you?  I go through periods where God is silent, I don’t feel His presence, I feel alone, forgotten and burdened.

It’s easy to be distracted by the pain of the burden, but in learning to suffer well, you learn how to offer up that pain to the Lord, and join Him in his sufferings.  Remember, “He suffered, died and was buried”.  We can–are encouraged to, in fact– join Jesus, or “go to him” in his suffering, and bear the same abuse he endured.  Check it out:

Hebrews 13:12 Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood.

13 Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.

14 For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.

16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

And I love the practical application.  Not only is there an exhortation, but a “how to”–

by the fruit of lips

offer up a sacrifice of praise

do good and share

...I know why it’s called a “sacrifice” of praise.  Because when I’m in the “depths of despair”, the last thing my natural person wants to do is to praise.  I have to give up my natural, selfish desires…and offer a sacrifice of praise.

I don’t want to sing, I want to cry.

I don’t want to be thankful, I want to complain.

I don’t want to think of others, I want to pull the blankets back over my head and feel sorry for myself.

But I believe that suffering is active.  And honestly, before God as my witness, deep down, in the Spirit that He has placed in me, is a strong desire to follow Jesus.  And His own words echo in my soul, that if that’s what I really want, then I need to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Him.  We hoist that cross…whatever that cross may be, whether it is physical or emotional, financial, or relational…up on our backs and carry it, willingly.  The road may  not be a short one, it may be one that takes years to walk, and the cross is heavy.

But we are not alone.  We are united to Him in His suffering.  We are carrying His cross with Him.  We are imitating and becoming one with Him in His sorrows and sufferings.  In knowing this, we can offer up our sufferings, cries, complaints and selfish desires to Him by the fruit of our lips, in praise to Him, and in doing good to others.

********

I thought I had finished this post, but as I do with many of my pieces, I scheduled this so I could sleep on it, so to speak.  Often, I will publish a post and afterwards think “Oh, I should have included thus and such”, and the thought itself is not enough for a blog post, so it is not really included.  By waiting, I can work in those stray thoughts and new examples.  This happened with this post, when I read 8 kids and a businness’ post on Tuesday.  She brings up a couple excellent examples of suffering well.

In many people’s eyes, committing assisted suicide is a brave choice.  What I see as brave is the elderly woman with a chronic debilitating disease who cries out in pain at something so simple as having her leg lifted but she tells the nurse to lift it anyway.  She fights for a dignified life each day.  What’s brave is the person whose body, ravaged by cancer, is unrecognizable even to family members.  In her lucid moments she continues to offer up to God her pain and suffering.  Brave is the family of the terminally ill child who lovingly minister to his needs until his final breath.  Brave is the family of a disabled child who sacrifice finances, time and career in order to provide the best quality-of-life for their child.

Read the rest for yourself, it is so good, and a message we need to hear today.

This post was edited to add links to my other posts about suffering.

Of Suffering

On Suffering – 2

21 Words for Suffering

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9 comments on “On Suffering – 3

    • Thank you, I’m glad to hear feedback. I meant to put links to my first two posts about suffering, I will do that…as they kind of flow one into the other. Welcome to New Things!
      Lyn

  1. “not a holy sucking it up”
    I love it! Thanks for a great post, and memorable explanation on what redemptive suffering exactly perhaps might mean

    • Thank you for your kind words, Kat. I’ll be the first to admit, knowing and doing are two different things, and thought the knowing is there, sometimes the doing is slow to follow.

      Lyn

  2. Very, very, and more very well written Lyn! 🙂 This to me is one of your best. “Redemptive suffering.” I am the first to admit, “I do not like it.” How well I do it makes all the difference in the world. How I offer it for others makes all the difference also. Uniting it to Christ is truly the only way to get through it. There is no getting around it, and we might as well “learn how to do it!” This post reminds us how! Great job! God Bless, SR

    • Thank you, SR. I’m still learning, and have not yet completely grasped the offering it up part for others, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

      Blessings,
      Lyn

  3. Okay, finally getting to it. This is what offering our sufferings for others has come to mean to me. 1. We are becoming more “Christ-like” as that is just what He did. 2. I offer mine for the kids at St. Jude and their families in hopes that their lives are saved and their parents can take them home. I offer them for the poor, hungry, thirsty, and homeless, that these sufferings will come off of them. The Holy souls in purgatory, etc… 3. It allows me to “suffer graciously.” I did not use the word “happy” here, as I do not “like” to suffer. There is a joy in it, that I can unite with the sufferings of Christ, and that is where my difference lies. I am sorry but I am not “happy” when I suffer. When I unite them with the sufferings of Christ, I know that is what is going to give my “offerings” meaning. I know there is a “sick” child whose parents are going to take them home. I know there is a hungry person being fed, etc… 4. This is what allows me to do it “graciously.” My sufferings on their own mean nothing, but when offered and united with the Cross, they take on a whole new meaning. 5. Does this mean I never complain? Heavens no!!! It does mean, “Christ who lives in me” will eventually take over, and give me the “grace” to bear it, when I let Him. So I hope this helps. God Bless, SR

    • So, in attempt to wrap my brain around the implications of the words. It sounds like you saying that when we suffer, we can pray that our trials will bring relief to another, as we unite it with Christ’s suffering…am I onto it, or way off the mark?

  4. Right on target Girlfriend!!! It is the uniting ours with His, that give them meaning and results. Always remember this Lyn, “We are nothing in and of ourselves without Christ.” Because of Christ, it gives meaning to everything we think, feel, suffer, say, and do! You are right on the money! God Bless, SR

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