Thursday, 31 January 2013
On occasion, in the past, I would find myself complaining about an unfortunate incident that would have happened to me. My flatmate at the time, and now one of my dearest friends, would be subjected to listen to me complain. On one such day of complaining, I remember saying to her "Why me!" and she replied, with perfect comedic timing, "And why not!"
Going through suffering is something we all have to endure at every stage of our lives. The scale of the event causing the suffering can arguably be measured objectively, but the distress it causes to the individual is subjective. For example, a toddler falls and scrapes his knee. This is clearly not the end of the world but given the way the toddler is screaming the place down you might expect it to be so. Suffering is unique to the individual person. For the bystanders, the most helpful thing to do is laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry.
It is not possible to avoid suffering but is it possible to suffer well? It is easy to mistake someone who is suffering well with someone who is putting on a brave face through their trials. That is not suffering well. Nor is it denying your circumstances. Nor is it pinning your hopes on a false notion that things will get better - believe me, that is a devastating mistake. To suffer well is to let go of control and to trust in the one who is in control. A large part of my suffering in the past was formed by my need to be in control and control the environment around me. But if I was totally honest, I wasn't in control of anything either in suffering or out of it. You could say that I was in control of my daily routine; not the case when I sleep through my alarm!
I have faced a lot of suffering in my life, but the one thing that I have noticed is that suffering produces perseverance and it refines your character. It is often said, that when they are at their lowest point, that is where they find God. This is certainly true in my case. It is really hard to describe something that is invisible, but I knew God was with me through those terrible times. There was this one time when I was so distressed and I cried out to God and immediately this calmness descended on me like a thick blanket and I felt safe.
The trials that I have faced, have drawn me closer to God and have built my faith in Him. All I need to do is take a trip down memory lane and I can see where He has helped me and brought me through. But what's more amazing is that I know that God actually understands and feels my pain too. I know in my heart that God looks after me, just because I suffer in this life, does not change that fact. God doesn't inflict suffering on people, that is the job of the enemy and the effects of sin, but he does use all things for the good of those who love him.
When you know God, you can rest. You find that strength will rise up inside of you that is not your own. To suffer well is to keep your eyes on the goal. The goal is not to have an easy life, but to run the race of life with perseverance; not giving up half way; not choosing a different path but keep on keeping on with your eyes fixed on Jesus. It is then, at the end of this life, when you will hear the sweetest words any Christian can wish to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant". And that is how you suffer well.