The apostle Paul had a unique view of suffering. Having lived through imprisonment, shipwrecks, floggings and personal attacks he wrote to the new church start in Rome: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
I wish I could say that I always have that same attitude that Paul carried with him. Most often I grumble and complain when suffering arrives on my doorstep. I’m far more in tune with the psalmist who never fears complaining, knowing his complaints are being heard by God. Certain, that in the hearing, God would be a source of comfort and strength.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From the temple God heard my voice,
and my cry reached God’s ears.” Psalm 18: 6
We all suffer eventually. It’s the shape and form of suffering that changes. Suffering itself, alters us. Some of us grow hard at the broken places, building a wall that no one can get between or through. Others grow tender . . . more sensitive . . . aware now of the hurts of others . . . more conscious of another’s pain and hurt.
Suffering is a teacher – an unwelcome teacher in our lives. Because we are human we are subject to illness and cancer, lumps and dementia, broken bones and allergies, sinus infections and brain fog. We are on the receiving end of the unkind words of others, deserved or undeserved. When our suffering is emotional, our hearts and minds are toyed with. We wonder who we are and if we have somehow missed out on some of the basics. One has to decide about God. Is God the source of our hurt and pain? Are we suffering because of our own foolishness, our own mistakes . . . or the mistakes of others. Were we simply in the wrong places at the wrong time?
In the end, we have to make a decision. What are we going to do with what happens to us in life? What color will we let it be? Will we trust God in our suffering? It is in what we decide that either brings joy or sorrow to our days.