The Profound Nature of Suffering
Sometimes I want to scream. Somewhere along the way, I decided that someday I’d be through with suffering, but I’m not. The tag I put on it is expired, and yet I’m still suffering.
I hesitate using the word suffering for my struggle. I’ve not been to war. I’ve not lost a leg, been burned in a fire or experienced the death of a child. My suffering isn’t going to kill me.
But sometimes I’ve despaired of life because of it. I’ve thought it might ruin me. It’s certainly changed my life. It changed the way I took care of my parents. And I hate that. Really hate that.
I was 32 years old when it came. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a kind of tiredness that saps the life out of you and isn’t relieved by sleep. There is no cure. They tell you to eat right, to exercise and pace yourself. It subsides for days or weeks and then returns. It decides my schedule, not me. I am its prisoner. I think I am used to being a captive, and then I explode into a crumbled mess of inadequacy. My energy doesn’t meet my expectations.
A decade in, I wasn’t through learning about suffering. A new dimension to it had arrived. I saw it on my mother’s 81-year-old face. On oxygen to help her breathe, she couldn’t walk across a room without becoming winded. I’d learned coping strategies for my own suffering, but not so much for hers. One night, she crossed the room to turn off a fan. She’d never walk again.
Standing in the emergency room after Mom broke her hip, I thought if only we could end suffering for humans with no hope, as we end the pain of our pets. I was shocked by the thought. Though I stand by the belief that the end of life is in God’s hands, I’d touched the desperation that suffering creates.
Mom lived another 11 days. She fell asleep and died at her home with the aide in another room. Having recently left my mother’s side, I was home reading about bedsores. To the end, I didn’t believe she would die. Not yet. Not today.
I spent the next five years asking God why my mother had to suffer. I put the medical and theological reasons together in my head and in my journal. But I still asked the question.
While the extent of the discussion about suffering is too massive to address in this blog, in the end, I think “why” isn’t the question we want to be answered. We know suffering is a fact of life. What we want is some kind of good to come from it. At least give us that.
I’ve got good news for you. If you are asking the “why” question today about your loved one’s suffering or your own, there is a perspective that may help with the reality of suffering. I still struggle. It’s a day by day battle that I still lose too often, but little by little, it is helping me accept my limitations.
I do not welcome suffering, but I realize it helps us to let go of the stranglehold on a decaying world. As beautiful as life is, our death is a reality. I want to be prepared to meet my maker and to live in a spiritual realm. I want something to hold onto while my body grows sick and weak. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not out for the count. I’m fighting for life, but I know that it has an end.
Suffering may push us away from God. We may blame him. Or we may cling to him instead. We learn to rest in an eternity before us – and that as we journey toward it, there is a God who hasn’t abandoned us. We are not alone.
Are you struggling today with pain or heartache? Will you take your hurt to God?
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