I hate it when people think they know everything. Or even when someone has an inflated sense of what they know about any one thing. But someone said to me recently, "I wish you would tell us more of what you know. Because you do. You know."
And so here they are, a few things I know about suffering.
What I Wish I Could Have Learned Another Way
(But I Couldn't Because That Isn't The Way That Learning Goes)
Suffering doesn’t last forever. It feels like forever when you’re in it, but it doesn’t have the power to stay. Sorrow lasts for a night, sometimes a long and dark season of many nights. Perhaps hundreds of them. But in suffering, there is indeed a promise: joy comes in the morning. That morning might be tomorrow.
Suffering will not be wasted. Purpose and meaning hold hands with suffering; one brings the other. If you don’t want to find meaning in the heartbreak and the loss, then you can ignore it right back to sleep. Meaning can stay hidden if you turn out the lights long enough, if you refuse to let the light in. But if you are brave enough to watch for the flowers that grow in a pile of ashes, then there’s a garden waiting to bloom.
Suffering makes you an expert. Suffering is a great equalizer, a great teacher. The courage to hold your own broken heart will teach you more about life and hope and love than a dozen books on the subject. Suffering makes you an expert in the ability to comfort others in the way you have been comforted.
Suffering creates a spectrum. When you’ve lived through the worst, you compare everything to that. And nothing, ever, is as bad as that.
Suffering isn’t scary; worrying is. I have found many, many days that I’ve been terrified to start, but I haven’t yet found a day I couldn’t finish. When I worry about what is to come, I spin circles around myself and create a web that holds me captive. When I simply do the next thing, I find that I’m always able, whether I wanted to be or not.
Suffering gives you something to be proud of. At the end of the day, you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “You’re one hell of a human being. You know what you did? You did that. And that was no small thing.”
We also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
and character, hope.