Why do we suffer?
I’ve thought about that question more than I care to admit over these past few months. Why does suffering exist, and why does it hurt so bad?
These past few months were very difficult for me. Nothing seemed to be going my way. I wasn’t enjoying school, none of my friends seemed to want to hang out with me, and I was really missing my cast of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (a show I was in a couple months ago). I tried out for my school’s spring One Acts and made them, but I dreaded going to rehearsals and wished I got cut (ugh I was so selfish). I was constantly in a bad mood and was a jerk to everyone. I was ungrateful, I was tired, and honestly, I was scared of who I was becoming.
I didn’t want to try in school. I didn’t want to get together with friends because I was secretly afraid they all hated me. I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and do something productive in my day. I just wanted to lie in my bed and shut out the world and my problems. I was sick of trying to be so bubbly and happy on the outside, when on the inside all I wanted to do was go home, lock myself in my room and cry.
It scared me. It really did. For three months, I wasn’t happy. Now I wasn’t anywhere near depressed, but I just felt sad. Sad, alone, and very tired. And I had no idea what I was feeling, and I had no idea what to do.
The weird thing was, I had trust in God. I knew that God placed me in that situation for a reason, and I trusted that, I really did. But it was some sort of… disconnected trust. I knew I was put there for a reason, and I knew somehow God was going to use that experience to shape me, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. And I didn’t even try to make the best out of it. I just wallowed in pain and self-pity, praying that this hurt would pass and I would move on with my life and write some stupid inspiring thing about it and pretend it never happened.
And here comes the cliche part- yes I learned stuff. I learned a heck of a lot stuff, the hard way. And to prevent you all from taking the hard way, here are some nuggets of wisdom that I gained throughout these past few months.
1. It’s okay to suffer.
As Christians, we sign up to suffer. God never said that life would be easy. He never promised an easy route with butterflies and happiness. In fact, he promises that we will face trials and tribulations. But you know what? God is with us through the entire thing, whether we can feel Him or not. Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
2. You aren’t the only one.
A mistake I made these past few months was feeling sorry for myself and pretending I was the only person in the world with problems. And oh MAN was I wrong. Every single person that is currently walking this planet is carrying a boatload of things that I will never pretend to fully understand. We are never ever alone. I am not alone in my struggles. That means two things- one, I can’t walk around pretending that everyone should be feeling sorry for me, and two- there are people that who’ve gone through the same things and can help. Never believe that you are the only one with scary feelings and thoughts. Never think you are abnormal and completely different from the rest of the population. Everyone’s going through something- never forget that.
3. No pain, no gain.
There are so many metaphors for the growth you receive during pain. You can’t be cleansed unless you are put through deep waters. A seed must be buried deep in dirt before it can grow. No pain, no gain. But what is so beautiful as Christians, is that we are promised hope. “The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that is coming.” Romans 8:18. But what is there to hope for if suffering is just an endless cycle of feeling happy, being reeled in by unrest and negativity, suffering, then starting over again? Well here comes number four.
4. Suffering leads to Heaven.
Yessiree. I could talk about this subject for DAYS but I shall summarize. Recently, my theology class was assigned a podcast over Heaven. Going in, I was expecting just another 20 minute podcast of factual things that I should write down and memorize for the test. But from the first few minutes, I was completely entranced. The podcast put the perspective of Heaven in a completely different light. I won’t get into too much detail now (I’ll probably write a separate post about this) but one of the things my theology teacher said in the discussion afterward was “The suffering of the cross would be meaningless without Heaven.” Woah. Our suffering on Earth would be meaningless without Heaven. But Heaven exists… so our suffering must have significance! Every time we suffer, our heart grows bigger and bigger- which gives us more capacity to receive God’s love in Heaven. Oh, if we truly knew the beauty of Heaven, I am sure that every human being would long to suffer! (I’m definitely writing another post… these quotes need so much more explanation!)
5. Pain unites us with the Divine.
There was particularly bad day when I showed up to youth group in tears. Immediately my friend took me aside and told me we were going to go on a walk. I told her what I was struggling with, and my confusion with my feelings. I asked her, “What do I do?” And right of the bat she said “Unite your sufferings to Christ.” That sounded so… off-putting at first. It sounded like something only extremely holy people did, and too complicated for me especially. I asked her what she meant and she went on to explain that one of the reasons Christ became man was to experience the deepest, darkest, most painful parts of humanity. He suffered for us, and more importantly, with us. Our goal is to become like Christ, right? So that must mean we too, must suffer as well. And it’s amazing how much my mindset has changed. When I become so cold that I start complaining, I stop myself and realize how cold Jesus must’ve been hanging on the cross. When I’m at home whining about no one wanting to invite me places, I think about how Jesus lost so many friends because people believed he was a heretic. When I do something stupid and embarrass myself, I redirect my thoughts to the embarrassment of Jesus, the savior of the world, reduced to nothing but a “condemned” corpse waiting to die. And how beautiful is it to take the smallest of annoyances and immediately unite it with the divine? Our sufferings no longer stay selfish and pitiful, but they become tools that Jesus can use to help others. WOAH.
6. God loves broken things.
If God had a hobby, it would be fixing things. I’m living proof, you’re living proof… in fact this entire earth is living proof. (Throwback to Noah and the flood, God forgiving David, Jesus saving us all… practically all of Salvation History). God never gives up on you. He will never stop gluing the pieces that fell apart; but He can’t do anything if you don’t let Him. We must first surrender everything to God. We don’t have to carry these burdens around all the time! Something I learned from listening to a podcast by Fr. Mike Schmitz was a new perspective on the verse “Take upon my yoke, for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Back in those days, a yoke was something carried by beasts of burden. Notice how “beasts” is plural… this is because a common yoke had two spots. Jesus isn’t like “Yo, take my yoke” and He just shoves it upon us and swaggers out of the picture. NO NO NO my friends, He is carrying the burden WITH US. He is right along beside us! In fact, the cross is our yoke, the burden that only we deserved. But Jesus was the one carrying it to Calvary, not us. He fixed our broken hearts with His own.
And as I write this, I realize that my suffering isn’t near over. In fact, suffering never truly stops- not until we reach Heaven. And I know there will be plenty of other times in my life when I give up, scream at God, and question why I must be put through so much pain. But there is a part of my heart that has changed from these last few months. Suffering seems just a little bit more sweeter, and I pray that my soul will remember that the next time I raise my fists to God.
So from my past to yours…. it get’s better. It hurts, but it gets better. And you’ll grow. And it may not seem like that right now. In fact, you may be laughing at my cliche-iness right now. But if you take away anything from this post, take away the fact that God knows exactly where you are going, and He is satisfied. God placed you in this exact moment for the right reason, and He gives the hardest battles to His strongest soldiers. Please never give up.
Never, ever give up, because God will never, ever give up on you.
All through Christ,