Lessons of Suffering

Recently, Mark and I had a conference call with a pastor of a large church to pick his brain on some potential writing projects. As he spoke wisdom poured out of his mouth and one of his comments struck me, “God just doesn’t seem real to a lot of people any more.”

He believed a big reason why is due to our avoidance of suffering.

Okay – I don’t like to suffer and I’m guilty of doing my best to rid it in my life and my family’s life. I want everything to be fun, easy-going and feel-good. However, by doing this, am I missing out on an opportunity to experience God in a new and deeper way?

Perhaps I’m not alone in dodging suffering. Our culture has made it convenient for us. If something hurts, we can numb it with a pill. Our mobile and transient lifestyle allows us to escape stressful relationships. We can change churches, schools, jobs, even marriages instead of dealing with the issue.

Please don’t get me wrong – there are times when meds are a must and for safety and sanity, it’s best for us to flee a situation and change location. God did give us a flight instinct as a survival mechanism.

But as I thought about our pastor friend’s comments I realized he’s right – not all suffering is bad and can be beneficial to us.

1.    Suffering shows us what is important – A good friend was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. She’s not talking about success in work, the larger home or new car. Nope, she’s talking about the love of family and friends and a God who saves. Her uncertain future has cleared her vision and she sees what matters – God, family, friends and love.

2.    Suffering makes us stronger – The best athletes are not always the most gifted but the ones who work through and endure the pain of training. Their bodies are stronger and they’ve earned a “can-do” attitude that won’t let them quit. The same principle works with our hearts and mind. We’re able to handle more and what use to paralyze us no longer has control over us. We develop perseverance through pain.

3.    Suffering brings us to our knees – When times are good, we look to ourselves but when times are hard we fall on our knees and look to God. It is these times we see His face and feel His touch. We are able to overcome obstacles that we couldn’t do without Him.

4.    Suffering engages our emotions – Emotions are strong motivators that push us to act. Our compassion and empathy go into sleep mode if they’re not used. When we’re sleeping life around us is happening but we’re not engaged with it and when we’re not engaged, we’re wasting the time God has given us on earth.

There’s a lot of suffering in our world and our quick-fix lifestyle tempt us to avoid it and by-pass it any way possible. But, by prayerfully enduring and facing our challenges, we’re experience God in a whole new and real way.

Praise God in times of peace and embrace Him in times of suffering. In both ways you’ll sense His presence.

What are your views on suffering?

Do you embrace it or avoid it?

How has suffering helped you?


  1. So loved this blog. Hit home for me because I too avoid suffering although yet I know in my heart that often suffering is God’s way of changing us. I also think that at times we (speaking for myself) are not as serious about our relationship with Christ as he has called us to be. Could suffering be his way of roping us back in?

  2. Laurie Russell says:

    Hey Tisha!

    I think you’re right.

    We’ve been through a hard period lately and it’s been a great time of reconnecting with God. Prior to this we were relying on our own strength – not out of rebellion but out of distraction. This hardship has been good for me. It’s reminded me that God’s so much concerned with how much we “do” for Him but instead in that we spend time with Him and long to have it with Him. Much the same that it is with our kids. They long for the time with us more than the stuff we can give them.

    Thanks for sharing!

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