Suffering is universal. It is experienced by all who live and breathe on planet Earth. It cannot be avoided or paid off or scammed. It comes and for some it comes often and brutally. There are many ways to suffer be it emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually. I would not dare to choose which is the easiest to deal with, because suffering is very personal. Some of us can handle physical pain better than emotional or vice versa. In my mind, neither the type nor the amount of suffering can be truly weighed by anyone but the person experiencing it. When people apologize for telling me about their troubles in light of my own suffering, I always tell them there’s no need to apologize. Their troubles are troubles to them. They experience whatever sorrow or pain they do in their own being. If they think it’s bad, then I want to be there for them. I don’t minimize any suffering in light of another.
What I do try to do is share what has helped me through my trials with suffering due to chronic pain. Before I get to that, let me quickly sum up what I have been dealing with to give some context. I have been experiencing chronic pain since 1996. In that time, my quality of life went down considerably as I became less and less able to do everyday things. It got to the point where I spent years on the couch on my stomach because it hurt too much to lie on my side, to sit for more than 15 minutes, and to stand or walk for more than a couple of minutes. The pain is nerve pain that gets worse with pressure. By the grace of God, I have seen some improvement in the last year and a half. My husband created a program that is designed to slowly acclimate me to normal activities again. I am still in pain every day when sitting or standing or walking, but I am making progress. I can now sit up for 45 minutes a number of times a day. In between, I head back to the couch to rest. It’s slow going, but the program is working better than anything else we’ve tried.
Over the years, the pain has fluctuated. Some years were worse than others, but thankfully some days were better than others. I am very grateful for the easier times. Some of the hard days were very hard. There have been many times when just getting through the day was a major accomplishment. The physical suffering has also caused some emotional and spiritual turmoil. I know what it is like to be overcome with grief. I have been beyond the bottom of my rope, that place where you just can’t go on anymore mostly because you just can’t see the point. It is a very low place. I know what it is like to wonder where God is, if he is mad at you, and if things will stay the same awful way forever.
By God’s grace, I did not linger too long in that place or with those thoughts. God provided me with help in his word and through my husband. In the moments when I could not lift myself up or even manage to remember the things in God’s word that bring strength and comfort, my husband preached the word of God to me. Through all my trials, I came to deeply depend upon two things that I learned from the scriptures, two things that I treasure. They are not the only things that help me for God’s word is a treasure trove of grace, but they have a very special place in my heart and mind.
God’s Sovereignty and Hope in God
The two things I am referring to are understanding that God is sovereign overall and having my hope in him. I don’t doubt that without these two things, I would have handled my trials differently. I would have felt the weight of my suffering far more and not have been refreshed when I so desperately needed to be. The physical pain has been bad, but the emotional pain that goes along with it, if experienced without these helps, could have been devastating. Not only would life have been miserable for me, it would also have been miserable for my family. Thanks be to God, he had already opened my eyes to his sovereignty before things got really bad, and in my suffering I learned more about it. I also learned to have my hope in him.
As I wrote above, I try to share what has helped me in my trials when I talk with others about suffering. I believe that a biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty and the hope we have in him can edify and comfort even the most burdened and broken heart. They are powerful help because he is an awesome God. With a desire to pass on the comfort that the God of all comfort has given me, I have added an article in Bible Notes that addresses some of the things I have learned about suffering. I invite you to click through and read Suffering, Hope, and the Sovereignty of God. I pray that what is shared there encourages and comforts, in Jesus’ name.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)