Suffering shows itself in many different ways:  pain, distress, hardship, defeat, loss, damage, illness, injury.  Often life is “worse” because of being badly affected by an experience. When the reality of suffering is yours, and even the possibility of death, let me be candid:  You must face it.  This means:

  1. You can’t run from it.
  2. You can’t fake it.
  3. You can’t sleep it off.
  4. Your appearance won’t improve your lot.  (Fancy watch doesn’t matter).
  5. Your job title has no significance.

When you are undergoing suffering, you may experience different responses from other people:

  1. Many you know will not be as close to you, not because they don’t like you but because they can’t suffer with you – it hurts too much.  Try to understand, but realize they are still a friend.
  2. Some, too, will try to fix you, assuming they have the right way for you to recover from your suffering.  Thank them, but only a miraculous God could have a fix.
  3. Some will try to comfort you by telling you a story about another who has it much worse than you.  Listen, but know they do not fully discern your pain.
  4. The rare one will enter your suffering with you, not leaving you, not trying to fix you, not verbally sympathizing with you, but listening and suffering with you.  How?

a)  Just be there.
b)  Listen well.
c)  Don’t fix it; it cannot be fixed.
d)  Live peace.
e)  Pray.

Personally, when asked to live through his final days with a friend, I found these five wise steps by Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest, to be helpful.

No longer do I refuse to shed tears.  I welcome tears for they are gifts to those who suffer and joy to our own hearts.  If I feel sorry for myself, I shift my attention to the one who suffered beyond measure for you and me on a cross, a symbol of suffering.  It is where The Christ suffered so that we could become His ambassadors to those who suffer.

Yes, there is way too much suffering.  We can run from it, or we can face it.  This is the perspective, the frame of mind, that can even bring joy in the midst of suffering.  It can be found at the foot of the CROSS.