For the past two years (not this year) I have been involved leading a group of older ladies in a small group. It is the first time I have been in a group of all older women. I wasn’t sure I would like it. I was wrong. It has been delightful on many levels. The common caricature of old women being grouchy is so not true! For the most part, I would say that most old ladies I know, are able to laugh at themselves quickly and find humor in many of life’s events easily.
If you talk to them very long, you will find that most of them live with some degree of physical pain, have survived a fair amount of suffering throughout their lives (at the very least), and understand the term suffering to be something experienced at many levels: physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional.
Yet, without exception, when the topic came up in that group, each one agreed that although suffering is horrible, they would not pass up the suffering they had been through because of what they learned from it. Pretty amazing isn’t it? A group of 8-10 women aged 60-75ish from a variety of walks of life who could find many things to disagree on, but not this one thing!
What 3 things do we learn from suffering?
- One thing we learn from this hard time is compassion. This was pointed out in a recent study we have been doing in a book Caring for One Another by Edward T. Welch. The chapter on suffering likened it to being in the desert. There are plenty of similarities for sure! He compares it specifically to the desert time for the children of Israel. He describes it as a place of destitution and powerlessness. Wow! I would certainly agree that for much of my more recent suffering, that would describe many of my feelings!
Have you ever met someone who has either been sheltered from or never experienced suffering?
They don’t know how to show compassion or even feel it. Granted, suffering is hard. There is no minimizing it. The longer it lasts, the harder it is. But out of suffering comes compassion. We understand what it feels like to suffer and we feel for those who are suffering even if they are suffering in different ways from the ways we suffer.
The person who was made fun of, has compassion for those who are made fun of in ways no one else does. She may need to go through a process of healing so she doesn’t overreact in her “compassion” and beat up those bullies, but I’m discussing the compassion side right now. The same goes for those who have been hungry or poor. They know what it feels like to be bereft and they feel for those who are in the same situation. They may not want to ever be around it again either, but there is still a part of them that feels for the children in that circumstance.
The outcome is that they understand how hard the suffering was and they learn compassion.
- Another outcome of suffering is that it grows our faith. During times of suffering, we have seen GOD provide what was needed: endurance, enablement, finances, comfort….you name it. We saw Him provide and come through. Sometimes, it was at a time we were faithful to Him, sometimes we were faithless and He still cared for us. Either way, our faith tends to be deepened during this time or as a result of it.
- More is happening than just the hardship. This is just a reminder that during suffering, there is so much more going on than simply the one event. We usually feel alone…even with others around us. But GOD is there…always.
He is working on our hearts…softening, making changes. For Believers who suffer, we come to realize that before long. Suffering is lonely. But we are not alone if we are in Christ. That is the most encouraging thing to remember. Often, it is not simply the event that is causing our suffering that has happened, but other surrounding events as well. It often deepens our relationships as we walk together with family members or others through this suffering. It often makes us aware of idols we are worshiping in the place of GOD. He makes us aware of where our important priorities lie. In general, He makes us more tender through our times of suffering…tender and patient.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have,
for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:5-8 ESV
Yes, this is the right verse. The context surprised me. I won’t lie. But I left it all in. We can chew on all of it. If we are suffering, we can remember that GOD won’t leave us, that He is our helper, that we have nothing to fear if He is our helper and that He is not changing!
If we are suffering in ways that relate to money directly or indirectly or if loved ones are suffering and our love of money is preventing us from helping them, we may need to take this to heart. I have no idea. This is so not an issue in my family. I have loved ones who have been extremely generous. Their generosity has pushed me to learn to manage my money more carefully. So I am struggling with some of this myself!
Chew on this passage where you must. Blessings to all of us as we grow in this area of suffering. It covers more areas than anticipated.