“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30).
In the introduction to his commentary on the book of Lamentations, Eugene Peterson writes, “To be human is to suffer. No one gets an exemption. Lamentations keeps company with the extensive biblical witness that gives dignity to suffering by insisting that God enters our suffering and is companion to our suffering.” Certainly we see God appear in the pages of the Gospels through the person of Jesus the suffering King.
It’s been said that there are two guarantees in life, death and taxes. At the risk of sounding like a glass half empty person, I would add a third item to the list- suffering. Suffering is a part of the human condition. We all experience it. Some of the time it’s the result of our own foolish choices or the choices of others, and some perhaps from random circumstance.
But, how we respond to suffering determines what’s next for us and our world.
What’s the best way to respond? I am still learning.
Here are a few practices I have found helpful.
1. Acknowledge your suffering. Don’t deny it or repress it, or you will end up bitter and eventually explode or implode as the built up pain becomes too great.
2. Talk about it with God (and other people you trust such as a pastor, counselor or dear friend). Jesus understands and He empathizes. Don’t hide your emotions or thoughts from Him. If you are angry with life, people, or even God, tell Him. He has broad shoulders.
3. Make a mental list of the things you are grateful for despite your suffering. Gratefulness is medicine to the heart. It’s a salve on our wounds and reminds us that all is not lost.
4. Help others. Bless those in need around you. We have an opportunity each day to either make the world a better place or add to the suffering. There is no middle ground.
A family member came down with a debilitating disease in the prime of her life, she raised her two children to see Jesus in her, kept serving, hosted small groups and Bible studies for women, learned to play the piano and engaged with other in their suffering while struggling herself.
A mom of three youth in my ministry was dying of cancer, she remained grateful and pointed her children toward her loving Father.
A dear friend found her thirty something year old daughter lifeless, she continued to get out of bed and serve the most vulnerable and broken of our city.
A friend was struck by an evil disease as a child that left her unable to walk, she gave her life to studying the sciences, earning her PhD so she could help find cures for others.
When a 1st century Rabbi was abused and tried for crimes that He did commit, He choose to take on the sins of his perpetrators, and your’s and mine, by dying on a cross and raising from the grave to conquer our greatest foes and suffering-death and sin. “It still remains a wonder, how one Man could take all the blame.”
John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
I want to be that kind of a person. I want to respond to life in this manner. How about you?
Do you have pain or past trauma you are holding in? Can you talk to God or trust friend about it today?
How can you lift the burden of another today?
(Picture of the sunrise on the Sea of Kinnesaret/Galilee)