For some it’s a nagging, persistent pain in the body or in the heart that just won’t go away. Could be a touch of arthritis or the slap of ongoing rejection. Both hurt and make us a bit gimpy in different ways.
Aging brings its myriad afflictions. The aches are new every morning! Is it suffering to endure these injustices of time? These cruel remnants of the Fall?
I have tinnitus. Both ears house a non-stop high-pitched whine. It started in the early 90s on the heels of a particularly bad sinus infection. The doctor said I suffered from a high frequency hearing loss that could have been brought on by exposure to loud or persistent noise. There’s no cure, so I endure it day in and day out. Is this suffering?
A little more than a year ago, my wife and I moved in with her Dad. He’s 86 and was widowed the year before we moved in, which was the motivation to do so. I watch him, bent, hobble around the house as age does its inexorable work in his body. But, if he’s suffering, he doesn’t say. At least not in so many words.
An older, King James sense of the word “suffer” means to “permit.” So, we “suffer” the little children to approach. It’s an interesting twist. Do I permit the ringing in my ears?
Paul claims that suffering builds character. In other words, eventually, it’s all good. As we endure suffering we are made better, more Christ-like. In that case, permitting those things that bring suffering may be the right attitude.
Then there is “suffering” that really isn’t. Having to wait in a long queue is inconvenient but not suffering. Wanting to go to a concert and discovering the tickets are sold out is disappointing but not suffering. Being a fan of a consistently losing sports team is frustrating but not suffering. Discernment and wisdom is called for in this process.
The news is full of sufferable situations. Losing a loved one in a mass shooting. Having a child kidnapped and murdered. Enduring your country being overtaken by violent enemies. Being beaten and robbed on the street. Surviving near-death amidst an extreme natural disaster. Facing decapitation because you refused to deny your faith. These are examples of suffering.
And yet, in these and similar situations, as those affected are interviewed by the Press, so often, while they are clearly grief-stricken, they don’t embrace the descriptor of “one who is suffering.” Rather, they view themselves as overcomers.
So it all comes back to, compared against what Christ endured, what is suffering? In this precious, mostly cushy life we live, we really haven’t suffered much at all even when times were hard. But perhaps we have overcome much as we lose ourselves in Him and the grace gained because of His suffering.
After all, grace wins.
Have you suffered? Are you suffering? How did or do you deal with it? How do you minister grace to others you know who are suffering? How important is the grace of God in your life? Please feel free to share your insights in the comments!