Suffering Well

I wrote this about two years ago, and I am amazed how the truth of it still stands.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:9)

coffee-and-bibleGod has the power to to change the direction of our day at a moments notice. It happened to me today. My morning did not start off with the intention of praying for those who are suffering.  In fact, that wasn’t even on my agenda. I was engrossed in my daily Bible reading plan, my cup of coffee (fully loaded with my very favorite pumpkin spice creamer), and my journal.  My agenda was set.

It was an urgent phone call early this morning from a friend of mine that changed the course for my entire day.  We live in a world full of people who are hurting. It’s a world where people every day wake up in despair, struggling with depression, anger, and thoughts of suicide.  Millions wake up each morning with a longing deep within their empty hearts for something greater, something more, and most of them will fill that emptiness with things that will not satisfy their souls.

As the details of the story began to unravel over the phone, a sick feeling came over me like a punch to the gut. I knew where they were coming from.  I’ve seen the devastating effects of depression in my life, and in the lives of so many people that I love dearly.  I lived without the hope that they so long for, and for those of you who have walked down that road, you know it is a miserable place to be.

broken-world-broken-peopleI didn’t have to know many details to know the situation, or know what the outcome could be. I didn’t even personally know the person they were telling me about, but I knew exactly what words to say, I knew exactly how to pray for them.  I wonder if the sick feeling that I experienced was even about their situation at all or was it rather my familiarity with it?

I’ve seen the crushing devastation that a suicide brings to a family, and how it tears them apart, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  I’ve seen a family who has never recovered from the loss of their child due to suicide.  How can you ‘recover’ from such a thing? To even suggest you can recover from such a tragedy seems absurd. We all lost a friend that night, but their family lost so much more – he was a son, a grandson, a cousin, and a brother.  Almost two decades later there is still a emptiness in their heart that longs for the day they will see him again. If you were to talk to them today they would tell you about the pain they still struggle with every day over the loss of their son. I still continue to pray for this dear family, and I think of Eric often.  I’m amazed by the impact that young man left on my own life.

During my prayer time this morning I was reminded of the day that I came very close to ending my own life. I’ve never shared that story with anyone, and until today I had kept that part of my life dead and buried.  I was all alone. I was desperate, hurting, and empty inside. I wanted, no.. I longed to be dead to this world.

I remember the razors and the cutting.  I had to wear long sleeves during that hot summer month so that no one would see what I had done. I remember the night I sat alone in the bathroom floor with a knife, contemplating slicing my wrists, and I remember the tears.  I shed so many tears over the emptiness that had filled my life, and even more were shed over the fact that I couldn’t go through with it. So I sat there in the middle of the floor and I just wept for what must have been hours. Morning came and life … however difficult… went on.

I’d like to tell you that God saved me that night, but He didn’t.  One of the scariest realizations that I have of that night, many years later, is that I never even considered crying out to Him.  If I had died that night I know where I would be, and that is a terrifying thought.  You see, I thought that God was not interested in me or my problems.  Why would He want to be bothered when all I had ever done was hurt people?  I spent years of my life using women, cheating,  and wasting every moment  I had for my own self-pleasure.  Surely God was not interested in me.

I was wrong.  Like so many who struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide I was believing a lie.  He was definitely interested in my life, but the problem was that I was not interested in Him. For the next decade I would continue to live my life on my own terms, hurting others, and seeking any way that I could to find happiness, regardless of what it cost others, including my own family.  I was in a downward spiral with no end in sight, but thankfully God sees the end from the beginning, and He knew what it was going to take for me to come to the end of myself.  Even when I couldn’t see Him, He was at work through situations, circumstances, and especially through the failures in my life.

It was about 20 years ago that I sat in the floor of that bathroom, empty and without hope. 8 years ago, God gave me an eternal hope when He saved me.

So, why am I sharing all of this with you?

The simple answer is also the hardest answer.  People are hurting.  People are without hope.  They are without the one thing that can truly set them free.  It’s simple because we have that hope. It’s difficult because God wants us to be the ones to share that hope.  We have the answer that they are so desperately seeking in all of the wrong things.  We have opportunities every day to share that hope with this desperate and hurting world. We have Jesus.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:9)

We are living in a world imprisoned by strongholds, oppressed on every side, but God is our stronghold.  He is a refuge for the hurting and the broken.

For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and He has not hidden His face from him, but has heard, when he cried to Him. (Psalms 22:24)

The world is full of people who are afflicted.  The night I sat down in that bathroom determined that I would die, the Lord was there with me. He had already determined that I would live. He heard my cries, and although I didn’t understand it at the time, He was working His perfect plan for my salvation.  I can look back on that night with confidence and comfort knowing that His plan was what was best for me, because the events that transpired in my life after that night led me to complete surrender.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Christian, do you believe this?  How are you living this out?

At church the other night someone mentioned the many trials a particular family had been going through and they mentioned how God was at work through them  and said they were “suffering well.”

What does it mean to suffer well? 

I doubt I can explain the depths of it in this post. Besides I’m already past the word limit for most of your average blog posts.  We live in a culture that has very little time to waste, and very little patience to work through the difficult things in life, much less a difficult blog post but for now I will say this:

People are watching us. Whether you realize it or not, they are watching you, and they are watching me.  They want to know if what we have is for real.  They’ve heard us talk the talk, but they need to see us walk the walk, and God will give us many opportunities to do this in the midst of suffering.

What happens whenever we suffer matters.

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