Snowflakes are formed in a hard, cold winter as they gracefully descend from the sky, symbolizing the beauty that can be found even in the midst of harsh conditions. Similarly, our suffering can lead to inner growth and resilience and ultimately bring us closer to the warmth and comfort of God's love. Just as each snowflake is unique, each individual's journey through suffering is unique, but together we can find strength and hope in knowing that we are not alone. As you navigate through your own winter season, remember that there is always the promise of a new beginning, just like the arrival of spring after a long, cold winter.
Likewise, during the summer, harsh, scorching heat can test our endurance and resilience. Just as the sun beats down mercilessly, we feel the weight of our struggles and challenges. However, it is in these moments of intense heat that we can find strength and transformation. Just as the summer sun nourishes the growth of plants and brings vibrant colors to the world, our hardships can foster personal growth and bring out the best in us. So, even in the hottest of times, remember that within the heat lies the potential for renewal and a fresh start.
Just as suffering the cold and heat can positively affect beauty and growth, our pain can also help us grow and become more resilient, drawing us closer to God's love.
Suffering is part of our lives. And no one is exempt from it. We all suffer. We all go through some kind of suffering. But we suffer for different reasons.
In this blog, I will cover some of the causes of suffering and how we can navigate through them. I will explore the concept of self-inflicted suffering, diving into the choices and actions that can lead us down a path of pain. Additionally, I will discuss the impact of external circumstances on our well-being and how to find strength and resilience in the face of adversity. Throughout this blog, I aim to shed light on the importance of compassion and empathy in our collective journey to overcome suffering and find healing. Together, we can learn from our experiences and grow stronger, knowing that we are not alone in our struggles.
#1. Suffering due to personal failures: suffering in relationships due to character flaws, financial suffering, and career failure are just a few examples. For instance, someone may experience suffering in their relationships due to their inability to effectively communicate with or trust others. This can lead to feelings of isolation and heartbreak, causing significant emotional distress. This kind of suffering comes because we are flawed human beings and we make mistakes. However, it is important to remember that our personal failures do not define us. They are opportunities for growth and self-reflection. By acknowledging our shortcomings and taking responsibility for our actions, we can begin the journey towards healing, maturity, and growth.
Financial suffering may arise from poor financial decisions or unexpected hardships, such as being an emotional spender, losing a job, or experiencing medical emergencies, resulting in immense stress and a struggle to make ends meet.
There are many examples in the Bible, but one example that I chose is the life of Samson
(Book of Judges, chapters 13–16). He was so strong that he didn't know any defeats, but his enemy used his one weakness to get his secret so that they could defeat him. His weakness was that he loved beautiful women with no regard for their character or faithfulness. Samson's inability to discern the true intentions of others and his lack of self-control in his relationships ultimately led to his downfall and immense heartbreak. Delilah, his wife, discovered his secret and betrayed him. This led to his capture, blindness, and suffering at the hands of the Philistines. This serves as a reminder that our own actions and decisions can greatly impact our lives and may lead to immense suffering if we are not careful. It is very important to celebrate our strengths and work on our weaknesses. By acknowledging our weaknesses and taking steps to improve upon them, we can strive towards a more fulfilling and successful life.
#2: Suffering due to others' poor decisions or choices: The example of Joshua and Caleb, which is written in the book of Numbers, chapter 13, serves as a perfect illustration of this. While the majority of the Israelite spies returned from Canaan with tales of fear and doubt, Joshua and Caleb remained steadfast in their faith and belief in God's promises. Unfortunately, their fellow Israelites chose to listen to the negative reports and rebel against God's plan. As a result, they were condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years, causing unnecessary suffering for everyone involved, including Joshua and Caleb. Even though they suffered with the others for forty years, eventually, they were the only two people from that generation who entered the Promised Land. Sometimes, we think it's not fair that we should suffer because of others, but we have to remember that God keeps His promises in our lives; it doesn't matter who or what comes our way.
This example highlights that sometimes, despite our own faith and belief in a positive outcome, the actions and disbelief of others can contribute to our suffering. The Israelites had to endure a protracted period of hardship because the majority's lack of faith overshadowed Joshua and Caleb's unwavering faith in God. This serves as a reminder that the actions and choices of others can impact our own lives, even when we are not directly responsible for the suffering caused.
Who we allow or affiliate with has a significant impact on our own experiences and whether we will succeed or suffer. Surrounding ourselves with positive and supportive individuals can uplift us, while choosing to associate with negative and skeptical people can bring us down. It is important to carefully consider the influences and company we keep, as they can greatly shape our journey and determine our outcomes.
#3: Suffering due to health issues: We can eat healthy, exercise, and do all the right things, but sometimes our health can still be affected by factors beyond our control. When we get sick or are caring for a sick family member, we go through suffering not because of our own choices but because of circumstances beyond our control. We can suffer greatly and have many questions about why this is happening to us, but it is important to remember that suffering is a part of life, and how we choose to respond to it can shape our character.
Suffering can make us bitter or better.
#4: Suffering due to emotional pain: We suffer emotionally when we face hardships and challenges that test our resilience and push us beyond our comfort zones. We can also suffer emotionally when we serve people. Trying to do something good and helpful for others can sometimes lead to emotional suffering as we witness the pain and struggles of those we are trying to assist.
I often think of Jesus's mother, Mary, and how she suffered emotionally when she witnessed her son's crucifixion (Book of John, chapter 19). She knew her son didn't have to suffer or deserve such a fate, and yet she had to bear witness to his pain and agony. It must have been unimaginable emotional suffering for her, as she had to watch her beloved child being tortured and killed. In moments like these, we are reminded of the profound depth of emotional suffering that humans can experience. It serves as a reminder that life is not always fair and that sometimes we are forced to endure intense emotional pain without any clear answers or explanations. However, it is during these moments of suffering that we have the opportunity to grow in our strength and resiliency. We can choose to lean on our faith, find comfort in the support of loved ones, and ultimately emerge from these trying times with a stronger character and a renewed sense of purpose.
#5: Suffering due to family members: A family can suffer because of one member whose actions or decisions cause significant pain and turmoil for everyone involved. It could be a mental illness, a parent struggling with addiction, a sibling caught up in criminal behavior, or a troubled relationship between spouses. The consequences of one individual's actions can ripple through a family, causing emotional suffering that can be incredibly difficult to bear.
Families can indeed suffer greatly when one member makes choices that have negative consequences. The first family also went through suffering. In the case of Adam and Eve, their suffering was a result of their son Cain choosing to kill his brother Abel out of blind jealousy (Book of Genesis, chapter 4). This tragic event caused immense pain and grief for Adam and Eve, as they had to bear the weight of their son's actions. It serves as a reminder that the actions of one individual can have far-reaching effects on the entire family, causing pain and suffering in the family. Highlighting the interconnectedness and impact of our choices.
#6: Suffering due to preparing for a brighter future: When we face challenges and obstacles in life, it may feel like our suffering is pointless and unbearable, and we are probably surprised at how pain and suffering prepare us for greater adventure or to take on a greater task.
There is a great story in the Bible, the story of Joseph, which is written in the book of Exodus, chapters 37–42, that we can look to for inspiration and guidance in times of suffering.
Joseph was his father's most favored and most beloved son, but he faced tremendous suffering and betrayal from his own brothers. God revealed to Joseph in a dream the plans that He had for him, but even his father got upset at him for sharing these dreams. Nobody in his family believed his dreams would become reality. He was pampered and was raised to be soft. If he had remained in his father's house, he would have never been ready for the task in the future.
He was sold into slavery and faced years of hardship and injustice. It was not enough that he was a slave in Potiphar's house, as he was then falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and thrown into the royal prison.
However, even in the depths of despair, Joseph held onto his faith and remained steadfast. In prison, he interpreted dreams for fellow inmates, which eventually led to his release and elevation to a high position in Pharaoh's court. Through all the trials and tribulations, Joseph not only learned to forgive, be humble, and be resilient, but he also learned management in Potiphar's house. In prison, he also learned how to work with or manage criminals. God knew he would carry a great responsibility that awaited him and how much stronger he needed to be to manage all the hungry people who would be pressuring him. Joseph's time in prison served as a training ground, honing his skills in leadership and problem-solving. It was here that he learned to navigate the complexities of human nature, gaining insight into the minds of criminals and understanding their motivations. This invaluable experience would later enable him to effectively manage the vast resources of Egypt during the years of famine. Joseph's time in prison not only prepared him for the challenges that lay ahead but also shaped him into a compassionate and wise ruler. He was destined to rule, but he was not ready. He had to go through the suffering in order to save his family and many others from famine. Just like Joseph, your current suffering may be preparing you for a brighter future and equipping you to fulfill a greater purpose. Trust that God is using your pain to shape you into the person He has destined you to be.
#7: God also suffers. The Bible tells us in Exodus 34:6-7 that God is long-suffering. He also experiences pain and grief when His creation makes poor choices because He knows it will hurt them. In the case of Adam and Eve, God's perfect plan for them was disrupted by their disobedience, causing Him to suffer along with them. This shows that God is not immune to the consequences of our actions and that he deeply cares for his creation, even when they make mistakes. It reminds us of the importance of aligning our choices with God's will to minimize suffering in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Not only humans suffer, but the Bible tells us that all creation suffers as well. In Romans 8:20–22, it says, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." This passage reminds us that suffering is not limited to humans alone, but that all of creation experiences its own form of pain and longing for restoration. It reassures us that even in the midst of suffering, there is hope for redemption and a future where all things will be made right.
We, as humans, do not like or want to suffer, but it is unavoidable and serves as a catalyst for growth and transformation. Our salvation came because of Jesus's suffering on the cross for humanity, and His sacrifice is a reminder that suffering can lead to ultimate redemption and restoration. In the face of suffering, we must remember that we are not alone in our pain. It reminds us that our own suffering is not in vain but can be used to bring about a greater good in our lives and in the lives of others. We must remember that our suffering has the potential to make us stronger, more compassionate, and more empathetic towards others who are also experiencing pain. It is through our own experiences of suffering that we can offer support, understanding, and encouragement to those who are going through similar struggles. In this way, our suffering can be transformed into a source of hope and healing for ourselves and for others.
This hope is not just wishful thinking but grounded in the belief that God, as the ultimate creator and sustainer of all things, has a plan to bring about this restoration.
Just as the snowflake falls on the ground and waters the earth, providing nourishment for the dormant seeds buried beneath the frozen soil as it melts, it seeps into the ground, replenishing the earth's moisture and preparing it for the rebirth and regeneration of life.
Similarly, our struggles and challenges can water the seeds of resilience and determination within us, preparing us for a new beginning and a brighter future. So, let us embrace the heat and the cold, for within them lies the power to transform and rejuvenate our lives.
Where are you right now in your journey? Are you suffering because of your own poor choices or because of the choices made by others, or are you blaming others for your suffering and pain? Are you suffering emotionally or physically? These stories from the Bible help us to reflect and think about how our own actions can impact not just ourselves but those around us as well. We can learn valuable lessons in personal growth, and accountability reminds us that our choices have the power to shape not only our own lives but also the lives of those we love. The question isn't why we suffer, but what is the purpose of our suffering? Is it simply to endure and overcome, or is there something greater to be learned or gained from our pain? When we analyze the stories from the Bible, we can see individuals who faced immense suffering, yet their experiences often led to personal transformation and spiritual growth. So perhaps the purpose of our suffering is to challenge us, push us to our limits, and ultimately help us become stronger and more compassionate beings. Instead of dwelling on the reasons for our suffering, we should focus on how we can use it as an opportunity for personal and spiritual development.
What a glorious hope we have in Jesus!
If you are suffering right now, we have resources for you on our website. Learn more about finding hope and comfort in the midst of your suffering. Our website offers a variety of resources, including other blogs, videos, e-courses, and one-on-one counseling.
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Author: Sona Jamgotchian/Biblical Counselor