Suffering and What We Choose to Do with It

I was recently listening to a 2006 interview with the late Catholic priest Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy on his approach to spiritual matters. During the conversation, a woman relayed to him how her son (who had been plagued for the last twenty years with a brain injury) had died suddenly from a combination choking incident and heart attack. The tragedy fell unexpectedly upon the young man after his mother had finally begun to see progress in his debilitating condition. In understandable frustration, she asked Dr. Coomaraswamy why some people like her son had to suffer in this world.

Also mentioned in the days prior to her son’s death, he had begun to write things like “I hope the angels are coming down on me again tonight” and “I’m going real soon to see the good Lord.” Could he have been receiving some sort of prophetic revelation to allow both him and his mother to prepare? This is certainly not the first I’ve heard or experienced personally of this.

However, the mother’s concerning question is one that I’m sure many of us can relate to or may have even asked ourselves amidst situations that seemingly challenge our faith. Dr. Coomaraswamy’s response was rather thought-provoking in itself. Here is what he had to say…

“Suffering is something very mysterious. It’s often said that we can’t join Christ in His glory, but we can join Him in His suffering. And surprising as it may seem, suffering is really, very often, a tremendous blessing. It’s what we do with the suffering that makes a difference.”

It would appear that in this brief account the son might have offered up his suffering to God and just accepted it—therefore it is easy to see how the mother now became the one suffering. God surely took notice of the young man, as he was apparently visited by angels, according to the testimony. Now whether or not you believe that part of the story, it would appear that regardless of whatever God throws at us, He helps us walk through the circumstance, knowing we are never alone to deal with it by ourselves.

There are those, when faced with suffering, will become angry or extremely upset at God. They become impossible to deal with as they try to rationalize their circumstance with their own logic. Speaking from experience, this mindset doesn’t do much good. Yet it is perfectly normal to feel outrage like the mother did in her situation. After all, we are only human. We have emotions. We become troubled by the things that shake us even though we may not quite understand why God allows our turmoil to begin with.

Instead of allowing ourselves to become completely consumed by all the “bad things” that happen to us, we should look to Him to supply us with strength—so we can truly find the strength in Him to overcome and look past the circumstance itself. After all, Jesus said to His disciples…

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I often think back to the moments when I was right smack dab in the middle of a painful separation from my wife (ultimately leading to divorce). I recall being so frustrated with God that I was flat out yelling at Him. There was one night—right after a terrible argument we had, and the night before I had to be up extra early for a film shoot. The chance of a good night’s rest had all been ruined. I wanted to cancel the shoot. I was extremely furious as to why God would allow me to remain in such darkness. There was no definitive rationale for the separation. There was no clear reason as to why I was being treated in the way I had been. I was so upset that He would not provide me an answer or a plan to end my suffering… Why did my wife walk out on me? What did I do wrong? Nothing makes sense, why can’t I just understand how she is feeling? How do I get out of this? Lord, HELP ME!!!!

Having no answer is often more painful than a “no” answer.

I cried out so loud in anger that my neighbors must have thought I murdered someone. And yet, in that moment of grief, little did I know that I was unknowingly being surrounded by His grace. I recalled the story of Jacob who wrestled with God one night in Genesis 32. So I shouted back to Him, “Fine! Then if you’re not going to provide me with an answer, I’m going to cling to You with every ounce of strength and anger left in my heart! Be prepared to be annoyed Lord, because I’m not going to leave you alone with my prayers!!”

And that is exactly the position He wants us to be in. To be unwilling to ever let Him go, even if it hurts.

The very next morning, He provided my heart with the calm peace and the energy that I needed to successfully pull off my film shoot, even without ever being given clear-cut answers to the marriage situation. It’s strange how things work out sometimes. When we trust in the Lord, and lean on Him in times of our own weaknesses, He remains faithful and provide us with the ability to overcome any obstacle.

So just because things seem dark in your circumstances, please don’t give up on Christ, my friend. Cling to Him and never let Him go. For it may be in these difficult situations that He is also pulling you even closer to Him than ever before—to provide the strength we truly need to overcome the world.