“The rose’s rarest essence lives in the thorns” Rumi
Everyone suffers at one time in life or another. No one makes it through a life lived fully without the heart wrenching pain of suffering visiting at least once. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that comes to prove you as though something strange were happening to you” 1 Peter 4:12. The verse that follows says to rejoice in the suffering so you may also rejoice when the glory is revealed. I think rejoice is a pretty strong word but I think it is trying to tell us that there is nothing to fear in suffering and that great things will come out of it if we just turn to God.
Suffering is an extraordinary growth opportunity. A crisis consists of both danger and great opportunity. In suffering there is great opportunity to end something and begin something new. We can accept that suffering is part of our growth process here on earth, and is a way to wake us up to the truth that we are much greater beings than any triggering event of suffering. We get subtle hints when we veer off course, and the symptoms get more and more intense unless we turn and remember our Source. If we know that suffering is only a last-ditch effort to wake us up to the truth of God and our own divinity and power in relationship to God, then we can remember to turn immediately to God in suffering and be able to experience that moment when the grace of God, the glory of God, falls.
I believe that the meaning we ascribe to suffering is the key to whether we become bitter or better. If we blame another or God for the suffering it leads to bitterness. If we turn to self pity we are turning away from the power to transform. If we are willing to feel the pain and step into the unknown, we can come through the other side holding the unexpected gift of suffering.
T.S. Eliot said “We had the experience but missed the meaning. An approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form”. Do not let your suffering be in vain, meaningless, or cause you to harden, become bitter, or turn away from God. Turning towards the suffering and bringing the light of God into it will transform the suffering into a new form.
When faced with unimaginable suffering, how do you make meaning so as to change the experience into a new form? The answer is to let go of blame of yourself, others, or God. Don’t ask “why?” and don’t go into self-pity. Ask how can this experience be used for the glory of God? How can I grow, expand, or learn more about myself and the power of God in this situation? Take courage to go into the dark feelings that suffering engenders. When you allow yourself to feel the feelings while asking the Spirit of God to accompany you, the deeper meaning of life itself will be discovered.
Here are some verses that point to the meaning found within suffering:
“He uncovers the deeps out of darkness, and brings deep darkness to light” Job 12:22
“The light, they say, is near to the darkness” Job 17:22
“The thing that is hid he brings forth to light” Job 28:11
“Where is wisdom found?…God understands the way to it” Job 28:23
In suffering, God knows the way that we could never know, our job is to turn towards Him.
“Listen to me, be silent, and I will teach you wisdom” Job 33:33
“Teach me what I do not see” Job 34:32
“He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ears by adversity” Job 36:15
“It [suffering] occurs for correction, consciousness, or love” Job 37:13
Suffering is not random or without meaning, it is meant for bringing us closer to God and to grow our soul. It is an impetus “via negativa” to arrive at a higher level of love, expand, and to find the place deep within our own heart that is invulnerable and can never be touched by suffering. In this invulnerable place, brought to us by our very vulnerability, we are already one with God. Living from that spot we can live here and now on earth in the kingdom of heaven.
When you know the truth, the truth will set you free John 8:32. If the Son makes you free you will be free indeed John 8:36.
If we turn toward God in suffering, and allow ourselves to feel the unbearable pain and darkness, the light of the Spirit will enter in, and we find the grace and peace, love and joy that can only come from inside the heart united with the Spirit. That is the invaluable gift of grace that comes from willingly stepping into the grief, pain, darkness, and agony of going into the pain of suffering. Freedom only comes from going into our biggest fears, the fear that we cannot bear the suffering or pain, the fear that we will die from intense grief, or that if we feel the pain we will die, or never stop crying, or even go insane. But once we have let ourself go to the deepest darkest place within and asked the Holy Spirit to enter, or cry out to God from that deepest darkest place, and the healing balm and peace of God falls like a river, we are never afraid again. Then we KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that God is real and present, and we never again have anything to fear. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” (Joseph Campbell). We realize we do not have to bear our pain alone, that we can never be separated from the healing love balm of God. We directly experience the peace that passes all understanding through the intervention of the Holy Spirit and fear disappears. That is the disguised gift of suffering. If we allow ourself to completely let go of control and be vulnerable, we are able to find the invulnerable place within where suffering can never again visit.
Mercy in Disguise: Laura’s Song: Blessings