Recently I read an article in the New York Times called “What Suffering Does” by David Brooks that I want to share with you. I promise it isn’t as bleak or depressing as it sounds! And the topic of this post has nothing to do with the photo above; I just love the photo. It was the view from the condo Michael and I stayed in for our honeymoon.
The idea of suffering implies pain and long-term distress doesn’t it? To suffer is to undergo, to be subject to, to endure. We know that when a person uses the word “suffer” they mean more than a passing sense of pain or distress; they mean something persistent, something gnawing and deep.
I guess I found David Brooks’ article so very interesting because he is naming and describing something I have felt but never thought about trying to describe. I spent many months in a state of fear and anxiety after my heart attack. Diagnosed with a rare disease of the arteries with hardly anything known about it was incredibly overwhelming. I consider what I went through as mental and emotional suffering.
From suffering comes change. A person doesn’t go through an extended period of physical, mental or emotional torment without changing.
And although incredibly difficult, suffering can produce positive results. David Brooks talks about parents who lose a child developing a foundation; a person with a chronic illness may start a support group. Someone who has suffered through a long-term stressful situation in their work may start their own business helping others manage stress. There are myriad examples of people who have suffered through a season of loss, defeat, or illness. They have emerged, not fully and not completely without pain. They are different, deeper in thoughts, perhaps more positive.
The point is, although none of us would choose to suffer, it is these seasons of pain that shape us. Looking back on what made us stronger, that which propelled us into doing something more meaningful with our lives, may be the events that caused us pain.
If this topic is of interest to you, I highly recommend reading David Brooks’ article.
Make it a good week!