When Suffering Leads to Pain and When Suffering Leads to GrowthNov 10, 2020
I hate exercise, but I do it. I hate lifting weights and riding my exercise bike, but I do it. I do it because, if I do, I will be healthier, will live longer, and will feel better.
So, why bring up exercise when we're talking about suffering and grief? Well, first of all, it shows you that I am naturally lazy. But seriously, I bring it up because physical exercise and suffering is analogous to personal growth and suffering. Pain can bring health. As we go through the pain of exercising our bodies, we gain strength and good things happen. But there is something else at work.
Physiologists tell us there is a reason I am sore after I lift weights: in fact, as I write this, I am really sore, as I just resumed weight lifting after several months off. I am sore because I have worked my muscles past their ability. I have stretched their capacity. After my workout, they re-create and rejuvenate and grow back to a higher level of development than before. I tear down to rebuild. And through the process of pain, growth happens. I hate it, but it is good.
Certain suffering tears down aspects of our character that need to be torn down and builds up new aspects of our character that need in order to live as we designed to live. So suffering can be good. It can take us to places where one more season of “comfort” cannot.
But suffering can also be terrible. Some suffering is not a “wound… to heal.“ Such suffering inflicts evil on a person’s heart and soul.
I sometimes use this analogy when I speak: “If one of you walked out of this meeting, and a guy with a mask walked up to you in the dark parking lot, took out a knife, stabbed you in the stomach, took all your money, and left you in an unconscious state, you would call him a mugger. Someone would call the police, and they would try to find the perpetrator.
“But if you left this meeting, drove down the street to the local hospital, and a guy with a mask came to you in a brightly lit room, took out a knife, cut your stomach open, took all your money, and left you in an unconscious state, you would call him a doctor and thank him for helping you. One is a mugging, and the other is surgery.”
Suffering is a lot like that. There is therapeutic suffering. And there is destructive suffering at the hands of evil people. The key is to be able to tell the difference between the two and to apply the right kind of experience to each.
Fist thing we want to do is to distinguish between the muggings and the “growth sufferings.” When life mugs someone, we need to give him or her healing support, love, and comfort. We need to give strength and life healing, support to those who are weak from things that have happened to them. We hurt, and we need help. When dealing with your own suffering or that of others, therefore, first figure out hurt and suffering that needs healing and support. Get that for yourself, or give it to those you are helping. Make sure you are not getting the writing advice-advice that does not in any way fit the pain. Also, check yourself before giving advice to others who are suffering. Make sure you are not ascribing fault where there is none.