Monday, April 12, 2010

A Lesson from Suffering

Suffering is something that no one can escape. I am often reminded when preaching a funeral that one day I’ll be mourning the loss of someone in my family. I will be the one seeking the comfort rather than simply trying to give it. I think we often overlook the great lesson of humility that should come with suffering. Suffering causes us to ask questions that we don’t like to face. These questions are usually very difficult for us to answer. Yet, rather than being angry when we are stumped, perhaps a better solution would be to learn humility.

Suffering is a great leveling force. When we are faced with a terminal illness or condition our money makes little difference. When people are suffering I haven’t heard them long for more accolades or prestige. No, the cry is the same for everyone – relief. Even the desire for relief is humbling. If we could deliver it to ourselves, we would. Wouldn’t you agree that it is humbling to long for relief and be unable to find it? We are devastated by the reality that we are not self-sufficient after all. We are left to realize that we are indeed finite. We are left to realize that the world keeps turning even when we are on the sick bed. Those are stark revelations for many of us. Our pride fuels us to think that everyone is need of our intellect, opinions or abilities. Suffering humbles us and teaches us this is not so.

Suffering also hurts our pride because we realize we need help from others. Often we will settle for something that is less than the best because we are protecting our pride. We are award-winning actors as we try to make others believe we can manage for ourselves. However, when real suffering comes we can’t help but call for help. When others have to bathe us or help us to the bathroom our pride can’t last. Suffering brings this humility.

I can’t help but think of how God uses this process. Suffering causes us to realize that we need others. And, how we need our Creator. We are reminded of how frail and needy we are. We believe our bodies to be strong, but they can be broken in a second. We believe our spirit to be persevering, but it can be brought low in an instant. We may go to extreme measures to hide it, but the truth is we are needy people.

Will you look for humility in suffering? Perhaps you’ve known it before, but have forgotten. Won’t you remember to serve others? One day you will need to be served by others. Won’t you comfort those who grieve? One day you will need to be comforted? Don’t waste the suffering God intends to use for good. Learn from it, help others and turn to Him for help.

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