Three Responses to Suffering

You can’t live very long without getting a few “dings” to the heart. By that I mean trials, loss, sorrows of various kinds.

And when it happens, we tend to have one of three responses.

  1. Ignore and Stuff.  One response is to stuff the painful event far away, as if you put it on the back shelf of the closet of your heart, hoping the painful emotions will just go away.  But they won’t.  The heartbreak becomes lodged in our hearts and, as a result, we ourselves become “stuck”.  Stuck in our woundedness, our lack of trust, our belief that “life is hard, and then you die”.  That wound needs lancing.  The way to release the poison is in telling your story – not to just anyone, but to a trusted friend. There is a cleansing that comes from confession to a trusted friend.
  2. Tell Anyone and Everyone.  Another response is to repeatedly shout our story from the rooftops to anyone and everyone that will listen.   Not with the purpose of cleansing our hearts, but rather to declare over and over (and over again) how we’ve been “done wrong”, either by God or by others.  This response keeps a person in victim mode, always the helpless casualty of a particularly painful event, long after the event is over.  When confronted with these destructive attitudes and behaviors, this person is fond of rehearsing his hurts, then concluding with something like, “And that’s why I’m the way that I am.  End of story,”
  3. Your Story for His Glory.  And then occasionally you meet someone whose painful event has caused them to surrender, abandoning all hope of solving the problem or healing the pain on their own, becoming ever dependent on God, and always looking expectantly for His glory in their unwanted circumstance.  It’s not all wrapped up neatly with a pretty bow.  They still have unanswered questions.  There are tears on occasion.  But their painful event now serves, not as a justification for their behavior, but as a testimony to God’s grace in their lives.  Through the tears, there’s a submission to His will resulting in a more tender heart, an outward focus, and a compassion for others who hurt.  There is brokenness, yes.  But there is also joy.  Why? Their story is for His glory.

So, in which response do you see yourself?  

We all have a story of having been hurt.  But some people surrender their stories to God – and He uses them for His glory.  They confess their tears to God – and to others.  And it is those same tears that give them a platform of credibility and hope for others who are hurting.  They don’t claim to understand loss. Nor do they pretend to have it all figured out.  What I hear in their words is this declaration:  “God, I don’t know what You’re doing.  I don’t understand it.  I don’t like it.  But I’m Yours.”

May you and I declare the same, walking forward and seeing God do for us and through us what only He can do.

From “Falling UP:  Lessons Learned on the Way Down”, available on Amazon August 8.




4 thoughts on “Three Responses to Suffering

  1. Brings to mind these lyrics from a old Eddie Carswell & Babbie Mason song . . .
    God is too wise to be mistaken
    God is too good to be unkind
    So when you don’t understand
    When don’t see his plan
    When you can’t trace his hand
    Trust His Heart


    • Very true. I’m inspired by and mention in my book some of those who have experienced great loss, yet have responded in a way that encourages others. Joni Eareckson Tada, Tony Dungy, Kay Warren and others. Through their weaknesses, God shines bright.


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