So, we have been looking at joy the past couple of weeks. And this week, I want to look at one of the great joy disrupters… suffering. Suffering is all around us. You go online, read the news paper, or watch the news, you see suffering everywhere. Think about your own life. Undoubtedly, you know somebody – a friend, a coworker, a loved one – who is experiencing some kind of suffering in their life. Perhaps they lost their job, their marriage is falling apart, their health is deteriorating, or they lost a loved one. Maybe the one who is suffering is you.
Many of you know of the physical suffering I experience in my life. For those of you who don’t, here is the short version. Approximately three years ago, I started to struggle with being able to keep food in my system. I would eat and start to vomit almost instantly. As a result, I lost an excessive amount of weight. To date, I still suffer from this health issue and have to be very careful about what I eat. I say all of this because suffering has a great propensity to take away joy in our lives.
Paul says to the Philippians, “Every time I think about you I’m grateful” (Phil. 1:3). This is a great statement by Paul because when Paul was in Philippi he wasn’t treated all that well. He was falsely accused, arrested, beaten, stripped of his clothes, and thrown into jail with his feet in stocks (Acts 16:16-24). Now think about this happening to you. How would you respond? Would you respond like Paul? Luke tells us that Paul and Silas where praying and singing hymns to God (Acts 16:25).
So, how do you respond to suffering? Are you, like so many, who just close yourself off to joy and happiness because of the suffering you’re going through? Remember, there is something far better than the happy life and that is the meaningful life. If our ultimate goal is to be happy than we will never be happy, but if our goal is meaning, than chances are we will get happy with that.
You see, the best response to suffering isn’t hopelessness; it’s usefulness. The best response to suffering isn’t despair at what’s going on whether it is in your life or in the life of someone close to you; rather it is the determination to make a difference. The best prayer during suffering is “God, make me useful.” We can all do this; we can all be useful in the life of the one suffering. Maybe it is spending time with them, praying with them, take them a meal, send them a card. Just something to show you care.
If it is you suffering, you can still be useful and you can still have meaning in your life. For me, I find meaning in being a husband and a father. I find usefulness and meaning in serving God with the many opportunities He provides for me. All of these things, being a husband and a father and a servant of Jesus bring me great joy in the midst of the suffering I experience in this world.
The psalmist says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Now I don’t know when your morning is going to come; maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week or next year. Just know that someday, your morning is going to come. So don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t quit, because suffering may be able to disrupt happiness, but it can never take away meaning.
~ Tim Hall
(I encourage feedback, questions & comments – email me at email@example.com)