I read an article yesterday called “Why life is too short to suffer,” and while I agree with the argument, I disagree with the ultimate conclusion:
Life is not too short to suffer. Let me add a caveat: suffering without meaning is fruitless. Suffering with purpose is redemptive.
The original post (check it out here) went something like this:
1. First, love yourself, and use a mantra to remind yourself. Yes! I totally agree with that. I struggled with self-love for a long time, and sometimes I lapse backwards, but as the author tells us, keep trying!
2. Don’t let negative emotions like jealousy and loneliness ruin your life. I absolutely agree with that, too. He made a great quote in his article to go along with it:
“Life is too short to moan and cry and feel sorry for yourself. Wish others the best in whatever they decide to do. Life is too short to be wishing bad on other people.”
3. And so, the conclusion drawn was this: life is too short to suffer. Seems like a logical conclusion.
But let me back up a bit. First, I do agree with this augmented statement: suffering without meaning is fruitless.
There are “lesser” kinds of minor sufferings that have little to no meaning:
- Disappointments (we’re out of cereal and I had to have creamed wheat for breakfast),
- Inconveniences (this machine is out of order, sorry for the inconvenience),
- Unexpected detours (there’s road construction on a busy day when I’m running late).
These might be called “little sufferings,” and in these cases, by all means, life is too short to suffer, and we need not let these little things get under our skin.
But there are larger sufferings, the really deep stuff that can really make or break a person: a breakup after a long relationship, an addiction, a serious illness, the senseless death of someone you love.
This suffering happens to every person at some point in our lives. And there are generally three ways I’ve seen people respond: to be broken or damaged because of it, to keep pushing against the wall even though you may make little to no progress… or, to accept this suffering, and let it transform you into an even better person.
In the third way of responding, suffering is redemptive. And because of that suffering, you become a better person.
Enough theory; here’s a story. I had a mentor when I was in middle school and high school, and pretty much idolized her. She taught me everything I knew and set me down the path that led me to my faith and call to ministry.
But she didn’t approve of my choice in boys. My boyfriend turned husband-to-be had a hot temper, and she wanted to protect me. And I wanted to marry him. And we had a falling out, over a boy.
I didn’t expect that to ruin our relationship, but apparently it did- we never did recover from that initial break. I married my husband and we are so good for each other… but that broken relationship with my mentor taught me so much.
I learned not to put all my trust in one person. I learned how I did (and didn’t) want to relate to others. And I learned just how much I needed God and a community of loving people to help me through a heartbreak.
Without that suffering, I never would have changed my heart- or it would have taken longer, or with a different catalyst. I could talk even longer about the theology of suffering: as Jesus did, so too must we take up our own crosses. But that’s not the sole point of today’s post. Suffice for now to say that the Holy Spirit is the catalyst of change, even when we don’t recognize his working.
My message is this: brokenness happens. Suffering happens in our lives, whether we want it or not. It’s impossible to avoid. But we can change the story when we choose how to respond to it:
To fall, or to fly.
How will you choose? Or, if you could make a choice again, how would you respond?