Suffering is hard to understand and even harder to experience. When it’s our own pain, we question God’s purpose. We might even question God’s existence. It’s natural to cry out, “Why?” or “Why me?”
We don’t always know what other people are going through. When we ask, “How are you?” we expect an answer of “I’m fine.” or “I’m well, thank you.” We aren’t interested in hearing a tale of woe. We’re asking to be polite. Many times, people truly are fine. But everyone has hidden stories. Everyone experiences pain and suffering at one time or another. Illness, grief and loss are part of the human experience.
For fifteen years, I suffered from chronic, debilitating pain. It was so severe that I merely existed. Living was nothing more than a heavy burden to be endured. The pain had a negative effect on my marriage, my parenting, my career, my weight, my friendships, and my self-esteem. Because of strong medication and ever-weakening resolve, I walked through most days like a zombie. I began to convince myself that my family would be better off without me. I even entertained the idea of suicide. It was only God’s generous grace and mercy that saved me.
Now my life is so rich and full, I shudder to think of the abundance I would have missed and the grief I would have caused if I had acted on my selfish impulse to end it all. It’s difficult to recount those horrible years. I don’t want to remember the pain, and truthfully, I can’t recall much detail about the eighties. Many events during those years are a blur. Yet, it’s important to revisit my suffering because it reminds me that some people I encounter at the grocery store or at church or book signings or walking their dogs may have hidden stories of pain like I did. One might even be entertaining thoughts of suicide.
We don’t know the stories that those around us are hiding. We can’t imagine the emotional or physical weights others might be carrying. At one time or another, we all find ourselves on the brink of exhaustion, perhaps even riding waves of hopelessness. It’s called “life” and life can be tough.
I learned so many lessons from my pain. One of the most important was to be on the lookout for the hidden stories in others. Only then can I minister to others as God leads me. Another lesson was that Jesus stands ready to calm the storm and lift us above our earthly circumstances, but first He must calm us. Often there is much work to be done in our spirits before we are ready to accept the lifeline He offers.
In my novel, I Want to Go Home, seventeen-year-old Abby experiences the death of her father followed by homelessness and her mother’s alcoholism. Any one of those traumas would leave the strongest adult reeling, questioning, and railing against God. It’s the beginning of a difficult, painful passage for Abby, but it’s also a journey of spiritual growth in which she learns, as I did, that God was with her every step of the way and even sent human angels to minister to her. God was preparing her for a new story of abundant life.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com