THE LONELINESS OF SUFFERING

There have been many times when my emotional pain left me feeling totally alone. It felt like no one around me understood the depths of it. Perhaps you have felt that way at times. These feelings are legitimate – for all pain, whether in our body or in our soul is individual and personal even if our experiences are not, by worldly standards, unique. All of our life’s experiences forge us into a one of a kind mosaic. Every trauma, every heartbreak, every injury and illness combine into an experience for you that no other human being can fully understand. Physically the pain of a broken bone or arthritis may seem like a Tylenol experience for some, while others require a narcotic pain medicine to function at the most basic levels. Doctors can only try their best to help based on what their patient tells them and years of experience. There isn’t a single, uniform RX for pain.
This is especially true for our spiritual and psychological pain, yet friends, acquaintances, and sometimes even our pastors and counselors fail to recognize this fact. How often have you heard the words, “You’re not the only person who has suffered and experienced that.” The unspoken idea being “suck it up and get over it already, others have! Don’t be a such crybaby!” If you are like me those words were like putting kerosene on a fire when I was at my most vulnerable. They may have been said at best out of ignorance and meant as an encouragement, or perhaps the person you were speaking to just didn’t want to be bothered that day. Yet for me and many others in the midst of struggling, they were a crushing sentiment. I always knew I wasn’t the only human being ever to have suffered. I am not the only human being to have been the victim of family and ritual abuse, but those words have never offered me comfort nor encouragement. If anything, they increased my soul’s pain.
The emotional pain I felt even as an adult, was at times intense and quite real, but trite statements gave me feelings of my pain being discounted by the other person, like they were deciding it wasn’t real or intense. In a way they were saying I had no right to feel what I did, or cry as I was. After all other people have suffered, so my experience was unimportant. Such “support” only intensified my heartache and loneliness.
So what am I trying to say? Please take a moment to consider a few things:

  1. As human beings can never fully comprehend the depths of another person’s experiences and pain. Thus we need to be supportive and not dismissive when someone is struggling. Please try to never discount their very personal and real pain by handing out messages, either outright or subtle, that their pain – and thus they – are unimportant or insignificant.
  2. There is One who does truly understand each of our experiences and pain – in all of its uniqueness – and that is Christ Jesus. He knows every experience, every thought and every tear we’ve had. He has experienced our life with us and stands with us through every moment. He personally knows the darkest corners of human weaknesses as well as its joys. It is He who is the author of our strength that makes us survivors and He will be the driving force that comforts us and brings healing in our souls. Whether in this life or in eternity we will one day have lasting peace and joy. That is the hope we have, this hope is sometimes the only life preserver we have to cling to in the storms of our experiences and memories. Cling to Christ and don’t give up, He will not let despair be your ending.
  3. To friends, pastors, and counselors I plead, don’t discount a person’s pain with trite or convenient answers. Let a person grieve but show them the pathway of hope. It may require a season of listening and sharing in their tears.*I encourage those who are suffering or have suffered to find an outlet to express their pain. For me it was writing poetry and keeping journals. For some it may be through art or craft work or any other way you can find to express/release some of the pain and pressure built up inside of you. Just please do nothing to hurt yourself or others. Doing so would only continue the cycle of abuse from those who inflicted pain. Try different things until you find something that channels those feelings and releases some of that pain in your soul.
  4. Read or listen to the Scriptures, especially the Psalms and New Testament. It is God’s love poured out to His people, to all of us. He has a heart for those who have suffered. Read about His tenderness and promises of a day when there will be no more tears. A time when joy will last not just for a few moments or days but for all ETERNITY.
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