When you’re suffering


I’ve been thinking lately about the hard in life, how it lambasts you sometimes amid a stretch of tranquil days, surprising you with that ‘oh, it’s you again’ familiar misery.  How lying in the dark some nights the heart aches so hard it’s a struggle even to breathe.  There are moments you’re wild to talk it through with someone, someone who will understand the pain of it all, someone who will lift just a few ounces of the stifling load off your chest.  Someone who can sit with you and encourage you to keep breathing, keep trusting, keep stepping forward.

But who can we truly trust?  Who will not betray us?  Oh, it is scary to be transparent, to honestly unveil the shape of the ‘hard’ that is rocking your particular bit of the world on any given day.  The reasons not to speak are so many.

When it’s a loved one whose pain is savaging your heart, even in the middle of that pain you often still want to protect them from the uncharitable thoughts of others.

Or maybe it’s pity you want to avoid.  Who wants everyone feeling sorry for you, or wincing at just how un-together your life is some days?

Or maybe it’s judgment that you fear.  Always it seems there are people judging you for not getting this thing or that thing under control.  Judging you for not preventing this pain in the first place.  Not being wise enough, kind enough, dedicated enough, maybe even ruthless enough.

There’s also the problem of scale. Maybe despite the very real misery in your own heart, you know that others have it so much worse.  There are friends mourning lost children, loved ones coping with their cancer or their child’s cancer, friends facing financial ruin or relational ruin or spiritual ruin.  And all over the world, for the love of all that’s good, there are mothers whose dearest wish is simply to be able to feed their children.  So. much. hard.

How dare I complain?

And yet.  The heart aches.  Quietly breaks sometimes under the weight of the struggle just to keep breathing in and out.  What then?

The longer I live, the more I realize that pain is a familiar stalker of us all.  Some more than others, perhaps.  Each of us experience it in different ways, and some hide it deeper than others.  But oh, we all know hurt.  Don’t we, friends?

Our first and best and brightest hope in all of this pain-filled world is Jesus.  He remembers our weakness.  Sees every tear we shed.  Feels every ache. He promises to someday wipe all tears from our eyes.  He promises that His plan for us is good, that it is intended to give us hope and a future.  He promises that He will carry His good work on in each of us to completion.  He went to the cross and died to ensure that bright and complete and perfect future for us.

On those promises we can depend.

But when we find ourselves adrift in the abyss of suffering, I think most of us also long for the kind of friend willing to be ‘Jesus with skin on’ to us. The kind quick to offer solace and forgiveness and encouragement,  and glacier-slow to offer judgement.  We also need friends willing to share their own moments of struggle and pain.

Some of us have hurts deep and raw and evident, and we need no invitation to share.  It just bubbles out. But others of us are all too quick to paste on a smile and to say, ‘Oh, I have it so much better than so many…’ when really what we need most is a safe place to share honestly, to unburden those covered-up hearts. And for some of us that courage only comes when someone else is brave and honest and vulnerable and transparent, first.  Leading the way.

Oh, to have friends like that.  Oh, to be that kind of friend. It truly is one way to see Jesus at work in this hard and hurting world. We all know pain and suffering.  Let’s lift each other up whenever we can.

Flowers in the redwoods


  1. thank you!

  2. This is very timely for me. Thank you.

  3. Thank you. Much needed.

  4. YES! Thank you for leading the way in many ways, with caution and grace, but nevertheless showing us that struggle and disappointment is part of life and that we have a great Hope in Christ.

  5. This made me cry. I love it so much. You put words to feelings I’m not sure I realized ran so deep. Thank you.

  6. I really needed this today. Big struggles here. Thanks.

  7. Everybody’s pain hurts! There should be no comparison of whose is more or whose is harder or whose is worse. But a good friend can help share the load and divide the grief and multiply the joy. Praying for good friends for each of you that are hurting in different ways today – that God would use those friends and minister comfort to your hearts!! (((hugs)))

  8. Having one of hardest times in my life right now. Much needed. Thank you

  9. Problems of scale.. that’s it exactly. My XYZ issues might be huge to me, but compared to ABC and LMNOP and all of eternity, is it really that big of a deal? And yet, it still hurts and is hard to walk through, and can make life really difficult at the time. Judgement? Yes! By me, about me, and much harder on me than most other people would be. Why is it so easy to be patient with others, to encourage others, to be a sympathetic and listening ear, and yet so difficult to give myself the same understanding so quickly given to others? *sigh*

  10. PlainJane says:

    Thank you, friend. I resonate deeply with every word you wrote. It is as if you were writing directly from my heart. I’ve been singing this hymn today…

    Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
    Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
    Leave to thy God to order and provide;
    In every change, He faithful will remain.
    Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
    Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

    Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
    To guide the future, as He has the past.
    Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
    All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
    Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
    His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

    (Ka­tha­ri­na von Schle­gel)

  11. You’re speaking my language today! We’ve had some challenges this year, and part of me gets annoyed with myself for complaining when I know others have much worse challenges. This year my resolution is to focus more actively, on a day by day, minute by minute basis, on faith and hope in Christ to help me stay focused while slogging through the pains of life.