Dr Pamela Prince Pyle

The Truth About Suffering

I can confidently state that this decade has been fraught with suffering. Many of our lives traversed a historical pandemic. Many did not make it to the other side. Every person on the planet was affected by illness, grief, hunger, or fear. We breathed a collective sigh when we thought that the worst was past. However, we are yet to fully comprehend the impact of the disease itself and the methods to stop it. How will children be impacted by a world that felt so unsafe?

Wars, terrorism, genocide, persecution, mass murders, hate, hate, hate, batter us with their brutality. The depravity of humankind has been on full display. Stark images of children affected by these traumas imprint on our brain until they settle into the subconscious. They are triggered with the next unsettling photo splashed across our computer screens. A macabre photo album is stored in the recesses of our memories. 

Meanwhile, for the Christian, our source of comfort often found in the church, has become a place of distrust. We are betrayed by fragile, failed leadership. We were deceived to look to the man for peace instead of the Son. 

Suffering seems to come in waves as we stand in the shallows digging our toes into the sand, hoping we will not be pulled out with the undercurrent as it leaves the shore. The truth is that suffering has been a part of our journey long before this decade. It seems that we are either exiting a season of suffering, in one, or about to enter one. 

Seasons of Suffering

Some seasons our suffering is manageable, a slight blip in our time journey. Other seasons our suffering is intense, and we wonder if we will survive. It seems that with age and time we would become experts at managing suffering.

However, rarely is each suffering season precisely the same nor an exact replication of another’s. Like the waves which come in different patterns and different heights and at different tides, the uniqueness of each affects our ability to stand firm against the power of the sea. The awareness of suffering in the human experience is prevalent in philosophy, the major religions, and spiritual practices. 

The big question becomes the elephant in the room in homes, in coffee shops, in cocktail parties with clinking glasses. Those living amid intense suffering don’t ponder the elephant, “Why do we suffer so much?” or more precisely, “Why does God allow us to suffer?” 

They are merely trying to survive getting trampled. 

It is our nature to want to live a life absent of suffering, or at least minimize the effects on our lives. We deny, we run, we complain, we lament, and we search for the why. We attempt to control all the variables which lead to our unique suffering path. We fail, we struggle, we fail again and then perhaps we learn, or grow, or come closer to our Creator in our suffering.

Why Do We Suffer?

Jesus calls Christians to a life of suffering. He states, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” We must admit we were warned. Why do we act so surprised when suffering heads our way? 

More important, the King of Kings, Prince of Peace, and the Author of our Salvation told us we would suffer, and then he showed us what it would feel like. He modeled the suffering path in his humanity though his deity could have intervened. 

In this passage he is asking us to pick up the tortuous instrument of the most painful suffering unto death possible and carry it willingly and knowingly uphill.

 I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior in my thirties. I didn’t understand this call to suffering. Yet, it was through suffering that I had come to the end of myself and felt the weight of not knowing Him.

I cried out to him in this suffering cliff, “Jesus, if you are real, please come to me.  I need you, I really, really need you! I am so sorry for hating you. I didn’t know you but now I must know you or I will die. I have never had peace and Jesus, you are peace!  Please, please forgive me and give me your peace.”

He did. This moment in time created my before and after. Though my suffering didn’t end, my peace which is His peace became the weight to ground me despite the battering waves. 

Since that pivotal moment in my life, I continue to have seasons of suffering. Since December of 2019 I have battled the journey of chronic pain and debility. I have had six major surgeries on my legs, jaw, and skull and used a wheelchair, crutches, or a cane most of the time until March of 2022. 

I eventually was able to walk again and every single day, I thank the Lord multiple times for something I once took for granted. I process pain differently now. The heaviness in my chest of which I had grown accustomed is lessened. It creates the illusion of gravity just barely tethering my feet to the ground. I am walking! I am floating! I am!

When I look back at each season of suffering that I have experienced, I find myself grateful for what I was taught by our Lord. This is a blessing delivered through suffering. Sorting through the mess of suffering results in discovering good. 

It doesn’t make suffering easy. Jesus revealed this to us in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Luke 22:42-44

Jesus was “in agony” and “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground”. His drops of sweat were not just blood red in appearance, they were great!

His suffering changed the world. Can ours?

If I choose to run from my suffering, run from my “schooling” which comes through suffering, run from my joys found in suffering, I am running from Jesus. Quite frankly, I ran from Jesus too long. I don’t want my after to be a time of running the wrong way. I’m here to follow Him. Are you?

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