Suffering is a universal
problem that affects both the rich and poor, educated and the
unlearned, and every race known to man. Although suffering extends
its unwelcome presence to all abroad, it takes many different
forms and shapes and is experienced in various degrees as it brings
it's hurtful realities upon us all.
But how can I cope
with my suffering? Are there any steps or secrets to bearing the
unbearable? There are steps I can take to cope with the unpleasant
reality of suffering, but these steps are not secrets. They are
manifested in the lives of men and women of God openly and without
reservation throughout the Lord's revealed word. I would like
to bring to our attention four of these biblical skills to help
cope with our own suffering.
First, I must identify
with Christ. If I'm not a Christian, or I am not living faithful
to the name I once chose to wear, I will not be able to receive
the Lord's blessings, promises, and benefits he so abundantly
gives. In fact Jesus stated that I must seek the kingdom of God
first; then in Matthew 5:3-12 Christ reveals characteristics of
those who are seeking first that kingdom of God and the blessing
they will reap in having these traits. What suffering one among
us could not find the strength to cope with life's hurtful blows
knowing that we have such promises as seeing God, divine comfort,
the necessities of life, divine mercy, being God's children, and
one day inhabiting the glorious place called heaven!
Secondly, I can learn
to cope with suffering by allowing the suffering to produce endurance
and strength. A champion weight lifter does not begin lifting
record weight on his first day of training. Day after day weight
is added and then conquered. Finally, that record weight, which
once seemed impossible to lift, is now handled with confidence
and with ease. How was this achieved? By learning to cope gradually
with smaller amounts of weight, and then slowly increasing it
in order to build endurance and strength, for the record lift.
Likewise, we as Christians can build endurance and strength as
the early Christians did, by successful lifting each weight of
suffering that life places upon our shoulders. This will prepare
us for even greater degrees of intense suffering in the future.
Thirdly, I must maintain
a positive outlook on my suffering. This will not remove my circumstances,
but it will give me greater coping ability. If there are any two
men that come to mind who better demonstrated this coping skill,
it was Paul and Silas in that cold, damp, first century prison
cell ( Acts 16:19-25). If any two had reason to wallow in self-pity
and tears it was these men. They were severely beaten, shamed
and then cast into jail. They didn't deserve those circumstances,
yet they didn't allow their situation to diminish their attitude.
They focused upon the joys that the world could not take from
them. They kept their eyes focused upon Christ and his joy in
which they shared. This didn't eradicate their problems, but it
certainly made them easier to bear.
Fourthly, I can cope
with my suffering by becoming a wounded healer. No one can fully
understand your suffering better than one who has undergone similar
circumstances. If I have coped with certain suffering in my life,
I can assist others in coping with the same. I can help them find
those bridges to happiness and contentment that I myself may have
already crossed. No doubt David had this in mind in his penitent
prayer of forgiveness. He said, "Restore unto me the joy
of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will
I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted
unto thee" (Ps 51:12-13). In other words David would use
his own suffering through sin to teach others of the grace of
God. For if God could forgive David's deliberate sins, God could
forgive others also. David was a wounded healer. He was willing
to use his tragedies to help others triumph.
Suffering has been
the physical and spiritual downfall for multitudes of people.
But by identifying with Christ, allowing suffering to build endurance
and strength, by maintaining a positive outlook, and by becoming
wounded healers, we can learn to cope with the problems and unpleasant
circumstances that life will surely bring.
Barry Gilreath Jr.