I have some experience with suffering, as I am sure many of us have; some more than others. The trials and tribulations of life can sometimes take us to the depth of despair. When I have found myself there, I have angrily cried out, “God save me. Why don’t you hear my cries?”
As I reflect and read, I am certain God did not intend for there to be suffering, and yet, there is. The earliest book of the bible is probably the Book of Job, which describes the terrible suffering of a man who had everything, and then lost everything. The Psalms are a series of angry, frustrated cries to God. No one, even the very best of people, are immune from the pain of suffering. It is part of life as we know it.
While not wishing to trivialise your suffering, my experience through the valley of darkness has led me to a place of fresh understanding of the world and me. I won’t for a moment suggest that suffering is pleasant, or something to be desired; it is awful. No one would freely choose to suffer, unless it could be in place of a loved one’s suffering.
Renowned psychiatrist and prolific writer Scott Peck, opens his book, “The Road Less Travelled” with the statement, “Life is difficult”. He goes onto to say that life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them?”
I’ve been reading David Brooks’ most recent book, “The Second Mountain”. It is a tough, but hugely encouraging read for people who are suffering. He suggests that “when we are in the valley [of despair], we get a truer and deeper view of who we really are and what we really need. When we’re in the valley, our view of what’s important in life is transformed.”
Brooks goes onto to expand on what he proposes: “When you ask people what experience made them the person they are, they never say, ‘I was a really shallow selfish jerk until I went on that amazing vacation in Hawaii.’ No, people usually talk about moments of difficulty, struggle.”
St Paul, for whom our School is named, was also no stranger to suffering. In his book to the Romans he says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 5:3-5).
As parents, we often find ourselves trying to shield our children from any form of suffering, be it disappointment or hurt. We step in, reasoning that life is going to be hard enough – when they’re young they shouldn’t have to endure any pain.
Sadly, shielding ourselves or our children from suffering can stunt their growth as people. In shielding and protecting, we miss invaluable opportunities to build resilience and character. As unpleasant as suffering can be, if we embrace life, take each moment as it comes, accept the loving support of those around us, we can experience hope. And hope does not disappoint us.