How Suffering Can Be a Gift


Some people live their lives simply going through the motions. I should know -- for many years, I was one of them.  I was alive, but not truly. Although my eyes were open, they did not see. I lived life to pass time, always working toward the next thing. I was not fully present or aware. 

Then tragedy occurred. I lost my marriage and was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

In the aftermath, feelings of loss and grief were mixed with those of failure and regret. Memories of happy times came and went along with painful ones. Time felt as if it were moving forward at the same time it felt as if it were standing still. 

Death seemed sweet compared to this kind of horror.  But as I struggled through these emotions, something strange occurred:

I felt my spirit. 

I had not felt it in a long time. And yet, as I laid there in the darkness of my bedroom, it was there, hoping, seeking, longing for something greater. It would not give into despair.

It was an awakening. And with it, my eyes opened to a whole new world around me. I was surprised to see that it was one of love. Pain and sorrow, yes, but also love and beauty. Joy.

Prior to tragedy in my life, I hadn’t given much thought to things like faith, hope, or love. Brian had always said these things were intangible — abstract and thus not concretely meaningful — and I went along with that view.

And yet after tragedy — after Bipolar disorder struck and took with it the life I had built, these things became very real to me. So real that they are what kept me alive when my Bipolar Disorder wanted me dead.

Spirituality has played an important role in my recovery. It is the part of me that seeks meaning and purpose, believes in something more. 

Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

And I think this is true. The process of transforming pain, horror, and suffering into something good requires faith. Faith that it can be done. Faith that there is something good in your future, if only you continue to hold on, to hope. Faith that you don’t need drugs or alcohol to make it through. Faith that your pain can be used to serve something greater. 

My faith provides me with a source of hope. There is no way I would still be alive today without it. I can overcome my suffering knowing that God is with me in my pain and that it is in the service of something greater. Below are a few verses that encouraged me during dark times.

 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2; NLT).

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5: 3-5). 

What do you place your faith in? How has faith helped you overcome loss?