Suffering is the ticket.
I used to wish there was some other way. When I naively surveyed the landscape around me, I thought there just had to be an easier way. A better, less painful cosmic shortcut. But the truth is, there really is only good news and bad news. A little bad news and a whole lot of good news. The bad news is there really isn't any easy tidy shortcut to escape the pain, and the good news is it's a good thing there's not. Because every person I encounter every day and everywhere I go is suffering somehow, in some way. It's just true. It might be suffering from the pain of a broken relationship; it might be illness or the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one or disappointment over a failure. It's suffering. All the same ingredients with a multitude of different labels. That's actually good news because I am never alone in my suffering. Not ever. Even when I feel totally alone in that place, I never am. Not just because God and the Holy Spirit and all my angels are swarming around me. There is a whole echelon of the human race right there with me too. I'm in good company.
The other really good news is that my suffering (and yours) has never been in vain. Not now. Not ever. Not once. Suffering isn't a state of being or a condition or a situation or a set of circumstances. It is something much bigger and more blindingly outlandish than that. It is a ticket to an undiscovered place that can't be reached by any other means. No strong man or brilliant person can find their way there by some other means. There is only one door. But, where that door leads, is a truly remarkable region unlike any other. It is the land of authentic fellowship. It's a place that fits me perfectly and where I am completely known by everyone I encounter. Not because of my name or accomplishments or failures. None of those things have any weight here. Only my shared experience with all the other souls who have found their way to this place really matters. In this wild country, my broken relationships place me firmly in a family, and my chronic pain makes me a companion to nearly everyone I meet. In this beautiful spot, I am not ashamed of my brokenness or frailty because that was the doorway that brought me here in the first place. Nor am I a castaway on these shores. I am a citizen and brother and friend and child. Coming from this place I am truly changed forever in a way that can never be amended even if I wanted it to be. From here, I have eternal fellowship with the person struggling in the ICU and the cripple panhandling at the intersection, and the young man sitting in his prison cell. In truth I have become completely the same as they are, never again to be any different. There is no need to be different and no fear that I'm not.
Scripture to consider - Romans 8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
As I walk this journey today, how have I tried to avoid suffering in my own life and in the lives of those around me?
What would it look like for me to embrace my own suffering and the suffering of others instead of trying to get away from it?
How have I experienced real fellowship with others because of shared hardship?
What would it look like if I lost my fear of suffering?
How can I invite God to guide me in this endeavor of suffering?
We are healed of suffering only by experiencing it to the full.
― Marcel Proust
Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.
― Albert Schweitzer
No one is ever holy without suffering.
― Evelyn Waugh
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.
― Helen Keller
A simple prayer for Suffering:
Father, thank you that with you nothing is ever wasted, and even the places in my life that feel so dark and difficult and unsearchable are well known to you. Will you help me to wring every benefit out of this difficult place so that when I leave, for I most assuredly will, there is nothing of your grace or your goodness or your glory left behind?