Have you ever been in the middle of the fire with the circumstances of life and struggling to find meaning in it? When in the midst of a painful situation we often ask ourselves questions like:
Why am I going through this?
How is this happening to me?
How can I make it through this?
If you've ever asked yourself these questions in the midst of a trying time, I am here to let you know there is hope. You can find meaning in the fire.
I have learned that living an abundant life does not mean living a pain-free life. On the contrary, Jesus guaranteed that in this world we would have suffering. And sometimes the most meaningful lives ever lived are those who have endured much suffering.
"Here on Earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."Jesus
Knowing that life will bring suffering no matter how well we try to live it, how then can we hope to live abundantly? I believe the answer lies not in achieving a life without suffering, but in how we deal with the suffering when it comes.
It's hard to see any meaning when you are in the midst of suffering. Whether it's physical pain due to a health condition or emotional suffering due to the loss of a loved one or mental anguish over financial obstacles that seem too big to bear, we all encounter seasons of suffering. The question is how do we deal with that suffering?
Over the course of my life, I have encountered many seasons of suffering, some of them longer and more painful than others but the common thread has been in the consistent way I approached the suffering. Here are 3 ways I have been able to find meaning in the midst of suffering.
1. Focus on What You Can Control
More often than not, our suffering comes upon us as something outside of our control. Therefore, it can be beneficial to redirect our energy onto something we can control.
In my case, as a kid, I channeled all my energy into doing my best in school despite a tumultuous home life, because I felt like my effort over my schoolwork was something I could control. Doing well in school became a positive outlet for me. I found great meaning in achieving and managed to maintain success in academics throughout my entire grade-school and high school career as a result of this shift in focus from the sufferings going on at home to maintaining a sense of normalcy at school.
In my adult life, this redirect of energy translated into problem-solving. Whenever I am going through a difficult time these days I look for something I can fix or a new project I can begin so I can divert my attention and focus on creating something positive in the midst of my pain.
2. Pray Through the Pain
For the past 8 years, I have been battling a debilitating health condition called Dysautonomia. It is a nervous system dysfunction that causes my body to essentially get stuck in "fight or flight" mode. The hardest part about it is that I don't know when it will strike, it comes and goes on its own accord. Like everything else, it gets exceedingly worse with stress, but when it hits I cannot stop my body from shaking and I can barely get out of bed.
It has been happening much more frequently this year, at least once a month and sometimes as often as three or four times a week. Such was the case last week.
Our small group happened to be meditating on a passage of scripture about suffering and remember feeling so weak I could hardly pray but this verse kept coming to my mind.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4
I recited it to myself over and over because it gave my mind something positive to focus on. Reminding myself that this trial would produce endurance gave me comfort in the midst of my pain. My prayer became, "Lord help me through this trial that my faith may be perfected through it."
It's not easy to suffer through pain, but thinking on this verse and knowing that Jesus suffered all the more, somehow brought me strength and encouragement to fight through the pain and come out the other side.
3. Phone a Friend
Never underestimate the power of trustworthy friends. Your inner circle, those one or two close friends that have stood by you through thick and thin are your rescue in times of suffering. They know you. They love you. They listen to you. They make you laugh. They cry with you. When I have felt like the world was closing in around me, I could pick up the phone and call my best friend. Sometimes just sitting with my best friend, not even talking, was enough to bring me comfort in times of pain. We are all in need of connection, and that need is greatest in times of suffering.
Not that any of us need a scientist to tell us that hanging out with our friends makes us feel better, but it's always interesting to me when science can tell us why. One such fascinating study showed that the more friends you have, the more pain you can tolerate.
This is due to the fact that social bonding produces endorphins that bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, which works in tandem with the dopamine systems. Translation- our brains naturally reward us for social interactions by producing stuff that makes us feel good as a by-product. The more friends we have the more social interactions, the more pain we can tolerate because of the good stuff being generated by our brains as a result.
Often, a good friend can help you find meaning in the midst of what you're going through by offering another perspective too. At the very least a good friend will offer you encouragement and be sensitive to your situation to offer real help when needed.
Living abundantly does not mean you will not have times of suffering. I have found that three ways to find meaning in the midst of trials are:
- Focus on what you can control
- Pray through the pain
- Phone a friend
Take courage in knowing you will come through the fire and although you can't see it now, your suffering will enable you to be a comfort to others who encounter similar trials in the future. There is great meaning in that.
Next you will want to read HOW TO AVOID THE BIGGEST REGRET OF THE DYING
Welcome to Honey & Figs! I'm Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.