Suffering is not a subject that anyone wants to talk about, or read about, or especially go through, but yet it happens to us all. What do we do when the earth has been yanked out from underneath our feet? When we are going through a time of suffering and pain we wonder what happened to our "safe ship," it was anchored, safe at the dock; but it is now out in the ocean and being beaten by the wind and the rain, maybe even our "ship" is taking on water. I am speaking in a metaphoric way, but I believe that for those of us who have gone through times of suffering understand the feelings of being tossed around like a ship during a sea storm. I have had two books on my to be read list for while, one of the books I had very briefly read before, this time I read both books cover to cover. Both books are small, pocket size, but packed full of deep insight on the topics that scare most of us, suffering and grief.
"Good Grief" by Granger E. Westberg
The title is definitely a oxymoron, but the author explains his title in the preface, "Suffering is not good, but you need not be devastated by it. Ultimately we can be healed of our bitterness and move ahead." He explains that we can mature from it, become deeper persons, come out stronger, and have the ability to empathize and help others. The author writes that "grief is a natural part of human experience." People must face their grief, experience it, go through the stages not staying in anyone stage but move along at their own pace until completed. The best quote from the book:
"At the time of great loss people who have a mature faith give evidence of an uncommon relationship with God. And they demonstrate an uncommon inner sense of strength and poise which grows out of their confidence that such a relationship with God can never be taken away from them. With such a basic philosophy they can face any earthly loss with the knowledge that they still have not lost everything. They still have God on whom to rely."
"Hope In Times of Trouble" by RBC Ministries, Mart DeHaan II, Kurt DeHaan, Herb Vander Lugt, Tim Jackson
The book is divided into four chapters: 1. Why would a good God allow suffering? 2. How much does God control? 3. Does God want me well? 4. When tragedy strikes.
Probably the hardest to understand is why does God allow suffering. The author writes that we live in a fallen world and sometimes the suffering could be caused by no fault of our own, or by selfish people, or a target of persecution. Sometimes suffering is the result of our own poor choices and sin. God can use suffering to direct us, it shows us how weak we really are and that we need God. It forces us to think about what we do have, our priorites become better, we re-evaluate our goals and dreams. Suffering causes us to re-evaluate our spiritual lives, we are made to look at the long range future, which is eternity. God uses suffering to mold us, refine us, to become more Christ like. Suffering also helps us to be able to help others. The book gives help to those of us that will counsel another individual that is going through suffering: listen, grieve with them, allow them to express themselves, do not correct them, give them time to heal (don't rush,) pray, keep in touch with them, don't think you need to "cheer them up."
Has the experience of suffering made you bitter or better? For some people it does make them bitter. They can never get past the I cannot believe God allowed this. Their is a well known woman in the Christian community named Joni Eareckson Tada she was paralyzed in a diving accident in the late 1960's. Joni was angry and questioned God after this accident, she had become bitter, a friend reminded her that when Jesus was nailed to the cross he was also paralyzed, he understood what Joni was going through. This was a prolific moment, when she understood that Jesus knew and understood her suffering. Isaiah 53: 3-5.