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Reflections on suffering

Reflections on suffering

I’ve been reflecting recently on my experience over this last winter, starting in October when I was diagnosed with acute leukaemia up to news of my remission several weeks ago. I’m indebted to Brian McLaren’s book Naked Spirituality for stimulating my thoughts on this subject of suffering. This has been a difficult time for me, especially after a couple of the chemo treatments when I was at my lowest, wondering what the future held and even whether I was going to come through.

It’s easy (and natural, I suppose) to ask the question ‘why’ when we go through tough times – but it’s not a very helpful question because there’s not a really satisfying answer. We know we live in a broken world where bad things still happen, so to ask ‘why me?’ is perhaps selfish. Perhaps we should ask instead ‘why not me?’

However, rather than looking for reasons for an experience like the one I’ve gone through, perhaps a better question is to ask ‘what good has come or will come out of this suffering?’ As Brian McLaren says: ‘Ultimately, when we suffer, what we need is not explanations or reasons but meaning’.

For me, the good that has come from my bad experience includes:

–  the sense of being surrounded by a loving fellowship and community that supported and upheld me in the most difficult days – and the opportunity given to so many to demonstrate that (as seen, I believe, by  others around me who are not believers). I’ve been so conscious of the prayers of so many, both locally and in different parts of the world;

–  the goodness of God experienced through the progress of modern medicine and treatments that means I am now in remission;

–  the good relationships I built up with nursing and medical staff in hospital (people I wouldn’t otherwise have met) and the way it has opened my eyes to their dedication, care and professionalism, working long hours in often difficult and unpleasant circumstances;

–  the way I can now empathize with others who are going through similar situations. For some people at least I can now say ‘I know what you’re going through’ and mean it – and hope that will be a comfort and bring hope to them.

None of us want to go through suffering of any kind but rather than being beaten by it, let’s look for the positives that come out of it – always in the knowledge of course that whatever happens God is there with us, understands what we’re going through and ultimately will bring complete healing and eternal  joy in his very presence.

 

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