Some Thoughts on Suffering

August 9, 2016

I came across this old post of mine in the archives and, wow, does it speak to me today. I really needed to hear it. I thought some of you might as well, so I’m sharing it again, 4 years later.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering lately. I’ve watched close friends and family go through struggle after struggle in recent months, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. I’ve had my share of battles as well, more than usual it seems, and honestly, I’m ready for this year to be over.

It’s in our nature to want to live a pain-free life. We may tiptoe around certain areas, or become hermits in others, just to avoid the slightest chance of pain. Or rejection. Or humiliation.

This is totally normal.

But suffering is going to come. There’s no avoiding it. And I’m here to say that there are wonderful, amazing, life-altering things that come as a result of suffering. It’s why “bad things happen to good people.” It’s why “God allows suffering in this world.”

Look at all the hell we writers put our characters through in our novels. Why do we put them through so much suffering? Because when we suffer, we grow stronger. We persevere. We triumph. Without suffering (or obstacles), we would have nothing to overcome. Without suffering in literature, we wouldn’t have those great stories that keep us up until 3am by lamplight.

We wouldn’t have Katniss and Peeta.

We wouldn’t have Frodo Baggins.

We wouldn’t have Harry.

We wouldn’t have Jane Eyre or Scarlet O’Hara or any other great hero or heroine.

Or any other novel for that matter.

As writers, we wouldn’t dream of telling a story without obstacles. It wouldn’t be a very interesting story! We make our characters suffer because wading through all that misery changes nobodies into somebodies. And we love reading about the somebodies.

Here are a few reasons why suffering is a good, necessary part of our lives. It may hurt like hell, but when we come out the other side, we’re better people.

#1) It makes us grateful human beings.

When we suffer, we tend to be more thankful for the little things we usually take for granted. We stop and appreciate the good days and the good people who love us. This is important, and we tend to forget to do this when everything’s going our way. Suffering helps us keep our egos in check.

#2) It helps us focus.

When everything falls apart, it’s a lot easier to re-establish our end goals. They become clearer, and we reform that fierce vigor we had when we first set our mind to them (whatever “they” may be). It’s that charged moment in every book where the protagonist truly thinks about giving up. Only then can he or she find the strength within to plow forward and come out a champion.

#3) It brings us closer together.

You will never share true closeness with another person unless you share in their suffering. When two people come together and grieve for each other, it creates a bond unlike anything else. It fosters trust in relationships. It makes us feel like we matter, which makes us feel more alive.

So, I know it’s hard to live through in the moment, but I urge you to take suffering as a good sign.

It means better things are coming your way.

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