Life isn’t always rosy. It’s a tough but true fact that everyone will experience hurt. Some kind of suffering is going to happen to you and the people you love. Why? Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
We were destined to suffer when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden. I’m not trying to be Johnny Raincloud here (in fact, I think positivity is one of the greatest disciplines we can develop), but we do want to be prepared for the hard stuff that is guaranteed to come our way.
Pain and brokenness create an unparalleled beauty in the healing process that can’t be achieved any other way.
For a long time, I was guilty of passing people by without a second thought. The cashier at the grocery store, the homeless man, the flight attendant on my trip. It’s easy to do; we’re often so self-focused that we forget to focus on others. But recently it hit me: Each of these people are likely hurting in some way. Some may be hurting worse than others, but pain is pain.
As Christians, you and I know that God uses pain to point us to Him, show His faithfulness, and work good in our lives (Rom. 8:28). There’s a reason for the pain. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less. I’m grateful to have the knowledge of God’s love for us. Imagine, however, if you did not have that knowledge. How would you feel?
Now picture floating words above the people you pass today describing their hurt:
There are so many people we pass on a daily basis who don’t have the comfort of knowing that Jesus works through pain. How do we help someone, whether a friend or stranger, understand the pain? Here are a few suggestions.
We won’t do any good for someone unless we have the Holy Spirit working through us. Pray for wisdom about how to love this person.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:6).
Don’t talk. Just listen. Recently, I was talking with a friend who’s going through a life crisis. During our conversation, I made a conscious decision to listen more than talk. And this friend was able to have someone who would simply lend an ear. Listening, not just hearing, demonstrates love.
Don’t Try to Fix Things
You know, sometimes I just want to give the person suffering a pep talk and encourage them to move on. But that can’t always happen. Pain must be worked through in order for there to be peace and resolution. You can’t always just move on. Instead of offering a solution, point them toward their Savior. Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 1:3–5:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
Acknowledge Your Own Suffering
When people realize they’re not the only ones enduring hardship, this can often bring them back into a reality that “yeah, people are suffering along with me.”
Suffering and pain can break us into a thousand pieces. But sometimes being broken is the best reflection of God’s splendor. The Japanese have an art form called Kintsugi. When a piece of pottery breaks, the artist mixes gold dust into the mortar before putting the vessel back together. When it dries, it’s even more beautiful than before because there is now gold running through what used to be a regular old jar or pot.
We are much the same way. Pain and brokenness create an unparalleled beauty in the healing process that can’t be achieved any other way. Romans 5:3–5 tells us that suffering points to hope:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
So next time you hear of a friend whose parents are getting divorced or hear of a breakup or the death of a loved one, love on that person. But do it kindly, gently, and in love.
Who can you email, call, or text right now to tell them you’re praying for them in this hard time?
What’s most amazing to you about how God’s love is displayed for us in pain and suffering?
For more on hope in suffering, check out these verses: