Typically we overlook beauty in suffering. It’s much easier to ‘focus on the positive’ than to be caught up in affliction. Regardless if it exists in us or others, it is simply not comfortable to face.
But there is beauty there that we may fail to recognize unless we open our eyes and our hearts to chronic suffering.
Articulating our ideals we start out with, ‘If I were king of the world…’ Then we state some injustice that we feel we have been dealt or someone near us has. Or perhaps, we express our desire to bestow upon all some wonderfully pleasant thing. Or even yet, we may declare that sickness is banished from your domain.
We tend not to celebrate suffering.
It exists, but we tend to not reflect on it any more than absolutely possible and strive to make it go away quickly, regretting it ever appearing in our world.
One of the most common evidence of this is the ASPCA ads. They are painful to see, that is about the only way we can describe them. Most of us recoil from the sight of suffering animals, neglected and misused.
While suffering is not a thing of pleasure, there is beauty and hope in it that we overlook in our rush to put it aside from view.
Most of us need little time to find those near us who are enduring chronic suffering. We may even find ourselves as that point of reference. However, it is often that I see the one who suffers can only see those others who are in pain and not their own plight.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:3-5 (CSB)
Have you ever really taken the time to look past the suffering to what lay beneath it?
If you have then you see the treasure that we don’t see at first. Often times patients, perseverance, strength, and resolve.
Paul, who speaking to the Romans, was really focused on suffering for the cause of Christ, but we can take from this parallels that exist in our suffering just because this world we live in is an acidic environment which corrodes from within and without.
Providing words of encouragement, Paul tells us, that our afflictions produce an abiding strength that resists the source of suffering, this results in a bolstering of character. As that temperament is strengthened, from it resides a hope of things that transcend the suffering. Therein, God has placed beauty.
The corruption that fell on creation, effects every living thing and afflicts all of us. When we see suffering in others it reminds us of our own and often reminds us that our own is perhaps more manageable than that which we see.
So often the one who is suffering is able to identify suffering in others and for those of us that are Disciples of Jesus, we can use our personal suffering to empathize with the afflictions of others.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (CSB)
He comforts us in our pain, so that we may comfort others stricken with “any kind of affliction.” It could not have happened if it were not for our suffering producing that hope, that is able to be shared with others. In so, the beauty mark blooms even further.
Its done through the sharing of the grace poured out on us with others.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
Romans 8:35 (CSB)
The answer to Paul’s question is found but a few verses later.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 (CSB)
I pray that we are able to see past our afflictions regardless of where they are derived from and are able to comprehend the beauty that is being created just beyond it.
My hope and desire are that we can see this beauty in ourselves and in others. That we will not shy away from it and seek to encourage and fortify each other in spite of it, with that hope that grows within us each passing day.
There is suffering for a time.
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith — more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7 (CSB)
That suffering is a refining fire which can result in praise, glory, and honor to Jesus.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18 (CSB)
The darkness of chronic suffering can at times be daunting, as it’s ending is difficult, if not impossible to see. But in addition to that hope that builds through our perseverance, there is the hope of the transformation coming.
The pain may be severe and at times intolerable, but what is before is will swallow up all that affliction and force it to fade away in the glory that God has prepared for us and waiting to reveal to us.
Providing that seed of endurance from which grows our hope.