I have been collecting my thoughts in regards to this post for many months now. I am not sure where to start, but as always I just want to pour out my heart and share my feelings and lessons learned. This will be a two-part blog (second part is called the Ink. the blood. the Jesus). So let’s begin…
Suffering – the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. Although, not a favorite word of mine, this noun is a friend that tends to follow each and every one of us throughout life.
Last year was a hard one for me; it was a year of loss, pain and despair. I’ve had people I love walk out of my life, I experienced betrayal, I had something collapse that I have been building for years, I was in the middle of unfair situations that I could not control or fix, I had health scares, surgeries, our marriage was not in the best state, motherhood was extremely difficult and there were many times I felt like a complete failure. All of these events and feelings caused me to withdraw and isolate form people, events, and opportunities and in all that made me feel like I am lying in an open casket – alive but completely defeated. Have you ever been there? I felt that I have been punched in the stomach, unable to breathe or stand up. As soon as I recovered form one blow, another one came unexpectedly over and over again. Life seemed like it was sliding downhill and I felt hopeless and weak. I cannot say I have not been in this place before; all these feelings and emotions were not new to me, however, this felt like it will never stop, too much all at once. Each new attack reminded me of those past pains, fears or insecurities that I buried inside.
I remember being extremely joyful on New Year’s night, thinking how glad I am to put 2019 behind me and finally having hope that in 2020 things will go back to “normal”. I lived through January with that sense of new found security… in February another attack out of nowhere came, another betrayal…and I knew that the magic of a new year has diminished. I once again was in that dark place, defeated, exhausted and headed for my comfortable casket. Then, God stepped in… truth is, He was there all along – I just failed to see Him, turning my eyes towards the suffering. When suffering comes upon you – TURN YOUR EYES AWAY FROM IT!
Disclaimer: I know not all suffering is the same and I am not going to compare, I simply share about my walk in this season. Those of you who suffer with severe health issues, depression, grief, mental health difficulties – please seek professional help! It will make a difference and it will help you to overcome!
Here comes the sun…
I was scheduled to attend a women’s conference at the end of February and for the first time in years I did not feel too motivated at a motivational event. The theme of the conference was “Activate” it was about achieving, stepping up and concurring your calling. The theme did not settle well with me because I was lingering in my weakness. Towards the end of the second day I wanted to go home and cry. I felt like there will be no more victories in my life since I was not willing to trust with the building process after the failure I experienced. Then, a woman stood up and said that she has a word for someone, immediately I lifted my wet and swollen eyes, knowing the word will be for me. She said “there is a young woman here who is feeling overwhelmed and defeated, you have a lot going on, multiple children, work difficulties, situations that are out of control, you feel like you have been jerked back and punished … (my heart began to beat faster- this WAS ME) . I looked around and most of the attendees were in their 50s and 60s.The woman then continued with the words that just floored me: “…you are not in the casket, you are in the incubator. God is nurturing you, breathing life into you, rest and receive at this time”. Immediately I realized that the feeling of being in a casket was not the truth, it was the enemy’s bate for me to discourage me at the time of my weakness. God knew my thoughts, he heard my cry, he saw my suffering and all along he was nurturing me, not dismissing me! I failed to see that in the moment but I see it so clearly now … Allow God to nurture and breathe life into you at your weakest moments! Those moments when you feel like you cannot go on, completely defeated lean into God, for He is the closest to you during those times! God leans in to us especially close when we are in the cycle of suffering. I love this verse from Psalms 34:18 – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
What is it that you turn to in the midst of a suffering?
In the past I have turned to people, pride, self – righteousness, hurt, food, entertainment, alcohol, gossip, other distractions, overworking, isolation, self – punishment, self – doubt, judgement, and every other thing under the sun to distract and temporarily relieve the symptoms of suffering. I even have turned away from God because I was internally upset at Him for allowing this to happen (see my blog “Is it ok to be angry at God” for more on that).
I have since learned that my number one step in the suffering is always to lean into God and my Faith, my identity in Him. Even during those times when I messed up and was the one who caused the suffering I still found Grace, Forgiveness and Strength when casting my worries on God. God always reminds me of my identity as being righteous through him – no matter what situation I end up in, I am made righteous through His love and His suffering on the cross. As long as I continue to work on personal growth, acknowledge my mistakes – no one is allowed to call me a failure. So I am learning to turn away from things that will only burden and trap me further and lean onto God and the righteous path.
The second glimpse of sunshine came in the form of an invitation to Women Wine and Wisdom (W3) event at Matthews Winery in Woodinville, WA held every last Wednesday of the month (highly recommend if you are in the area!). The speaker that day spoke about cycles of suffering. She told her powerful testimony of being adopted and shared moments of her life where she too has experienced suffering. Some of the things that I took away from there is that suffering is a part of being a human, we all go through it and we are together in it. No one can avoid it, but we can sure learn how to walk through it with confidence and strength. Suffering is a cycle; it has beginning and certainly has an end. It is so easy to fall into despair in the moment of suffering and think that life will not change and this situation will never go away, but it is a lie of the enemy. Everything in life has beginning and an end, even our life here on earth will end one day.
What are you suffering with today? It is insecurity or self-doubt? Is it grief and the pain of a loss? Is it a broken heart due to relationship that ended? Is it broken dreams and hopes? Is it a project that you have been investing to for a long time that suddenly collapsed? It is post-partum depression? Is it weight and body issues? It is your health or the health of your loved one? Is it fear and anxiety that are so elevated in our community today? Is it hopelessness? It is weakness or even laziness? Is it a difficult marriage? Are you currently going through a divorce? Or are you feeling alone and defeated in motherhood? Do you feel lonely in your community? Did you just move to a new area and have no friends? Are those financial difficulties? Or maybe you cannot find a job? What if it is just PMS and a part of women’s monthly cycle of suffering? Is it depression? Anxiety? Are you overwhelmed? Betrayed? Truth is, suffering comes in all shapes and forms and we all have experienced it at one point. You cannot compare one to another, but you can always take steps to allow God to pick you up in any situation.
Here are some lessons that I have learned in my suffering:
Don’t isolate! / Isolation is where you will get defeated! Trust me; I am the queen of isolation! I am an avoider by nature so when I mess up or get hurt – I run into my cave. DON’T DO IT, it is very dangerous! Depression will meet you in your isolation each and every time – she lives there!
Instead of isolation, let God know exactly how you feel! I do it in a form of a diary, prayer or even an internal thought – tell him how it is and how you feel about the situation. The second – let a trusted friend know how you feel. I believe we are meant to support one another and carry each other’s burdens by simply being there for one another. If you have been betrayed by a friend and it is hard for you to trust again, please don’t isolate from people. Give people another chance, open your heart up for new relationships, allow people to love on you and speak life into you. Find the right kind of friends, who will motivate you, support you in your suffering, have open conversations with you, the ones who are in the process of growth themselves, friends of strong faith and clean motives. Those are the people you want to surround yourself with, those are the ones you want to trust with your suffering. On the other hand, when someone reaches out to you with their pain, don’t try to fix it – just listen and don’t tell them about your own issues in the moment. We tend to try to fix other’s problems but truth is – we cannot. Often times people are not even looking for solutions, rather for genuine care and someone to hear them out.
Allow the pain to take you somewhere / Instead of blocking out the pain and pushing it away (living in denial of the situation), allow the pain to take you places. There is a reason why you are in this situation, find what lesson you can extract from it. Each pain will take you to a new place and will make you stronger at the end. Look at exercise, it hurts so much when we lift those weights but we get stronger each time and recover. The result of your new toned up body is the biggest reward. Live through the pain and you will come out stronger at the end. I guarantee you, next time you encounter the same situation it will not hurt as much, you will know just how to stand firmly on your two feet and how to walk out the situation in victory.
Use pain for something good / Having gone through things, I am now more sensitive to others. I learned things that I do that hurt others and I work on eliminating those from my life. I learned how lonely and difficult it is to be in certain situations, I am now more aware of how others around me feel when they go through their cycles of suffering and I am more compassionate. Allow this pain to yield in something good – how can you use your painful and difficult experiences to now love on others? Maybe you have more time now – invest it into something good, your dreams, goals, volunteer opportunities! Grow love in the place of where there once was pain! These are the things that will often help to find your calling in life.
Rebuild / Sometimes suffering happens like an earthquake. I have noticed that there were things in my life that I have built on wrong foundations. For example, ministry that was built on performance and desire to be recognized; relationships that were built on gossip, sin or lies; insecurities that were built from the negative things I accepted about myself and so on. God shakes all those things like an earthquake, destroys false foundations to allow us to rebuilt new and strong. It is painful to see something you have been building destroyed, but it is so joyful to extract the lesson and have an opportunity to start over fresh. It grows you as a person and I have found much peace and wisdom in that process.
Persevere / Some things are not in our hands to change. Health issues, mental health disorders, loss, accidents that change the corse of life and other things are very hard. Through such situations I believe we are called to persevere and find a new normal. Seek professional help, support groups and continue to pray. Find strength and hope in God and allow Him to walk you through the situation. During all three of my pregnancies I was suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum – a severe form of morning sickness that requires medical intervention. I was so miserable for the whole 9 months each time and felt so alone, I had to persevere through this and my reward was our amazing three children. I became stronger as a mom, able to truly value the miracle of childbirth, understand and support the community of moms who are currently walking this difficult path.
There is a way out / No temptation has overtaken you except what is common of mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way our so that you can endure it (Corinthians 10:13). In this latest season of suffering I have learned to look at it as a temptation, a learning opportunity, and an exercise that is meant to make me stronger, wiser and more durable in the future. I learned to expect it in a way and not to be caught off guard when it comes. Look at Jesus, he certainly was not protected from all this, look at his journey – the first thing that he stepped into after being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit was suffering (40 days of temptation in the desert in Luke 4), this is the proof that we are not alone in this. He made a pathway for us, once you lean on God – you will find the right path for you and walk this out and God will provide a way.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Suffering is a part of life and we cannot avoid it, rather learn how to walk through it.
Suffering is a cycle that has beginning and an end.
God is the closest to you in the times of suffering, lean into God and your faith.
Persevere when the circumstances are beyond your control.
Don’t isolate in your suffering, find a trusted friend and other avenues of support.
Extract life lessons during your season of suffering.
Know your identity, the situation you are in does not define you – there is grace and forgiveness, always.
Allow the pain to make you stronger; do not just block it out.
Use your pain for something good, support others, find your calling, and invest your time into good things.
Allow God to break down false foundations and rebuild new, strong ones!
As always, if you need a prayer or if I can be of any support to you in your suffering cycle, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to know how this resonates with you. Blessings, Dasha.