Have you learned more from suffering or joy in your life?
Looking back on my work life, the roughest part was dealing with personnel issues as a manager in a big institution. One problem dragged on for two years. It seemed like all of my energy went into coping with this issue. It was a time of suffering for me as I upheld my vision for our department within the institution.
During those two years, I needed so much support from others and from God; I drew closer to everyone, including God. I was so grateful for the network of support which I had previously built because I really needed it then. Meeting with my spiritual director was invaluable. I met friends for breakfast almost every weekday morning at seven a.m. before work. And I had my regular time with God on the way to work and back in the car, as well as out running, listening to sermons, praying, and playing my inspirational playlist.
I was just desperate for God. A friend named Tom Weston uses the expression “bleeding and on fire,” which sums it up nicely. I turned to God for help as if there was no one else who could understand quite so well. I played my inspirational playlist loudly to God and I sang along to Allison Krauss’ “Down to the River to Pray,” Aretha Franklin’s “The Lord Will Make a Way,” David Crowder Band’s “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” James Abbington’s “Be Still, God Will Fight Your Battle,” Bobby McFerrin’s “23rd Psalm” and many more great songs. The louder, the better it was for me. I don’t know if God liked the volume.
I knew I wasn’t in control during that needy time. I was empty, instead of full of myself. God was very real to me every day. The suffering brought me to a new level of intimacy with others and with God. The pain carved out a deeper place for empathy within me. It has always been so with the gift of suffering in my life.