Suffering—is it a topic any of us are really comfortable with? I personally don’t like to think about it.
Jesus talked a lot about suffering and in Philippians 3:10, I am reminded “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings” (ESV). Really? Participate in suffering? Yet in this verse, suffering speaks to me as an avenue to know Christ better and refine me to be more like Him.
We all experience suffering in varying degrees at one time or another. David Crosby reminds us in his book Your Pain Is Changing You that we can choose how we respond to it.
On a personal level, my most challenging experience with pain and suffering was my diagnosis and battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It took 6 months to diagnose and a lot of physical pain was experienced. Through God’s grace, I am now in remission. However, the spiritual battle to stay focused on Christ and relinquish my will to His during the adversity was equally challenging.
My family and my church family were a great support. They exemplified Crosby’s statement: “We should position ourselves among those who mourn and mourn with them. We do not need strategies or explanations or even words. We can be present with them in silence. It means a lot to those who suffer just to know that they are not alone.” This was true for me. We can all make a difference in the lives of others who are suffering.
Missions leaders can make a difference by leading their church to come alongside those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is the current focus of Project HELP. Check out Drawing Near (or the PTSD Resources Bundle) for an overview of PTSD and ways your church can respond to those who experience suffering such as first responders, veterans, natural disaster survivors, abuse victims, and others.
Not only is our personal response to suffering important but how we come alongside others in their pain also changes us.
Lana Shields is associational WMU coordinator for Crossroads Baptist Association in Indianapolis.
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