As we begin our turn in the exploration of suffering, I want to share right from the outset that I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all response to it.
I’ve noticed this on even just a small scale in my own experience as I’ve been holding this exploration in my heart the last few weeks. I’ve gone back to key moments in my life history that created shock-waves of suffering, and here is what I noticed:
- The way those situations impacted me often differed from one to another.
- The way God met me in the suffering of each often differed from one experience to another.
Each experience of suffering meets us in a unique way.
Each time, the effect of suffering has to do with an amalgamation of so many factors — our life history up to that point, what certain relationships meant to us, what we believed about the world at that point in time, what we believe about God, our specific hopes and dreams, and so many other factors, too.
How something affects me at 5 years old is different than how something else will affect me at 25 years old — even if both are real experiences of suffering.
Who I am, how I take in the world, and what I understand about myself and the world around me will be different in each instance because they happen at different points in time. My understanding of reality has changed in the space between them.
Therefore, the way each instance of suffering impacts me will differ in both.
And the same holds true when it comes to making meaning out of the suffering and finding healing in some way.
Each case is unique — and this holds true inside the scope of our own suffering experiences as well as from another person’s experience compared to ours.
In this series, wherever we range in the exploration of suffering and how to hold it, I want you to know this is my heart toward you and where I’m coming from. I will share some of my own meaning-making and healing experiences with you, but these will not be meant to be prescriptive — just descriptive. Descriptive of my own unique experience and what helped me understand or led to healing, and descriptive of just one of the many possibilities that exist in the realm of suffering and how we might hold it.
This is my heart toward you: making room for your own unique experiences and needs.