Taking the Suffering Seriously :: How It Forms Us

Gritty heart.

It’s with not a little fear and trembling that I wade into the waters of this new exploration with you. Most of yesterday, I noticed anxiety hanging on me and around me about this. This morning, I have a pretty thick bundle of butterfly nerves. 

I’m just noticing that response and letting it be what it is: what happens when you take a really hard reality seriously and then decide to talk about it out loud.

So, we’re going into the water anyway. And thankfully, Jesus will be with us as we go. 

The first aspect of suffering that I want to explore with you is the way it forms us. 

For instance, here is one story from my own life. 

One of the most formational moments in my life — and one that formed me not-for-the-better — happened when I was about nine years old. I was left in charge of two people who were stronger and bolder and brasher than me. Plus, they had a pretty combustible relationship. And what happened during our time together should not have been surprising: chaos ensued. What’s more, real damage was done to the structure of the building where we were. 

Although I had not participated in the chaos, I was given the same severe sentence the other two were. And when I mustered the courage to ask why, I was told that I could have prevented what happened. 

This was incredible to me.

I was nine years old and clearly the weakest link among the lot. I was not prone to aggression of any kind. And yet I was made responsible — more responsible than those who had done the deeds that put us in the sentencing-room in the first place, becauseI could have stopped it from happening

I cannot tell you with enough force how much that moment formed me. 

From that moment on, I believed I was responsible for everything. My two tiny shoulders were responsible for keeping every situation around me peaceful and in the right order. If anything ever went wrong around me, I felt responsible and to blame. If something went wrong somewhere on the other side of the world, even, I felt responsible for that, too. 

It’s amazing how, in an instant, our whole system of reality can shift. This belief formed the bedrock of my whole existence from that moment forward, and mostly on an unconscious level. It became so much a part of me that it informed everything I did, everything I thought, everything I believed, everything I saw happening around me, everything I felt about myself, and every decision that I made.

I was, in reality, warped by that experience. Our suffering so often has that effect — of forming us in ways that actually de-form us away from the truth about ourselves. 

In what ways has your suffering formed you not-for-the-better?