“A purpose”, is different from saying “the purpose”. If I were to title this “The purpose of suffering”, that would imply that there is only one purpose, and I know what that is. To offer such a bold statement would be arrogant. No, I can’t offer to you the only purpose of suffering, but I can offer one of them.
What is suffering, but the deepest longing of the heart?
Any type of suffering is really just an intense longing. It is waiting, hoping, for what we perceive to be new, better , perfect, just, or redeemed.
Physical suffering is a longing for a new body, one that does not fight against itself.
emotional suffering is a longing for our burdens to be lifted.
I suffer through my broken heart as I long to no longer be single.
My friend, Roger, suffers through his brain cancer as he longs for a body that does not grow tumors.
I can join a dating service and start going on dates. Roger can have brain surgery (amazing!) to remove the tumor.
Some of our suffering is out of our control.
I can be rejected, multiple times. Roger’s tumor might grow back (it did).
Suffering is not imagined. Suffering is very real, tangible even. Acknowledging your deep suffering is valid, and takes strength.
In the midst of your suffering, know this:
Your suffering connects you to every person that has taken a breath.
Your suffering is no less valid, no more valid than the person sitting in front of you in a worship service. Your suffering is no less valid, no more valid, than that of the husband whose wife left him and their children. Than that of the parents who lost their children in a fire. Than that of those whose country was ravaged by earthquakes and tsunamis. Your suffering is unique to you, but your suffering allows you the opportunity to relate to the rest of humanity.
We long together for a world that knows not earthquakes and tsunamis. We long together for a world that has no need for brain surgeons. We long together for a world where women who want children can have them and those children will never experience rape or famine or war. It is good, and right, that we should long for a new day.
Let’s re-word the truth of the phrase “You’re not alone” by saying “you are with humanity, in your suffering”.